This is a 15 second time-lapse video of the aurora borealis from space. It's beautiful, fast, multi-dimensional, and both inexplicable and well understood.
I'm preparing a seminar on philanthropic leadership in our time. It is nowhere near as profound as the aurora, but the video struck me as an enticing lead-in anyway.
- The changes that are underway across our global society are profound and numerous.
- How we see these changes and forces depends on our viewing point and our time horizon.
- Each of us is lucky if we can understand a few of them, let alone be smart about one or two.
- No single force of change - demographic shifts, wealth disparities, religious and geopolitical tensions, technological prowess, data deluges, resource scarcities, planetary health - will be the defining shaper of our present our future. What always matters is the interactions between them.
Several of the primary forces reshaping philanthropy are in real tension with each other. For example:
- Technological advances are pushing to make data cheap. Commercial and business model priorities (mostly) want to make data expensive.
- Philanthropy has tremendous freedom in what it funds and how it operates, yet most foundations and funders build remarkably similar looking organizations regardless of mission or reach. At the same time, interesting crowdsourced change efforts - such as Ushahidi and CrisisCommons - are starting outside the realm of traditional nonprofit structures and funding streams.
- Transparency is important and there are many efforts underway to make philanthropic institutions more "see through." Increased transparency may also make people less willing to take risks, speak out against the majority, or "follow their gut."
- Social goods have typically been seen as the purview of nonprofit organizations and public agencies. Now, more and more enterprises are producing social goods as well as financial returns.
What might you say in the seminar? Share your thoughts in the comments and I'll share them with the seminar participants. With their permission I'll share their ideas back here later next week.
(OK, I'll admit, I included the video just because I liked it. I can't really weave it into this theme much better than I've done above. Can you?)