I will be attending SOCAP 14 and am touched that several important people in that network have reached out to me, despite my grouchiness. Let me make a short case against "social capital" substitutes for love, then leave a space for others to help me learn.
Wealth Bondage or Freedom or Capitalism Generally is hungry. It is failing its citizens and destroying the planet. It can no longer produce the growth on which the economy, investments, and a rosy future would depend. In its fear of death, it is now devouring, owning, managing, commodifying and selling the social, having exhausted the natural. It has zero interest in co-ops or freely shared ownership arrangements or representative stakeholder management structures, because it is driven by a naive dream of being like Steve Jobs, or Zuckerberg. It wants to both do good and own and profit and brand and manage and be a bigshot.
That is at the low, naive level at which SOCAP works. At the higher level, at the Bank of Wealth Bondage (caveat: Gift Hub is owned and operated as Social Capital Investment of Wealth Bondage and I am its shill, on a contingent contract basis) a new bubble is needed. The current one, inflated by Treasury is a compensatory product of the prior bubble (mortgage backed securities) imploding, and the TARP bailout of Wealth Bondage. Prior to that we had the dot.com bubble, with a tone much like SOCAP and driven by the same unholy intersection of Silicon Valley, venture investors, media bullshit, suborned stock analysts, and a buying frenzy among the naive. Before that we had the original real estate bubble. To support the next bubble, which is the only growth economy we have, since the real US economy like its infrastructure is hollowed out and failing, we need deal flow, packaged investment funds, brokers, intermediaries, and we need rating services to stamp the bullshit investments as A+ Prime by an agency at least a credible as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. When this blows up we have more TARP. But if we can get in early and get out on time we can do well, and then do whatever good. No one goes to jail!
Where all this tends is to deal flow and to transactional versions of social investment. It is Genetically Modified Philanthropy. If Monsanto did Social, it would be at SOCAP looking to invest in the next Green Revolution. The tortured language of doing well and good, is the product of minds unable to face simple truths - that tragedy is a more likely outcome than comedy, that the lion of profit and the lamb of love do not lie down together for long.
Against this, and as the remaining hope for the humane and natural communities we have love, and the gift economy where I give because I have received, and pay forward because I have a vain sense that in doing so I participate in something like the holy spirit. Giving is money, love, art, time, a mother's lullaby, a song sung by a girl skipping rope, an economy of gratitude that resents owned platforms and is disgusted with trademarks, patents, and other restrictions on the gift and gifted. Where did NAPSTER go? That was social.
Where do we find freedom and human agency? The answer today is Entrepreneurship and the sale of the Social so that our fellow consumers can create identity by buying and selling. Yes, I see young talented people for whom the Mall and Market are all there is, and it saddens me as an educator, and holdover from an era where it was still possible to read all of John Milton, Wordsworth, George Elliott or Dickens and not have attention waver, all that much.
Why come to SOCAP, then, since, apparently, I am so smart and know everything already? Well, I teach philanthropy to financial advisors and fundraisers and have one of thirty assignments devoted to New Frontiers of Philanthropy as Lester Salamon terms it. That assignment has been phenomenally popular with students, both forprofit and nonprofit. So I want to learn more to teach that better. More importantly, when I become reactive, as I am in this post, I know it is because I am off balance, and largely ignorant. I want to learn so I can be a more reliable connector and boundary spanner between the best elements of the new and established (equally vain, equally deluded, equally doomed) ways of doing philanthropy as things fall apart. By investing in the young, I hope when I am even more decrepit, and starving naked, they will share with me their analysis of my defects, as I so freely now share mine with them.
See you at SOCAP.