Fine article by Albert Ruesga on Putnam's work on diversity as possible cause of anomie.
We have learned to pay attention to celebrity and spectacle, and that's really the only way left to get anyone's attention on a widespread scale ... other than horrific violence. Informed people using research and informed policy just ain't cool enough, not packaged rebelliously enough, even if they were to be advocating complete dissembling of capital markets as we know them.
Had an excellent breakfast meeting this morning with the visionary leader of Central Dallas Ministries, Larry James, and Jeremy Gregg who does fundraising for the ministry. We spoke of wealth and poverty and how poorly those two terms correlate with true wealth and true poverty. How can we create a community in which each person is valued for what that person is, the wealthy no less than the poor? How can we create a conversation about love and justice, about giving and giftedness, that includes us all as (for want of a better term) God's children and as neighbors? That dream did not die with Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. It is alive in the city in which JFK was shot, and won't die. As a practical step, we talked about convening a reading group of social justice funders around certain texts, Biblical, literary, philosophical. From that would come a clearer vision of what the funder wished to accomplish for self, family and community. The funder would be prepared, indeed prepped, to advisors with an elevated vision, and to partner with advisors and with nonprofits for optimal outcomes. For me personally, the meeting was immensely gratifying because Larry immediately appreciated the key point: paideia. Soul formation. The rich family no less than the poor family hang in the balance and are no less in need of faith, hope and community if they are to thrive. "Building community one person at a time" is the tag line for CDM.
On an interesting side note, I met Larry through Jeremy who had been reading Gifthub. Jeremy pointed me to his blog and to Larry's. We have been reading each other on and off. It made it much easier for us today face to face to enter into a deeper conversation. Perhaps blogging will be a way in which we can create a more enlightened community of communities. If others of you are lurking, and find the conversation here congenial or conducive, please comment, link, email, and connect.
RSSA is a model for connecting people, ideas, and activities at a large scale. It is based on the model of RSS that allows sites to create web feeds of their content that can be then collected by aggregators into a common feed. RSSA is an enabling technology to allow diverse sources on the web, such as blogs, email signatures, videos, web sites, podcasts, wikis, television and radio broadcasts, etc. to attract attention to a common Activity Space. As people and agents interact, their Activity Stream is recorded so that others may see what is being done.
Mission of Central Dallas Ministries
To share the love of God in word, action and attitude while building genuine community in the neighborhoods where we live and work.
For Larry, three questions about the wealthy who might partner with him in the work.
I as a pro bono Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, or World Class Fool, would volunteer to moderate conversations about love, money, power, and justice if anyone in Dallas were interested. I can't think of a better place than the conference room over the community food pantry. We can lecture on the Obligations of Wealth in a Just Society. If only the hungry show up, so be it. If no one shows up, you can sit in your office, and I outside it and we can blog.
When partisan thinkers do philanthropy studies, you know there will be knife concealed in the sleeve of the academic regalia. The new talking points for conservatives philanthropy pundits are these:
There is more to it than that, but you can see how this will go. Last week I was a facilitator with Tracy Gary (a known liberal) of two networks, one of liberal heirs and progressive thinkers; the other a main street mostly Christian network of socially conservative, self-made, financial advisors. The lovely part is that after a little bewilderment, and a few wary glances, we evolved towards not only mutual respect, but civic friendship. A number of quite specific working relationships resulted. So, I am here to say, "Nice, knife, fella, please check it at the door." Be charitable, Mr. Brooks.
Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge, by Michael Suk Young Chwe, published by Princeton University Press in 2001 is available on line in pdf. I keep the book by my desk, and think of it often. A lot is written in game theory about two person games, like tit for tat or the prisoner's dilemma, but the most important questions of our time can't be solved in a game of one on one. We must coordinate our actions as members of larger, as yet, latent or unformed groups. We must break with the old common sense, whose topoi or commonplaces are advertisements, slogans, sound-bites, public relations footage, talking heads, bowlderized histories, and staged spectacles, and found our own common sense on media and spectacles we stage for ourselves, as news of another order. Blogging fits in here somehow, Albert. Follow the link to the pdf above; read one page and see if you can't stop yourself from reading more.
No higher compliment than constructive criticism from those who are passionately engaged. In that spirit Sonny Cloward at Nonprofit Technology Network offers an in depth critique of Change.org and by extension other social networking sites designed to build a "movement" of givers for common purposes. My sense is that we are all learning in this together, that Ben Rattray of Change.org, is a very bright and idealistic guy who will forge ahead, making adjustments as he goes, and that the real breakthroughs will occur when highly networked people, who are not yet online, begin to use the technology as an extension of their work. I will give an example, from real life, and real time.
Tracy Gary and I convening an invitation only group of "philanthropy mavens" in Chicago on April 25. Our goal is to create a "network of networks" of donors, advisors, and nonprofits, to help donors do the right things for themselves, their causes, their families and the world. Tracy is supremely well connected on the donor side and with progressive nonprofits; I know lots of people on the advisor side. We are both flat out busy, and have limited admin support. We need a mailing list, email list, and bios of participants; we need to share documents; we need to keep a buzz going; we need a way to keep momentum building after the meeting. I opened a private Ning site for these purposes. It seems to have the functionality needed. No doubt other social networking sites do too. The technology in this case is a solution, a tool, an extension of a meeting that would happen even without technology. And what will hold the Ning effort back in our convening is gray or silver hair. The big people in these networks (age 45-70) are still not tech savvy. They do not live on line; they are concerned about privacy. They see the net as a wild and dangerous place. They are not always eager to meet strangers. They have fears and suspicions about being preyed upon, or having their non-billable hours wasted. Will they use Ning? Maybe sorta. But it is not the technology that will drive it, but the social psychology, and the offline prods and nudges, like the personal invitations from Tracy, the convening, and the real world opportunities to advance their very specific personal and professional agendas.
Moral: Begin, where possible, from real world networks and work towards technology, rather than creating a meeting place on line first and then expecting the right people to show up and self organize. Look for real world venues that are now being handled sub-optimally and suggest how technology could boost those meetings. (Council on Foundations Conferences, Regional Associations of Grantmakers, National Committee on Planned Giving, Philanthropy Round Table, Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal. You can see from that list of "business attire required" prestigious venues how far apart the nodes on this network are - Ben Rattray and Sonny Cloward just are not going to these meetings of established philanthropy organizations, nor are those who do attend these meetings paying attention to the work of the online figures. We have got to connect across these generational and cultural divides. I welcome it, and look forward to a day when we can presuppose technology savvy among donor, advisor, and nonprofit mavens.)
William Schambra emailed me a pointer to a new article of his on Presidential Politics and Religious Charities at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In the article small religious orgs are good. Big liberal foundations are, basically, bad. I emailed back the following praise and challenge:
Bill, I always enjoy the polemical verve of your pieces, always stimulating and provocative, but there is a side of your work that is very much in tune with what I would call progressivism, including the "net roots" variety. Small, local, self-organizing responses, or responses organized on the net, seem quite attractive in comparison to FEMA's response to Katrina, say. I think this issue of community, and really of democracy, unites people from all walks of life, and all across the political spectrum. I wonder if you would be willing, and in a position to promote, such grassroots engagement, as a unifying element, rather than a wedge issue? Your piece invokes religious orgs and opposes them to big liberal foundations, thereby maximizing your polemical impact. But you could readily make your view of grassroots, self organizing, voluntaristic, solutions a transpartisan rallying point. Would that building of bridges towards transpartisan, grassroots community be consonant with the goal of Bradley For Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, or would it be a betrayal of its partisan agenda? I will post this note at Gifthub and would welcome a conversation.
A revival of grassroots civic engagement, through religious and secular organizations, online and off, seems to me to be an admirable step towards civic renewal. Driving wedges is not. Who will fund such an effort? We need to buy William Schambra out from his Hudson contract, and put him on the road promoting just plain old democracy, not this party or that. Big foundations can do good things, so can small religious congregations. Let us honor one another for it.
The hungry sheep look up and are not fed. John Milton, "Lycidas"
More on Community for Sale, playing off a controversial post at Gifthub awhile back. The consensus seems to be that what people do of their own volition has to be a good thing - a philosophy that the Happy Tutor at Wealth Bondage roundly endorses. People pay good money, as he points out, to be beaten senseless, and enslaved to the bestial pleasures of the market. Who are we to judge? Even in the old days, the Good Shepherd was also an entrepreneur who first fleeced then butchered his flock. Why should today's community builders be any better?
To Whom it May Concern
Gifthub is an immortal work of art in theMenippean Tradition,written in a Padded Cell (he calls it a Dumpster for obvious reasons) in a state of shock by Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, under an alias, or alter ego, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage...... More....
Email Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families.