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November 06, 2005

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DK

Not too sure about the tag 'idealist' - more of a humanist if anything ... like I said in my 'response', "my main motivation is related to working and creating projects for young people - it's a passion and something I feel deeply about". Take the time to check out my background/history and you will get a better flavour and understanding of how my experience has/is driving the essence and development of Phatgnat.

If a corporate/client asked me the question above I would simply laugh. Do you think I'm that naive? Surely you can see from the previous post you linked in my blog I am taking issue with just that very stance...

In terms of being financially transparent - I'll ping you when I start making a profit (I'm just into my second year and I made a loss in the first - plus the research was totally financed by Phatgnat) and I'm actually researching the option of turning Phatgnat into a 'not-for-profit'. If you have contacts in the UK who can help let me know.

I obviously give young people a lot more credit when it comes to comprehending the commercial market than you. I challenge the young people I work with about this same issue and you'd be surprised at their responses: educated, intuitive and insightful.

Looking at your 'about GiftHub' statement I found this: "We would meet to advance shared ideals, including the ideals of open society, pluralism, caritas, justice, and passionate disagreement within an atmosphere of mutual respect." - a tad idealist isn't it? ;-)

Phil

Idealist is not a bad word. I did read your bio, and liked your posts. A nonprofit structure might make sense. An objective and skeptical blog, not taking money from companies, that reviewed their CSR irreverently would be a big plus. I couldn't tell, though, reading around on your sites what the flow of funds is. Even running at a loss today, what is the business or revenue model? Do you and will you (whether under a forprofit or nonprofit structure) take money from the companies whose CSR efforts you review?

Yes? Then no amount of savvy and idealism, or respect for the intelligence of kids, will make up for the inherent conflict of interest? Do you think?

I hope you find a way to spring your work free of corporate cash flow.

Brett

The conflict of interest is an interesting question - something I struggle with in my own work. I guess the real question is - does someone making a positive contribution through their CSR efforts necessarily have to do it with a pure heart, or is it alright to be a means to a capitalist end (better corporate reputation, which has certain business advantages)?

In my area - encouraging business support for education - businesses have a clear self interest in getting involved in K12 education, both in the long term (a better prepared workforce, and therefore a better pool of candidates) and in the short term (the cause branding that comes with focusing on one of the top areas of social concern). Should we deny them the short-term advantages if they have business motives for getting involved?

To me - and I understand that not everyone will agree with this thought - the increased resources that go to schools is what's important, and whether those resources come from a business that's operating solely from a philanthropic point of view or from self-interest is irrelevant. If more resources are allocated to areas of need, that's by far the most important thing.

I think about the United Way. It became a prominent charity as a "community chest", a single place that businesses could donate to support the social good. But do you know when it became one of the largest charities in the country? When it leveraged its corporate relationships to encourage individual donations of workers. Donating went from a philanthropic or long-term focus to a short-term, self-interest-based focused (ie, I better give so the boss sees that I'm on the team). The donations of individual workers were at least partially fueled by self-interest, yet they allowed UW to grow exponentially and do exponentially more good.

To me, the end result is more important than the motives of the givers - but this is a great conversation or discussion to have.

Phil

Indigo, a commenter here, wrote a wise thing: "There is virtue in the gift and virtue in the giver." The gift can have good results even if the giver and the motive is flawed. But we also have to be willing to take a larger view so we don't get hoodwinked. Why is it that we are driven to these morally compromised solutions? What created the "reality" that the tax money comes up short? What role do company's and wealthy people play in jiggering the system, through government to make these shortfalls endemic and to drive us back of individual voluntary gifts and dancing with the devil with coke machines in the high school hallways? Someone just tiptoed out of the room with a large bag of cash. It was the company or the wealth holder who took their tax break and ran, using their gifts, if any to fund think tanks and pols to get more of the same.

So yes in tough times we make tough choices, making our moves within a game we did not construct, but others did.

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