Friday, January 14, 2005

Can the twain meet?

Community philanthropy organizations grapple with the tension between working for social change and operating in a market environment. My writing about philanthropy as an industry has (thankfully) been challenged by some of the best thinkers on exactly this point. This is a good thing. My work focuses on one aspect of philanthropy and presents one conceptual analysis. One of the goals of my book was to put forward a vision of a future of philanthropy that would spark others to do the same. We need lots of visions and lots of ideas for the future of this enterprise.

Can community foundations catalyze or contribute to social movements, as Emmett Carson asks in this speech from last December. Does being part of an industry, or thinking about the industrial and market forces acting on philanthropy, make it impossible for them to be focused on social change? These two models for thinking about community philanthropy -- social movement or industry -- are posited by some as mutually exclusive possibilities. I don't think so.

Here are some guiding questions I'll be working on this year with my colleagues at Blueprint Research & Design:
1) How can philanthropy deploy cutting edge financial tools to advance social change?
2) How can the successes of social movements be used to inform the development of new modes of philanthropy?
3) Can philanthropy be a model for adapting market tools to address market failures (social ills)?
4)How can the industry of philanthropy be a force for driving social improvement?

I hope you'll join us in this discussion, through this virtual workspace and perhaps in some conferences, small group discussions, leadership meetings, board or staff meetings, affinity group listservs and any other appropriate forums. There is a lot at stake - let's start talking.

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