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INTERVIEW

Andrés Thompson - “I think I’ve played a role in advancing philanthropy in Latin America"

Long-time Fellow reflects on his life and unconventional career path of 40 years in philanthropy

Andrés Thompson

Andrés Thompson at Session 581 - Driving the Change: Global Talent Management for Effective Philanthropy

Mirva Villa | 19.09.2017

Activist, thinker, teacher, dispruter, maybe even an influencer – during his career in the philanthropic sector, spanning over four decades, Andrés Thompson has played many roles.

Starting at the age of 17 as an activist, Thompson’s lifelong passion on improving the life of people around him has showed him the world of big foundations and grassroots movements.

“I think I’ve played a role in advancing philanthropy in Latin America,” Thompson says modestly, and that includes both his professional and personal commitments to the social issues in the area. One of his proudest moments includes encouraging a group of young people to put pressure on their local government in Brazil.

Thompson is the keynote speaker for the Salzburg Global Seminar session on Driving the Change: Global Talent Management for Effective Philanthropy, but it’s not his first time in Salzburg. He has shared his expertise as a resource specialist for several other Salzburg Global Seminar sessions, but his own journey with the organization began over twenty years ago as a participant. On the appeal of the sessions, Thompson says:

“You don’t have to play a role here. You have to reflect, think and share: that’s the essence. It’s not a conference – it’s a session, a conversation over beers.” Many things might have changed since the first time Thompson came to Schloss Leopoldskron, but the spirit has remained the same: “The heart of Salzburg Seminar is the same one.” 

In fact, it was Session 304 - Non-Profit, NGO Sector: Individuals, Organizations, Democratic Societies - in 1993 that gave Thompson a new direction for his work in philanthropy. Previously, he hadn’t considered his work in philanthropy as a “career”. At the Salzburg Seminar (as the organization was then known), he met representatives of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and caught their interest with his new, disruptive ideas. 

“The fact that they invited me to join the Kellogg Foundation, to learn about how a big foundation works and have the opportunity to have the money be on this side of the table… and invest that money for things I considered important – it was a great opportunity,” he says.

In addition to his work for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Thompson has worked for the non-profit streetfootballworld, and until July 2017 he held the position of the executive coordinator of the Philanthropy Network for Social Justice in Brazil. Thompson continues his lifelong commitment to philanthropy – “love of humankind” – through his commitments to community projects in Latin America.

Almost 25 years on since his first “disruptive” appearance at Salzburg Global Seminar, Session 581 will be a chance for Thompson to explore some further new ideas he has for philanthropy.

“I would like to provoke people to think outside the box. In particular, what talent management means for the future of philanthropy. It’s not just about the process of hiring, retaining and firing people, but also about the skills that philanthropy needs, and the kind of future that we’re envisioning for philanthropy.

“How can you think about talent management in a different way that is not about administrating or managing people, but helping people potentialize what they are?” 

The philanthropic sector will need new skills if it wishes to adapt to the modern world, and Thompson hopes that the session will bring about fresh concepts and ideas.

“We are all philanthropists and we all have the capacity to give, in many different ways… Love of human kind is what mobilizes people to do philanthropy.”


The Salzburg Global program Driving the Change: Global Talent Management for Effective Philanthropy is part of Salzburg Global’s longstanding series Optimizing Institutional Philanthropy. It is being held in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Zeshan Foundation. More information on the session can be found here. You can follow all of the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SGSphil.

19.09.2017 Category: PHILANTHROPY, SALZBURG UPDATES, SUSTAINABILITY
Mirva Villa