community building Feed

After the Market-God Fails, What Community?

By an Anonymous Political Consultant:

Regardless of the fact they will never admit it the fundamentalist criticism of popular consumer culture is in fact a critique of market relationships. You cannot oppose the marketing of denigrating cultural products without conceding to the idea that the market should not be the sole arbiter in regulating all human activities and relationships.

The genius of the economic right and the neo-conservatives has been their ability to ignore this fact and work instead to fill in the blanks in the vast empty spaces within the worldview of the religious right with militarist and pro-corporate ideas.

The tasks of progressives is to tear apart the conservative consensus of the past thirty years by advocating agendas that will consistently split the constituencies of the religious right from its corporate right partners.

If progressives are serious about winning victories that can realign our politics, they must find a way to marry the legitimate criticism of the decadence of popular culture with criticism of the decadence of an economic system that create the savage inequalities we see in America today. Once that is done, the entire project of the right collapses under the weight of its own contradictions.

Philia, caritas, and amateur - three words who root meaning is "love." The things we do for money, or because we are told to do so within a hierarchy, or what we are propagandized into doing, versus what we do for love.  The citizen sector, the voluntary sector, the third sector are, maybe, the space in which a less decadent version of freedom and liberty will flourish across the political spectrum. As Boomer donors or clients, awakening to their own mortality, consider "first and last things," "origins and ends," and their last will and testament, they might benefit from a reflective moment in community with others in their tradition. Might religious communities and liberal arts colleges stage such market-free moments as a gracious element within their donor education work? 


Community Organizing (RE: Obama's)

Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal:

Due to popular request, we're happy to annouce that we've just posted online (click here) the complete, edited transcript of Wednesday's panel discussion on the subject of community organizing, which featured HARRY BOYTE of the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute and long-time Chicago South Side community organizer JAMES CAPRARO, both of whom have provided advice to the Obama campaign, as well as National Review's BYRON YORK and STANLEY KURTZ of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The Bradley Center’s own WILLIAM SCHAMBRA moderated the at times very lively discussion. Audio and video recordings are also available online.


Foundations as Network Guardians

June Holley at Network Weaving:

A Network Guardian is like a Blakian angel (see above) who mentally flies over the network, notices what could make a difference for the network at that point in time and helps makes that happen. A Network Guardian might see the need for an article in the paper about the importance of networks, or might work with a local funder to set up an innovation fund that provides seed money to self-organized collaboratives.

This a a great role for foundations. They often have lots of information about the many organizations in their community or region and their networks and thus have the birdseye view needed to be a Network Guardian. They also have the resources to put in place the structures that most networks need: training for Network Weavers, Innovation Funds, communications systems, Network mapping, deep reflection sessions, etc. They have access to the public venues where they can "reframe": extolling the importance of openness to new ideas, explaining the intricacies of self-organization, and encouraging collaboration.

See also her "How do Good Practices Spread and Become Transformative?"


Meltdown Monday

Robert Preston, Finance Reporter for the BBC on his blog: "For Wall Street, it has probably been the most extraordinary 24 hours since the late 1920s."  Of course the 20's led to the 30's and to FDR. What new models of private enterprise, government, and philanthropy will emerge? Perhaps, from the death of the once triumphal Free Market ideology will emerge a community of communities more local, intimate, caring, and spiritual, if materially poorer.  Or maybe, when you peek through the curtains you will see the boys from Blackwater in the vans with fish symbols and flags. Catastrophe and Resiliance? The end of history marked the beginning of time. In our arrogance, Lord, did thou find sport?


Resilient Communities on and off the Grid

John Robb on Resilient Communities, quoted at P2P Foundation, via:

This conceptual model creates a set of new services that allow the smallest viable subset of social systems, the community (however you define it), to enjoy the fruits of globalization without being completely vulnerable to its excesses. These services are configured to provide the ability to survive an extended disconnection from the global grid

More here. And elsewhere.


Amateur Civil Society and its Commerical Corruption

I have been reading Doc Searls, one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, since I started blogging around 2000.  He is a marketer by profession, I believe, but has always spoken up for what amounts to civil society on-line, self-forming networks of friends foes and foes and friends of friends and foes. His recent thoughts on double bottom line blogging:

Right now online advertising is a river of gold flowing out of the ground in California, and millions of bloggers — along with countless new and traditional businesses — are rushing to grab some. In addition to the other economy-distorting consequences of this rush, it is corrupting blogging’s original nature, which is amateur  in the best sense or the word.is derive from the Latin word for love.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making money by blogging. I am saying there’s something wrong with blogging mostly to make money, or to let advertising determine the purpose of your blog and what you say with it. If your business is the latter, you’re flogging, not blogging.

Interesting, isn't it? Amateur, charity, philanthropy, all derived from words meaning love (amo, caritas, philia).  The industry of blogging, the business of blogging - descriptive, of course, in many cases, but not an encompassing ideal? Maybe we will always need public spaces where we come together for love of the work and and for our fellow citizens, and that would be industrious of us, but not always an industry.


Canadian Rednecks?

Commenter at Bageant's blog:

My question for you is this: if the Ulster Scots have been such a formative influence on the American psyche, especially vis-a-vis its hard-bitten individualism and its imperialistic belligerence, then why is Canada so singularly lacking in these traits? This place is crawling with Scots-Irish -- they may be the largest ethnic group in the country, and they dominate the maritime provinces.

Bageant himself on Why Rednecks May Rule the World


Civic Network Infrastructure Built by the Gifted

Michael Maranda,

We may be used to thinking of philanthropy as something separate from ourselves - a separate class of people or a separate kind of work. But the point of democracy is acknowledgment of our interdependence, and behaving accordingly. We must rely upon each other for resources and expertise and engage in discourse that represents the depth of our self-governance....

Harold Feld, speaking at the Community Wireless Summit  (where human rights advocates joined community networkers) said that the difference between mob and movement is in coordination and intentionality. We've got to intend to work together towards our higher purposes. We need to participate in a higher collective vision. Working effectively and authentically across a global network is our challenge. What tools facilitate that? Which get in the way? Can we be more agile? We're trying to be intentional in the selection and design of our tools as part of a civic network infrastructure.


Crown Philanthropic Solutions: Creating A Technology Bridge Connecting Philanthropies, Financial Advisors, and Donors

I recently spent 90 minutes with several principals of Crown Philanthropic Solutions being walked through a demonstration of their Donor Advised Fund platform. To get a sense of how it works you can read around on their public site, but to get a real feel for it you need to be given a tour of the Donor site itself.  The company is run by veterans from various disciplines, including venture capital, financial sales, advisor training, DAF fund deployment, technology, general business, and philanthropy. They are alert to emerging trends in online community building.

Crown has given their DAF platform a human, interactive, and engaging interface. It feels like a community site, or multiperson blog. You see faces of donors, donor family, the donor's financial advisor, and the philanthropic advisor associated with the sponsoring nonprofit. You also see timely cause-related stories, pictures, videos, and the faces of those providing the updates. You hear many voices and the buzz of converstion between family, nonprofits, and friends. The site for the donor serves as a dashboard to organize giving through the DAF for self and family, while staying in touch, via on site messaging, with the nonprofits supported by the family. The supported charities can push info at the donor, and the donor can turn that info on or off. Financial information about giving history and investment performance is also available by clicking on a link from the main page.

Crown's primary market could be deliminted by drawing three overlapping circles: donors, nonprofits, advisors. The firm seeks to bring these players into productive relationship on a common platform. Say a college or community foundation sets up the platform. The major donors to the college would have a giving fund on the platform and might give to all kinds of causes, not just the college, but the college would be there in the thick of it, giving its message and building its relationship. The donors to the college would be able to use their current money managers to manage the donor advised fund money. This turns the donor's financial advisor from gate-keeper to door opener.  To the extent that donors use the "Groups" function, inviting into the site their donor networks, the site becomes a prospecting fishbowl for both the sponsoring organization and the advisor. Pricing for the platform includes a fixed set up cost, an ongoing percentage of assets in the funds (scaling down as assets increase), and a minimum ongoing maintenance charge offset by the asset based charges. The out of pocket cost for the charity is not huge. A mid-sized organization could most likely consider it. 

The vision behind Crown's platform like that of the web itself is inclusive, and open architecture.  It is not meant to be a world that gets walled off by a financial institution or a nonprofit. Gracious, lively, and open might be a good word for the experience. The donor can brings friends and family in. He or she can give to many causes. So why would a financial organization or a nonprofit want that kind of openness to the world at large, including competitors? Maybe because in today's world client's, donors, citizens demand it. The sponsoring organization as the facilitator is "in the mix" at all times, and is likely to garner disproportionate gains. If your organization's vision is inclusive of making the overall philanthropic ecosystem prosper, doing a service for donors, as well as prospering yourself in competition with peers, you may find a "mission match" with Crown.

In the mid-term, community foundations will have to ask, "Is this kind of DAF platform and community building platform something we adopt, or are we in competition with such online systems, and the financial organizations that may also sponsor them?" Essentially, what Crown provides is an open-architecture, virtual, virally growing, community foundation.  Once again the net is changing the game. A donor group, an advisor network, a financial organization, could set up such a platform for not much money. Note too, as a community foundation, who is garnering the asset management fees. What is your take down, after advisor and Crown are paid? Are you being built up, or disintermediated? How much "load" (between Crown, Advisor, and Community Foundation) can these funds stand? Does the system reduce admin costs and save you money? How does your sustainability model look at you collaborate and/or compete in this increasingly competitive/collaborative space?