In conversation with some friends I realized there is one buzz phrase (not exclusive to philanthropy) that drives me batty. That term? Thought leadership (and its derivatives, specifically "thought leader"). Anyone who uses this phrase or claims to "thought lead" is, by definition, not. I guarantee that no one whose ideas have actually sparked other ideas or contributed to lasting change in the world ever identified him or herself as a thought leader.*
There is no such thing as thought leadership. There are thoughts, ideas, concepts, and provocations. Some people have them and share them. They are called "thinkers." If others join in and build on those thoughts, well then, by golly, you are probably having a conversation. Here's to a 2012 without thought leadership.
Robert Reich (former Secretary of Labor and now Professor at U.C. Berkeley) published this piece on The Decline of the Public Good. It's worth a read. Actually, it's worth much more than a read. Philanthropists should read it and wonder "where do we fit into this?"
Private resources and public good
I was delighted to be asked by Zocalo Public Square to offer up an answer to the question, "Is philanthropy too powerful?" as lead in to an event with Professor Olivier Zunz, author of Philanthropy in America: A History. (I reviewed the book in SSIR last month). Here's a long version of my answer to this question. It's influenced by Professor Reich's thinking above.
Stanford ReCoding Good
As many of you know, I work at Stanford with Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science at Stanford. (Bad pun alert) There is an "abundance of Reich-es" in my intellectual life. Rob's work on the new social economy and Professor Robert Reich's thinking on public good combine to create a "conceptual sweet spot" for thinking about how we will create, fund and distribute public good in the 21st C. At Stanford we're looking at 5 big questions:
1. What does a post-Citizens United world mean for nonprofits, philanthropy, and the public good?We're launching our first charrette in a few weeks. We'll be thinking about the intersections of Sharing and the New Social Economy and what this means for how we create public goods. We're trying to bring together several existing but fragmented conversations and innovations - from sharing to political giving to government 2.0 to nonprofits and philanthropy - and we hope you'll join in, adapt to your field, add to, think with, and help shape this work. We all have a stake in how we use private resources for public good. You can learn more about the Stanford project here, here, and here. You can sign up for information here and follow the whole thing at #recodegood.
2. How is digital technology changing our conception of public accountability and public goods?
3. How will big data, the sharing economy, and open government influence philanthropy?
4. How can we better align our regulatory frameworks that govern and structure the creation of public goods with the technological innovations being made in bioscience, data processing, and other rapidly advancing fields?
5. What are the 21st century policy frames we need to encourage the use of private and public resources to help address our major domestic and global challenges?
*The phrase makes me think of a person walking a bunch of dogs - only the leash leads to little cartoon idea bubbles. Thought Leader. Get it? Sort of like this:
OK. Enough snark for one day.
House of Lies
Management consulting is the next industry ripe for portrayal on television - law firms and emergency rooms being so 1990s and 2000s. Watch out.