Saturday, May 10, 2008

Silent commentary

I've posted two pieces in the last few days that seem to have struck some nerves. And those whose nerves were struck seem to be too nervous to post their comments.

The first such post was this one, called Google Recommends, in which I noted that Google was sending searchers who typed in "Myanmar relief" directly to a page with two nonprofits, Google Checkout-assisted donation services, on it. This changed within a day or so, but I used the post to ask the following questions (among many others):
  • How many hits did that site get?
  • How many clicks went through to those organizations?
  • How much money was given?
  • How did Google pick those two organizations?
  • Does using Google Checkout influence where your organization appears in Google search lists?
  • Does work with on creating opportunities like this? On picking the featured aid partners?
Several people wrote in to my email alerting me to the fact that they had noticed the same thing, had wondered the same things and, by the way, could I let them know what I learned about how this works? All of those who emailed me directly did so either from email addresses associated with other relief agencies or noted in their email that they were associated with other relief agencies.

My read: They don't want to draw attention to their organizations while asking these questions.

The second post to catalyze this kind of "silent commentary" was this one, titled A Must Read, in which I highly recommend Raj Patel's book Stuffed and Starved but mostly share my own disgust and disgrace at the recent venue for the Council on Foundation's Philanthropy Summit. Here is an excerpt of why I found the venue choice so upsetting:

"...I've done little but complain about my own sense of hypocrisy of holding this event at a venue clearly designed to exacerbate sprawl, to divert business from inner city communities, and to serve as a spectator venue for one of the eastern sea board's biggest traffic bottlenecks, the Woodrow Wilson bridge. To stand in a four story tall open space and observe the outdoors through a glass wall the size of a football field while lighted fountains waste water and power for the sake of amusement, the air conditioning runs at full tilt, and security guards stand at every elevator entrance was an assault on my senses, which I shared with everyone I spoke to. To then attempt to hold meaningful discussions about global warming or community development was excruciating to me."
Again, several emails came in from people, most of whom I know to have been at the conference, agreeing with me, cheering the post and so on. But they email me so as not to put a public comment out there - even anonymously.

Guy Kawasaki recently wrote a magazine article titled "Blog-A-Thon" for which the 24 point font pullout quote reads: "If you can't speak your mind on your own blog, you might as well give up and stay on the porch."

So let me say to all of you who have quietly joined me on the porch, about either or both of these posts - I'll keep your identities to myself (I get it, really I do). Please feel free to comment here or on the other posts with your name, anonymously, or with a pseudonym. Or go ahead, join me here on the porch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The hypocrisy that is endemic to the foundation community is of the worst kind- it is driven by equal parts entitlement, ignorance, arrogance and a big dollop of structural inevitability.

Having been inside and outside of the community, I entirely believe the source of these weaknesses is systemic rather than attributed to the actors within the system. At a foundation I found myself executing policies that were drive by entitlement, ignorance and arrogance, and was not able to change those policies.

I posit that the people that could create change in that community via education and advocacy are the same ones prostrating themselves at the feet of the throne in the hopes of getting a grant.

Where can change come from? I think change cannot really happen until this discussion happens between executive staff and trustees on the trustee's private jet.

Until then, we will discuss global warming in the very environments that drive it.