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September 13, 2008


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Philanthropic Travel

"The Business of Philanthropy"

Blogga please...

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."
- Peter Drucker (1909 - 2005)


Yup, philanthropy is good business. That leaves an awful lot of ground, though, to whatever falls through the cracks between government and business, a whole universe of self-organizing grassroots initiatives that are maybe not good for business and might have to be suppressed so good business practices can supplant civil society. Leadership is a tricky term when what needs to be led is subversive of established orders. Rich women, daughters of the Senators and Consuls, from Rome carried through Jerusalem on a litter that they might see how the poor Jews live. You may not welcome the leaders, Philanthropic Traveler, when and if they arise.

Lucy Bernholz

Wrong Phil, its not on the opposite side of the paper at all. Rather the history of civil society is the larger frame within which my dinky little attempt at framing fits. But you knew that.


I do share the belief that civil society is the container or the matrix from which both government and business grow. Could you maybe add a column to the chart for the rise and fall, or waxing and waning, of the citizen sector as the language of business becomes dominant, not to say triumphant? Yet, ironically enough, as business metaphors triumph, and investment metaphors triumph, we see the collapse of the investment houses, and the nationalization of $700 trillion of their toxic waste. Community action for the public good, often in defiance of business interests and the government they have purchased, is invisible on your chart of the "philanthropic sector." So why not add a column for the citizen sector's history? Or make a much larger chart in which the triumphalist "business as master metaphor" chart fits. At the top of the chart why not put, Systemic Collapse?

Thank you for commenting. You are one of the true thought leaders in our field. The chart has certainly done its job of provoking others to think and comment. Thank you for it.

Lucy Bernholz

The things you mention, civil society, social action, systems --- are MUCH more than mere columns. They are entire frames, holding this little thing in place (hopefully).

That said, I'm working on better pictures (it would help if I had any graphic talent whatsoever). Anyone who cares to join me in this effort to map/draw/network/connect these pieces is more than welcome to join in. I'm happy to share edit-able versions of the drawings so long as the editor sends me back their edited version. I can't do this by myself - a complete picture requires group effort and disagreement - so join in.

Thanks much, Phil.



Flesh and spirit could be diagrammed as one inside the other, as philosophers have, some reducing flesh to spirit, some the other way around. Descartes said they were distinct but connected by the pineal gland where the humors rising from the flesh are attenuated until they become mind. Markets want to surround all - a church becomes a another product. A gift to a church becomes a social investment. Likewise political contributions become "investments for political return." The language of business and the language of money prevails over the language of love, justice, community, and solidarity. That is how frames work. They make invisible what they cannot really deal with. They marginalize competing views, and foreground their own. Playing with frames, like playing with myth, poetry, advertising, marketing, or political rhetoric is not always an innocent or innocuous game of buzzword bingo. These "frames" are how we construct a self, a community, a polity, a shared way of life. The rise and hegemony of the business frame is something you could write about, shifting your prose in and out of business prose, quoting or citing, or writing a prose responsive to and participatory within the alternatives frames drawn from art, philosophy, politics, or the spirit. Right? Those are choices, the essential choices, the choice of what kind of person (persona) we want to be or become in what kind of world (or market or mall) in community with whom (fellow investors, fellow citizens, kindred spirits, countrymen, brothers and sisters in a consecrated community, etc).

Thank you for all you do to move the field forward and to "frame the issues," as well as you do. About best framer who ever lived was Wm Blake. "The eye altering alters all," he wrote. Can't we see our shared life together under some aspect less materialistic and pedestrian than business? I just mean to put in a plea for that, recognizing that business is about all we share, other than the products of business, like TV, news and blockbuster books. To find a deeper community, with a more vital shared language, you have to enter the third sector. That maybe is what makes it so vital that we preserve that sector's defining differences in motivation, tone, language.

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