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Weekend Link Roundup (May 10-11, 2014)

May 11, 2014

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....


In an op-ed in the Washington Post, David Skeel, a professor of bankruptcy law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, argues that the $816 million art-for-pensions deal to keep the Detroit Institute of Arts collection intact and in the city fails to protect all creditors equally and, therefore, is probably illegal.


On Beth Kanter's blog, Jay Geneske, director of digital at the Rockefeller Foundation, shares the thinking behind the foundation's decision to underwrite a project that looks at the role digital technology can play in elevating the practice of storytelling as a way to inspire action on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. Findings based on the foundation's initial convenings have been packaged in a report, Digital Storytelling for Social Impact, that's embedded in Geneske's post or can be downloaded here.


In a post on the Campaign for America's Future blog, Jeff Bryant, editor of the Education Opportunity Network site, looks at a handful of recent reports that call into question the efficacy of private charter schools.


Nice two-part interview on the Greenpeace USA blog with environmental activist and documentarian (The Story of Stuff) Annie Leonard, who earlier this week was named to lead the organization.

The announcement by Stanford that it was divesting its endowment of investments in coal companies has officials at other colleges and universities feeling the heat, writes Jonathan Berr on CBS' Moneywatch site. But in the New York Times, op-ed contributor Ivo Welch, a professor of finance and economics at UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management, argues that "[i]ndividual divestments, either as economic or symbolic pressure, have never succeeded in getting companies or countries to change."


The skill sets found in great teachers and great program officers are "strinkingly similar," writes William Keator, vice president for programs at the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. "Both...transcend their respective academic disciplines and philanthropic program areas. Internally and externally, both a teacher and a program officer must be able to communicate with and manage the expectations of people from a variety of backgrounds and abilities. They must walk in many worlds....Each has a power dynamic that must be handled gracefully...."

Nice profile in the New York Times of Philadelphians John and Leigh Middleton, whose $30 million gift to Project HOME, the city’s leading advocacy organization for the homeless, is one of the largest ever made in support of efforts to address homelessness.

The Giving Pledge, the initiative created by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates that aims to inspire deeper engagement in philanthropy on the part of the world's billionaires, announced a new group of signatories this week. They include Kinko's founder Paul Orfalea and his wife, Natalie; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her husband, Dave Goldberg; Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag; and engineers Craig Silverstein and Mary Obelnicki.

What do foundations need to consider when they decide to spend down? Elliot Berger, a managing director in Arabella Advisor's New York City office, spells it out in a post on the Arabella blog.


In a post on the Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Deborah Jacobs, director of the foundation's Global Libraries initiative, explains why the foundation has decided to conclude its work in Global Libraries over the next three to five years -- work the foundation began back in 1997, when "less than a quarter of libraries in the United States were connected to the Internet and fewer provided Internet access."

Excellent roundup by the Benton Foundation's Kevin Taglang tracking recent developments with respect to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to "regulate" the principal of net neutrality out of existence and turn effective control of the Internet over to a handful of giant telcos and cable companies. If you're not already paying attention to the issue, you need to. As National Journal's Ron Fournierwrites:

In the Gilded Age, wrenching economic and technological change hardened life for the vast majority of Americans while an elite few prospered. Innovators like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt disrupted old industries, creating news ones, and cemented their fortunes via government-approved monopolies. The most pernicious of these were railroad trusts.

In our times, wrenching economic and technological change hardens life for the vast majority of Americans while an elite few prosper. Innovators like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg disrupt old industries, create news ones and...

We know how the Gilded Age ended -- in a populist uprising against monopolies, sparked by muckraking journalists and harnessed by a trust-busting president named Teddy Roosevelt. Who will be our era's T.R.? Well, a leader needs a cause. A better question might be, what will be the modern-day trust -- a force so destructive and distant and deeply engrained that a sleepy public is stirred to revolt?

If history is a guide, our generation's Standard Oil, the populists' boogeyman, may be Comcast, Verizon and/or AT&T -- the sprawling Internet providers who, like Rockefeller and his railroad co-conspirators, could monopolize the price and quality of indispensable goods.

Yes, net neutrality could be the issue that inspires a Tech Age political revolution....

Social Enterprise

On the Thomson Reuters Foundation site, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Margot Bradenburg, a fellow at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, note that "In a survey by Deloitte of 5,000 millennials in 18 countries, 71 percent of respondents saw the desire to 'improve society' as the top priority of business. That perspective,"they add, "is leading young people to start the kinds of social enterprises that develop market-based solutions and create jobs, while still being profitable." Rodin and Bradenburg have just published a book, The Power of Impact Investing: Putting Markets to Work for Profit and Global Good, that explains what impact investing is, how it compares to philanthropy and traditional investments, and how it is evolving around the world.

Social Good

And Rodrigo Davies, a master's candidate ("Civic Crowdfunding: Participatory Communities, Entrepreneurs and the Political Economy of Place") at the MIT Center for Civic Media, shares four things he has learned about civic crowdfunding -- and two things we still don't know.

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at [email protected] or via the comments box below....

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