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January 31, 2007


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Yes, congratulations to them, it is indeed an honor to be leading these discussions. I hope the views that you have expressed that foundations should go beyond directing their investments to established organizations and industries based on their performance on measures that represent the foundation's values, and make strategic investments in emerging organizations and domain leaders that most directly further those values.

Alternative media is one area that you have mentioned, and I would drive down towards assets that can help shape the policy debate on media, digital access (or as my friend frames is, digital excellence) and democracy. If we had competitors to Diebold and other players in the election systems field that actually implemented systems that protect the vote rather than make elections easier to steal, or who could help communities access new radio licenses, that might go a long way towards advancing the kind of Civil Society that preserves our democracy for true progressives and conservatives alike.


Yes, getting these thoughts up and out so they are visible and audible in the buzz of the philanthropy discussion is critical. Socially responsible investing, social ventures, all of that tends to come down to ideas that are shockingly shallow. Screen out bad companies. Get engaged as a volunteer and busybody board member where you "invest" charitable dollars. Start a business make a bundle and convince yourself that in so doing your are promoting social good. On the other hand, treating a foundation as venture capital fund for program related investments in start ups, or in organizations that have made it past startup but not to scale, that would be truly game changing. Imagine a joint venture between Ford or Pew and, say, Jan Hauser on Augmented Social Networks. "Open space philanthropy" has become another buzz phrase, but behind it is more business as usual. Many of the familiar pieces, loosely joined by new jargon. Top down still does not see bottom up. Even Omidyar who has the vision has done so little to realize it, maybe because his libeatarian market based analogies owe too much to a quick reading of Adam Smith and too little to Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Havel, or for that matter Bill Drayton, on creating social networks driven not just by profit but by ideals. People work hard for money and kill for it, but willingly die for their own ideals.

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