Thursday, June 08, 2023

Nonprofits and political influence: it's not about golf

 
Screenshot from Candid.org

You know that the PGA Tour is a nonprofit, don't you?*

I'm also sure you've heard the news that the Saudi government (via its public investment fund, with $600+ billion in assets) launched a new tour (called LIV) which has announced a merger with the PGA Tour. Details are being worked out (and investigated.)

Why does this deal stink so much? Sport washing by a country with a dismal human rights record is pretty obvious - especially as the country is unabashadly trying to buy soccer talent also. Certainly, families of people who were killed on September 11, 2001 are disgusted (my own included). There's a lot of media on this story about the players, the fans, the public, the sport-washing, human rights, and, of course, Trump Sr., Kushner Jr., and Mnuchin. I'll let you read all that elsewhere. 

Let's go to back to the role of the Tour as a nonprofit organization. If you check on Candid.org (screenshot above) you'll find the PGA Tour with its $4 billion in assets as well as about a dozen other PGA-named nonprofits, including a 501 (c) (3) foundation with$10,000 in assets and an organization for and by the wives of PGA players

This comes along as the United States has lost control of our system for financing campaigns and the regulatory body in charge is . Money flows from individuals and corporations to nonprofits, where the names of the donors are "washed off" and the money is passed through to politically-active affiliated organizations. As I predicted in 2010, when the Citizens United decision was handed down, large swaths of nonprofit organizations have become money laundering mechanisms for politics. This structure - foreign government "investment" in a nonprofit that holds extravagent and expensive events at properties owned by an indicted former president running again for office - looks and smells like the making of a money washing scandal from here, before the deal is even done. 

The new entity ("NewCo" to be born from PGA + LIV) will be a commercial enterprise. Owned by the nonprofit PGA. I'm not a lawyer but I can read these signs - that means no conversion foundation or tax payback from the nonprofit. Massive commercial investments plus a nonprofit structure that will enable anonymous financial flows. A set of nesting doll organizations ripe for funding abuse by anyone, anywhere interested in political influence, but particularly convenient for foreign governments. Given the timing, expect big concerns about funding and influence in the 2024 Presidential election.

Given the cast of characters involved, I'll say it out loud now: this deal looks like the biggest money laundering machine yet to be carved out of the nonprofit tax code. I'll put my bet down now - If the deal goes through, this will become a story of campaign finance violations. And we're watching it being put together right in front of us.


*I'm sure you remember that the NFL was a nonprofit until 2015 - when it reorganized as a commercial entity. Happens under 501 (c) (6) of IRS Code.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

A predictable problem with predictions

Photo from Possessed Photography on Unsplash

Dateline: May, 2027

Location: Pretty much anywhere on earth

“Miriam was one of those rare people who could remember reading about her cause of death                                                                         before it happened. It wasn’t the reading that was rare - the warning had been printed in The New York Times, page A9. It also wasn’t the dying that was rare - hundreds of thousands of people would die of the same cause. It was the remembering that was rare.”

Yes, that’s fiction. I just made it up. Because I just read this story in today’s New York Times: record heat between now and 2027 due to climate catastrophe and El Niño weather patterns. It’s likely that one of the years between now and then will cross the mark of 1.5 degree celsius hotter than 19th Century average. 

So, there’s the science. The article goes on to do the work - “This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food, water management and the environment.” 

Keep going - do the rest of the work: Those far-reaching repercussions mean fires, droughts, floods, food shortages, hunger, water wars (term used deliberately). These things mean death. I made up Miriam and I interpolated from the global recent past to get to “hundreds of thousands of deaths.” (We’ve passed the tens of thousands marker). Here’s what’s happening now - four years after devastating 2019 Australian summer. 

If you have children starting elementary school this Fall, 2027 will be here before they go on to middle school. If your child was accepted to a four-year college this Spring, they’ve just been welcomed in to the class of 2027. If you’re writing a five year (?) strategic plan for your foundation/nonprofit you’re planning this precise timeline of these disasters - how are you fitting them into those plans?

I wrote a wee bit of fiction from this news. (I’ve done some other things, actual prep. Which given the global nature of the prediction is challenging) How do we respond to predictions like this - Action? Stasis? What are you doing? What can we do together? 


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Transitional philanthropy

We're in an incredible moment. After decades of research and advocacy and warnings we are now living through the weather and natural disaster effects of climate collapse. We're also more than a few meters down the pitch of living with pervasive artificial intelligent systems. 

Ways of life from agriculture to writing, architecture to transportation are transitioning. The practices for adapting to more sustainable, more energy efficient, lower impact methodologies are being refined, shared, modeled and implemented at scale in some places. 

 And then there's this (which I reprinted with permission in the Blueprint 2022)

My question is are there examples of philanthropy that are clearly rooted in a sense of transition from one state to another? There are funds named for transitions - or at least there is the Just Transitions Fund - but are there others? If there are, what defines them? What are they transitioning to? Where are the experiments, innovations, regulatory reconsiderations, imaginaries, and alternatives in philanthropy and civil society that make use of (but don't venerate) our current capacities (for almost instant global communication, for example) and that pursue a vision of human thriving on a climate-damaged planet? How would such philanthropy work, what would it look like, what would it do differently from now, and how would it change itself in order to justify its continued existence? 

That last question is not meant to be rhetorical. The time frame for irreversible climate collapse is now about the length of time an American child spends in elementary school or just barely longer than the term of an elected Senator. The time frame for harms from badly designed AI to manifest has passed, it's already underway and we're well down that path.

We're on the path to both realities. We can see them up ahead and are already experiencing the harms we know will grow. It's illogical to do things the way they've been done during a transitional moment, unless your goal is to maintain the status quo. I've yet to meet the foundation or philanthropist who (explicitly) states such as their goal so this should be a time of tremendous experimentation and hopeful innovation. I'd love to see it - please point me in the right direction.


Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Deepfake nonprofits

                                                                                    Eileen Pan on Unsplash

There's been a lot of writing over the last three decades about the blurring of boundaries between nonprofits, governments, and markets. 

These analyses usually focus on the use of profit-generating tactics by nonprofits (blurring them with market institutions), the growing involvement of nonprofits in public policy (usually discussed either in terms of dark money or organizations with multiple tax statuses such as c3s and c4s), and the use by governments of philanthropy-style incentives (e.g. prizes or matching grants) or direct government involvement in supporting specific companies the way investors do. The whole social enterprise movement is an example of blurring lines between philanthropy and business.

In this context, this story of a government "watchdog" group is fascinating. The article describes how every inquiry into the group by a reporter is met with a different classification claim. Starting in 2021, it claimed to be a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, then it removed the 501 (c) 3 part, then in 2022 it referred to itself in a lawsuit as “an unincorporated association of retired and former public servants and concerned citizens that is dedicated to restoring public trust in government.” And then, in January 2023, it labeled itself simply “a collection of individuals.”

Needless to say, whatever it is, it has not been filing any paperwork or tax documents that might explain who is involved and where the money is coming from. 

Just in time for the 2024 U.S. Presidential election, which we can expect to be defined by AI generated information warfare online, we should also be on the lookout for more of these "deepfaked" IRL organizations.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Who will hack whom?

Nonprofits and foundations have been slow to realize that they live in a world of dirty tricks, bad faith messaging, trolls, DDOS attacks, and data breaches. In other words, they inhabit the same internet the rest of us do - one where determining what information to trust is almost a full-time job.
 
Industry intermediaries - organizations that provide information about nonprofits and foundations to the public - live in this same world. Not only are political groups setting up nonprofits as fronts for political money laundering, they are using the nonprofit information infrastructure to help them spread falsehoods, to slap back at organizations opposed to their views, and basically every other trick of online information harassment.
 
Here's a picture (a screen shot on my end) of what I assume is a hacked and defaced organizational page on Candid - the biggest provider of data on nonprofits and foundations. 
 

                                Screenshot taken from Candid website, 3:30 pm pst, May 2, 2023

That's the home page of an organization called American College of Pediatrics - an anti-gay, anti-trans lobbying group. Clearly, someone doesn't agree with their views.* The group also lost 10000 records from a Google drive it left online and unprotected - information leaked includes all kinds of donor and member information.

The internet and world wide web are trash piles of information. AI systems, such as ChatGPT, spew statistically-produced baloney. All of them are readily designed to facilitate harm and lies. It didn't have to be this way, but it is. Many people are clutching their pearls, having ignored the insights and warnings of those who've been pointing out these harms for decades. 

It doesn't have to continue this way, though it seems to be doing just that. Glory and hysteria go in cycles - from app to app, crypto to GPT.  Despite all the warnings of a cliff ahead, we seem to be driving faster and faster toward it.


*FWIW, I don't agree with their views. I did not deface their page on Candid.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

X, Tw*tter, and nonprofits

Today, reporters tell us that staff at X Corp. (the company now responsible for Tw*tter) are going through its database and removing - one by one - emergency services that subscribe to the platform's API - thereby cutting off these departments (fire, emergency services) from using the social media service in emergencies.

GLAAD discovered yesterday that Tw*tter had suspended its efforts to protect transgender people, deliberately removing language in its Hateful Conduct Policy that penalized misgendering and dead-naming.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported today that nonprofits are sticking with Twitter, despite....everything going on over there at the company and on the platform.

Hmmm. Why are Niemöller's's words ringing in my ears? You know the ones: "First they came for the..."

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Nonprofits and privacy laws

                                                                                                    Photo by Mike Scheid on Unsplash

Colorado privacy law INCLUDES nonprofits - https://thenonprofittimes.com/regulation/countdown-to-colorado-privacy-law-npos-not-exempt/ 

This is as it should be. Nonprofits gather, hold, and rarely protect an enormous amount of very sensitive data of very high value. Think about it - your donations to, volunteer time at, and service from a nonprofit says a LOT about you - much more personal information than your favorite ice cream flavor. Marketers and politicians LOVE this information. And they use it to even further segment and divide us.

Philanthropists need to step up and help nonprofits protect their data and the whole sector needs to massively improve their data governance and protection processes OR stop collecting data OR stop lobbying their way out of accountability.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Nonprofits, campaign finance and more blows to democracy

                                                        Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash 

I changed my job in response to the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). I was convinced at the time (2010) that the Court's decision would lead to the transformation of many nonprofits from advocacy organizations to money laundering tools for political donors. I was right.

It's been hard to prove the scope of this for the very reason it's happening. Nonprofit law allows for donor anonymity; campaign finance law does not. By using nonprofits to "wash" their names from political donations, it makes it very hard to track money back to its source. The amazing web of connections that Jane Mayer drew out in her book Dark Money and ProPublica documented here shows how hard this can be. These concerns were part of what led Rob Reich, Chiara Cordelli and I to write Good Fences: The Importance of Institutional Boundaries in the New Social Economy (2013).


                                                    https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/koch

The rules on donor anonymity that come from the nonprofit sector have proven to be remarkably adaptable tools for "washing" donors' names from political contributions. This can be done by moving money from a c3 to a c4. It can be done by opening and closing a c3 or c4 in-between the required reporting periods. It can be done by creating layers of relationships between c3s and c4s and crowdfunding platforms. It can be done - and is being done - because the laws about nonprofits (and the regulators of them - state attorneys general, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and, in the case of Florida, the state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services) intersect somewhat orthogonally with the laws about elections and political donations (and with the FEC and state level oversight bodies).

What's worse, is that Citizens United was only a point on a path. There are trend lines that can be spotted and forces identified working very hard to further dilute any distinctions between charitable anonymity and political anonymity. Today, in an article by Rick Hasen, an election law expert, I read that we are heading toward:

"..a world in which many of the remaining regulations of money in politics could well be struck down as unconstitutional or rendered wholly ineffective by a Supreme Court increasingly hostile to the goals of campaign finance law and extremely solicitous of religious freedom."(fn)

I can't quote more of the article - and shouldn't have quoted that much - as the article is in draft form and was discussed at a conference celebrating Professor Ellen Aprill. (Grateful to the blog post by Gene Takagi that led me to the event). You can download the draft paper here

In a nutshell, Professor Hasen uses Professor Aprill's work to show the intellectual and legal history that will likely use religious freedom to deregulate political donations. How? Via the deregulation of political activity in churches and houses of worship. There's much more to it (read the paper) but that gets us started. 

What does this mean for nonprofits? More politics. More money laundering. Less trust. 

What does it mean for democracy? More blurring of boundaries between nonprofit and commercial corporations. More anonymous money in politics. Less trust. More plutocratic control. 

It's not a positive tale. But thanks to Professors Aprill and Hasen, we've been warned. So, what are we going to do about it?


(fn)Richard L. Hasen, Nonprofit Law as the Tool to Kill What Remains of Campaign Finance Law: Reluctant Lessons from Ellen Aprill,"Forthcoming, 56 LOYOLA OF LOS ANGELES LAW REVIEW (2023) (special festschrift symposium honoring Ellen Aprill)

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Civil society and the splitting of the US

 

                                                                    Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

Civil society organizations are on the front lines of advocating for or against the most divisive issues in the United States. The following list is organized by rights. The links are almost entirely to civil society organizations fighting to protect the rights to free expression, free assembly, voting, reproduction, and work. Their civil society opponents on these issues are noted under each section.

(I'm sure there's more to add here - feel free to send additions to @mastodon.social@p2173 or comment below)

Book bans, educational censorship and attacks on free expression

Pen America reports there have been 86 state bills proposed that would censor a wide swath of educational materials and ban books, mostly on Black people, LGTBQ+ people, and discussions of critical race and queer theory (college level). An increasing number of these bills allow a single person to request removal of any number of books, and for those books to be removed before any kind of review. Thirty-two states and more than 150 school districts have implemented book bans.

        Notable nonprofits for book bans:

Moms for Liberty, formed in 2021, has 200 local chapters. It is both a c3 and a c4. Other national groups with branches include US Parents Involved in Education (50 chapters), No Left Turn in Education (25), MassResistance (16), Parents’ Rights in Education (12), Mary in the Library (9), County Citizens Defending Freedom USA (5), and Power2Parent (5).

Another 38 state, regional, or community groups advocating for book removals appear unaffiliated with the national groups or with one another.

        Notable nonprofits against: PEN America, American Library Association, many others

Protest bans and attacks on free assembly

Thirty-nine states have passed laws limiting protest. While a handful of jurisdictions have passed laws limiting the use of facial recognition by police, most places have not done so. In 2021, half of the 42 US federal agencies that are part of law enforcement owned or used facial recognition technology. Corporate use of SLAPP lawsuits against individual protestors are rising in numbers. Open carry laws for handguns exist in 36 states and you can carry a long gun openly in 44 states. Guns at protests are hard to square with the idea of peacable assembly. 

Notable organizations promoting protest bans: Police associations, Republican officials,

Notable organizations fighting against them: Civil Liberties Defense Center, ACLU, BLM

                                                    https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/open-carry-states

Voting rights

As of 2021, nineteen states had passed laws making it harder to vote. Eighteen states were carrying over 152 bills to restrict voting in 2022. 

Notable organizations promoting voting restrictions: Americans For Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, ALEC

Notable organizations fighting against restrictions: Voting Rights Alliance, ACLU, some election administration groups, Fair Fight, Brennan Center, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights

Reproductive rights

Have split the U.S. in two - with 24 states banning access to abortion. These states are also adding vigilante bonuses and surveilling communications and travel.

Notable organizations promoting reproductive restrictions: see this list

Notable organizations fighting for access to healthcare: see this list

Right to work

These laws, whose name implies one thing but which actually focus on restricting the right for labor to organize, exist in 27 of the 50 states.

Notable organizations promoting voting restrictions: Americans For Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, ALEC, Republican Party

Notable organizations fighting against restrictions: AFL-CIO, SEIU, Center for American Progress, Democrats

Behind all of these organizations are donors. Some are heavily supported by individuals, others by foundations, others by corporations. Many rely on crowdfunding or on a mix of all of these funding structures. Behind each issue, on each side, is a mix of 501c4 and 501c3 organizations - an approach that makes it easy to hide the identities of donors whose interests are primarily political but who desire anonymity. New case law on donor anonymity in such situations, and conservative groups efforts to enable even greater anonymity for political donors, further complicates our ability to know who is funding what. 

I don't have a conclusion to offer to this post. Yet. Instead, view this as "first draft thinking" for Blueprint 2024. I welcome your feedback.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

SVB, GPT, and the social sector

Photo by Bram Van Oost on Unsplash 

If you’ve been reading the news you know that Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), a bank that heavily caters to VC firms and start ups, collapsed and its depositors are being saved by the US Treasury. You know that hearings are being called for in Congress and the same old battle lines between the wealthy (people and institutions) and everyone else have been re-animated. And you can infer that there was (and is) a whole lot of backroom-ing going on.

You also know that SVB had lots of money in accounts held by nonprofit organizations, including affordable housing organizations. 

You also know that Open AI, the once not-for-profit-now-for-profit research organization has released GPT 4, a large language model (LLM) update to its previously (as in three months ago) released GPT 3. You’ve heard about generative AI, read stories about how “nasty,” “smutty” or “just weird” the outputs of the GPT models are, and you may have even “played” with or worked with these models. On mastodon I found a thread of nonprofit staff sharing stories of how they’re using ChatGPT to expedite the funder-driven time-suck of cutting the 1000 word description of your programs and their world changing effects required by Funder A into a 300 word description for Funder B. 

And you’ve probably seen, perhaps read, maybe skimmed the numerous articles and abundant research on how the LLMs are biased and the outputs are “hallucinations,’ (yes that’s what they’re called). As for SVB, you may have seen stories or tweets or blog posts about how the collapse of SVB will lead to an immediate funding disaster for all Bay Area nonprofits.

I want to posit two things. First, jumping to insights or conclusions right now about the effects of either the bank collapse or generative AI makes for good Twitter (if there is any such thing anymore), but isn’t reality. It’s punditry, lobbying, or sales. Second, think about the intersections between these things - emerging tech systems, corporate hype, cost of living, need for and role of nonprofits, risk management in banking, risk denial in corporations, risk and responsibility of governments, philanthropic product choices by wealthy individuals (DAFs, LLCs, private foundations, community foundations) and, finally, the overlap between these categories in terms of actual number of people involved. 

It’s too soon to know how these things will play out at a sector level. Those on the outside of SVB and/or OpenAI don’t know as much as we think we know. We don’t know all the ways they intersect. The best anyone can be doing right now is 1) finding out if they have exposure to SVB or Credit Suisse, either directly or through their funders (true for startups and nonprofits and mitigate appropriately at the organizational level; and check on your own bank, given potential for ripple effects of individual bank problems; 2) Put on your hype-goggles, convene your nonprofit’s data governance review committee (What? You don’t have one?) and start thinking now about who generative AI helps, what it does well and where it is dangerous, if and how it aligns with the mission of your organization (The mission - not the development or marketing departments' metrics, but the actual mission), where (within what software you use) are algorithms already at work, and what data (on whom) you’d be feeding to a third-party corporation (such as OpenAI) if you start using it and what that means for your constituents. 

These two things - a bank collapse and new technology - ARE likely to have BIG societal impacts. But understanding them will take time. And their impacts won't unfold along "straight lines" from A to B. There will be all kinds of additional "developments," intersections and interactions between impacts, and mitigations and responses. Don't fall for the quick analysis - it’s all operating on incomplete information.*

Just like the weather in California, judging from the winter we’ve had, forecasters (armed with actual meteorological and longitudinal data) are noting that we’re in for a long, strange Spring. That’s about all we can guess is coming from these two recent events. Strange times ahead. Keep your goggles on.

 

 *Speaking of incomplete information, Time Magazine is running a story describing how some of the biggest names in Effective Altruism knew about the financial shenanigans of their most famous, duplicitous member, Sam Bankman-Fried. Yet, they were still "shocked and dismayed" when his crypto-empire turned out to be built on fraud.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Digital Public Policy: New Priorities for Nonprofits

 

                                                            Photo by Kier in Sight on Unsplash 

 
Proud to say this article, "Digital Public Policy: New Priorities for Nonprofits" has just been published. It is derived from lessons learned preparing the Integrated Advocacy report and this article on media coverage of civil society and covid

My co-authors, Toussaint Nothias and Amelie-Sophie Vavrovsky and I outline the many ways in which civil society is now bounded by and dependent on the many public policy domains that shape digital spaces. 

The most basic distillation of the argument is this: civil society is where we express ourselves, gather together (for non-market, non-state activities) and take collective action, often contrapuntally to the "mainstream" actions of markets and governments. In our times, most acts of expression (or mere communication) and gathering are dependent on information exchanged digitally. Just as digital practices and public policy shape online expression and assembly, civil society also shape digital practices and policies. They are entwined with each other. Whether we are considering public policy decisions about privacy, expression, assembly and association or considering regulations about philanthropy, nonprofit structures, and protest or free expression we are talking about enjoined systems.

You can download a copy of the article here. (hope this is not paywalled)


P.S. Thanks to everyone who has reached out to me after receiving these blogs posts/emails and offered good wishes, hoping that the return of the blog indicates an improvement in my health. I wish they were directly correlated. In fact, my return to blogging is motivated by the destruction of Twitter. I am chronically ill and disabled by Long Covid and am blogging when I can.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Philanthropy's asterisked hall of fame

                                                                        Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash
 

Earn to give. 

Make as much money as you can to give it away. 

Why are we surprised that messages like this would provide incentives for people (or be used as justification by people) who just want to make lots of money? 

This story from The New York Times, seems at first as if it will pull back the curtain on this logic that making money at all costs is OK if you're going to give it away. But, it doesn't. Instead it joins the legions of articles written about effective altruism and the potential crimes at FTX that inherently reify the logic. 

Rather than the FTX debacle unleashing a broad conversation about wealth and responsibility, philanthropy's roles in making amends for harmful actions, or *gasp* real questions about capitalism and justice, the FTX scandal is philanthropy's version of asterisked hall of famers. Those involved in FTX are being treated like the Pete Roses and Barry Bonds of philanthropy. The more that stories about FTX repeat these tropes about effective altruism, the more they reinforce it as an excuse, a justification, even a reason for fraud.

Philanthropy - and here I'm talking about big philanthropy, institutionalized and with extraordinary resources - has been a tool for cleaning up reputations (of individuals, corporations, and whole industries) for a long time. Philanthropy as an acceptable pre-condition for malfeasance is the throughline to much of the press coverage on FTX. 

What's notable is that the press I've seen calling out this problem is that which quotes other effective altruists or those who disagree with it's underlying philosophy. Other parts of organized philanthropy haven't had much to say. And that says a lot.


Friday, February 17, 2023

Philanthropy AdvisoryGPT

 

                                            Photo by Edge2Edge Media on Unsplash

You knew I was going to have to do it. So here it is (Courtesy of ChatGPT Feb 17, 2023)

 
The first line is the "prompt" I typed into ChatGPT. The rest of the text are the answers it provided to me



Answers such as these don't bode well for small community-based groups. The AI doesn't overemphasize, but does include, "overhead" concerns as it does "outcomes." First answer promotes aligning your giving with your values (fine), then it goes on to suggest organizations without concern about what my values might be.

Looks like a #buzzword-trained AI to me.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Civil Society Signal and Noise?

                                            Photo by @chairulfajar_ on Unsplash
 
Today's New York Times features an article on how tech companies are dismantling their Trust and Safety Teams (free article). This strikes me as akin to price gouging by oil companies during the inflationary moment we're in - taking advantage of the great tech-layoff-contagion to get rid of something they don't seem to have ever really wanted. 

Let's just acknowledge that we can't trust anything posted on social media (and the most vulnerable, the  most outspoken, and  the rest of us are all facing more harm). We can't trust the answers from ChatGPT and the tech companies are racing each other to implement similar AI systems into their search products and elsewhere. At the same time, the companies are less and less interested in making any data available to independent researchers who might check the companies' own claims. There are lots of efforts to ensure access - the EU's Digital Services Act, proposed legislation called the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act in the US, and the Coalition for Independent Technology Research - but none are perfect and all must reckon with serious concerns about people's privacy.

I've noticed an uptick in my email of research reports from nonprofits and advocacy groups. I suppose this makes sense in a time of continued pressures on journalism and the swamp of bad information that is the internet. How should we know to trust these reports? Chances are each of us will only receive such reports from organizations with which we're already aligned or organizations that have bought email lists from other organizations with which we're aligned. That sets us all up for an ever-growing pile of one-side-ism. 

I'm pretty sure I've never ever received a report from an organization that criticizes the organization or its outcomes. Occasionally, I receive one after a scandal in which the report guarantees me the problem has been solved. I have received some self-searching emails about the claims of sexual harassment in the Effective Altruism community, by people in the community (I am not in it) but those are about "culture" and "governance" not the work itself so much.*

Here's my question for nonprofits and foundations and activists and associations - to civil society, basically - how do we trust you and your research?

This is a sector-wide issue. What mechanisms, credentials, cross-checks, editorial practices, industry norms need to be developed and implemented before civil society's signals become indistinguishable from incessant noise?



*Kelsey Piper, who identifies as an effective altruist, has a decent example of soul-searching about EA and harassment in her newsletter dated February 15, 2023 for Vox.  Although she nods to the homogeneity of the EA community she doesn't draw any further inferences to the problems in its giving approach, governance, or harassment.