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Social Innovation Fund at the Corporation for National and Community Service is Now Here to Help You

Government, Markets, Civic Sector - the three have certainly begun to interpenetrate and blur. Under G.W. Bush, it seemed that government was deferring to business. Now, under Obama, it feels that government is trying to make its presence felt in creating and managing and building public goods. Medical care might be an example. In the new Social Innovation Fund at the Corporation for National and Community Service government is partnering with nonprofits. By April 8, nonprofits will apply to this organization to be designated as "regrantmaking intermediaries." These intermediaries will then distribute a total of $50 million in Social Innovation Fund dollars along with a dollar for dollar or higher match that they themselves will contribute. Rick Cohen, for Nonprofit Quarterly, has a thoughtful and searching interview with the head of the program, Paul Carttar.

Left and right is one axis for understanding all things considered. But so too is big and small, or top down and bottom up, as is organic versus engineered and managed. In Rick's questions one can sense the concern that government no matter how well intended is a dangerous ally for a truly voluntary, grassroots, sometimes mettlesome, nonprofit sector. Do we want government matching grants from big nonprofits to amplify a shared agenda between big funders and big government for the good of all? I can see a Rick Cohen, known for his social justice work, and a Bill Schambra, a conservative noted for his hostility to top down solutions, whether philanthropic or governmental, having similar reservations about the Social Innovation Fund at the Corporation for National and Community Service. Even the name sounds a whole lot like Big Brother. We are here to help you with your money recylced through tax and gifts as governed by our wise bureacracy and friends with MBAs from Bridgespan, New Profit, or Monitor Institute. What the world needs is more top management! The self-organizing citizens with no clout, no money, no critical mass, and only each other are background noise.  

Administrations change, political climates come and go, but the story of our time is bringing MBAs to scale. Could be worse, could be attorneys, though, they are the MBAs constant companion, along with the government official, the think tank thinker, and the business consultant. Seeing like a State remains a profound reflection on these trends, throughout modernity, in countries under governments as different as Stalin, Mao, Hitler, or FDR to measure and manage all things from art, to archetecture, to populations, to the farm, to the biosphere down now even to our DNA. It is what we all take for granted that must be questioned. When we speak of change, what if change meant the rise of organic, local, solutions sans top management? (Call the cops! The Happy Tutor is on the loose.)

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