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December 16, 2007


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Alright, if not ROI, then what language do you want to fill that void? Since the body politic is clearly il, maybe medical metaphors would be productive. Sick in the head as much or more than the body, I believe current practice often starts with chemical therapies. Do they have a drug for what ails society?

What is the value of an engaged citizen? I don't know, but donors might want to specify that as a good, and hire Holden as a consultant to measure citizen engagement and connect it with specific investments, that would make the value concrete for donors.

The issues is not measuring ROI, but in what you count as return and whether you can even measure specific returns. A gift is successful if everyone benefits from when it was given as long as the generations remember it, even if we don't know that it exists.

There's nothing wrong with ROI language as long as you are expansive about returns, count intangible returns and accept that measurement is often impossible.


Cultivation, harrowing, pruning, planting seeds, sheep and shepherds, - that language worked with in an agricultural society, so I suppose it is not surprising that in our society we turn to market metaphors. But seeds seem to me a more promising starting points than "investment" per se. How do we plant and cultivate seeds of good citizenship? What weeds might choke that garden? How do we stake the tender growing plant? How do we burn the field after the harvest to make it fertile once again? To those questions the answers are not spreadsheets but parables and other narratives.

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