Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Buzzword 2011.7 - Shapeshifting

Shapeshifting is what happens when an organization changes corporate form – usually shifting from nonprofit to for-profit. In the 1990s dozens of health care organizations and hospitals made this shift, spinning off philanthropic foundations with billions in assets. Since 2000 we’ve seen this in other sectors, including student loan providers. The sale of nonprofit Jumo to for-profit GOOD raised the issue again in the summer of 2011. 

Two other notable instances of shapeshifting that received less attention were the conversion of website verification firm TRUSTe and the online community site Couchsurfing. These last two shifts were accompanied by significant venture capital investment. Shapeshifting raises valuable questions about the range of organizations that can produce social good , their relative effectiveness, and the role of both private and philanthropic capital in catalyzing these enterprises. 

Brad Smith of The Foundation Center gets the "buzzword identification" prize for this one


Bradford Smith said...

Lucy, I am honored and thrilled to have made the buzzword list this year! When the idea came to me to use "shapeshifting" to describe the JUMO/GOOD deal I checked out the Wikipedia entry to make sure the metaphor worked. There one reads that "Shapeshiting is a common theme in mythology, folklore and fairy tales." Nothing to do with philanthropy of course! http://tinyurl.com/ysw846

Lucy Bernholz said...


Congratulations on this honor. I may need to come up with a prize for "best buzzword bringers." The fact that you citation checked your buzzword? Well, I hope everyone can see the smile on my face at your deep comittment to this challenge!

I just found out the Mediate is awarding a "Panel Nerds of the year" award (http://www.mediaite.com/online/panel-nerds-2011s-best-panels-and-quotes/) and so feel the need to up the ante in 2012.

Thank you for your valuable contribution to the lexicon.