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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: July 2013

10 Great Social Innovation ReadsSince I was out of the office for part of July and checked out of social media (which I highly recommend!), the below list is in no way comprehensive. But it is what caught my eye in the world of social innovation in July (when I was paying attention). More than ever, please add what I missed in the comments below.

And, as always, you can see more of what caught my eye by following me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

You can see the 10 Great Reads lists from past months here.

  1. In a highly provocative op-ed, Peter Buffett, son of Warren Buffett, wrote a pretty scathing rant against today’s philanthropy, calling it “conscience laundering — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.” Needless to say, much argument followed, including Howard Husock’s post arguing that Buffett is “far too pessimistic about what philanthropy, well-conceived, can accomplish.”

  2. Dan Cardinali, CEO of Communities in Schools and an emerging voice on the importance of measuring nonprofit outcomes, wrote a third piece in his series on redefining the nonprofit sector. This one explores the need for nonprofits to “hold ourselves accountable to objective measures and quantifiable outcomes.”

  3. And another nonprofit leader trying to shake things up, Bill Shore of Share Our Strength, offers the provocative “We Just Don’t Have the Money, and Other Fibs We Tell Ourselves“.

  4. Antony Bugg-Levine from the Nonprofit Finance Fund provides additional fodder to the conversation with his post “Navigating Tough Trade-offs in the Era of Scarcity.”

  5. Lucy Bernholz, philanthropy truth teller and future seer, offers three ways we can reinvent philanthropy in this great, short video brain dump.

  6. Kathleen Enright, CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, talks with Paul Carttar, former Director of the Social Innovation Fund, about what he learned there. It remains to be seen what impact the Social Innovation Fund will have, but as Paul says, government can and must play a role in social innovation, “The challenge for everybody — for government and for philanthropy — is to understand what each has to offer.”

  7. The New York Times uses Think Impact (which encourages entrepreneurship in third world communities) to provide an interesting case study of the dilemma of deciding whether to be a for-profit or nonprofit social change organization.

  8. Ever provocative, Phil Buchanan from the Center for Effective Philanthropy argues that the approach MBA programs take in teaching philanthropy “denies the reality that nonprofits and philanthropy work to address the problems that have defied markets…and, in many cases, are a result of market failure.”

  9. Writing on the Pioneers Post blog, Jeremy Nicholls takes issue with the word “impact” and encourages us to think about “value” instead.

  10. The National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy found that in 2011 American foundations increased unrestricted giving by 50% (from 16% of all grant dollars going to support general operating in 2010 to 24% in 2011). Now that’s an exciting trend!

Photo Credit: josue64

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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: May 2013

10 Great Social Innovation ReadsMay was about the “era of adaptation.” We are living in an age where change is a true constant, and we must adapt. We must adapt how we use technology, give money, get educated, use data, and the list goes on. It is an exciting (if sometimes overwhelming) time filled with opportunity.

Below are my 10 favorite social innovation reads in May. But, as always, add your favorites to the list in the comments below. And if you want to see my expanded list, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or my newest addition, Google+.

You can see the 10 Great Reads lists from past months here.

  1. The Era of Adaptation is upon us, so says Antony Bugg-Levine from the Nonprofit Finance Fund, and as such “adaptation requires nonprofits to invest in building and sustaining their organizations, not just running programs.” Amen to that!

  2. And how people give is definitely undergoing change. A really interesting article in the Wall Street Journal profiled Laura and John Arnold and their scientific approach to giving away their billions, while hoping to redefine philanthropy in the process.

  3. Google announced a new giving app that allows users to give $1 donations to nonprofits. Doesn’t sound like much, but nonprofits should keep an eye on this. As Google continues to be everywhere, this is an innovation where you may not want to be left behind.

  4. Warren Buffett and his sister Doris are doing something pretty interesting this summer. They are offering the first  ever philanthropy MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Over six weeks, participants will learn about philanthropy and then some participants will be given money to give away to nonprofits.

  5. As women increasingly control wealth, Anya Kamenetz from Fast Company asks the question, “Will Women Billionaires Make Better Philanthropists?”

  6. And then there’s technology and all that it is changing. Writing as a LinkedIn Influencer, David Kirkpatrick describes the coming of age of the Millennial generation and the opportunity (and burden) of deciding whether to use the gift of technology for the greater, or just their own, good.

  7. Big data has the potential to create enormous change as well. Regardless of your politics, Obama’s reelection team included some really great minds and one of them is now working on using big data to solve social problems.

  8. And how about higher education? Ben Thurman breaks down the growing innovations in higher education on the Dowser blog. From online courses, to apprenticing, to Silicon Valley’s growing interest in higher education innovations.

  9. Writing on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog John Gillespie provides a very useful set of 5 questions nonprofits should ask themselves to determine if they are truly ready to scale.

  10. In a thought-provoking two-part series (here and here), Caroline Fiennes explains why nonprofits should monitor, but not evaluate, their work, and the role social scientists play in the evaluation of big ideas. Hers is a great distinction, but I’m not sure how we execute on the concept in the real world.

Photo Credit: AngryJulieMonday

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What I’m Reading

Someone asked me the other day how long it takes me to write a blog post. I told them the writing only takes about an hour or two. However, the reading and thinking about what’s being done, or said, or written about and what I want to add to the conversation takes many times longer. So, to that end, I thought I’d give you a list of the blog posts, articles, and books that caught my interest and really made me think in the past month…

What caught your interest this month?  Add to the list in the comments.

Photo Credit: pixel0908

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Resetting Philanthropy

Challenging times are often an opportunity to restructure and rethink a broken system.  Just as the nonprofit sector needs to “reset” how they operate and how they raise money given the economic crisis and the crumbling social safety net, philanthropy, too, needs to take a step back and reset.  And there are some encouraging signs this month that that is exactly what is happening.  It seems that some philanthropists are taking unprecedented steps to rethink how they operate.

First, there was a secret meeting on May 5th of the wealthiest philanthropists, people like the David Rockefeller, Sr., Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, George Soros, Bill Gates, among others, in New York.  Gates, Buffett and Rockefeller called the meeting in response to the recession and the “urgent need to plan for the future.” Meeting details are sketchy, but such a meeting is unprecedented in our lifetime.  It is, however, reminiscent of similar meetings close to a century ago in a similarly challenging time in American history. At the turn of the last century, J.P. Morgan hosted gatherings of philanthropists to discuss how private citizens could stop the economic panic.

Apparently this month’s meeting of philanthropists lasted 5 hours and allowed each philanthropist 15 minutes to discuss how they were directing their philanthropy given the global economic crisis. The philanthropists claim that they are not hatching any big plans, but they do want to meet again.  It is fascinating to wonder what could come out of such ongoing discussions among people with so much wealth and such a desire for impact and change in the world.

Another sign of a beginning sea change in the philanthropic community is a growing desire among family foundations to spend their corpus, instead of preserving it in perpetuity, which is the norm.  The thought among some philanthropists is that the current problems facing the world are so challenging that their money should be spent now to adequately address the situation.  For example, the Beldon Fund, a foundation focused on the environment, is closing this year after having spent its endowment over the past 10 years.  Philanthropists John Hunting endowed the foundation with $100 million from the sale of Steelcase stock in 1998.  He decided to grant the entire amount within 10 years to build a national consensus to achieve and sustain a healthy planet.  Currently “limited-life” foundations make up about 10% of active family foundations, but this percentage has been growing since a 2004.  The current economic climate has increased conversations among family foundations around this topic, so the percentage may continue to increase.

Add to that a growing desire among the leading philanthropists to do more, on a larger scale, and you could see some pretty interesting changes to the philanthropic scene, which could mean a significantly larger amount of capital available to organizations working towards solutions.

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Thursday, May 21st, 2009 Foundations, Nonprofits, Philanthropy No Comments


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