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Receiving by Giving 

By Malika Ouacha 

The title of my dissertation says it all. Receiving by Giving – one receives through what one gives. But what is given has little to do with what is received through the philanthropic transaction if it is done by diasporic or bi-cultural philanthropists.  

This brings me back to some of my earliest childhood memories. Growing up as part of the second-generation Moroccan diaspora in the Netherlands, I witnessed the remittances of my birthparents, and their peers, which laid the fundament of a global flow of cross-border diasporic and bi-cultural philanthropy. Not only done by the same second generation, but also the ones following. This intimate personal observation laid the basis of my expertise and future career. 

 It didn’t matter what it really was, either money, time, or goods, performing philanthropy to the homeland fueled the strength of my birthparents, and other migrants around us despite their cultural background, to continue their lives on the other side of the globe. A place I thought was home but was never referred to as such. As it was away from all that they knew, until that day came when they weren’t sure about that either. Simultaneously, they remained attached to the idea of it. Just to have something to fill that void, I understood years later.  

While growing up, I wondered if these were the effects of migration on a person’s life. The effects of moving away from the known into the unknown with all the possible strength and faith that a human being could have. How does one cope with it? And how do the generations that follow cope with it? I find the answers that my data has for both questions quite fascinating. 

Cross-border diasporic and bi-cultural philanthropy is not only related to what philanthropy is about. It has also much to do with diasporic identity and biculturalism in profit and non-profit environments, fellow civilians who deal with their existence in between several cultures, religions, and civilizations in general. As a cultural anthropologist trained in Morocco and the Netherlands, this sounded like music to my ears.  

Therefore, between 2016 and 2023 I dedicated my research to this flow of philanthropy. Done by diaspora groups from the country of residence towards the country of origin. By applying qualitative mixed methods, I interviewed and followed 150 participants on both the donor- and the beneficiary-side of cross-border diasporic and bi-cultural philanthropy. As referred to earlier, it resulted in a PhD manuscript titled “Receiving by Giving – the examining of cross-border diasporic and bi-cultural philanthropy”. Through my research and the knowledge that comes from it, I aim to witness the existence of a (civil) society in which the complexity of humanity is honored and further understood from both the position of an outsider and an insider.  

Seven years of research has demonstrated that giving to a place that is referred to as “the homeland” could also lead to painful insights. Such as participants admitting not to feel “at home” in the country in which they were born due to the constant experience of segregation, racism and exclusion. My research shows that giving could be a medicine, for a certain feeling of pain that could not be placed, and not understood. It could be cured through philanthropy, explicitly in the homeland.  

Those same seven years also revealed hopeful insights. Such as participants admitting that the other side of the coin is also true. Feeling at home in the country of residence and integration were experienced in such a way that it also led to the same diaspora and bi-cultural philanthropists to give generously to the homeland. The country of residence was referred to as the good example, the “how-it-should” be, and the place in which they were “the fortunate ones” compared to those “who remained in the homeland”. Being a part of the same diaspora group that I studied extensively led to countless moments of reflection, questioning myself, and all that I know about my own persona. It led to an invitation, also embodied in a chapter in my dissertation, to fellow academics and practitioners to reflect on themselves, and on each other, in spaces where it is comfortable and allowed. We can be seen as both the insider, and the outsider – depending on who is talking. Therefore, I hope we encourage each other to embrace both sides of ourselves, and both sides of the coin.  

Malika Ouacha (she/her) is a researcher on diasporic and bi-cultural philanthropy at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in the Netherlands. She is an internationally trained cultural anthropologist holding a MA in Social Anthropology from the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, Morocco and a MSc Social and Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of non-Western societies from the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. She holds a PhD in Management from the Rotterdam School of Management where she devotes her research on diasporic and bi-cultural philanthropy. As a visiting lecturer she teaches courses on Decolonizing Philanthropy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  


On February 8, 2024, Malika defended her PhD Thesis Receiving by Giving – the examining of cross-border diasporic and bi-cultural philanthropy in at Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University Rotterdam. Promotor: Prof.dr. Lucas Meijs (Erasmus University), Co-promotor: Dr. Kees Biekart (Erasmus University). Other members of the committee: Dr. Lesley Hustinx (Ghent University), Prof.dr. Ram Cnaan (University of Pennsylvania) & Prof.dr. Muel Kaptein (Erasmus University). The dissertation can be downloaded here.