Tom Williams at $5 Philanthropist:
What I take from Phil's post is that bloggers who represent foundations, donors, charities, whatever, they must actually ENGAGE. And this starts ultimately by being able to talk about what's wrong with the sector and/or specific programs and interventions... It means throwing out ideas fearlessly that break the status quo and it means one of us philanthrosphere bloggers actually being the ones to break the Gates Foundation story not just commenting on the story.
The Gates story, to take up Tom's example, raises issues far deeper than generally discussed. The question is, "Can we rank corporations by the degree of net good or evil they do?" If not, then not only is the concept of socially responsible investing conceptually flawed, but so is the whole concept of double bottom line social ventures.
Will Lucy Bernholz, to help guide foundations in their investment policies, please publish a listing of Fortune 500 companies in rank order of goodness done to evil done, and tell us where the zero point, or break point is? If neither she nor Calvert nor Jed Emerson nor anyone else but a Mullah, could provide such a ranking, and only then by making it up based on personal values, tacit political commitments, and limited information, why criticize Gates Foundation for investing in evil companies? What company is the least evil as of 12 midnight, 1/17/2007, and how much less evil is it than the second best company? Is its evilness still diminishing minute by minute, or has it reversed trajectory and gotten more evil today or this month? This, surely, is nonsense on stilts - and the stilts go with public moralizing (something of this blog is never guilty).
Thanks, Tom, for engaging. I hope others who are committed to the idea that they know what companies are evil will step forward with their own listing of the Fortune 500 ranked by evilness. Let's see if the lists agree. I want to invite William Schambra of Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society to participate, as well, to see how he will rank Halliburton, Coors, and Olin Corporation. Then all you foundation employees out there can rank the evilness of your Board member's corporate affiliations and those of your key donors. (Never take big money from a donor who has done net evil.) This could be a lot more fun than it seems on the surface. What if the total Fortune 500, in aggregate comes out a net evil, when added up? What will we do then? Fudge the data, obviously. Adjust the metric. Grade them on a curve, probably. Or open a new Institute for Marxist Foundation Studies? And get corporate funding for the Leon Trotsky Chair of Social Investment at Harvard Business School?
I am being polemical in the hopes of being set straight by others. Out of such debate, perhaps new friendships emerge, if nothing else, and maybe even some insight as we pool our perspectives, and our little hoards of first hand information.