Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....
In the Encyclopaedia of Informal Education, writer, activist, and sometime PhilanTopic contributor Michael Edwards bemoans the lack of clarity around the term civil society and attempts to restore some precision to the debate over its meaning. In the process, he reminds us that "Recognizing that civil society does indeed mean different things to different people is one of the keys to moving forward, because it moves us beyond false universals and entrenched thinking."
On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares four trends, including the growing popularity of peer networks, likely to shake up nonprofit marketing. "People listen to each other more than us, so we need to stop viewing social media as another form of getting our message out," writes Andresen. "Its primary value is that it allows other people to get the message out, for us."
On the Kauffman Foundation's Growthology log, Dane Stangler looks at the evolution of entrepreneurship and how the very definition of the word entrepreneur has broadened over the years. Writes Stangler: "In its original use by Jean-Baptiste Say, it was someone who undertook economic activities and capitalized on arbitrage opportunities. Joseph Schumpeter ushered in the modern way in which people typically use the term by equating it with newness -- new products, services, combinations, business models, etc. Israel Kirzner saw entrepreneurs as those who targeted and eliminated disequilibria in the economy (for Schumpeter, entrepreneurs created those disequilibria)." Today, however, "the word has come to be so overused as to potentially lose a great deal of meaning...."
In a guest post on the Knight Blog, Shannon Dosemagen, director of community engagement at the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a 2011 Knight News Challenge winner, explains how the decision by Google to license community-created aerial maps from the lab's archive could lead to better policy and replace commercial and government data as a recognized representation of sites of civic and environmental concern.
The New York Times' Room for Debate series takes up the question of whether wealthy colleges deserve their tax breaks, with contributions from economist Sandy Baum; Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation; the American Entreprise Institute's Frederick Hess; Barbara Gitenstein, president of the College of New Jersey; Andrew Coulson, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute; Osamudia James, an associate professor of law at the University of Miami; and Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
About.com's Joanne Fritz reminds readers who are thinking about doing a little "voluntourism" this summer to use common sense and follow these tips from the Center for Responsible Travel.
On his Inside Philanthropy blog, Todd Cohen offers his take on some of the investment strategies that have emerged in recent years to scale up or expand proven nonprofit programs.
Idealist researcher/blogger Putnam Barber reminds nonprofit organizations, many of which do not have to file their Form 990s until May 15, to make sure they have answers to three important questions:
- When is our filing deadline?
- What do we need to know to be sure we stay current with all the rules and regulations?
- Who is going to file our Form 990-N?
Over at Dowser, J. Gregory Dees, a professor in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and creator of the first course in social entrepreneurship in the U.S., challenges New York Times' columnist David Brooks' characterization of social entrepreneurship as something young people do to "avoid political participation and...[tackle the] 'corruption, venality, and disorder head-on'." Writes Dees:
Social entrepreneurs do not discourage political participation -- they invent new mechanisms for achieving the public good. Quite often solutions to problems require not just mobilizing political support but actually demonstrating how to solve problems that have confounded others.... Social entrepreneurs serve as society"s "learning laboratory," developing, testing, and refining new approaches to problems in ways that government agencies, with all their budgetary, bureaucratic, legislative, jurisdictional, and political constraints cannot do. These innovators represent the kind of decentralized problem solving that Nobel laureate Douglass North identifies as essential for any society to achieve what he calls "adaptive efficiency," the ability to adjust and thrive in the face of new challenges and shifting problems....
On her blog, Allison Fine weighs in on the value of a Facebook "like." Writes Fine:
The notion of creating a direct equation of how much it cost to get one person to like a Facebook page and how much that person bought or gave as a result might satisfy the bean counters, but misses the larger point of why social media are so much more powerful than broadcast media. If you’re just looking for one, or ten, or one hundred thousand stand alone customers or donors, then there is no extra value in using social media. You could have just sent out a direct mail piece for that. The value in using social media is that every person, every like, comes with their own network that can be activated in an instant, and at no additional cost, for the organization. And that value, the value of having an army of your most ardent fans, affects far more than the development department....
On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Mark Hager, associate professor of nonprofit studies at Arizona State University's School of Community Resources and Development, explains how students in his Theory and Practice of Philanthropy course are using Glasspockets indicators to evaluate private foundations and "reflect critically on the value of transparency and how well the Glass Pockets assessment captures the concept." In the coming weeks, Hager will share thoughts from the student who "presented the most interesting observations about foundations, transparency, and the 'Who Has Glass Pockets' indicators." Stay tuned.
That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at email@example.com. And have a great week!
-- The Editors