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Weekend Link Roundup (December 7-8, 2013)

December 08, 2013

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

Civil Society

In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, and Gary Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation, argue that a recent proposal from the IRS aimed at clarifying federal rules on nonprofit political activity, while well intentioned, "is flawed in so many ways that it will undermine one of the key ways through which nonprofits do their work: helping Americans understand major issues in elections and encouraging them to register to vote and cast ballots."

A thought-provoking post (and set of comments in response) by Daniel Stid on the Hewlett Foundation's new Work in Progress blog about philanthropy's role in "curing the mischief of faction." The post introduces a new Hewlett initiative to address "political polarization [in Washington] and its three most notable markers: increasing ideological coherence within and divergence between the Republican and Democratic parties, hyper-partisanship, and gridlock." The goal, writes Stid, is not to forge a "national consensus or centrist agenda that will somehow span and resolve the multiple points of disagreement that separate our parties and their affiliated coalitions." Rather, the foundation hopes, "to help make it possible for the representative institutions of the federal government to solve problems in ways that most Americans will accept and support."

Education

In The Atlantic, Alexander Russo has a roundup of the most notable education stories of 2013, including Teach for America becoming (even more of) a lightning rod; school closings in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit; and the backlash against the Common Core.

Using Pope Francis' recent comments about capitalism and income inequality as a point of departure, Kaisa Snellman, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, argues in a post on the Harvard Business Review blog that while mobility statistics from the United States are grim, "the future looks even grimmer....For the last two years," writes Snellman, "my collaborators and I have been studying growing class gaps in various precursors of life success. And the findings are alarming. The children of college-educated parents and those of less-educated parents are raised in very different ways and are launched on very different trajectories in life...."

Human/Civil Rights

On the Humanosphere blog, Tom Paulson reminds us that Nelson Mandela, who passed away Thursday at the age of 95, was hailed/condemned as a freedom fighter/terrorist, depending on one's politial persuasion, before he became South Africa's first black president and "an icon of the successful struggle against apartheid." Elsewhere, the UK-based Guardian has a nice roundup of news and teaching resources related to Mandela's life and legacy.

Impact/Effectiveness

Good summary by Nell Edgington of the first-ever After the Leap conference, a cross-sector effort to build on the buzz around performance measurement created by Mario Morino's 2011 book Leap of Reason.

In a post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, CEP president Phil Buchanan, a panelist on day two of the conference, tries to reconcile the disconnect between what funders are saying and actually doing about measurement.

Eric Henderson, who currates the conversation on the Markets for Good blog, has announced that the theme on the blog for December will be measuring social returns. If "[p]roper measurement is what gives us traction for better decisions, better operation, and compelling communication of outputs and impact," writes Henderson, then how do we -- and should we -- measure social returns? what tools are we using to do it? and which capabilities are missing?

Philanthropy

Should large private foundation endowments "walk the talk" when it comes to their investment policies/decisions. Alex Park and Jaeah Lee, writing in Mother Jones, think so and use the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to illustrate their point.

"Why, since 2010, have only fifty-four foundations submitted profiles to the Foundation Center's Glasspockets transparency initiative," asks the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Lisa Ranghelli. "Glasspockets doesn’t require that funders BE transparent in all twenty-three indicators in order to have a profile," writes Ranghelli, "just to say whether they are or not. In fact, a number of foundations have completed the assessment but then chosen not to share the results publicly. This tells me that foundations really don't want to go there." Indeed.

And writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tim Ogden, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative at New York University and an executive partner at Sona Partners, asks: What is the goal behind Giving Tuesday? Based on the available evidence, Ogden suggests that the decentralized network of influencers behind the campaign are either looking to increase total charitable giving in the U.S. or to buttress our giving culture -- but remains "skeptical of the theory of change behind the first."

That's it for now. Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org if we missed something....

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