Events Feed

Robert Musil on Social Venture Philanthropy and the Power of the Free Market to Bring Good out of Evil in a Time of Ruthless Propaganda, Mass Delusion and Moral Cowardice and Make a Buck off it Too

Ray Davis citing Robert Musil's journals, 1933:

"March 33. Three days ago the Reichstag went up in flames. Yesterday the emergency regulations to eliminate the Communist party and the Social Democrat Party appeared. The new men don't wear kid gloves. In the circles with which I have some contact there was, at first, a general feeling of indignation, an instinctive response to this blow in the face for truth, freedom, etc. It is the reaction of the liberal education in which people have grown up. Yesterday, after Goering set out the measures in a radio broadcast, with a calm, friendly, masculine voice, Frau Witte is already starting to waver! 'If it is true what the Communist Party was up to, then things are really in a dreadful state!' The hypothetical part of this statement is shrinking. The feeling is growing that the new arrangements will not be so bad after all and that, overall, there will be a liberation from many of the things that were felt, at an unconscious level, to be oppressive. An impression of decided rejection comes only from the serving girls, even though they keep silent.

"Freedom of the press, of expression of any kind, freedom of conscience, personal dignity, freedom of spirit etc., all the liberal fundamental rights have now been set aside without one single person feeling utterly outraged, indeed by and large without people being strongly affected at all. It is seen as a spell of bad weather. The average individual does not yet feel under attack. One might feel most profoundly disappointed over this but it is more correct to draw the conclusion that all the things that have been abolished here are no longer of great concern to people. This was indeed so. Did a person make use of his freedom of conscience for example? He had no opportunity whatever to do so! Nor did he trouble himself over this freedom... The newspaper did this for him and everything that the newspaper did he accepted with a degree of unease, even though it was seemingly indispensable to him. Seen in this way the discipline of the 'fascio' is indeed a creation that goes unerringly to the core of man's instincts.

"On the 1 March (in other words immediately at the beginning) in the offices of the Central Organization of German Citizens of Jewish Belief a house search was carried out by the police and the Sturm Abteilung.... Theater manager Barnay is abducted in a car by 5 men in uniform and beaten up....

"There are hundreds of examples of such happenings.... The general feeling is: it isn't as serious as it sounds -- a process of 'making-things-less-serious'.... 'Life goes on' -- even though, each day, hundreds are killed, imprisoned, beaten up, etc. This is not frivolity, but is rather to be compared to the helplessness of the herd that is slowly pressed forward while those at the very front go to their deaths.

"Definition: the modern person is a coward but likes to be forced to perform heroic feats."

Via Tom Matrullo

Patient Capital for a Sustainable Future

Investors' Circle's 2006 Fall Conference will be held November 5th - 7th at the Boston Harbor Hotel in Boston. "Patient Capital for a Sustainable Future" will gather angel investors, professional venture capitalists, philanthropic investors and entrepreneurs who are using private capital to promote the transition to a sustainable future. The Venture Fair on November 6 will feature 20 early-stage for-profit companies and small funds working to solve social and environmental problems. The Education Day on November 7 will feature speakers and workshops on the state of double bottom line investing and enterprise creation in: energy & environment, food & organics, education & media, health & wellness, mission-related investing and community & international development.

Grassroots and Groundwork: What Communities are Doing to Stay Out of Poverty

Conference recommended to me by H. Peter Karoff:

The 2006 Grassroots & Groundwork conference promises to be a valuable, memorable event featuring:

20 break-out sessions focused on microenterprise development, living-wage jobs, collaboration between businesses and nonprofits, community-driven initiatives and other successful poverty-reduction strategies.

Community-Builder Institute – our new half-day program with two powerful workshops:
“Building Economic Engines and Opportunities”
“Building Community Capacity to Design, Lead and Implement Lasting Change.”
Space is limited; minimal fee required. Sign up now.

Keynote Speakers include:

  • Robert Reich, former secretary of labor, author, and professor of public policy at the University of California – Berkeley.
  • Elouise Cobell, member of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe of Montana, executive director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, and widely recognized for her work on the Individual Monies Trust Correction and Recovery project.
  • Beth Shulman, author of “The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans,” and co-chair of the Fairness Initiative on Low-Wage Work.
  • Dr. Mae Jemison, America’s first woman of color to go into space, a chemical engineer, scientist, physician, and founder of a nonprofit dedicated to excellence in science education.

I can see the connection to The World We Want.

Harwood Institute Public Innovator's Summit

This weekend on the recommendation of Thomas Kriese of,  I will be attending the inaugural Annual Public Innovator's Summit convened by the Hardwood Institute:

Beginning on Friday, August 18th until Sunday, August 20th, a dynamic group of leading-edge thinkers and community leaders from around the country will meet in Utah to discuss the essence of challenges in public life..... Along with The Harwood Institute, the Summit is being co-sponsored by Fast Company Magazine and made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation....At the Summit, topics intended for discussion, among others, relate to what it means to genuinely operate as part of the community, how we move beyond pockets of innovation in public life, and what a culture for the public good looks like in an era of MySpace.

My assigned topic for discussion is something about "How to get them to drink the koolaid." Since koolaid in that particular instance was laced with cyanide, and cult leader Jim Jones died along with the men, women and children who followed him, their bodies strewn around the koolaid tub, I am wondering about the sensitivity to language of those in charge. Shouldn't we from the standpoint of the public good be thinking instead how to bring to justice all those in public life and private business, or for that matter in think tanks or in the media, who presume in the spirit of Jim Jones to manufacture and disseminate the spirit-destroying "koolaid" of propaganda, branding, charistmatic leadership, and cult religiosity?

I know that "drink the koolaid" is just a mindless phrasing, familiar to the point of cliche, but unless we learn to think outside the frame of framing we are in wealth bondage forevermore.  Sponsored, the Institute is in part, by Fast Company, a magazine devoted to technology and entrepreneurship. I think something goes darkling when business leaders displace models of language and thought drawn from sources that are,  shall we say, "liberally educated," or spiritual.  Christ, I guess, is an example of a leader who got his followers to "drink the koolaid" for the greater good - The Way of the Cross is the Higher Koolaid. Hitler, Rasputin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Osama and.... well, you continue the list, are other koolaid mavens. So, before we get our flunkies or consumers or voters or employees or readers or dupes to "drink the koolaid," perhaps we might pray briefly for wisdom and humility and the courage to bear witness to the often unlovely truth.

So, do I act dumb and talk in an upbeat way about how to get them to drink the koolaid? Or, do I print out a picture of the dead around the koolaid tub at Jonestown and ask "the dynamic group of leading-edge thinkers and community leaders from around the country" how they can accomplish similar things when they get home? Maybe we are so poisoned by koolaid already, we as a nation, that going along to get along is the most prudent solution.  Far be it from me, etc.  I am sure there will be good people at the conference doing good things, and I will probably play dumb since a businesslike perspective seems called for when discussing public good amidst Fast Company.

Added Later:

The actual question set is,

What does it mean to drink the Kool-Aid?

  • What happens when we come to believe that our organization or group must "own" a challenge and outcomes - and is there an alternative?
  • How does our own hyper-inwardness  (for instance our brand identity or gaining competitive advantage) sometime sabotage the good ends we seek?
  • Who are the peers and colleagues you seek out for advice and support - and why them?
  • What does it mean to genuinely collaborate and why is such a simple idea so hard to do? Are we really in this together?

I can work with that. Merry Pranksters, back on the bus.

The Public Innovator's Summit

Summit hosted by the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, August 18-20 in Midway Utah,

The Summit will give leaders a chance to engage as peers in a “safe space” about the challenges facing public life, the enormous pressures on the public sector, and how we, both collectively and as individuals representing distinct organizations, can create the norms, networks, relationships, and structures necessary for the kind of society we all seek.

I am considering attending this "safe space" where "leaders who engage as peers" may "create the norms, networks, relationships and structures necessary for the kind of society we all seek."  The paradox of the few setting norms for the many is obscured by the hypnotic repitition of words like "we" and "all." Once again the world we want is mapped out by "we"..."all." Where "we" are the few. And "all" are 50-100 leaders who meet in isolation at a spa and resort.

Still,  the Harwood Institute seems aware of th paradox.  They are committed to public goods, public service and public innovation, in this age of private enterprise, ownership, and consumerism. The roster of people attending their upcoming conference is impressive.