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Weekend Link Roundup (August 17-18, 2013)

August 18, 2013

SandcastleOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Rights

On the Library of Congress blog, Erin Allen chats with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), one of the leaders of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, about the fiftieth anniversary of the march.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Peter Buffett's op-ed about the "charitable-industrial complex" in the New York Times a few weeks back continues to generate comment -- supportive (here, here, here, and here) and critical (here, here, here, and here). Writing on the Huff Post business blog, Margaret Coady, executive director of CECP (formerly the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy), characterizes Buffett's musings as "a mix of insightful and simplistic observations," while applauding his warning not to confuse prosperity with "the blind accumulation of material goods." The good news, adds Coady,

is that CEOs of large multinational companies are working on a version of Buffett's challenge. In other words: the very individuals heading up "the industrial complex" assumed by many to be 'the bad guys' are, in their way, laser focused on creating greater prosperity for all.

Don't mistake me. These CEOs are obsessive about bottom-line growth -- which depends on consumerism. But they are awakening to benefits of replacing "quarterly capitalism" (which has led many companies to disregard their negative social and environmental externalities) with "long-term capitalism" (which takes greater responsibility for the effect the company has on the world). Increasingly, these CEOs are committing to sustainable, investor-friendly alternatives to a zero-sum version of capitalism. That doesn't fully meet Peter Buffet's goal, but I'd argue that it is meaningful progress....

Data

It's a widely accepted truism that the era of open data is upon us. But not all data is created equal, and its use, like so many things, is subject to abuse. Writing on the Markets for Good blog, Andy Isaacson, an engineer at Palantir Technologies, argues that with "[open] data comes great responsibility, both to make the information usable, and also to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the people involved." The goal, he adds, "is, or should be, about the democratization of data, allowing anybody on the web to extract, synthesize, and build from raw materials -- and effect change."

Beth Kanter has a useful post on the top ten chart secrets of data nerds.

And while we're on the subject, do you know the seven deadly sins of data analysis? The Whole Whale does, and they include: Pride ("thinking you know better than the data"), Sloth ("being lazy and only analyzing one metric"), and Gluttony ('converting too many data into too many dashboards").

Evaluation

Very nice post on the GrantCraft blog by Kevin Chin, knowledge and evaluation officer at the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, about developmental evaluation.

Impact/Effectiveness

On the Arabella Advisors blog, Peter Berliner, managing director of the Mission Investors Exchange, a national network of foundations making investments to achieve their philanthropic goals, answers four questions about mission investing.

International Affairs/Development

Nice use of Facebook by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which earlier this week posted short summaries (and links to longer descriptions) of seven innovative projects in agriculture that are making this a better world.

In response to a recent article in the New York Times that hinted at financial and management problems at the William J. Clinton Foundation, former President Bill Clinton has posted an open letter in which he defends the foundation's accomplishments and management over the last twelve years.

Journalism

Writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Vince Stehle, executive director of Media Impact Funders, applauds recent developments (Bezos, Buffett, John Henry) in the newspaper space and urges foundations and other media investors to respect the editorial independence of the properties in which they invest.

Philanthropy

A few weeks back, Bill Schambra, director of the Hudson Institute's Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, delivered remarks at the Hewlett Foundation that were critical of the practices of strategic philanthropy. Under Paul Brest, its previous president, Hewlett had become the leading advocate of the strategic approach to philanthropy, and the foundation's current leadership, to its credit, had invited Schambra to address staff in hopes of sparking a dialogue. Earlier this week, the Nonprofit Quarterly, which posted the full text of Schambra's remarks, followed up with a response to those remarks from Brest himself. NPQ has also posted a defense of Hewlett's "balanced approach" to strategic philanthropy from the foundation's current president, Larry Kramer, here.

On the Chronicle's site, Networked Nonprofit co-author Allison Fine chats with Mayur Patel, vice president for strategy and assessment at the Knight Foundation, about philanthropic contests and how they can spur innovation.

Social Good

Are millennials selfish and narcissitic, or (as TIME magazine's Joel Stein argues) will they save us all? Writing on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Mom Bloggers for Social Good founder Jennifer James thinks she knows, but you'll have to check out her post for the answer.

That's it for this week. Share your thoughts in the comments section below. And drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org if we missed something.

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