Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trend Analysis for the Social Sector

I've written before about where we stand in developing philanthropic capital markets (I'm sticking with this term, instead of the more en vogue "social capital" markets" because social capital is a term that refers to "connections within and between social networks" - in other words, it is something different from philanthropic revenue for public goods). We continue to see new developments in this area - including the promise of sub-sector private equity-esque reports about areas of public benefit work (an idea I had mentioned in my book), more action on social stock exchanges, including coverage by Muhammad Yunus in his new book, new insurance structures, and real conversations about philanthropic marketplaces - both online and off.

In the spirit of always pushing forward (and on the basis of many, many people telling me my 2004 book was ahead of its time, the world is now catching up, and I need to sprint out ahead again (smile)), I hereby propose a new product or service for these emergent markets - quality trend analysis of major global forces and their implications for giving. This would be a (or several) sources of analysis that look at broad trends and how they influence the whys and ways people are striving, thriving and/or expressing themselves.

This might be something similar to the research my financial adviser provides me each quarter - a broad brush look at how trends in energy and commodity prices are affecting my portfolio holdings. Given that the financial officers and investment advisers at foundations may already be getting this kinds of analysis as it relates to their portfolio holdings, maybe the opportunity exists for that research to be re-analyzed by program area experts. This might be a way for the oft-separated investment and program sides of foundations to work together. Donors, foundations, nonprofits and activists can benefit from careful, timely analysis of how certain trends are affecting the people and causes that they care about. I call these products/services trend analysis for the social sector. My first proposed topic - the global credit crunch/crisis/collapse.

What is the issue, how is it playing out, and what does it/will it mean for philanthropy? Not just for foundation endowment growth, but, more importantly, for education, the arts, human services, public health or the environment? For immigrants and human rights? Funders interested in housing and neighborhood or community development are already looking into strategies to address foreclosures - but what about the rest of the programs out there? If people lose their homes and cities lose their tax base what does it mean for the schools? For the arts? And so on.

Topics I propose for the on-deck circle:
  • Demographics and regional, global mobility issues.
  • Weather-related disasters and insurance/mobility/food security.
  • Economic development projections about job creation and skills pipelines.
  • New organizational forms, legal structures, and global innovation in service delivery and production structures.
All written from in clear and accessible language, from an evidence-base, and with probing questions and possible implications for various areas of philanthropic support.

Let me know if there is something like this out there, in development, or on the horizon. I'll keep working on the next, next thing.


Noah Flower said...

Hey Lucy, I'm curious -- have you come across any examples since you wrote this post?

Lucy Bernholz said...

Hi Noah
Thanks for writing in. Do you mean examples of the trends or this type of analysis?