Archives for category: philanthropy

One terrific benefit of working in the philanthropic sector is the opportunity to attend the Council on Foundations’ annual meeting. This major event invariably brings together significant thinkers who share their learning and insights with foundations, which are a key part of the social sector and arguably one of the most important leverage points. This year we will be in San Francisco.

I had the good fortune this year to be invited to play a role in the planning of this conference, serving as a member of the “Civil Society Working Group.” I have no idea how I ended up with this group of people, which includes some real leaders in the field, mentors, and people I have admired for years.

We were tasked with developing a series of breakout sessions that focused on how civil society can more productively work and be supported by philanthropy.

I’m particularly excited to be moderating one of the sessions:

Philanthropy’s Role in Free Speech, Press, and Religion

2015-annual-civil-iconThe recent Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris reminded us across the globe of the democratic values we enjoy and must protect in a civil society. In addition, these events remind us of the ongoing need for civil discourse that allows disparate ideologies to have voice. What is philanthropy’s role to ensure open speech, inclusion of ideological and religious differences, privacy, and the right to assemble?

Discussants on this topic will be:

  • Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice
  • Eboo Patel, founder and president, Interfaith Youth Core
  • Abdi Soltani, executive director of ACLU NorCal

If you are coming to the meeting, join me at 11:15 am on Sunday, April 26 for this session! We will be in the Yerba Buena Ballroom, Salon 1/2, Lower B2 Level.

 

I’m delighted to announce the publication of a new report, a joint effort by the Kettering Foundation and Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), of which I am the author. Philanthropy and the Limits of Accountability: A Relationship of Respect and Clarity explores how the field of organized philanthropy might think about responding to a growing movement for accountability and transparency.

Philanthropy_and_the_Limits_of_Accountability_FINAL_pdf__page_1_of_20_The report is available as a free PDF download from PACE, where the paper is described like this: “The paper grew out of a conversation we began with PACE members over year ago about how the issues of transparency and accountability might soon impact the field of philanthropy. PACE and Kettering convened three roundtables of philanthropic and non-profit leaders, and talked to dozens more one-on-one. This report is a distillation of what we heard and the issues that were raised.”

I am proud to have worked on this important research. An early preview of our findings, published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy a few weeks ago in an article by me and PACE executive director Chris Gates, outlines the main points:

    • Philanthropy is at a crossroads as it experiences increased pressure from all sides to solve public problems and to be more accountable for outcomes.
    • Transparency may be a necessary component of accountability, but it is not sufficient and too often may be obfuscating.
    • Strategic philanthropy may paradoxically tend to make philanthropic organizations seem less accountable and more risk averse.
    • Accountability isn’t just about data transparency. It’s also about relationships.

Download Philanthropy and the Limits of Accountability here.

kf_pace_logos

In partnership with Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), the Kettering Foundation has been working for the past year or so on a report looking at the civic dimensions of the “accountability movement” as it relates to organized philanthropy. I have been the main researcher in this work, which has involved a series of conversations with leaders in the social sector. That report, Philanthropy and the Limits of Accountability: a Relationship of Respect and Clarity, will be released very soon and will be available at the PACE website.

For now, though, I am delighted to announce a preview of the findings that appears in the form of an article that I co-wrote with my good friend and PACE executive director, Chris Gates, which appears in the most recent Chronicle of Philanthropy. They were kind enough to take it out from behind the subscriber paywall so it is available for the public to read.

Here’s a quick excerpt, edited down from the article:

Foundations Must Rethink Their Ideas of Strategic Giving and Accountability

For decades, foundations have done their work with little pressure to make their operations more open and understandable. Boards have been free to make decisions behind closed doors about what areas they will focus on and what projects and organizations they will fund. . . . But that . . . has been changing. Pressures for increased accountability—the same ones that have affected so many other sectors and to which philanthropy has so far seemed immune—are increasing. . . .

Here are the main findings from our forthcoming report, which will be released this spring . . . .

    • Philanthropy is at a crossroads as it experiences increased pressure from all sides to solve public problems and to be more accountable for outcomes.
    • Transparency may be a necessary component of accountability, but it is not sufficient and too often may be obfuscating.
    • Strategic philanthropy may paradoxically tend to make philanthropic organizations seem less accountable and more risk averse.
    • Accountability isn’t just about data transparency. It’s also about relationships.

* * * * *

We go into greater depth on these findings in the article (and even more in the paper), so please click over and take a read. If you find it interesting, we encourage you to comment on the Chronicle website. We would like to get a discussion going.

I’m pleased to announce that the Case Foundation has released a new report co-authored by me (with Cynthia Gibson) titled To Be Fearless.

The report, commissioned for the Case Foundation’s fifteenth anniversary, is an exploration of what it means for organizations in the social sector to be fearless. It is rooted in five key principles:

  1. Make Big Bets and Make History. Set audacious, not incremental, goals.
  2. Experiment Early and Often. Don’t be afraid to go first.
  3. Make Failure Matter. Failure teaches. learn from it.
  4. Reach Beyond Your Bubble. It’s comfortable to go it alone. But innovation happens at intersections.
  5. Let Urgency Conquer Fear. Don’t overthink and overanalyze. Do.

The To Be Fearless Report lays out the framework for a wide-ranging initiative by the Case Foundation to spark a conversation about fearlessness across the social sector. It was released at an event streamed live on Ustream featuring Jean and Steve Case, Sen. Mark Warner, Walter Isaacson (CEO of the Aspen Institute and Steve Jobs’ biographer), and many notable social sector leaders.

The full report is available for free download at the Case Foundation’s web site.

Steve Case, Jean Case, Walter Isaacson

Report available from PACE

Click image for the report (pdf)

I’m excited to announce the release of a new report I wrote for Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), an important group of funders who do grantmaking in the civic participation and dialogue field.

Titled An Evolving Relationship – Executive Branch Approaches to Civic Engagement and Philanthropy, it is based on a briefing paper I wrote for a White House meeting earlier this year between leaders of the philanthropic community and Executive Branch officials. I want to thank PACE for the opportunity to work on this report, and for choosing to publish it.

This from the PACE press release:

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) is pleased to announce the release of its latest publication, “An Evolving Relationship: Executive Branch Approaches to Civic Engagement and Philanthropy.”  This white paper is based on a briefing memo prepared for a White House meeting earlier this year between leaders of the philanthropic community and Executive Branch officials.  The meeting focused on the topics of service, civic engagement, social innovation and public participation and where there might be shared interests between the two groups. . . .

“We are at a moment that many in the civic engagement field see as a threshold. Fundamental changes are taking place in the way that citizens interact with institutions, demanding new and more creative approaches to civic engagement,” said PACE executive director Chris Gates. “The new Administration and the field of philanthropy have both made it clear that they want to be a part of the conversation about how our nation can craft a new kind of relationship between citizens, civil society and government.”

An Evolving Relationship was prepared for PACE by Brad Rourke of The Mannakee Circle Group. The paper provides a broad overview of Executive Branch approaches to civic engagement, participation, and service over the past two decades. It also describes how philanthropy has worked with the federal government on these issues over the same time frame.

The paper argues that a number of key trends in White House approaches to civic engagement are now intersecting and suggest a great deal of possibility for moving forward in the near future. Civic engagement is a clear priority for this administration and has becoming increasingly embedded in the policies and practices of a number of Federal agencies.  At the same time, key philanthropic institutions are making increasing commitments to the fields of deliberative dialogue, civic engagement and democratic practice.

For more information about PACE or this paper contact:

-Chris Gates, Executive Director of PACE at cgates@pacefunders.org

-Brad Rourke, Mannakee Circle Group at rourke@mannakeecircle.com