Rhodri Davies is Head of Policy at Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), and leads Giving Thought – CAF’s in-house think tank focussing on current and future issues affecting civil society. He is the author of Public Good by Private Means: How philanthropy shapes Britain, which traces the history of philanthropy in Britain and what it tells us about its modern role. He has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics –from civic philanthropy to the charitable applications of cutting-edge technologies such as AI and blockchain – and is much in demand as an adviser to governments, businesses, charities and philanthropists.
How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?
I joined a think tank back in 2007 to work on a project on philanthropy (without really knowing anything about it) and got hooked! Since 2010 I’ve worked at CAF and expanded my knowledge and interests around the topic- I published a book on the history of philanthropy in 2016 entitled “Public Good by Private Means: how philanthropy shapes Britain and I’ve done a lot of work on the impact of technology on philanthropy and civil society.
What topic areas are you most passionate about?
I love the history of philanthropy, and in fact run a whole twitter feed about interesting snippets I come across @Philliteracy. I’m also fascinated by some of the critiques of philanthropy both historical and modern and how the charity and non-profit sectors should take them on board an adapt. I also really enjoying working on issues at the intersection of emerging tech and civil society although I probably don’t get as much time to work on that stuff as I might like!
Which influencers influence you within those key topics?
Wow – the list is probably too long to go into here, as it cuts across a whole range of areas! I’m not sure if many of the people I listen to most would count themselves as “influencers”, either, as I tend to look for academics or subject matter experts who have a deep knowledge of a particular topic, but might not be well known outside of their area. I see a crucial part of my role to be helping to share the work of those kinds of people and directing people towards them who otherwise might never find them. If people want to get an idea, probably the best thing is to check out who I follow on Twitter and also look through the guests I’ve had on the CAF Giving Thought podcast.
Outside of your key topics who else influences you?
Anyone who can take a complex or niche topic and make it understandable, engaging and fun. Some of the best content on Twitter for my money comes from museums, or from really niche feeds run by people who clearly have a huge depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject, but also aren’t afraid to make fun of it.
How would you describe your offline influence?
I do a lot of writing (blogs, articles, papers etc). I also do a lot of speaking and lecturing (at academic institutions, non profit conference, tech events etc.) My day job involves working with a wide range of stakeholders (politicians, policymakers, academics, charity sector leaders etc) and I am involved in various steering groups (e.g. for the World Economic Forum).
If a brand wanted to work with you, what offline / online activities would you be most interested in?
I would potentially be interested in opportunities for collaboration on the Giving Thought podcast, or in speaking opportunities.
What’s your best source of information for getting ahead of a story?
I lean quite heavily on my networks on Twitter to find interesting, ahead -of-the-curve information. I also make sure I stay on top of academic work, as often you can find the weak signals of things that are going to be big in the future (even if they can be well hidden!)
What brands have you worked with?
My day job is at CAF, but that role gives me the opportunity to work with a huge variety of organisations around the globe (e.g. the World Economic Forum, Stanford University, Goldman Sachs, The Council on Foundations, The British Academy, WINGS, DAFNE, The Association of CHaritable FOundations, NCVO, The Institute of Fundraising, ACEVO and loads more that I can’t remember right now!
Which non-paid activities would you be keen to take part in if the opportunity raised your profile or delivered value to your audience?
I would be willing to provide a quote for content or news article, share / create a social post, speak at or attend an event, participate in a podcast or webinar or online chat, or create video content.
What are your passions outside of work?
I’ve got two daughters (4 and 6), so that takes up most of my time! Other than that, I’ve always been into natural history and the outdoors so I love bird watching and hiking and I’ve just taken up bouldering. I also love reading and board games.
Are there any organisations you are affiliated to or part of a long-term program with?
My main affiliation is to CAF, but I’m also involved with other groups through that role – e.g. I’m part of the advisory group for the World Economic Forum’s project on Civil Society in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.