Sunday, December 19, 2010

Music to Change the World By

(I am indulging my inner do-gooder in this post. Please don't pay it any attention.)

In college, when some fellow students and I were creating what would become the Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell, I would always joke about an "SEG Mix" of songs that we could listen to for our occasional pub nights. Because SEG is a microfinance organization, I couldn't come up with many songs that spoke to our mission and work of providing small loans to entrepreneurs around the world. The only two I came up with were Michael Jackson's "Heal the World" and "We Are the World."

But, with a few years of perspective and a broader sense of social justice, I'd thought I'd revisit my goal to find the perfect social change playlist. And as a holiday present to you all, dear readers, I'd like to share what I've come up with.  It is by no means exhaustive, so please let me know what you would add, or remove. Some of them are pretty obvious (like the Michael Jackson tracks), but some are more personal and obscure. Listen to it when you are feeling inspired; listen to it when you are felling discouraged. Music has always helped me celebrate the good parts in my life and work through the hard times, and I hope these songs can do the same.

You can listen to the playlist on Grooveshark here

Here's the list of songs, in no particular order:

For What It's Worth, Buffalo Springfield
Chicago, Crosby Stills Nash and Young
If I Had a Hammer, Peter Paul and Mary
Heal The World, Michael Jackson
We are the World, USA for Africa
Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson
Get By, Talib Kweli
The Message, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Sound is Vibration, Atmosphere
What's Goin On, Marvin Gaye
Inner City Blues, Marvin Gaye
Ball of Confusion, the Temptations
Lean on Me, Bill Withers
Chimes of Freedom, Bruce Springsteen
The Times They Are A-Changin', Bob Dylan
One Fine Day, David Byrne
If You Want to Sing Out, Cat Stevens
Peace Train, Cat Stevens
Changes IV, Cat Stevens
A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

And here's some other songs I would have added if Grooveshark would have let me:

Imagine, John Lennon
Give Peace A Chance, John Lennon
We Shall Overcome, the Freedom Singers

What should I add? What should I remove?

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Inefficiency of Cost-Benefit Analysis

I've been learning a lot about social impact measurement and metrics recently, and I've realized something: I don't care about cost-benefit analyses.

My economics professors would be so disappointed in me, I know. But it's true. Out of all the different methods for deciding why to donate to a certain nonprofit, or for why an organization should pursue a particular program, I think a cost-benefit analysis is the least effective way to determine what to do.

I'm not in charge of a large foundation (yet!), so I can't speak much to the different justifications for funding a particular nonprofit, or a particular program. But I do try to be informed and intentional about my charitable donations, so I can (try to) speak to the justifications behind individual donations.

The organization I decided to support is the Village Enterprise Fund. I did not make this decision based on any sort of cost-benefit ratio. That is, I did not look at where my money would, in a strict numbers and results sense, make the most difference, but rather, where I thought the most important work was being done. I care about opportunity access, and I determined that VEF--which provides start-up business grants to entrepreneurs in East Africa--was the most effective organization working on this issue.

If I was strictly looking at a cost-benefit ratio, I would have given to Village Reach, GiveWell's top-rated charity, which has an "excellent" cost-effectiveness rating. GiveWell says that Village Reach, which strengthens health systems infrastructure in rural areas of developing countries, averts a child's death for ever $545 it spends. By contrast, VEF, while still recommended by GiveWell as a charity to donate to, has only a "moderate" cost-effectiveness rating, the lowest of all the top-recommended charities.

I'm not trying to claim that giving to VEF over Village Reach is inherently better because economic empowerment is more important than health infrastructure, but that is a personal conclusion I've made. I've made that decision mostly for emotional reasons that most others probably don't share with me. And because of that decision, I am comfortable knowing that my money is not going as far as it could if I gave it to another organization.

I am very uncomfortable saying that one problem is more important to fix than another, and I don't think cost-effectiveness measurements claiming that one program is more cost-effective than other changes my opinion about that. It does get tricky to support this position when I consider that we have limited resources, and we want to maximize the most good with what we have, but I am comfortable living with that conflict, for now.

I think the reason I am drawn to the nonprofit sector is because a nonprofit's bottom line is not based on a cost ratio, but on its mission. All problems need solutions, no matter how much money it takes. Improving the lives of the poor in the US is as important as improving the lives of the poor abroad, it just takes different resources and different solutions. Because nonprofit work is about more than money, looking at a monetary bottom-line to determine where we should contribute our own resources will always miss out on something. And missing something is always inefficient.

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion: December Edition

It's that time of month again! VPPNews came out today. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  • VPP Chairman Mario Morino's reflections on the last ten years of VPP's work
  • A profile of one of our investors, Jack Davies

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Politics and the Nonprofit Language

"As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse."

- George Orwell, "Politics and the English language," 1946
I think it's widely accepted in the nonprofit field that there is no common set of terms to describe the work we are doing. I recently read Melinda Tuan's "Measuring and/or Estimating Social Value Creation," about the different ways to measure social impact, which comes with a helpful glossary of terms at the end. She says that she created this glossary because: "The organizations we profiled in this paper often use different words to describe the same thing or use the same word to describe different things. This can be very confusing and obfuscate the true methodologies or results behind the various approaches."

I came up with my own Glossary of Useful Terms a few months ago, but these were much less helpful than Tuan's, by design. Defining things in the most abstract sense (Social Return on Investment: Helping people with your money; Social Enterprise: The thing that you do when you do things) was supposed to be humorous, but also tried to get the point across that the words that we use when describing what we are doing have no real meaning outside of the contexts they are used in.

The use of language has been important to me since I read George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" in high school. If you are a writer (and if you are a blogger, you are a writer), I strongly recommend you read this piece.

In it, Orwell discusses what he sees as the denigration of the English language by lazy writers, which influences the way people think and the way people behave. He says that hiding in the abstract, rather than explaining the concrete, reduces the need of critical thought and critical dialogue, which can create a level of complacency with the status quo in society. If a writer describes the bombing of a village during wartime, he says, as "pacification," the images of the reality of that violence will never spring into the reader's mind, and therefore, no one will question the action. (If you've read his most-famous work, "1984," this theme isn't anything new.)

Now, I'm not trying to argue that the nonprofit sector is guilty of misconstruing language to the point that war crimes are glossed over. But I do think we are guilty of what Orwell described in the quote that started off this post. We quickly fall into the abstract, either in writing or in talking, which can lead to the confusion between organizations that Tuan describes. If one person thinks of social enterprise as strictly a for-profit venture, but another thinks of it as anything that is working to create social change, whether it be for-profit or non, that can create issues as both of them try to work out the concrete details needed to get anything done.

I think the most obvious example of this is the word "nonprofit" itself. We throw around the phrase nonprofit for anything with 501 (c) 3 status, which is technically accurate, but fundamentally devoid of any real meaning. A nonprofit can be a grantmaking organization, a community-based health center, or a gun lobbyist organization. Making statements about the "nonprofit sector" are general and broad, and therefore, most certainly inaccurate. I've read studies or blog posts with authors who describe trends for community-based organizations, or funders, or educational institutions, or high-net worth philanthropists, but instead of keeping their conclusions concrete and specific, they rely on the word "nonprofit" to make general conclusions. The lack of specificity confuses and is counter-productive.

There are many reasons for this reliance on the abstract, and most of the are reasonable. The nonprofit sector (see, even I do it!) has only recently, compared to the business sector, been accepted as a "sector," with best practices, a capital stream, professional development, etc. The difficulty with measurement of social returns, as described in Tuan's article, makes it difficult to come up with a standard set of reporting language, which I think influences general language use regarding nonprofits. These are real issues, but they need to be addressed. Collaborations among nonprofits are becoming more and more essential, and standardized and specific language use is necessary to create successful collaborations. If we can't talk to each other in the same terms, it'll be a lot harder to get things done, and we will just keep shooting in the dark when we talk to each other about our work.

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Monday, November 29, 2010

We can only do so much

I've been oscillating between being a vegetarian and eating meat for around three years now. There are some times when I'm able to go weeks or months without eating meat, and other times when I don't go for more than a day or two. I've tried to limit myself in different ways (no meat on weekdays, no meat on weekends, don't cook meat, don't eat meat when going out), but nothing has seem to stick.

I know and believe all the intellectual arguments for not eating meat. I know the overall social costs do not outweigh the individual benefits for me. But I always tend to slip back into eating meat in one way or another. Mostly, my degree of meat consumption depends on my life circumstances at the time. Right now, I'm eating more than I have in the past, probably because I'm making decent money for the first time in my life. My emotional state of excitement over a (sort of) new lifestyle outweighs the overarching intellectual arguments in the back of my mind. It probably shouldn't, but it does.

I lay this out because I think it's important to recognize that at different points in our lives, we are able to do different things. I write a lot about working for social change through nonprofits on this blog, but, in reality, we do not all have the privilege to do that at all points of our life. Brigid Slipka commented on one of my posts awhile back saying that she would like to work in a nonprofit, but the low-salary might not be able to meet the needs of her or her children.

This is a point well taken. I am able to work in a nonprofit for (relatively) low pay because I have no dependents, no debt and not many needs. I also scored a sweet deal on cheap housing. The nuances of nonprofit and social change work I and other bloggers discuss isn't an option for the majority of the population. I, and many of my fellow nonprofit employees, have the privilege to be able to give back, instead of having to focus on what is best for us or our dependents. (Not that we are all completely selfless. Like I said, I'm making decent money for the first time in my life and spending accordingly.)

I think we always need to keep this in mind when we consider the actions of others. Not only limited to the decision to work for social change or not, but also when considering what people doing with their positions at certain times. People cannot always give everything to their job. Creating change can't always be the most important thing to people. We shouldn't feel guilty about that. We can only do so much, and we should recognize that in the actions of others.

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Embedded Giving, Redux

It's that time of year again! Soon we will be walking through the aisles, stumbling from product to product to try to figure out just what all those special people in our lives want this year. And after we leave the check-out counter, it's important for us to not forget our favorite nonprofits, who also need gifts from us during this season of giving.

Luckily for all of us American consumers, we can do our shopping and give to charity at the same time. The gracious and good-willed corporations of the world are making it easier for you to give to your favorite charity in these times of small-budgets, while also buying that perfume your sister wants. Several companies have started partnerships to give a portion of their profits to the well-deserving charities, so you don't have to make those hard choices.

This is the phenomenon of embedded giving, the act of tying a charitable donation along with a purchase. I've written about this before, so I will try to not go much into what I've already said. You can also read all about it from people much smarter than me on Philanthropy 2173, GiveWell, Tactical Philanthropy, and, most recently, Good Intentions are Not Enough and AidWatch. What I'd like to go into a little more with this post is Lucy Bernholz notion of "charitywashing,"  which is related, but not limited to embedded giving.

Bernholz defines charitywashing in this way:
Charitywashing. Verb. Gaining the trust, good faith, or simply the business of customers by aligning your product with a charity. Often takes the form of statements that claim "...x% of sales of this object will be given to charity." 
I think I would push this a little further and say that this is not only about aligning a product to a  specific charity, but to the notion of working for social change in general. As Nathaniel Whittemore observed, doing shit is the "new cool" thing. It's cool to be trying to make a difference in the world, and corporations are catching on. There are countless charity-corporation partnerships that are branding corporations as "socially-conscious" in the hopes to sway consumers in their direction. Most recently, GAP released a new ad (which Whittemore discusses in the post linked above) that highlights the charity work of several very attractive people, wearing attractive GAP clothing. (Side note, Tim Ogden has been working on a system to rate these partnerships. Check it out, it's pretty cool.)

I tend to not have a problem with these charitywashing partnerships, as long as they do not increase consumption, and instead just shift it towards more socially-responsible choices. But the one area that I am concerned about is the complacency that it might create. I think this was best summed-up in a recent episode of 30 Rock, where the main character, Liz Lemon, played by Tina Fey, buys jeans from a socially-conscious store and says wearing them makes her "not feel bad for all those long, hot showers I took because I was bored." (In the end, it turns out the jeans were made by Halliburton.)

When engaging in these purchases, we always need to constantly analyze our behavior to determine our motivations behind our actions. Are we doing it to feel good? Are we considering this our good deed for the day? Or are we just making a logical and rational decision that if you have the choice between a product that helps a nonprofit or one that doesn't, clearly you should buy the one that does. I'm concerned that most people engage in embedded philanthropy to be a part of the social-change lifestyle without having to do much work.

I'm reminded of a lyric from an Immortal Technique song, "Beef and Broccoli," (warning, strong language in that one):
"Being a vegetarian should never be associated with being a revolutionary or being open-minded. That's a dietary choice."
Buying something should never be associated with being revolutionary. It's a consumption choice. There's nothing wrong with consumption, but don't pretend it's anything more than that. I think there is a lot of potential to try to change consumption habits in revolutionary ways: For example, there are some group coupon companies that focus solely on bringing people to social enterprises. That's cool, and it's trying to shift our consumption patterns, which is necessary if we want to accomplish systematic social change. But there are also group coupon companies that simply give some of their proceeds to charity. That's cool too, but it isn't as revolutionary as upsetting consumption habits. And we shouldn't think of it in that way.

So, as you walk through those aisles, make sure you are aware of the motivations behind your giving at the checkout counter. If you want to give, then do it. But don't pretend that it's anything more than what it is. And if you want to be a part of the "new cool" like those attractive people in the GAP ad, remember, you can't buy your way into that club.

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Communications Associate Speaks Out Against His Profession

I love my job. I really do. I love working in communications, promoting my organization's work, talking to people about it and trying to raise our profile within the sector. I've loved doing that at other organizations I've worked for. But there is a by-product of my profession that makes me uncomfortable.

As communications professionals, we try to make everyone else see why our organization is the best thing out there. I do genuinely believe that my employer is doing some of the most important work in the field and doing it in an innovative way; that's why I work for them. But not every organization can be the most important thing to every individual, or doing the most important work in every field and sub-field. The image that is created when looking at the sum of communications from all nonprofits--foundations, community organizations, research institutions, etc.--would make it seem like each alone has the all answers to social problems. The contributions of others is recognized in person, through presentations or informal contributions, but rarely do I see the prominent display of another organization's work on websites or promotional materials.

Now, this isn't the worst thing in the world. Most people accept messaging with a certain level of skepticism, just like they do not believe everything a corporation's advertisement tells them. But what makes me uncomfortable is the level of competition and isolation it creates amongst nonprofits. (In management speak, this is called "building silos.") We want to prove that our work is better than our peers, which limits how much credit we can give them in their work. Because communications is always linked to fundraising, a constrained and restrained capital market intensifies this competition.

I think this phenomena is most pronounced, and most problematic, between grantmakers and the nonprofits they support. This relationship is inherently collaborative, but I feel like neither parties typically tend to acknowledge the contribution of the other as much as they should. At conferences for grantmakers, the focus is almost always on the strategies of the foundations, not the innovations on the ground coming the community organizations.  At meetings of nonprofit community organizations, funders are seen as bureaucratic overseers, rather than partners. Looking over grantmakers' websites, there is always some sort of mention of "partnership" or "collaboration," but you have to dig to get into any specifics. This is the nature of communications to have a broad focus on the organization up front, and only get into specifics of the work later.

I attended a talk by Ralph Smith of the Annie E. Casey Foundation a few months ago about the new federal innovation programs coming from the Obama administration. He discussed how the requirement for match funding on the Investing in Innovation, Race to the Top and Social Innovation Fund awards actively increases collaboration among grantmakers, and between grantmakers and their sub-grantee nonprofits. He said that this collaboration has many benefits for the nonprofit sector and can cut down on a lot of inefficiencies. I think communications professionals need to find a way to tell the story of their organizations that includes the acknowledgment of these collaborative efforts going on around them. Collaboration is key, and the messaging should reflect that.

I also don't feel like acknowledgment of collaboration--stating that some result couldn't get done without the insights and connections of a funder, or that a community organization's sensitivity to local issues was essential to completing an initiative--always reflects poorly on the organization who did not come up with that solution. The players in the nonprofit sector should recognize that everyone has different roles to play in accomplishing the end goal of social change, and we should find where we fit in and celebrate those different roles. This can also help us focus our energy on our strengths and let our weaknesses be supplemented by others' work. (I think this is also pretty good personal advice, too.)

As the sector shifts towards a more collaborative effort to solve social problems, those of us telling that story need to include the efforts of all the organizations working around us and with us. This more accurate portrayal of the work being done can only help the nonprofit sector as a whole.

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

Friday, November 12, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion: November Edition

That's right, VPPNews came out today. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  • An advice column from President Carol Thompson Cole for funders looking to scale across local jurisdictions
  • Coverage of VPP's recent conference on the "Suburbanization of Poverty."

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Hang one more year on the line

    Today is this blog's one year blogiversary. Ch-ch-changes.

    Thanks to all of you for your insightful thoughts and continued support. It means a lot to me.

    Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    Thoughts on the Rally to Restore Sanity

    I know this is an unabashed detour from the typical content on this blog, but I felt like I needed to write about my experience at the Rally to Restore Sanity yesterday. I've written several drafts for this post, but I can't seem to put something together that I'm proud of, or that does the event justice. I've become frustrated at myself for not being able to put this event into context, because I feel like it might be something that I've been waiting for my whole life.

    I've been watching Jon Stewart since I was 11 and I've followed the stand-up comedians of my era in the same way that I idolize the rock stars of the 60s. I've continually compared myself and, by extension, my generation, to the generation 40 years before me. I am always searching for my generation's Woodstock, a cultural convergence that symbolizes a generation while also propels it forward at the same time. I anxiously analyze my history as it is being created around me instead of living it, always in the shadow of the people that have come before. Every major event I witness I think to myself--is this it?  When I went to rebuild in New Orleans after Katrina--maybe this is it. Obama’s election--maybe this is it. And the Rally yesterday--maybe this is it.

    I've poured over comedy in the same way I poured over the lives and words of the musicians of the 60s. I memorize lyrics, I memorize punch lines. I try to get in the head of Jon Stewart, I try to get into the head of Bob Dylan. I try to tease out what each of their actions--and the actions of the people around them--mean for the broader trajectory of a generation's development. When Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced their rally over a month ago, my thoughts on what it could mean built on top of each other with each new episode.

    Needless to say, when I went to the Rally (and it will always be simply known as "the Rally") on Saturday, I was nervous. It had already been labeled my generation's Woodstock, but I wasn't sure. I wanted it so badly to be, I wanted so badly to have the privilege years from now to say "I was there, and I remember that" to those that wish they could have been there, in the same way that I wish I was at Woodstock or the '68 Chicago protests when people tell me they were there. So today after I shook off the sleep that followed a Saturday night of instant reminiscence; (Where were you standing? Could you hear the whole thing? How many people do you think were there? How pissed were you when Ozzy Ozbourne cut off Cat Stevens? But it was pretty sweet...), I sat down ready to write about my generation's moment, how it was better than Woodstock, and how comedians deliver better messages than rock stars ever could.

    It didn't come out. I ended up with scattered paragraphs and half-thoughts in full sentences. I forced myself to keep writing: This is what I've been waiting my whole life for. I was part of a crowd of over 200,000 people, who took to the streets of my nation's capital with a common goal of understanding and civility, and a shared dream of a better tomorrow. I watched as one of my heroes stood in the shadows of the Capitol building saying that our presence here alone was enough for him, that when everything is amplified we hear nothing, that the only place where we can't work together is in DC and on cable TV. And I did it with some of my best friends with me scattered throughout the crowd. I should be able to say something about this.

    But I couldn't find the right words to give a deeper meaning to all of these moments. I tried to compare this possibly-historic event to Woodstock. I tried to talk about how comedians were the rock stars of our generation. I tried to talk about how comedians were the only ones who could keep us sane in these complicated times and the messages of the 60s were too simple now. But nothing seemed to fit together.

    I was reminded of a quote from, either fittingly or ironically, the Dylan biopic, "I'm Not There." One character tells a young Dylan, who at that point in the movie will only play songs from the Great Depression and not about what he is experiencing; "Live your own time, child, sing about your own time."

    I can't say what the Rally means, because I don't know if it means anything yet. I lived through it, but I'm not sure if my three hours on the Mall will mean anything more than a fun afternoon, some good stories and the chance to be apart of something that I thought was pretty cool. And I guess it isn't really for me to say what it meant for my generation--that will be determined by historians smarter than myself--but I know it meant a lot to me. I've always admired the way that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report (and all of my favorite comedians) can point out the flaws in our society by making humorous connections no one else can see. I think they put on a great Rally.

    The message that they delivered was exactly what I think our country needs right now. The Rally wasn't an anti-Tea Party message, or an anti-establishment message, or against really anything at all. It was more about stating the obvious for those in power--media or government--that might have forgotten it: These are hard times, but they are not end times. We will continue to work together and do the things we need to do, as we have always done.

    I hope this message makes a difference in the near future, and the long-term future, but I don't know if it will. I hope I can, at some point, look back on this day--this period in history that I was lucky enough to live through--and say something more substantial that I have said with this post. But until then, I will be glad I was there to share it with everyone else who was there, or who watched it, or who shares the sentiments. That is good enough for me, for now.

    Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    A Glossary of Useful Terms

    This industry has a lot of jargon. I know I get confused with all the terms thrown around these days, so I thought I'd put together a helpful guide for myself and others. They are below, in no particular order. Let me know if I've forgotten any or if you take issue with any of the definitions:

    Social Return on Investment: Helping people with your money.

    Entrepreneurship: Doing things that may or may not help people, including, but not limited to, things you can make money on.

    Social Entrepreneurship: Doing things that may or may not help people, including, but not limited to, things you can make money on.

    Social Enterprise: The thing that you do when you do things.

    Leverage: Doing something that helps and/or inspires others to do something.

    Effectiveness: Doing the thing that you do really well.

    Capacity: As in, "increased capacity" or "capacity building." Actually, I'm not totally sure on what this means. But I know it's important and I know I say it a lot.

    Scale: Making the thing that you do bigger.

    Growth: See "Scale."

    Growth Capital: The money that you need to make the thing that you do bigger.

    Evaluation: Making sure the thing you are doing isn't the wrong thing.

    Rigorous Evaluation: Really making sure the thing you are doing isn't the wrong thing.

    Metrics: The numbers that you use to make sure the thing you are doing isn't the wrong thing.

    Innovation: Doing something new, or something in a different way, that may or may not help people.

    Social Innovation: Doing something new, or something in a different way, that may or may not help people.

    Social Capital Markets: All the money that there is to help people do the things that help people.

    "Triple Bottom Line": Making money, helping people and helping the environment all at the same time.

    Philanthropy: Money that helps people.

    Charity: Money that helps people.

    Social Investment: Money that helps people.

    Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Looking Back, Looking Forward

    Two years ago next month, I was able to cast my first vote in a presidential election, for Barack Obama. I was a college senior at the time and in the months leading up to the election, my college campus was full of the hope and change that the Obama campaign was spreading around the country. I went to a extremely liberal school and Obama buttons and stickers could be seen attached to every backpack outside the dining hall and on the door of most professors' offices. Topics of conversation didn't stray much from the idiocy of Sarah Palin, the fall of John McCain from his pre-2007 persona and the most recent stats on the Democrats' assured takeover from Our older professors told us this is what it felt like when Robert Kennedy was running for president. I don't know if that was true, but I've never felt such a collective sense of joy and hope for the future from my peers.

    I was an aspiring journalist at the time, and being the downer that I am, I decided it would be a good idea to go around and interview people about what they thought would happen if Obama lost. I had memories of the tears on my high school classmates' faces the day after Kerry lost in 2004 and I couldn't bear the thought of my generation having to go through another loss like that. I wanted to be prepared for the inevitable and I considered it my civic duty to go around and bring everyone down a notch, just to make sure things didn't get out of control. Because you never know.

    The response was encouraging. There was no doubt that if Obama lost, things would not be good, and on my college campus especially--we were so liberal we considered Tom Friedman a war criminal. In the course of my interviews, I was able to talk with the then-Vice President of the College Democrats of America, who happened to be my classmate. He said that the enthusiasm surrounding the election and the political activism that had arisen from it was not contingent on Obama alone. With or without him, the sense of hope and the drive for change would stick with this generation for life.

    Two years later, I think he's right. Things have not dissipated since the Obama administration has come into office and my peers seem to still be fighting for change. There's talk about youth voter turnout (and general turnout) being lower this year, but there is so much evidence to suggest that my generation is much more engaged--politically and socially--than the previous. (You would like to see some of that evidence? Well, here's a few nice anecdotes I feel justify that previous statement completely: Young lawyers are deciding to work in nonprofits, Americorps' applicants are sky-rocketing, as are TFA's.) The decision of many of my peers to flock to the nonprofit sector is probably partially due to the crappy economy, but I have a feeling we might stick around for a while.

    And this engagement stretches to younger members of my generation too: USA Today recently ran a fascinating article about tweens who volunteer regularly and even start their own nonprofits. For some  anecdotal evidence on this, I just wrote a profile (shameless self-promotion alert!) on a young woman who has already founded a nonprofit at the age of 18. It's clear that even if my peers don't stick around to push for social change, our younger siblings will.

    Thankfully, for many reasons, Barack Obama did win the election on that cold November night. (Best Tuesday night party ever.) I am very proud that my first vote for president was for the first black President of the United States, and for one who (I think) will have the most social impact on our country in my lifetime. If I am wrong and Obama's reforms do not pan out to be what he claims nor what we all hope (or his efforts are derailed after the mid-terms), I'm not worried. I know my friends and I will still be around, picking up the slack to drive the country in the right direction.

    Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Shameless Self Promotion: October Edition

    It's that time of month again! VPPNews came out last week. Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

    • VPP Chairman Mario Morino's column about transparency. Very powerful piece that gets to the heart of the issue: "Transparency is about our value set and how we act on it—not about checking a set of boxes or posting a set of documents on a website. It is about the honesty, openness, and integrity we live by in governing and running our organizations and doing our jobs"
    •  An article on Adri Smith, founder of the nonprofit YouReach. At 18, she is already well on her way to making a big difference in the world.
    •  A profile of the two leaders of KIPP DC. With all the buzz surrounding "Waiting for 'Superman'", it's nice to hear the stories of people working on these issues on the ground.

    Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      Doin Good

      Since I choose to work in the nonprofit sector, I've been told that I'm  "doing good work" or "doing good" many times through my life. This never sat well with me. I never seem to feel good about doing good and tend to have a visceral reaction to hearing those words. When I try to explain this feeling to people, it mostly comes out as a spewing tirade against the traditional do-gooder, activist model of change. This explanation also never sat well with me and I don't think I even convinced myself.

      Related, I've also struggled with people who say they give donations or volunteer or work on a cause to "feel good." I'm beginning to understand these motivations a little better, but I still think "doing good" and "feeling good" are non-starters when it comes to creating change. I do feel good about my donations and I do think I am doing good work at my job, but that really isn't my motivation. I'm motivated by what I think is right and what I think is the most effective way to create change. It's great that you may think I'm doing good, but that's a bonus. I don't prescribe any moral judgments to what I'm doing.

      I consider myself in the Jon Stewart camp of sanity, so I try to keep these feelings mostly to myself and not convert others to my side, except for the occasional spewing (I am a blogger, after all). But then, in a black-hole of blog surfing a few weeks ago, I came across this article, "Leverage Points--Places to Intervene in a System," written by Donella Meadows, the systems analyst, in 1999. She outlines 12 "places to intervene in a system" to create change, in increasing order of effectiveness. They range from "Constants, parameters, numbers" (least effective) to "the power to transcend paradigms" (most effective). I'm sure you can tell by those snippets alone that this is some pretty heavy stuff. It completely blew my mind.

      I won't go into what exactly the different "places" to create change are or what they mean, because Meadows does that quite effectively and succinctly. But I will focus in on second most effective place to intervene and create change on the list (which was originally #1): "The mindset or paradigm out of which the system--its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters--arises."

      When I read this, something clicked. I realized that "doing good" is the mindset the entire nonprofit sector has arisen from. All of the nonprofit sectors' structures, rules and goals have arisen from this notion of "good", as have all of its subsequent problems--inefficient capital markets, low pay for nonprofit employees, a hesitancy to blend for-profit/nonprofit ventures, etc. I think I fundamentally disagree with this mindset and have begun to recognize the problems that it creates. Meadows' list showed me that changing this mindset is actually one of the most effective ways to fix these problems on a large scale. (For more on this check out Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta, where he traces this moral framework all the way back to the Puritans.)

      Now, I think the label of "doing good" is less of a pet peeve and more of a cause for action for me. (I think I should have realized this sooner because a synonym for "doing good" is charity and I did name my blog "Change Charity.") Being able to shift something as fundamental to a sector as the "mindset or paradigm out of which the system...arises" is pretty powerful. I'm not sure how we can make this shift, but I know there's a lot of people working on it. If anything speaks to that, it's the recent Social Capital Markets Conference.

      But until that shift, if we ever meet, please make sure to refrain from telling me how great I am for working at a nonprofit. I don't care, and you don't want to hear me spew.

      Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

      Thursday, September 23, 2010

      Will It Blend?

      I'm not a big fan of YouTube videos. Normally I can't be bothered by the most-recent two-minute fad and I prefer to consume music through the vinyl medium, which leaves me little use for it. But there is one* series I couldn't stop watching once it went viral on my college campus a few years ago.

      "Will It Blend?" is the brilliant marketing campaign by Blendtec that puts its blenders up against anything viewers would like: marbles, change, golf balls, cellphones, and, in an attempt to either completely reject or completely embrace consumer culture, a brand-new iPad.

      These videos and their catchphrase, Will It Blend?, have resurfaced in my subconscious recently. I find myself asking that question internally whenever something new is put out into the ether to be critiqued and cut apart by the masses. I imagine the new development--be it an idea to donate shirts abroad, directing growth capital to small nonprofits or some sort of Rally to Restore Sanity--being thrown into one of Blendtec's blenders to see if it makes it through the blades, or if it ends up being no different than your everyday hockey pucks. (That one is pretty cool.) In my mind, those that make it through the blades mean something and go on to create real change, and those that don't end up being white noise that blends back into the normal fabric of society. 

      I think, especially in the blogosphere, we can sometimes focus too much critique on the things that surround an idea (or an organization or an initiative), but not on the effectiveness of the idea itself. We can get caught up in a narrative rather than the substance of a movement (Tea Party, Liberals) or focus in on representatives of two camps sparring off (Jeff Sachs vs. William Easterly or, if you want something a little more humorous, Jon Stewart vs. Bill O'Reilly). Instead, we should be asking ourselves this question: Will it blend? Or will it work?

      The most obvious example of effectiveness being lost through debate is the health care reform bill, which has many proposed changes going into effect today. Democrats defend it as sweeping social legislation and Republicans condemn it as ignoring middle class needs. Both of these stances reinforce political narratives and further political causes, but don't look at the efficacy of the proposed solutions behind the debate.

      Developments within the nonprofit sector can be given many different labels--new, innovative, entrepreneurial. While those labels hold value, they do not answer that ultimate question. To determine if something works, we need testing, evaluation, planning and, above everything else, failure. Only through vigorous self-awareness and time can it be determined if something has made it out of the blender.

      Of course, those parts of the debate that surround the issue of effectiveness still inform overall results. If a new program isn't actually new, but an old idea that didn't work the first time, it probably won't work this time. Trying to stop someone from going ahead with an objective bad idea is a good thing, like what happened in the 1 Million Shirts debacle. Someone wanted to give away t-shirts to poor countries, and aid workers who had seen this kind of program fail before put a stop to it. The debate became petty and personal, but ultimately the campaign was halted. There are limited resources in this world, so we cannot afford to have every idea or program tried and tested.

      If you are thinking about doing something, whatever it is, the bottom line must always be: Will it work? Will it create meaningful, sustained change? Not: Is it new? Has it been done before? Will people like me if I do this? Those questions can inform the answer to the blender question, but they aren't the ultimate answer that can guide you.

      So, if you are trying something new, always remember the sound of that blender. I hope you remain intact once it's been shut off.

      *Well, actually, there's another YouTube video that I couldn't stop watching, but that's mostly due to my afore-mentioned vinyl interest.

      Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

      Wednesday, September 15, 2010

      Listen to Your Neighbors

      During my recent job search, I had to make the hard (but privileged) decision on where to focus my scope of work: domestically or internationally. Two years ago, this wouldn't have been hard. I grew up fascinated and horrified by the stories of need abroad and always felt drawn to help those living on less than a dollar a day. In college, I studied global development and was introduced to Muhammad Yunus and his concept of microfinance as poverty alleviation. Setting out into the "real world," my goal was to do my part to end global poverty.

      Instead, for a variety of reasons, my first job out of school was at a community health center with a hyper-local focus. I also ended up living only two blocks from where I worked. For the first time in my life, I was living and working within a community. When it was time for me to move on from the community health center, I again started to look into global development work, but kept in mind what I could do on a local level. I saw myself going down two paths, not knowing which one was right for me.

      My reasoning for focusing on global poverty has always been that internationally, there is more absolute need than on any domestic cause. Income levels and standards of living are so low that, fiscally, it does not make sense to use resources for social good elsewhere. Lives can literally be saved for a few hundred dollars (as many international charities remind you in their advertisements.)

      However, as I looked into the international development field, I learned that many problems arise when foreigners attempt to help the less fortunate abroad. Little to no awareness of local cultures, lack of understanding of local needs, hidden domestic interests and slow responsiveness to unsuccessful projects can cause more harm than good at worst and perpetuate the status quo at best. These problems have become (or always have been) so rampant that some have dedicated their careers to fixing the international aid system.

      As you can see from my bio, I ended up choosing to continue to work on the local level, but it was not because of these intellectual and academic arguments. I'll deal with accountability issues with any sort of philanthropic work, regardless of location. What instead pushed me to consider focusing my time back home (besides my aversion to frequent trips abroad--I don't do airports well), was the feeling of connection I get from knowing that the time I spend at work effects the people I live near and the places I go to when I'm not in the office.

      On my last day at the community health center, which served Latino immigrants, I was given a beautiful poster that read: "Ser revolucionario: Hablar con sus vecinos," which translates to "Be revolutionary: Talk with your neighbors." It is a quote from the 1968 Paris uprising. I've always associated the summer of '68 with an international push for peace/love/harmony and that quote--imploring the young, radical minds to learn what's going on right next to them--seemed out of place. But now, through my community work, I realize that any local initiative can be radical. A global push to eliminate poverty is revolutionary, but so is listening to your neighbors to see what they need. In either case, you are doing something, you are trying to change something for the better.

      Ultimately, my decision wasn't based on where I was needed, but where I belong and what I understand. If you need someone to listen to you, you want to talk to your neighbors, not a foreigner. I feel that I am better equipped to listen to the people around me than someone in Botswana, as I am sure a woman in Botswana is better equipped to listen to the people around her than I am.

      So, for now, while I live in DC, I will learn and do what I can to make it a better place. If I can one day get over my repulsion to airline food and jetlag, maybe I'll end up as a foreigner living in a foreign land, listening over there.

      Thanks to Saundra at Good Intentions Are Not Enough for talking through this with me. (And apologies to all my global development professors in school.)

      Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

      Tuesday, September 14, 2010

      Election Day!

      If you live in the District, get out and vote today! It's an important primary for many different races, not just the hotly-contested mayor's race. There's same day registration if you are new to the area, you just need proof of residency. You can find your polling place here and the polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm.

      I know the last few posts have been meager content; there will be more soon, I promise.

      Thursday, September 9, 2010

      Shameless Self Promotion: September Edition

      One of my primary responsibilities at Venture Philanthropy Partners is to produce and edit VPPNews, its monthly newsletter. The September edition came out today and you should check it out to see what I've been doing for the past month. I'd love to hear any thoughts on it.

      VPPNews is generally made up of a feature story, updates from the nonprofits we invest in and an in-depth column from either VPP's President, Carol Thompson Cole, or its Chairman, Mario Morino. This month, Carol's column discusses the Social Innovation Fund and the need for a collaborative approach for social change.

      I'll be posting these on here as a part of my monthly "Shameless Self Promotion" series. I hope you enjoy. Again, let me know your thoughts.

      Monday, August 30, 2010

      The Toolkit

      I'm frequently annoyed with the blanket lionization of the nonprofit sector. When I stumbled upon this video on the industry, via Tactical Philanthropy, called "Know Your Sector,"  I was expecting inspirational music and wide-reaching facts about how the nonprofit sector employs one in ten people and generates $1.1 trillion every year. And that is exactly what I got:

      The video (which was produced by Philanthropy Reports) presents a very broad picture of the nonprofit sector, which I felt was not as inspiring as the music that went along with it. Phil Buchanan at the Center for Effective Philanthropy blogged about the video, saying it could help address the issue of the greater public's "ignorance of the nonprofit sector," but I do not see any real value in an education of the greater public on how many people are employed by one type of organizational structure. A similar movie could be made about the for-profit sector, or the governmental sector, which would most likely be very boring or very funny, depending on who made it.

      Many times, I talk with people who clearly conflate the nonprofit sector with "doing good things" or "saving the world." As this video makes clear (although I doubt that was its intention), there are many nonprofits out there doing very bad things. It states that the sector is diverse, and covers organizations from the Sierra Club to the NRA. I personally think (but know there are those who disagree) that the NRA is one of the worst organizations in this country doing things that are fundamentally against social progress on many different levels. However, the head of the NRA and I are both included in the statistic that states "one in ten people work for the nonprofit sector." I do not like to be grouped-in with anyone who works for the NRA.

      I will tell another story to illustrate my point: When I was job searching, I scoured job postings daily on like they were my ticket to salvation. (And judging the current state of the economy, they turned out to be just that.) I came across one posting for an editor position at a magazine dedicated to the promotion and well-being of cats.

      Again, for emphasis: Cats.

      My friends and I talk a lot about selling out, and when I saw that job posting online, I knew if I applied to it, I would officially be a sell out. But, that magazine was a nonprofit and it could post on Idealist. Working for that organization, I would have felt like more of a drain on society than at most corporations. Especially since I would probably have been able to make more in the corporate world and then donate more to charity.

      My point is to not argue about which nonprofits are doing "good" or "bad" or "nothing at all," but to show that there is nothing special about the nonprofit sector. Do not limit yourself to thinking that only nonprofits can do good. At this place in time in our history, I feel like the nonprofit structure is the easiest organizational type to use if you want to create social change, but others are quickly adapting. (If you want to learn more about an interesting cross section of this transition, check out recent developments at Unitus and SKS. A good summary and analysis is here.) Even consumer goods manufacturers can be creating social change.

      If you are looking to "change the world," nonprofits are only one option in your organization toolkit. Don't limit yourself to thinking they are the only thing in there. As I've said before, they are typically the most adaptable organizations working on the ground to solve problems and tend to be at the front of social issues, but there is nothing inherent in the tax structure that makes them better at working for social change than another type of incorporated organization. This is not a particularly profound conclusion to draw, but an important one to keep in mind.

      Edit: Phil Buchanan at the Center for Effective Philanthropy responded to this post. You can see our back and forth here.

      Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

      Friday, August 20, 2010

      Managing Fate

      Throughout my life, I’ve been guided by the words of many. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about Warren Buffett’s op-ed in Fortune, coming off of the heels of the Giving Pledge announcement. In the piece, titled “My Philanthropic Pledge” he discusses the main reason behind his vast wealth: Luck.

      He writes:
      My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.
      If you haven’t read the op-ed yet, do. It’s probably the best rationale for philanthropy and giving back that I have read. As I continue on in the nonprofit sector towards the broader goal of social change, I think it’s important to take a step back and think about why I am doing what I am doing—why we are doing what we are doing.

      To steal from Buffett’s imagery, I am motivated by fate’s capricious nature. I agree that our market system is generally the best way to serve the most, but it does produce distorted results. Market failures allow some to come out far ahead of others for no real substantial reasons. Philanthropy helps repair those failures and allows the system to run as smoothly as possible.

      Some people (meaning, me) would say that philanthropy is the most important part of a true capitalist society. Funding social service organizations helps mitigate the inherent flaws in our system while still working within that system. It attempts to make capitalism function as perfectly as possible to leave no one behind.

      Some people (meaning, not me) have argued against the Giving Pledge, saying that it is undemocratic or it will cost the government too much money in foregone taxes and ultimately stifle social services. I think these arguments are silly and do not recognize that nonprofits are probably some of the most adaptable and responsive organizations working to improve the lives of people in this country and others. But I also think these detractors from the Giving Pledge—and probably some cosigners on the pledge themselves—miss an important point about what they are talking about.

      As I see it, the Pledge—and to extend it out a little further, all of philanthropy—is about social change, righting wrongs, dealing with market efficiencies, a redistribution of wealth, whatever jargon and talking points you want to use. But what is important to remember is that there is no set way to accomplish these end goals. There is no unification of approach or strategy on how to get where we need to go. There isn’t even an agreement on if philanthropy is the best way to accomplish sweeping social change, as the rise of corporate social responsibility and for-profit social enterprises have shown. If you spend a little time exploring the nonprofit conference circuit (which I just recently have started to do), you’ll see that there’s a lot going on and a lot of disagreement.

      So, I’d like to use this blog’s space in the ether from now on to explore those disagreements and those changes as I explore them myself. I am young, if you did not know that already, and I have a lot of exploring to do. I would love to know more about your explorations and I would be honored if you listened to mine.

      I hope that, through these documentations, the approaches and strategies to that end goal—managing fate—can become a little clearer.

      Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners

      Wednesday, August 11, 2010

      Social Innovation Fund Round-up

      Update 8/12/2010:
      Adin Miller has been generous enough to compile a huge list of Social Innovation Fund commentary, going back to May of 2009. Check it out.
      End update

      I know this isn't the most exciting first post back, but I've been tracking and compiling commentary on the recent Social Innovation Fund announcement. As you can see from the posts at the bottom of the following list, things are getting a little interesting, so I thought I'd share this "round-up" with the general public. I'll come back to this and update as things develop, adding at the bottom. Post go in chronological order and the original SIF announcement can be found here. Please, if I've missed something, let me know.

      I've got some more posts lined up so I promise I'll be back soon with something more exciting.

      Background (not comprehensive):

      The Economist:Let’s hear those ideas
                 -Excellent overview of the SIF annoucement, puts it in broader context of the social innovation/social entrepreneurship movement. Compares British and US efforts.

      Tactical Philanthropy:  “What exactly is the Social Innovation Fund?

      Tactical Philanthropy: “Why the Social Innovation Fund Matters

      Tactical Philanthropy: “My comments on the Social Innovation Fund

      Adin Miller’s Blog: “Analysis of the Social Innovation Fund Update


      Tactical Philanthropy: “Social Innovation Fund Announces Grantees
                 -Initial coverage, positive of the overall choices “The Social Innovation Fund Grants Focus on What Works
                 -Initial coverage, critical of choices, laments choice of intermediaries with established records, rather than riskier start-ups

      JustMeans:  “First Social innovation Funds Grants Announced
                 -Initial coverage, critical, agrees with analysis

      Education Week: Social Innovation Fund Grantees Announced
                 -Initial coverage, disappointed education award winners don’t focus more on younger youth

      Tactical Philanthropy: “Builders, Buyers and the Social Innovation Fund
                 -Response to post, defends choices, says government is working on building capacity, not “purchasing” social services

      Adin Miller’s Blog: “Analysis of Social Innovation Fund results
                 -Very in-depth analysis of SIF grants, including link to data sheet. Echoes issues raised in, concerned about funding “what works.” Also brings up issues of transparency.

      SSIR: REDF Leverages First Social Innovation Fund Grant
                 -Testimony from award winner. Defends funding of intermediaries, talks about adding value to funds and leveraging

      Adin Miller’s Blog: Where’s the Capital Market for the Social Innovation Fund?
                 -Reiterates transparency concerns about SIF

      Non-profit Quarterly: Questions of Transparency Cloud the Social Innovation Fund.
                 -Brings issues of transparency into the center of SIF debate. Strongly attacks Obama administration as being hypocritical

      Adin Miller’s Blog: “Transparency Lessons the Social Innovation Fund Should Learn from the Investing in Innovation Fund
                  -Discusses NPQ article and re-iterates SIF transparency concerns. Compares SIF process with i3 (Investing in Innovation Fund) process and states SIF should follow i3’s example.

      The Corporation for National And Community Service: “Summary of FY 2010 Social Innovation Fund Selection Process
                  -Responds to NPQ’s requests for more transparency. Outlines some of the processes behind the grantmaking decisions.

      The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “National Service Grant Agency Explores More Open Grant Process
                   -Covers the CNCS’ response to issues of transparency. Unnamed official states the CNCS is looking into a more open grant process for the FY2011 and states they will release all of the 11 winning organization’s applications in a few weeks

      The Nonprofit Quarterly: “Social Innovation Fund Disclosures Good But Insufficient
                    -Responds to Chronicle article and CNCS annoucement. Calls for more transparency and the release of all applications, including those not selected for grants.

      Money and Mission--The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “The Social Innovation Fund's Challenge: Helping Nonprofits Survive Failure
                   -Overview of the whole Fund, discusses the risky process of innovation and the need for constant evaluation and learning

      PND Blog: “A Networked Approach to Social Innovation
                 -Discusses the Fund as a networked and collaborative effort

      Andrew Wolk’s Blog: “Social Innovation: The Next Chapter
                 -Discusses the mainstream acceptance of innovation, but raises concerns that the strategy will turn into a buzz word with no real meaning

      Washington Post: “Stonewalling at the Social Innovation Fund
                 -Written by Paul Light, a reviewer of SIF grants. Highlights extreme concerns with transparency. Calls out one unnamed organization as being “rated as weak and nonresponsive in a first-phase review, but won a grant anyway.” In comments, Steve Goldberg defends the process and calls out the rhetoric used

      Adin Miller’s Blog: “Why do we care about the Social Innovation Fund?”
                 -Responds to the Post op-ed. Highlights concerns about loss of SIF credibility as well as potential Congressional oversight.
      Tactical Philanthropy: “Transparency Controversy at the Social Innovation Fund"
               -Details the transparency debate and asks for reader’s opinions. States SIF is too important to screw up.

      Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Social Innovation Fund Stirs Controversy
               -Contains response to transparency issues from SIF administrator the Corporation for National and Community Service. States that the reason they cannot release more information and unselected applications is because they did not tell applicants they would do so at the beginning of the process.

      Steven Goldberg: “Open letter to Nonprofit Quarterly
               -Responds to NPQ’s “Social Innovation Fund Disclosures Good But Insufficient” article in incredible detail. Provides evidence as to why claims of wrongdoing and deception on SIF’s end are incorrect.

      New York Times: “Nonprofit Fund Faces Questions About Conflicts and Selection Procedures

      Tactical Philanthropy: “New Profit Releases Social Innovation Fund Application

      Nonprofit Quarterly: “CNCS Says the Social Innovation Fund Will Release Ratings

      Geri Stengel: “The Power of Social Media: The Social Innovation Fund Increases It’s Transparency

      Adin Miller: “What Should the Social Innovation Fund Do Next?

      Steve Golberg: “The Social Innovation Fund Kerfuffle

      Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Sharing What Works

      Seliger and Associates: "Social Innovation Fund Not Terribly Innovative"

      The Examiner: "Questions Arise as Millions in Federal Grants Got to Former Employers of Obama Administration Officials"

      Tactical Philanthropy: “Next Steps for Social Innovation Fund: A Call to Action

      Dana Goldstein: “The Personal Connections and Small Government Ethos Behind Obama’s Social Innovation Fund.

      Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Amid Concerns of Favoritism, Federal Officials Disclose New Details on Selection Process
             -Contains Paul Light’s response to the release of the applications and ratings

      Social Velocity: “Beating Innovation to Death

      Tactical Philanthropy: “Social Innovation Fund Repository

      Transcript of SIF Twitter debate

      Empax: “Leading by (Wrong) Example

      Ventureneer: “SIF Debate Generates Transparency, Recommendations for Future

      Tactical Philanthropy
      : “How the Social InnovationFund Selected Grantees

      REDF Blog: “Be the best of whatever you are

      Philanthropy News Digest:Conversation with Matthew Bishop

      Steve Goldberg: “SIF Intermediaries: More Drops in Fewer Buckets

      Matt Klein: “The Next SIF ‘Controversy’

      Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners