August 31, 2008
This week's recap of blogworthy news includes fresh analysis of the slowing economy and a new plan to address global warming:
Heller points out that...gridlock is the root of many of our problems — 25 new runways would eliminate air travel delays in America but we can't build them; 50 patent owners are blocking a major drug maker from creating a cancer cure, but they won't get out of the way; 90 percent of our broadcast spectrum sits idle in America, but we can't come to utilize it. When too many people own pieces of one thing, whether physical or intellectual, cooperation breaks down, wealth disappears and everybody loses....
In response to global warming and our nation's growing dependence on foreign oil, T. Boone Pickens has devised a plan that calls for building new wind generation facilities that can produce 20 percent of our nation's electricity, substitutes natural gas for gasoline as a transportation fuel, and creates a new domestic alternative energy industry. On Yale Environment 360, Vaclav Smil calls Pickens' plan more plausible than Al Gore's "utterly unrealistic plan" to overcome our oil addiction, but says it is not without flaws. For starters, legions of lawyers will be need to be hired to handle federal and state compliance issues; detailed simulations providing a realistic ratio of wind-generated electricity to electricity generated by gas- or coal-fired plants will be needed to determine the actual number of wind turbines required; and more realistic cost overruns will have to be factored into the final cost. Unfortunately, writes Smil,
nothing — and certainly not the Pickens Plan — offers an effective technical fix in just a decade [to America's dependence on foreign oil]. America's per capita energy consumption remains twice as high as the European Union's and Japan's. The era of Americans driving two SUVs to 5,000-square-foot houses 50 miles from city centers may be over. But for the U.S., even more radical, protracted and very painful adjustments will be needed to cure the nation's...incapacitating [oil] addiction....
And don't look for things to get better any time soon, says George Espy, president of the Ohio Grantmakers Forum. Foundation giving is likely to decline next year as the slowing economy negatively impacts foundations' investments. "At the same time," says Espy, "there will be an increase in the number of [grant] requests because nonprofits are hurting. It's a perfect storm — as foundation assets go down, requests are increasing, which makes for difficult decisions."
In a three-part post on PhilanthroMedia (here, here, and here), Susan Herr (with help from Chad Callaghan) discusses the rise of PhilanthroSourcing -- innovative efforts to use social networks and "crowdsourcing" to harness breakthrough ideas for social change. Recent examples of the trend include the Grand Challenges in Global Health sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the X Prizes sponsored by the X Prize Foundation, and InnoCentive, which "connects companies, academic institutions, public sector and nonprofit organizations, all hungry for breakthrough innovation, with a global network of more than 160,000 of the world's brightest minds on the world's first Open Innovation Marketplace."
While we shouldn't expect PhilanthroSourcing to replace traditional grantmaking any time soon, writes Herr, it will have an impact on the field. Even in its nascent stages, she adds, these and other efforts highlight "the value of expanding conversation beyond the preferred experts, beyond grantees with whom foundations already have a relationship, and beyond those who claim nonprofit tax status."
The still-thin ranks of foundations with a blog of their own has increased by one: The Skoll Foundation has launched a blog that "will include information about the latest and greatest from Skoll social entrepreneur organizations, news from the broader social entrepreneurial ecosystem, and updates on developments at the foundation itself." Our best wishes for success to all involved.
Last but not least, Sara Olsen and Brett Galimidi, partners at Social Venture Technology Group, have launched a new blog, SVT on Impact, over at Social Edge, the Skoll-funded online community where social entrepreneurs and other nonprofit practitioners connect to network, learn, inspire, and share resources. Twice a month, Olsen and Grimaldi will discuss the latest trends, approaches, and examples from the world of social and environmental impact management. We're looking forward to it!
That's it for now. Have a great Labor Day weekend!
-- Regina Mahone