I got a note over the weekend:
I’m student [at an Israeli university]. I’m doing a Seminar work about Civil society in USA. I’m trying find an answer for the question: What have happened to the civil society in USA through the financial crisis. Is the civil society is getting stronger or weaker from it?
This is an interesting question and I thought it might spark a good dialogue. But I’d like to shift the question slightly, as it’s easy to claim that civil society is hurt by the current economy.
More interesting, to me, is this question:
How is civil society helped by the current economy?
Here are just a few ways that spring to mind:
- Better talent: With middle-management increasingly out of work, there is a broader talent pool to draw from at this important level.
- More with less: Tough times are forcing everyone to do more with lest. Without the iron fist of a profit motivation, many community benefit organizations have a fair amount of flab in their operations. They’ve had to cut.
- Revolutionary change: More with less is a the idea that you can do more by being efficient. Some new organizations are coming up with revolutionary ways to get the same things done, because.
- New partnerships: Consolidation in some areas of the social benefit sector is removing duplicated effort and forcing organizations that used to compete over turf to partner up, pool resource, and behave in complementary ways.
- Wake up call: My friend Hildy Gottlieb says that the current climate can jar people — especially governing boards — into taking actions that have been long-delayed or ignored because they are uncomfortable. (I am paraphrasing and probably getting it wrong, so Hildy correct me.)
Those are just a few. What do you think? What other ways can these tough times awork in the favor of the community benefit sector?