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January 20, 2009


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Christine Egger

Phil, I continue to appreciate the attention you're bringing to microphilanthropy. You're right -- the concept includes "gestures of compassion" that extend far beyond the distribution of financial resources alone.

Phil Cubeta

Macro money from the few flowing into nonprofits ad into government may equal micro-democracy for the many. Gifts always breed obligations. For our democracy to flourish, the many need a way to be heard, and a way to be treated with the dignity and respect that comes with clout. In working with the wealthy we teach advisors to listen, to empathize, to enter into an open ended dialoque, without having designs on the client. But with small donors, they are pitched in the gross by appeals that treat them as walking wallets, not as active agents of change. I think that social actions really gets this. I don't have the solution, or even a glimmer of one, but for that reason I am hyper alert to anything that seems promising. If small donors could hash out a focus for 1,000 to give $10 they are in aggregate a major donor. If 10,000 gave $10 to one cause, particularly to a grassroots cause, they would be in that 10% who give 90%. But how do small givers find that "schilling point," that rallying point, where they can gather to define their cause, and to be pro-active rather than reactive givers? This is not about a marketplace, but a civic space where conversation becomes political in the best sense of taking responsibility for the state of the community and determining to do something concerted about it.

Any way, you and Peter lead, I will follow.

tom matrullo

From the linked post:

One of the concert halls has been forced to close its doors not even a year after the grand opening, unable to sell the tickets to its performances. Can you guess which one?

The post is contrasting two approaches to funding a concert hall, one allegedly elite, the other, more a "community" effort.

This is a well-worn distinction, but it leaves the concert hall still pretty much context-free. On the other hand, there are semi-public spaces - I'm thinking of some of the large, odious malls that dominate landscapes across this great land of ours. They studiously tend to avoid sharing space for non-commercial activities, e.g., concerts; music lessons; master classes; other kinds of educational activities; day care. Space too valuable, etc. Except, guess what, a lot of them are being gutted in the retail holocaust.

Maybe not a bad time for malls to re-think. For planners of concert halls to rethink. Then I might go to a mall even when I don't feel the urge to consume. I might see other people I know. We might patronize the coffee bar. Malls might look less like No Country For Old Men. People would have nice public places to commune. etc. Could this be a worthwhile approach, Phil?

Jon Husband

Malls 2.0 ?

Great idea, Tom. I wonder if some municipalities might municipalize some malls in ways similar to how the banks are being nationalized ?


Phil Cubeta


In one of Dallas's monstrous malls is a skating rink. Maybe that is an effort in your direction, Tom.

A town square was the old New England ideal, with a common green in the center, and with houses of worship, town hall, and shops around the edges.

My home town of Middlebury, VT was like that, with the spire of the College Chapel rising on a hill in the near distance.

Still seems like the right way to organize our shared lives.

What to do with Malls when they are no longer commerically viable - internment camps, maybe? For profit prisons for white collar criminals?

tom matrullo

In Mexico, shopping plazas often have one or more storefronts that are dedicated to the Virgin, or a place for meditation. I always found this a refreshing disruption of the otherwise seamless phalanxes of merchants. And a reminder of how inconceivable such a thing might be in many USian commercial entities. Internment camps, bondage dens, for-profit holding cells, on the other hand -- not so far from proof of concept.

Phil Cubeta

Consumer Re-Education Camps? All the shops replaced with Credit Counseling kiosks. The best use, I am afraid, would be homeless shelters for those whose homes have been foreclosed.

tom matrullo

For homeless losers I would suggest moving to stadiums or convention centers - these worked so well during Katrina, if you recall. Homeless U.! After being adjudicated, folks like Madoff and Thain could deliver lectures to the assembled, recreating every step of their scams.

Phil Cubeta

"I once was lost, now am found," sung by Thain and Madoff with a backup group could work. They could command high fees for a performance like that. We might get philanthropic funding.

tom matrullo

Your Texan cakewalking contingent could put in an appearance...

I meant to find and add this link to the above - Ben Barber is quite sensible about reorienting public spaces.

Phil Cubeta

Thanks, Tom, blogged it.


New example of micro philanthropy for macro social result. www.Buzzfund.com an escholarship social community created to harness the power of small gifts by millions of people to make college accessible to more students and eliminate student debt. 5 million college elligible students bypassed college due to financial reasons in the last decade. 9 million students took student loans last year totaling $80 billion. Buzzfund believes that if Americans can donate 1 billion dollars to their favorite political candidate in a depressed economy (avg gift $73), then we can make a difference in the lives of students across America.

Phil Cubeta

Viewed you site. Can you flesh it out to include:

1) whether you are a forprofit or nonprofit
2) how you get revenue to support your operation
3) who are the officers of the organization and their bios?

I could not easily find this info. Thanks.

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