We've just posted a paper, "Foundations and Government: Social Innovation, Policy Advocacy and Collaboration to Improve Government Effectiveness," that Professor Joel Fleishman presented before the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management at its annual research conference held in Washington earlier this month.
Where are the spokespeople for the nonprofit sector’s distinctive value?
Where are the people who will stand up and take issue when Jack and Suzy Welch write, as they did in their BusinessWeek column in 2007, "In most nonprofit situations, as long as you don't screw up, you're pretty much guaranteed lifetime employment." (Not so at the three nonprofits where I have worked, but true of some of the companies I consulted to in a past job as a corporate management consultant.)
A front-page article in this week's Chronicle of Philanthropy profiled the Social Impact Exchange, an initiative of the Growth Philanthropy Network, the Center, Duke's CASE at Fuqua, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
In subtle ways, those of us in the nonprofit sector contribute to the lack of appreciation for its strength when we act as though every good idea came from outside it and simply import the language and frameworks of business. Worse, doing so often leads to poor management choices and reduced effectiveness, because the sector needs frameworks that are responsive to its distinctive context and purpose.
Yesterday, I argued that the nonprofit sector is under attack and discussed the critiques of those on the outside who promise that “business” and “market” thinking is the secret to greater effectiveness. But those of us within the sector also do ourselves a disservice by playing into the critiques, and failing to speak with a loud and clear voice about the nonprofit sector.
American philanthropy and the nonprofit sector it supports are under attack. The attack comes both from outside the boundaries of the sector and from within it.
Hyperbole? I don’t think so.
With recent books from Philanthrocapitalism to Uncharitable receiving prominent play—and their authors being feted by those within and outside the sector—there is real danger that an appreciation of the nonprofit sector’s distinctive identity and purpose will be lost.
The fever for social innovation is sweeping the nation faster than the spread of swine flu. It seems that just about every company has an innovation lab, and the nonprofit sector is not far behind. Even the White House has established an Office of Social Innovation, which hopes to identify the most promising nonprofits to support.
Every year, the quaint seaside town of Camden, Maine is transformed into a festival of ideas. Just before the local inns and restaurants shutter themselves against the long, cold winter, they host a gathering of leading artists, technologists, musicians, authors, scientists, and social innovators—the hundreds of participants who make up the PopTech community. The centerpiece of PopTech is a three-day symposium conducted in the beautifully restored nineteenth-century Camden Opera House.
Today in Detroit, Independent Sector is once again assembling an impressive assembly of grantmakers, nonprofit leaders, business executives and public officials at its annual conference. This gathering will confront the most pressing issues facing the nonprofit sector, our nation, and in particular our most troubled cities, like the Motor City itself.