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110 posts categorized "Transparency"

A New Power Grid: Reflections on 'Building Healthy Communities' at Year 5

May 19, 2016

Health_exercise_for_PhilanTopicSystems change, policy change, narrative change, and people power are terms we use often at the California Endowment.

Together, they represent what's happening in fourteen geographically diverse communities across the state thanks to our Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative. Just as important is the state-level systems and policy change work we've supported to help strengthen local efforts. Taken together, they represent the comprehensive vision behind BHC, a ten-year, $1 billion initiative launched in 2010 to advance statewide policy, change the narrative, and transform communities in California that have been devastated by health inequities into places where all people have an opportunity to thrive.

As 2015 came to a close and we reached the halfway point of BHC, we thought it important to look back at the first five years of the initiative and document what we've learned to date. And because transparency in philanthropy is critical to the growth and effectiveness of the field, we want to share those insights with others.

A significant portion of the BHC plan involves a "place-based" focus on fourteen communities. Of equal importance is how the collective learning and energy generated by those communities help promote health, health equity, and health justice for all Californians. In other words, BHC is a place-based strategy with a broader goal of effecting statewide change.

So, what we have learned? It starts with this: BHC will be successful when three things happen to benefit the health of young people in lower-income communities:

  • 100 percent coverage of and access to health-promoting health services for young people is the norm;
  • 100 percent of California schools have wellness and school climate policies and practices; and
  • 100 percent of California cities and counties have established local health-promoting policies.

The thinking behind these three targets is simple: the wellness of young people is optimized when the "systems" they encounter on a regular basis — the healthcare system, their schools, their neighborhoods — support what families want and need for their children's health and well-being. And while those targets are critical to the success of BHC, the ultimate goal is for the power dynamics in the fourteen communities to shift to such an extent that families are able to hold local officials accountable for full ongoing implementation of family- and youth-friendly policies.

That's not to say we haven't made progress on accountability. Residents of the fourteen communities are working hard to hold local officials accountable across a wide range of issues, including access to safe, clean water; parks equity; living wage laws; common sense school discipline that keeps kids in school; fair school funding practices; and access to health care and coverage for all Californians regardless of immigration status.

Already, thousands of residents from BHC communities, young and old, are standing shoulder to shoulder to address these challenges. They are demonstrating courageous leadership. What they are accomplishing in their neighborhoods and at the state level exceeds all our initial expectations. They are the heroes of the unfolding story that is Building Healthy Communities.

In the five years since we first launched the BHC initiative at an event in City Heights with First Lady Michelle Obama, our board, staff, and community partners have been working hard to catalyze the kind of change needed to bring us closer to the goal of health and justice for all. We also commissioned three independent reviews of our progress, lessons, and mistakes. Over this past year, we reviewed the reports with our board and staff; we listened to and learned from our community partners; and then we got busy making needed adjustments.

Robert_k_rossIn the spirit of transparency and accountability, we share what we've learned with our colleagues in philanthropy. The report, A New Power Grid: Building Healthy Communities at Year 5 (28 pages, PDF; or Executive Summary, 8 pages, PDF), documents our progress, lessons learned, and key changes we are making at the midpoint of the initiative. I welcome and encourage your feedback. Email us at PowerGrid@CalEndow.org.

Robert K. Ross, M.D., is president and CEO of the California Endowment.

Blind Spots No More: Introducing Transparency Trends

May 13, 2016

There are some lessons you learn that you never forget. "Mirror, signal, blind spot" is one of those lessons for me, dating all the way back to driver's ed when I was equal parts excited and horrified that someone was handing me the keys to a moving vehicle. I still recall the teacher emphasizing how important it is when changing lanes to first check the mirror for what is behind you; signal to let others know you are entering/exiting a lane; and then to check your blind spot, assuming there is someone invisible to you that only looking over your shoulder and out the window will reveal.

So, is our new Glasspockets' Transparency Trends a mirror, a signal, or a viewer for revealing the blind spots a foundation may be creating? It actually serves all these purposes. Transparency Trends, created with support from the Barr Foundation, aggregates the data we have collected from all foundations that have taken and publicly shared their "Who Has Glass Pockets?" self-assessment transparency profiles and allows the user to interact and display the data in a variety of ways.

The default view displays data about all 77 participating foundations, and users can perform a number of helpful transparency benchmarking activities with the tool, including:

  • Learn which transparency elements are most and least commonly shared online;
  • Access lists of which participating foundations share each transparency indicator;
  • Access statistics about the sharing frequency of each transparency element;
  • Compare a specific foundation to a select peer group by region/asset/foundation type; and
  • Download a customized report detailing suggested improvements for a particular foundation.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 12-13, 2016)

March 13, 2016

The-Round-UpOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

Looking for a good collection of juvenile justice resources? The Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, a leader in the field, has published this on its blog.

Climate Change

On the Humanosphere site, Tom Murphy asks the question: Will the Global Climate Fund falter before it gets off the ground?

Education

In the New York Review Books, historian of education and author Diane Ravitch reviews Dale Russakoff's The Prize: Who's In Charge of America's Schools? and Kristina Rizga's Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail it, and the Students and Teachers Who Made it Triumph and finds both to be "excellent." Together, Ravitch adds, the two books also "demonstrate that grand ideas cannot be imposed on people without their assent. Money and power are not sufficient to improve schools. [And genuine] improvement happens when students, teachers, principals, parents, and the local community collaborate for the benefit of the children...."

Environment

Nonprofit Chronicles' Marc Gunther has written a must-read post about the recent assassination of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres -- and what U.S. funders can do to combat the organized campaign of terror and intimidation being waged against environmental activists in Honduras: 1) Demand that Berta Cáceres' killers be brought to justice; 2) provide more support for grassroots activism; and 3) recognize/acknowledge the connections between the environment and human rights.

Fundraising

In Forbes, Russ Alan Prince recaps the seven wealthy charitable donor types.

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The Three Sources of Foundation Influence

March 09, 2016

Infleunce_magnetMoney, convening power, and knowledge give philanthropic foundations enormous influence and underlie their unique position in our socioeconomic ecosystem. Endowed by a wealthy family or individual, foundations are blissfully free from the kinds of pressures that drive short-term behavior in other sectors. They don't have to raise money from venture capitalists, the financial markets, or other foundations. They never awake to the terrifying news that that their business is threatened by a new competitor. And they don't have to kiss babies in order to garner votes.

Like grizzly bears, lions and tigers, foundations have no natural predators.

Despite this enormous freedom, many foundations traditionally have professed humility and maintained a low profile — either because of their donor's wishes, a belief that it's their grantees that do the real work, or because of the personality of their leader. Increasingly, however, foundations are waking to the enormous potential they have to wield influence in their home cities, countries, and around the world. And encouraging others to adopt their causes, strategies, and ways of working is coming to be seen as the way foundations can increase their impact many-fold.

Let's look more closely at the three sources of foundation influence.

Flexible money

First and foremost is money. Foundations have an abundance of what nonprofit organizations, social entrepreneurs, and the social sector writ large chronically lack. Nonetheless, they tend to be conflicted about their wealth: foundations will tell you without much prompting how many millions or billions in assets they have, only to claim in the next sentence that their resources are small in relation to the world's problems. Collectively, the nearly $800 billion held by American foundations pales in significance to the hundreds of trillions coursing through the international capital markets. But that misses the point.

Foundation money is one of the last remaining sources of capital on earth without a significant claim on it. As a result, the dollars granted, loaned, or invested in social and environmental causes have tremendous potential for leverage. Public institutions may have large budgets, but in most cases those funds are so thoroughly earmarked that they are left with virtually no "risk capital." Talk to any foundation professional who has answered a call to form a partnership with a government agency, the World Bank, or any other large multilateral institution and she inevitably will express surprise about being asked for a grant. Indeed, many of the private-public partnerships that are viewed as the key to impact and bringing an initiative to scale began with a small foundation grant that served to lever more significant public funding.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 5-6, 2016)

March 06, 2016

Ronald_Reagan_and_Nancy_Reagan_aboard_a_boat_in_California_1964 Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

After months of negotiation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fossil Free MIT have reached an agreement that will end the group's sit-in in front of the school's administrative offices. The plan agreed on by MIT and the student-led group includes four "action areas": moving toward campus carbon neutrality as soon as possible; establishing a climate action advisory committee to consult on the implementation of the Plan for Action; developing a set of strategies and benchmarks for MIT's engagement with industry, government, and other institutions; and convening a forum on the ethics of the climate issue. In response to a recent essay in the Boston Review titled "Carbon on Campus," Benjamin Franta argues that campus divestment efforts like the one at MIT are not "primarily [designed] to starve big carbon of capital," but rather "to force hard, accountable moral analyses to take place and...put an end to equivocation and dissembling on climate change by demanding action involving real money.  [Moreover doing] so helps to shift institutional and social norms and to democratize the climate debate." 

Criminal Justice

More than two decades after the federal government prohibited taxpayer dollars from being used for college-degree programs in prisons, forty-seven states have applied to participate in a Department of Education that makes Pell grant dollars available to inmates. The AP's Donna Gordon Blakenship reports.

Data

The television commercials are charming. But Forbes contributor Bernard Marr thinks Watson, IBM's natural language analytics platform, just might be the solution to the big data skills gap in America.

Dylanology

Bob Dylan -- or at least an archive of his work dating back to his earliest days -- is going "home," spiritually speaking, to Oklahoma (Woody Guthrie's birthplace), thanks to the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation. The New York Times' Ben Sisario untangles the story behind the gift.

Education

The Oakland-based New Schools Venture Fund has announced its first group of Diverse Leaders ventures -- part of an initiative by NSVF to improve public education in America by supporting a community of entrepreneurs who are committed to changing the face of K-12 leadership and being truly inclusive.

"Research findings have made clear the persistence of strong connections between arts learning in earlier years and overall academic success and pro-social outcomes," writes Marinell Rousmaniere in the Boston Globe. "[And for] the past six years, Boston has been ahead of the curve reinvesting in arts education by generating, and sustaining, a collective effort in the city among the public, private, and philanthropic sectors...."

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 27-28, 2016)

February 28, 2016

Frog_leap_yearOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

My Brother's Keeper, the White House initiative aimed at improving outcomes for young men of color -- and President Obama's "most personal project" -- just celebrated its second anniversary. But is it making a difference? The Root's Theodore R. Johnson III reports.

Climate Change

Now that Walmart, Google, Goldman Sachs and other multinational corporations have pledged to reduce their carbon footprints, how can the global community hold them to their commitments? TIME's Justin Worland reports on one UN official who has been tasked with building a system  that aims to measure corporate efforts to address climate change.

Corporate Philanthropy

On the Triple Pundit site, Abby Jarvis, a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Ogiv, an online fundraising service provider, offers some easy-to-implement CSR advice for businesses who are looking to do more to help nonprofits in their communities.

Data

In a post on the Benetech blog, Jim Fruchterman, the organization's foundation, uses the example of a small anti-poverty group in Uruguay to show how even basic attempts by nonprofits and NGOs to collect data as part of their program activities can lead to bigger and better things.

In the same vein, the folks at Tech Impact share four strategies designed to help your nonprofit deal with the "data deluge."

Governance

On the BoardSource blog,  Jermaine L. Smith, development director at Educare New Orleans, has some tips for nonprofit organizations that are looking to diversify their boards but may not know how to get started.

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Big Philanthropy's Social Impact Depends on Its Social License

January 21, 2016

Approved_stampMark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's recent pledge to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) quickly became the subject of criticism from some quarters of the not-for-profit sector.

Some of this criticism focused on how Zuckerberg and Chan decided to establish the CZI as a limited liability company (LLC), rather than as a traditional foundation.

There are some advantages to doing this — an LLC has much more flexibility to contribute to the common good by investing in for-profit companies as well as by donating to not-for-profits.

But because LLCs aren't subject to the same regulatory requirements as traditional foundations, they can, in theory, fund things that don't necessarily further charitable goals.

Criticism also has focused on how such a massive amount of money, combined with the use of a "less accountable" LLC, could lead to a further concentration of power in the hands of wealthy people such as Zuckerberg and Chan.

If nothing else, the debate has opened up an opportunity to have an important discussion about the relationship of philanthropy, particularly "big philanthropy," to the broader community — and what kinds of actions can enhance this relationship in order to maximize both philanthropy's social impact and the community's support for its work.

In this context, the concept of a "social license to operate," which has generated more attention in the private sector, particularly within the mining industry, than from the not-for-profit sector, is relevant — and reflects an increasingly common view that private companies can't just do what they want while ignoring the needs of local communities.

Defining the Social License to Operate

It's not a license in the formal sense — you don't apply for it and get it if you tick the right boxes. It's something a company earns through its actions; it's an intangible asset that a company earns and must work to maintain, in much the same way that it earns and must work to maintain its reputation.

In other words, a social license is a type of "soft" regulation, as opposed to "formal" or "hard" regulation, which is determined and enforced by government agencies and regulators.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 16-17, 2016)

January 17, 2016

Martin-Luther-King-2016Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Diversity

A new report on workforce diversity in the metro Pittsburgh region is not only an incredibly important data set, writes Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments. It's also a reminder that the the issues the report points to are NOT just a matter of perspective, are NOT just a concern for minorities, and are NOT unfixable.

Economy

Although long-term unemployment has fallen significantly since the Great Recession, the decline has been slow and long-term unemployment still remains high. Congress could do something to address the situation, write Harry Stein and Shirley Sagawa on the Center for American Progress site, by following through with funding for the "significant" expansion of national service programs like AmeriCorps it authorized back in 2009.

Education

Can the Hastings Fund, the $100 million philanthropic entity created by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, avoid the controversy and criticism that have greeted the education reform efforts of other tech moguls? The Christian Science Monitor's Molly Jackson reports.

Immigration

"Like it or not, integration has been happening over America’s 239-year history, as members of both groups —immigrants and the U.S.-born — continually come to resemble one another. And America has benefited greatly from the economic vitality and cultural vibrancy that immigrants and their descendants have brought and continue to contribute." Writing in Fortune, Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the National Academies of Sciences panel on immigrant integration, reminds us what we are missing about the immigration debate.

International Affairs/Development

On the HistPhil blog, Ruth Levine, director of the Global Development and Population Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and her father, Gilbert, professor emeritus of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University, review David Rieff's new book, The Reproach of Hunger.

In a post on the Development Set, a space created by Medium for discussions of global health and development issues, Courtney Martin offers some compelling advice to young activists, advocates, and entrepreneurs interested in creating a life of meaning by helping to solve pressing social problems in the developing countries.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 9-10, 2016)

January 10, 2016

5-save-worldOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson explains why it  is imperative to rebuild the city's early childhood ecosystem and the steps the foundation is taking to that end.

Communications/Marketing

According to the folks at Top Nonprofits, a good logo should be aesthetically pleasing, distinctive, memorable, timeless, scalable, simple enough for use in multiple mediums, and effective in communicating the qualities of your organization's brand. Sort of like these fifty logos.

What can nonprofits learn from public radio about storytelling? With the help of some podcast snippets, Aquifer Media's Will Coley explains.

Nice post by Ebola Deeply managing editor Kate Thomas illustrating how first-hand narratives can add meaning to hard data.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, a 91-year-old literary magazine published at the University of Virginia, is planning a year-long "experiment" on Instagram in 2016 featuring a series of black-and-white photographs and accompanying text. "We're improvising as we go along," VQR deputy editor Paul Reyes told Neiman Lab's Shan Wang. “The potential lies in how Instagram, as a platform, shapes content. Part of this is determined by what people want to write about, what they're sick of reading about, and how they might be motivated to push the limits of what can be done on this platform." 

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four reasons why your nonprofit needs to identify and launch a team of staff messengers ASAP.

Environment

To kick off 2016, three of last year's Goldman Environmental Prize recipients — Howard Wood (2015, Scotland) of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), Jean Wiener (2015, Haiti) of the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity (FoProBiM) and Phyllis Omido (2015, Kenya) of the Center for Justice Governance & Environmental Action (CJGEA) — share their hopes for the new year.

Gun Violence

On Medium, Joyce Foundation president Ellen Alberding commends the series of executive actions to reduce gun deaths in America announced by President Obama on January 5 — and the president's use of research funded by the Joyce Foundation to support those actions. And here's a good piece by the Washington Post's Josh Lederman explaining the president's plan.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (November 2015)

December 03, 2015

Recent events are a sobering reminder that life is short and the future a mystery. But as Gandhi tells us, throughout history, the way of truth and love always has won out in the end. In that spirit, here are links to half a dozen or so of the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in November....

What did you read, watch, or listen to over the past month that made you feel hopeful? Feel free to share in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Serving the Public Good (by Invitiation Only)

November 18, 2015

Private_party_inviteAmerica's foundations are not particularly interested in receiving your proposal. Earlier this year I did a quick search on Foundation Directory Online (FDO) of the 96,042 independent, company-sponsored, and community foundations based in the U.S. The results were pretty shocking: only 26,663 are willing to accept unsolicited proposals. That's right, 28 percent. True, many of these are the larger, staffed foundations that hold the bulk of the sector's assets. So I took a look at the 967 foundations that have $100 million in more in assets and account for close to half of all foundation giving by U.S. foundations. The results are more encouraging, but only somewhat — 568 (58 percent) of them accept unsolicited proposals.

I find this troubling, on two counts. The first is because of the grand public policy bargain that makes institutionalized philanthropy possible in America: wealthy donors are given significant tax incentives to create and maintain foundations in exchange for providing a demonstrable, long-term contribution to the public good. As much as I understand how small foundations (especially) might not want to spend their resources on creating a bureaucracy whose primary task is to turn down the overwhelming majority of proposals they receive each year, it still bothers me. Somewhere in my heart I believe that, when it comes to foundations, the public good is best served when the public (in the form of social sector organizations) can freely apply for support. I can understand how a foundation may want to have a program or two that does not accept open applications, but to shut out the public entirely from any unsolicited inquiries is something I have trouble accepting.

Moreover, this can further isolate foundations, institutions that are already insulated from the kinds of market, electoral, and fundraising pressures that lead to standardization, transparency, and accountability in other sectors. This is also the source of foundations' most precious asset — the philanthropic freedom that allows them to take risks, stick with difficult issues over the long-term, and make leaps of faith that can spark whole new ways of solving the world's most pressing problems. To the extent that foundations put more emphasis on creating elaborately designed strategies while shutting themselves off from unsolicited proposals, their work can become a kind of endowed activism.

So, what can foundations do?

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Grantmaker Transparency: The Dawn of a New Age in Philanthropy

November 14, 2015

Time-for-transparency"People tend to be private about love and money, and in philanthropy, it's both," says Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center.

It's only natural that, traditionally, philanthropy has unfolded behind closed doors. On the one hand, the freedom to make personal funding choices gives grantmakers the ability to stay above the fray, uninfluenced by both market and political pressures. On the other hand, it doesn't allow the public to understand, learn from, or think critically about philanthropy.

"Giving and charitable acts are such private, emotional transactions," says Suki O'Kane, director of administration at the Walter and Elise Haas Fund. "How do you come from such strong traditions of privacy and intimacy, and bring that out into the open?"

Where do things stand?

Indeed ­– how do we as a sector make the switch from a traditionally opaque business model to an enterprise that embraces more transparency? It all comes down to the following questions: What am I funding? Why am I funding what I'm funding? Is my funding making an impact? And perhaps most importantly, how do we improve?

There is good news: transparency in philanthropy is happening, there's no denying it. In fact, it's well under way, with large foundations like Gates, Ford, and Getty, sharing their endeavors with the public, surveying their grantees (and sharing the results), and creating searchable grants databases. Still, transparency can be difficult.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 31-November 1, 2015)

November 01, 2015

Vote-buttonOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog.

Arts and Culture

"Since the time of Alexandria, libraries have held a symbolic function. For the Ptolemaic kings, the library was an emblem of their power; eventually it became the encompassing symbol of an entire society, a numinous place where readers could learn the art of attention which, Hannah Arendt argued, is a definition of culture." Sadly, writes Alberto Manguel in the New York Times, that function is being diluted by the demands of a society "too miserly or contemptuous...to meet [its] essential social obligations...."

Climate Change

On the Transformation blog, the Kindle Project's Arianne Shaffer and Fatima van Hattum argue that the grantmaking strategies of the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation illustrate in a profound way the "ongoing limitations and contradictions of conventional philanthropy" with respect to the threat of global climate disruption.

Corporate Philanthropy

Corporate Responsibility Magazine has announced the winners of its 2015 Responsible CEO of the Year Award.

Education

Should Angelenos be troubled by the fact that the Los Angeles Times ' new education-reporting project "is being funded by some of the very organizations the new education-reporting project is likely to be covering"? Paul Farhi, the Washington Post's media reporter, tries to get some answers.

Giving

Just in time for the holidays, "Bloomingdale’s is selling philanthropy as a lifestyle," writes Amy Shiller in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Through its new Icons with Impact campaign, the upscale retailer, says Shiller, is positioning philanthropy as "a meta-brand, uniting retailers, spokesmen, and consumers in a transaction where ethics and esthetics — that is, doing good and looking good — are synergistically reinforcing, apparently without any sacrifice or conflict in fundamental aims...."

Charitable giving in the U.S. over the next two decades could reach $8 trillion — $6.6 trillion in cash contributions (much of it to family foundations) and $1.4 trillion in volunteer services (calculated at $23.63/hour). Forbes staff writer Ashlea Ebling reports.

Who are the twenty people who have given the most to charitable/philanthropic causes? And how many of them are under the age of thirty-five? Business Insider has the skinny.

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[Review] Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library

September 17, 2015

Book_patience_and_fortitudeScott Sherman's Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library is a nuanced, enlivening, and ultimately sobering account of the birth and death of a plan to renovate and reorganize the New York Public Library, whose iconic main branch on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan has welcomed millions of scholars, researchers, and readers since it opened in 1911. While the book is an impressive exercise in investigative journalism — providing, as it does, a meticulously researched account of the development of the "Central Library Plan" (CLP) — and the loud public rejection of said plan — it is also a paean to the NYPL and the power of citizen engagement.

Indeed, were it not for the impassioned voices of countless New Yorkers raised against the CPL, people like author Junot Diaz, who wrote, as part of a campaign protesting the plan, that "[t]o destroy the NY Public Library is to destroy our sixth and best borough; that beautiful corner of New York City where all are welcome and all are equals, and where many of us were first brought to the light," it is likely the institution's leaders would have succeeded in "repurposing" the library for the digital age while creating an enormously valuable parcel of land in the heart of one of the priciest real estate markets on the planet.

Taking its title from the two granite lions standing guard at the entrance to the library's landmarked building on Fifth Avenue, Patience and Fortitude examines in detail the plan's origins, as well as the objections to it, which focused on the proposal to transfer three million books from the library's basement stacks to a state-of-the-art storage facility in Princeton, New Jersey. In the process, Sherman, who first reported on the CLP in The Nation, reminds his readers that, throughout its storied history, the NYPL was funded by New York-based business and civic luminaries — Astor, Carnegie, and Rockefeller, among them — in the name of private philanthropy for the public good. The CLP, in contrast, was designed by consulting firms with an expertise in real estate and appears to have been driven by a handful of wealthy library donors, including some sitting trustees, with their own interests in mind.

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True Board Engagement: How Openness and Access to Board Conversations Has Changed 'Creating the Future'

May 06, 2015

Wilding_pollock_150x350It's a widely held maxim that sunlight, read as transparency and openness for the purpose of this post, is the best disinfectant. While true, we feel this view has an unfortunate undertone of emphasizing the negative: greater transparency is needed in order to prevent and/or catch wrongdoing. It focuses attention on what we hope to avoid rather than what we hope is possible.

At Creating the Future, rather than thinking of sunlight as that thing that disinfects, we embrace the photosynthetic view that letting the light in allows for growth and transformation. We recognize our role in supporting thriving communities and believe that the community should have a role in creating our success at all levels of the organization. Though Creating the Future is not a grantmaking foundation, we believe that all organizations, including foundations, gain by opening up to and actively engaging the communities we are passionate about and that we profess to serve.

In a conversation about boards and governance recently, someone remarked to one of us that "transparency can be transformational," and it's this sort of thinking that powers Creating the Future's approach to leadership, trusteeship, and governance. Beyond just being transparent – allowing people to see us and see that we are "open" – people can actually interact with us and influence our growth in real time. This approach to governance is open not just in the sense of visibility, but open to challenge, praise, and, since board members livestream from various places around the world, the occasional ribbing for the state of our living rooms and barking dogs. (How much more "real life" can it get than that?)

All well and good in theory. But what does this really look like in practice and what does it make possible for us as trustees and anyone else interested in the work of the organization we serve?

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