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Weekend Link Roundup (March 1-2, 2014)

March 02, 2014

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

Big Data

In the Washington Post, Brian Fung reports that more than a dozen civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, "are backing a set of principles targeting the widespread use of data in law enforcement, hiring and commerce."

With the advent of big data, are "we to assume that government and business will be 'upended', 'revolutionized', 'disrupted' or some other exciting verb but [that] nonprofits and civil society will remain unchanged?" asks Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. Not likely, says Bernholz. "On the contrary, the implications of networked digital data for both addressing our shared social problems and changing how we voluntarily act, how we associate with each other as independent citizens, how we organize for change or protest, are profound. Isn't it time for a real discussion of privacy, association, and autonomy -- about civil society -- in a networked data age?"


Guest blogging on Education Week's Living in Dialogue blog, Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School, argues that "the lack of process is precisely why Common Core needs to be abandoned, especially by public service and teacher unions."


In a post on the Forbes site, Geoffrey Kabat, an epidemiologist with an interest in lifestyle and environmental exposures as factors in chronic disease, suggests that reports that we may "finally be seeing the beginnings of a reversal in the upward trend in obesity" -- a conclusion based on one statistic from a study conducted by researchers at National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) -- belies a more sobering reality: there was no change in obesity either in children and adolescents or in adults over the ten-year study period.


Innovation in social change works is great, writes Dr. Robert Ross in a special supplement to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, but it's not everything. "In fact," adds Ross, "when it comes to addressing today’s urgent social problems, from education and public health to civil and human rights, innovation is overrated."


The news business as we know it is in trouble, and philanthropy is not the answer to what it ails it, writes Jeff Jarvis, associate professor and head of the entrepreneurial journalism program program at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, in the Huffington Post. "[T]here is not enough money in the endowments of all the foundations interested in supporting news to pay for the work that needs to be done.

Similarly, charity and patronage from individuals and companies can do much, whether that is supporting the work of public radio or now crowdfunding a worthy project from a journalist. But neither can that do it all. Charity runs out. That resource is precious and should go where it is most needed....

Instead, here's what philanthropy should do, says Jarvis: support that which the market will not support; avoid competing with the market; help build the economic sustainability and independence of news; and measure its success by the outcomes it accomplishes.


Nice article by Anne Hogan in Nonprofit Information about strategic planning, which, contrary to conventional wisdom, can be "a fairly simple process." To get you started, Hogan shares a "quick and dirty" version that includes the following steps:

  1. Gather the key players.
  2. Set aside a distraction-free time.
  3. Define your mission, vision, and values.
  4. Decide where you want to go and be realistic about your expectations.
  5. Decide what you need to do to make those steps happen.
  6. Decide who will be responsible for each of the action items.
  7. Use the plan!

The award for best lede of the week goes to the Nonprofit Times' Paul Clolery, who on Thursday wrote that "Statistics released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing volunteering at a 10-year low have some in the industry scratching their heads or backing away from the numbers, including a sponsor of the survey." While various officials associated with the study declined to answer NPT's questions about the survey's methoodolgy, Clolery notes that "volunteering statistics seem to be tracking with overall philanthropy numbers [which] show a shrinking donor pool but [that] those who still donate give more."


In the Chronicle of Higher Education, David Grusky, a professor of sociology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. dispels four myths about poverty in the U.S. -- and sparks a heated debate in the comments section.


The Knight Foundation, through its News Challenge platform, has issued a call for ideas and projects designed to make the Internet better. According to the contest home page, the foundation hopes to attract a range of approaches and technologies -- "any innovative project that results in a stronger Internet," with the most compelling ideas to split $2.75 million, including $250,000 from the Ford Foundation. The deadline for entries is March 18, with finalists to be announced at the Knight-MIT Civic Media Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 23.

Social Justice

Former Atlantic Philanthropies president and CEO Gara LaMarche pays tribute on the Philanthropies' Currents blog to Dick Boone and the Chicago-based Field Foundation, which, under Boone's leadership and before it completed its spend down, was an early funder of racial integration in the United States, funded research on hunger in the U.S. that led to an expansion of the government programs to feed poor children and families, and helped launch the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the Food Research and Action Center, and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Social Media

And in the latest installment of her Social Good podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Allison Fine chats with Frank Barry, director of digital marketing at Blackbaud, about how changes at the publicly owned social networking site may affect the way charities use and benefit from it.

That's it for this week. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or via the comments box below....

-- Mitch Nauffts

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