338 posts categorized "Economy"

Caring for the City’s Caregivers

January 08, 2019

Housing_affordabilityThat wise woman Rosalyn Carter once said, "There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver." We all have a stake, one way or another, in caregiving and in what happens to the individuals who provide that valuable service. And here in New York City, caregivers, quite simply, deserve better care from all of us.

A City in Need of Assistance

New York City turns to its not-for-profit human services sector for essential caregiving for people without homes, parents, or job prospects and, of course, for caregiving services that enable older New Yorkers to age in their communities, living independently with the assistance they need to stay connected to friends and meaningful activity. According to the city's Department for the Aging (DFTA), there are approximately 1.64 million older adults currently residing in the city's five boroughs. As these individuals age, their need for a range of services will grow, and the role that not-for-profits like JASA play in providing those services will become ever more critical.

The continued health of not-for-profit human service organizations relies heavily on employees who interact directly with their clients. Navigating the complexities of the legal, social services, and healthcare systems, not to mention simple life activities, can be challenging at times for any senior, but for those struggling with health, housing, and other issues, it can be overwhelming. There is a real need for the work my organization does, and that need continues to grow.

At the heart of our work are the relationships we build. The key to providing quality services hinges on being able to recruit and retain individuals who genuinely care and are able to establish a connection to the client that fosters trust. Finding skilled individuals is the first challenge. It is not uncommon in 2019 to hear not-for-profit employers say there are more jobs out there than qualified applicants to fill them.

The second, and perhaps even more critical challenge, is retaining good people once you've brought them into your agency. This is particularly true when speaking about social workers, case workers, home health aides — anyone advocating for, providing a necessary service to, or offering older adults assistance in navigating the many challenges they typically face as residents of a large city with a complex and often confusing network of services.

Client trust is key to what we do, and as they say, it is something that must be earned. A revolving door of individuals who continually need to re-familiarize themselves with a client's unique situation tends to breed hostility and distrust. Those feelings, in turn, make it harder for a caregiver to fully learn and understand the challenges that a client faces, and to identify solutions that will benefit her. There's also an added burden on staff when colleagues leave and there are fewer individuals to share the workload — a too-common occurrence that tends to increase stress and reduce an agency's ability to provide quality services, which may prompt still more staff turnover.

Building a Network of Support for Caregivers

There are many dimensions to engaging and retaining good employees. Meaningful work may be the biggest draw — because, to be candid, no one ever went into social work for the money. But there are other incentives, including:

  • having a supervisor who respects you and listens to what you have to say
  • getting recognition for your contributions
  • feeling part of the organization and knowing that it appreciates what you do and what you care about
  • mentoring and professional development

And, of course, compensation that is fair. This is always a challenge. As a not-for-profit agency, we stretch every dollar we take in to provide the critical services New York City's seniors need. Having to rely on government contracts makes it especially difficult. State and city requirements for program staffing and salaries, as well as indirect program costs, stress our bottom line. The burden of ever-increasing accountability adds to the financial challenges we face.

The city's commitment to an increased minimum wage is a good start in terms of bolstering hiring and fostering retention, in that it helps individuals on the lowest end of the pay scale. But there are knock-on effect to a higher minimum wage. Individuals who are supervising minimum-wage employees who are earning more money as of January 1 may find themselves at the same pay level as the people they supervise. Don’t they deserve a pay raise? Where does an agency, hamstrung by inflexible state and city contracts, find the dollars to create a fair pay scale for all its employees?

New York City not-for-profit agencies quite simply find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Advocating for increased wages for hourly workers makes good sense and is the right thing to do. Higher salaries tend to result in a more skilled, committed workforce and better employee retention rates, and ultimately result in a better service model. But if government isn't adequately compensating agencies that provide services, those agencies inevitably will seek out philanthropic dollars to make up the shortfall — and that, as we know, is not something that can be counted on as a consistent, steady source of income.

Here in New York, in addition to inadequate government contracts, employers also face the issue of a higher-than-average cost of living. The reality is that many workers in New York City simply cannot get by doing the work they are trained to do.

A recent report from the New York City comptroller Scott M. Stringer asserts that New York City is suffering from an affordable housing crisis, with individuals at the low end of the pay scale being forced to devote up to 74 percent of their income on housing. We certainly see it affecting the city’s older adult population, with our affordable housing units for seniors having, in some cases, a ten-year waiting list.

And we hear it from our employees as well.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to create more affordable housing units in the city, an effort that is to be applauded. Affordable housing is critical to attracting employees to the social services. But the sad reality is that the mayor’s actions to date are not enough. Employees earning minimum wage cannot afford New York's "affordable" housing. And if workers cannot afford to live here, where will agencies find the employees they need to meet the demand for and provide ever-more-critical services?

In his report, Stringer lays out several steps the city could take to help align affordable housing to the need, including working more closely with nonprofit developers to create affordable housing units on city-owned property. But that is only part of the solution. Common sense tells us that a more comprehensive, coordinated government effort is needed if we are to move the needle on this issue. The city and state desperately need federal dollars to address the city’s housing crisis — a crisis that grows more serious by the month for not-for-profits that provide vital community services.

At the end of the day, attracting and retaining workers who provide care to elderly and other vulnerable populations is not just the responsibility of the not-for-profit agencies who employ them; it also the responsibility of government — city, state, and federal — and the officials we elect to represent us.

Headshot_Kathryn_HaslangerKathryn Haslanger was appointed chief executive officer of JASA, a nonprofit agency serving older adults, in November 2012. The organization's services, which include affordable housing, adult protective services, elder abuse prevention and intervention, legal services, health promotion, mental health, home care, and home-delivered meals, are designed to keep seniors — of all races, religions, and economic backgrounds — living safely in their own homes, in familiar surroundings, with independence, dignity, and joy.

New Year's Eve Roundup (December 31, 2018)

December 31, 2018

Happy_new_yearHere's our final roundup of the year. Wishing everyone a peaceful and prosperous New Year! For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

No one has ever confused private equity with charity. That's not a surprise. As the Ford Foundation's José García and Xavier de Souza Briggs remind us: "One of the functions of private equity investment is to finance early-stage ideas and companies. Another is to help transform mature companies, for greater competitiveness....But too often," they add, "we have seen private equity funds focus narrowly on maximizing profits through leveraged buyout practices that come at the expense of disadvantaged workers, families, and communities." Must that always be the case? And is there any reason to hope that private equity investors might do something different to address the needs of displaced workers? In a post on the foundation's Equal Change blog, García and de Souza Briggs share a tale that provides a glimmer of hope.

Eillie Anzilotti, an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, shares seven things we, as a country, can do to create a more inclusive economy.

Fundraising

On the GuideStar blog, veteran fundraiser Barbara O’Reilly, CFRE, looks back at the year just passed and identifies some reasons for concern: giving in each quarter fell about 2 percent on a year-over-year basis, and the number of donors in the first half of the year fell about 7 percent (compared to same period in 2017). Just as importantly, donor retention rates dropped by 4.6 percent. As people start to file their 2018 returns, nobody knows how changes to the tax code will affect giving, but O’Reilly has some sound advice for nonprofits hoping to navigate the next twelve months unscathed.

Giving

Does taking pleasure in giving to others make us selfish? In Psychology Today, Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz, PhD, and Abigail Marsh, PhD, suggest that "it is our fundamentally caring nature that moves us to help others, and that feeling good may be merely a lucky and foreseeable outcome of giving, rather than its purpose — a critical distinction."

Urban Institute vice president Shena Ashley shares three trends in 2018 that could shape/reshape charitable giving in the years to come.

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Philanthropy's Under-Investment in Holding High Finance Accountable: A Gamble We Can’t Afford

October 17, 2018

Monopoly_top_hatTen years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, authorizing $700 billion in federal funding to buy troubled assets from banks deemed to be in danger of failing as a result of the subprime foreclosure crisis.

A lot has changed since then, but one thing has remained the same: progressive philanthropy continues to under-prioritize efforts to hold the financial industry accountable.

It's a choice that risks undermining the headway progressive foundations are making on issues of inequality and wealth building. Placing big bets on policies designed to lift up low- and moderate-income communities while failing to address the accountability of financial institutions is a gamble we cannot afford to take — not least because it puts at risk the very people we are trying to serve.

American households lost $16 trillion in wealth in the years after the 2007-08 financial crisis. And while some experts estimate that Americans have regained $14.6 trillion, or 91 percent, of those losses in the decade since, the collapse affected different segments of society unequally, with the gains just as unequally distributed. In other words, both the crash and the recovery increased inequality in America.

The impact on African Americans was especially profound. Nearly 8 percent of African-American homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the years after the crisis, compared with only 4.5 percent of white homeowners, and between 2007 and 2010 African Americans saw their retirement accounts lose 35 percent of their value. Indeed, according to the National Association of Realtors, African Americans lost fully half their wealth as a result of the financial crisis.

It's not just the likelihood of future financial crises that should give philanthropic leaders pause; it's also the fact that an under-regulated and unaccountable financial industry will continue to target communities of color and low-income communities with sketchy products and put vulnerable households at risk.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 29-30, 2018)

September 30, 2018

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

Corporate Social Responsibility

As we've seen after other natural disasters recently, U.S. corporations and companies are stepping up to help the folks in the Carolinas who've been affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. On a related note, Business Insider's Chelsea Greenwood has compiled a list of the ten companies that gave the most to charity in 2017.

The Forbes Business Development Council shares some good advice for small business looking to be charitable. 

Economy

Sso-called gig work promises a measure of flexiblity and independence that traditional jobs don't. But the pay is lousy, and people are starting to figure that out. A new report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute offers three sobering conclusions about the gig economy. Christopher Rugaber reports for the AP.

Health

How can we reverse the obesity epidemic? Washington Post contributor Tamar Haspel shares six commonsense suggestions.

International Affairs/Development

The world has made excellent progress in reducing poverty over the last twenty-five years, write Bill and Melinda Gates in an opinion piece for the New York Times. But thanks to "the unfortunate intersection of two demographic trends," that progress could stall, or even be reversed, if appropriate action is not taken.

Nonprofits

In Forbes, Ben Paynter shares findings from a new report issued by Fidelity Charitable which suggest that nonprofits should be doing more to court entrepreneurs as donors.

On the Guidestar blog, Becca Bennett and Jordan Ritchie offer some guidelines designed to help nonprofits get the most from their boards.

It's a crazy world we live in, and sometimes the best way to respond to it is to give ourselves a break. Social Velocity's Nell Edgington explains why it's important and what you can do to defeat that voice in your head which keeps whispering, "Don't even think about."

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 8-9, 2018)

September 09, 2018

6-500x500A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

It's coming — whether we like it or not. Automation is likely to force a third of American workers  to switch occupational categories by 2030, write James Manyika, Manisha Shetty Gulati, and Emma Dorn in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, with the largest disruption occurring among middle-income workers without a college degree. "[U]nhampered by quarterly earnings calls or the voting cycle," philanthropy can — and will need — to step up. Mantika, Gulati, and Dorn suggest four areas where it can do so.

Education

In The New York Times Magazine, Sarah Mosle reports at length about the many challenges public school administrators face in "finding effective teachers, retaining them and helping those who need to get better."

In a photo essay in the same issue of the magazine, Brian Ulrich looks at the kinds of second jobs that teachers across the country are taking to make ends meet.

Why are many teachers forced to work second jobs? Could it be their wages are lower than ever? Sarah Holder reports for CityLab.

Global Health

On the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Steven Buchsbaum, deputy director of discovery and translational sciences in the foundation's Global Health Program, reflects on the launch, nearly fifteen years ago, and subsequent progress of the foundation's Grand Challenges initiative. 

Nonprofits

With summer a fading memory, Beth Kanter has a timely reminder about the causes and costs of lost productivity in nonprofit workplaces.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 1-2, 2018)

September 02, 2018

Labor-dayAnd...we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

Does farm-animal advocacy work? And what does its relative lack of success tell us about advocacy more generally? Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares some thoughts.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

In a post on his Nonprofit AF blog, Vu Le shares twenty ways majority-white nonprofits can build authentic partnerships with organizations led by communities of color.

Economy

In honor of Labor Day and to celebrate workers across the country, the team at Charity Navigator has put together a list of five charities that are fighting for workers' rights.

Fundraising

On the GuideStar blog, Kay Sprinkel Grace shares four counterintuitive fundraising "truths." 

Giving Pledge

New York Times reporter David Gelles checks in with an inspirational Q&A with Turkish immigrant, Chobani founder, and billionaire Giving Pledger Hamdi Ulukaya. 

Health

Does the kind of data we collect and report ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to live their healthiest life possible? Absolutely. And as Tiny Kauh explains on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, a new report from PolicyLink (with support from the foundation) is "a first step toward identifying solutions for improving data and, ultimately, better health equity in our nation."

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 14-15, 2018)

April 15, 2018

Uncle-sam-taxesOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Lincoln Center president Deborah L. Spar, who left the top job at Barnard College to helm the performing arts mecca, has decided to step down after only a year. Robin Pogrebin and Michael Cooper report for the New York Times.

And across the East River, the Brooklyn Museum has come under fire for its decision to hire a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, as a consulting curator for African art. Alex Greenberger reports for ArtNews.

Civil Society

Writing in openDemocracy's Transformation blog, Vern Hughes, director of Civil Society Australia, suggests that the problem with the public and private sectors' "embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO," adds Hughes. Indeed, "[j]ust 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact."

Roused by certain statements made by Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony to Congress earlier this week, Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz shares some thoughts about the often-unappreciated role that civil society organizations and nonprofits play in curating and moderating content for the Facebooks of the world.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 10-11, 2018)

February 11, 2018

Market_3275653kOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

What if boycotts — punishing companies for perceived anti-social or -environmental practices by refusing to buy their products or services — isn't the most effective way to change corporate behavior? A new report from public relations firm Weber Shandwick suggest that "buycotts" — in which consumers actively support companies that model pro-social behavior — are overtaking boycotts as the preferred mode of consumer activism. Eillie Anzilotti reports for Fast Company.

Economy

In the New York Times, Kevin Roose profiles self-declared 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who tells Roose, "All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society....[W]e're going to have a million truck drivers who are out of work [and] who are 94 percent male, with an average level of education of high school or [a] year of college. That one innovation will be enough to create riots in the street. And we're about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms."

Giving

The 80/20 rule, whereby 80 percent of charitable gifts come from 20 percent of the donors, seems like "a quaint artifact of a simpler time," writes Alan Cantor in Philanthropy Daily. These days, the more accurate measure is probably closer to 95/5  and, according to the authors of a new report on giving, it's headed toward a ratio of 98/2. What's a nonprofit leader to do? "[G]o where the money is. Try not to sell your souls to your top donors, and do your best to maintain a broad constituency of supporters. "

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Heather McLeod Grant and Kate Wilkinson argue that, with a new generation of donors arriving on the scene, "we need to pay more attention to how values around philanthropy pass from one generation to the next and how that initial spark of generosity awakens — factors that most nonprofits can’t influence but should heed to as they cultivate donors."

Broadening access to college and increasing college completion are imperative, but they are not enough, argues Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and president emeritus of Michigan State University, if students who complete a degree are not ready for employment.

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The False Slogan of 'Right to Work': An Attack on Worker Freedom

December 18, 2017

NoRTW_buttonToday's economy is rigged against working families and in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. That's not by accident. CEOs and the politicians who do their bidding have written the rules that way, advancing their own interests at the expense of everyone else.

Now, they're trying to get the rigged system affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. In a few months, the justices will hear a case called Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would make so-called "right-to-work" the law of the land in the public sector, threatening the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.

The powerful backers in this case have made no secret about their true agenda. They have publicly said that they want to "defund and defang" unions like the one I lead. They know that unions level the economic playing field. They know that unions give working people the power in numbers to improve their lives and communities and negotiate a fair return on their work while keeping the greed of corporate special interests in check.

Union membership is especially important for people of color, historically providing them with a ladder to the middle class and helping them earn their fair share of the wealth and the value they generate. More than half of African-Americans make less than $15 per hour. But belonging to a union is likely to lead to a substantial pay raise and superior benefits. African-American union members earn 14.7 percent more than their non-union peers. The union advantage for Latinos is even greater: 21.8 percent.

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[Review] 'The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism'

October 27, 2017

I'm not sure what to think about The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism, Joel Solomon's memoir-cum-manifesto about the importance of taking "a mission-based" approach to finance and investment. I certainly appreciate Solomon's passion for the environment and his sincere belief that we need to move from an economic system built on exploitation to a more "regenerative" system. But I didn't much care for his omission of the poor and people of color in his call for "revolution," or his apparent blindness to his own white privilege; for the many bold claims backed up by engaging anecdotes but little data; or for his limited understanding of the world of private foundations. To be fair, Solomon, the chair of Renewal Funds, a mission-based venture capital firm, acknowledges that the book is written from the perspective "of an older, rich, white male heterosexual," and he "apologize[s] in advance for [the] narrow context and perspective." Still, the book has some glaring blind spots that undermine its impact and, ultimately, expose the superficiality of its premise.

Cover_The_Clean_Money_Revolution_BookLet's start with the positive. The Clean Money Revolution is full of interesting personal anecdotes, making it read more like a memoir than a self-help investment guide. Solomon has led a very interesting life and has played a part in growing many consumer brands that have become household names, including Stonyfield Farms and Ben & Jerry's. He grew up in Chattanooga and, after graduating from Columbia University, spent his early twenties bumming around the western United States. Following a diagnosis of PKD (polycystic kidney disease), he began to look into organic food and "healthy" living and eventually landed in an "intentional community" of "gypsy gardeners" on Cortes Island,  at the head of Georgia Strait between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island: "I was 25 with long hair and a bushy beard," he writes. "I rarely wore shoes. It was a good time." On the island, at something called Linnaea Farm, "an early model of money transformed by intentional 'cleaning'," Solomon developed an appreciation for the environment and a passion for organic food systems. It's also where he met Drummond Pike, "an early adopter social entrepreneur" who went on to found the Tides Foundation, as well as Robert and Penny Cabot, old-money philanthropists who would later influence his investment strategies.

Solomon eventually accepted a caretaking position at OrcaLab on the even more remote Hanson Island, where he spent months at a time alone, communing with nature and observing the "complexity, diversity, and interdependence" of the island's ecosystem; reading widely in philosophy, history, and anthropology; and developing what would become a lifelong passion for self-reflection and contemplation. Then he received a $50,000 payout from one of his father's real estate investments — which he invested in Hollyhock Farm, a property on Cortes Island that today is a not-for-profit leadership learning center, and Stonyfield, then a nonprofit organic farming school with seven cows.

Soon after, Solomon's father died and he received a $3 million inheritance. The rest of the book details his (usually) successful investments in small businesses focused on natural food systems and local communities. Many of the stories Solomon has to tell are inspiring, and his sincerity is apparent. But it is difficult, at times, not to question his assumption that readers will relate to his adventures in finance, or be interested in his investing advice. About a third of the way through the book, for instance, he observes: "If you have more than enough money, there is a vast opportunity to move capital from stock markets and massive corporations to dynamic small businesses that generat[e]  innovation, relationship, and community."  If is only a two-letter word, but it conveniently elides an assumption that undermines the tale Solomon has to tell: capitalism can be transformed from something inherently exploitative and immoral into something regenerative and moral — but only by those with the capital to do so.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 14-15, 2017)

October 15, 2017

California-fire-story7-gty-ml-171012_4x3_992Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

We've always admired Herb Alpert — chart-topping musician, innovative record producer/executive, generous philanthropist — and are happy to pass on the news that his foundation has a brand brand new website.

Economy

"[F]or the first time since World War II, American children have only a 50-50 chance of earning more than their parents" — proof that our "economic system is broken," and why jobs and opportunity are America's most pressing challenge, writes Rockefeller Foundation president Rajiv J. Shah.

Giving

How might tax reform affect charitable giving? On the NPR site, Jonathan Meer, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert on charitable giving, shares his analysis.

Cash-strapped though they may be, cause-driven millennials are finding ways to support causes and organizations aligned with their passions and concerns. Justin Miller, co-Founder and CEO of CARE for AIDS, a faith-based NGO that provides holistic care to families affected by HIV/AIDS in East Africa, explains.

Grantmaking

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Anthony Richardson, a program officer at the Nord Family Foundation in Ohio, argues that it is critically important for funders "to listen and be discerning about what may be most helpful — and what may indeed be unintentionally harmful — to organizations doing challenging work on the front lines."

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 13-14, 2017)

May 14, 2017

Youre-FiredOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Although President Trump has signed into law a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill, bringing to an end (for now) months of debate over his administration's controversial budget blueprint, the future of arts funding in America remains uncertain, write Benjamin Laude and Jarek Ervin in Jacobin. Critics who accuse the president of philistinism are missing the point, however. "For better or worse," they write, "the culture wars ended long ago. These days, with neoliberalism's acceleration, nearly every public institution is under assault — not just the NEA. If we want to stop the spread of the new, disturbing brand of culture — the outgrowth of an epoch in which everything is turned into one more plaything for the wealthy — we'll need a more expansive, more radical vision for art."

On the Mellon Foundation's Shared Experiences blog, the foundation's president, Earl Lewis, explains why the National Endowment for the Humanities is an irreplaceable institution in American life.

Data

In a post for the Packard Foundation's Organization Effectiveness portal, Lucy Bernholz, director of the Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, reflects on the process that led to the center's Digital Impact Toolkit, a public initiative focused on data governance for nonprofits and foundations.

According to The Economist, the most valuable commodity in the world is no longer oil; it's data. What's more, the dominance of cyberspace by the five most valuable listed firms in the world — Alphabet (Google's parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — is changing the nature of competition while making the antitrust remedies of the past obsolete. "Rebooting antitrust for the information age will not be easy," the magazine's writers argue. "But if governments don't want a data economy dominated by a few giants, they will need to act soon."

Food Insecurity

According to Feeding America's latest Map the Meal Gap report, 42 million Americans were "food insecure" in 2015, the latest year for which complete data are available. That represents 13 percent of U.S. households — a significant decline from the 17 percent peak following the Great Recession in 2009. The bad news is that those 42 million food-insecure Americans need more money to put food on the table than they did before. Joseph Erbentraut reports for HuffPo.

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[Review] 'Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations'

January 30, 2017

One morning at the gym, I looked up at the TV and saw that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was promoting his latest book and opining about the state of the world following the U.S. elections. It took me a minute, between the banter and the buzzwords, but I eventually understood Friedman's reason for writing the book: like most of us, he thinks the world is moving too fast. His recommended remedy? We all need to slow down and reflect on the causes of this acceleration so that we can more confidently (and optimistically) chart our way through an increasingly complex world.

Bookcover_Thank You For Being LateAs he explains in Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, writes books (The Lexus and the Olive Tree; The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century; Hot, Flat, and Crowded) "because I love…taking a complex subject and trying to break it down so…I...understand it and…readers better understand it." Reading his work, one can see the interplay between the best sellers he writes every few years and his twice-a-week musings on the op-ed page of the Times. In Thank You For Being Late, for example, he sets the table with one of his go-to subjects: Moore's law, named after Intel-co-founder Gordon Moore, who noted in 1965 that computing power had been doubling every year based on the increasing density of silicon transistors in computer chips — and was likely to continue at a similar rate for at least the next ten years. As anyone who follows tech knows, Moore's famous observation continues to bear out forty years after its predicted expiration date. And the consequences of that astounding increase in computing power serve as a backdrop against which Friedman explores three accelerating forces affecting every aspect of our lives: technology (especially cloud computing, which he calls the"Supernova"), globalization (the "Market"), and climate change ("Mother Nature").

The exponential growth in computing power and the increasing rate of innovation it drives have created, according to Friedman, an orders-of-magnitude change in digital interconnectedness, transforming how we communicate (texting, social media), shop (e-commerce), and even where we sleep (Airbnb). At the same time, he argues, the rate of change, both technological and social, enabled by this connectivity now exceeds our ability to adapt, causing many of our current political, economic, and sectarian challenges. "When fast gets really fast," he writes, "being slower to adapt makes you really slow — and disoriented."

And guess what? The world continues to speed up.

He notes, for instance, that the typical cellphone today provides SMS texting capabilities and mobile access to the Internet to anyone who can afford one, creating a previously unimaginable global exchange of goods and ideas. Residents of small towns in sub-Saharan Africa are just a text or a click away from family members in northern European cities — and everyone in between. "Globalization has always been everything and its opposite — it can be incredibly democratizing and it can concentrate incredible power in giant multinationals," he writes; "it [also] can be incredibly particularizing — the smallest voices can now be heard everywhere — and incredibly homogenizing, with big brands now able to swamp everything everywhere."

On the downside, the forces unleashed by globalization and a digitally networked world are merging with human-driven climate change to create a perfect storm of unintended, and mostly negative, consequences, with the most profound effects being felt in the most vulnerable countries and communities. Sadly, efforts to cope with the massive movement of people triggered by climate change have been woefully inadequate, not least because "when Moore's law and globalization accelerate at their current rates and your country falls behind on education and infrastructure, it falls behind at an accelerating rate as well."

The book is classic Friedman — a smorgasbord of ideas interspersed with conversations with world leaders and parking attendants. In a single chapter he might explore the potential of article intelligence, reflect on the political cataclysms of recent years, and offer policy recommendations based on lessons learned from Mother Nature. Throughout he indulges his seemingly insatiable curiosity and penchant for asking questions that border on the metaphysical. If at times it causes his narrative to feel a bit scattered — jumping from topic to topic with an alacrity that can be fatiguing — most readers won't hold it against him; in fact, it is probably what makes his writing appealing to so many.

I know: Friedman's technique is often criticized for being a form of lesson-by-anecdote that is taken more seriously than it should be. The caricature goes something like this: I was in [insert world city] for two days and took a cab to meet with [insert world leader]. While in the ride over, I spoke to my driver, who shared his view that [insert insightful comment], and all of a sudden I thought to myself: Eureka! this is the answer to [insert complex world crisis].

And it's true, to the extent that any caricature is. But the final chapters of Thank You for Being Late are much more substantive and give us the musings of a grounded, authentic, and, yes, deep thinker — not to mention a badly needed voice of reason in our current politically fraught climate. In the final pages of the book, for example, he visits his childhood home of St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, where he grew up in an environment of "inclusion and civic idealism." Once there, he tries to see the community for what it was and is, all the while looking for the source of its still-evident civic spirit — and for lessons that can be replicated in communities across the country. The story of St. Louis Park, he writes, "is the story of how an ethic of pluralism and a healthy community got built one relationship, one breakup, one makeup, one insult, one welcoming neighbor, one classroom at a time." While nostalgia is certainly a factor in this rosy assessment, there's more to his trip down memory lane and explorations of what happens in a community where people take the time to get to know each other and build bonds across their differences — or, as he puts it, who are willing "to belong to a network of intertwined 'little platoons', communities of trust, which [form] the foundation for belonging, for civic idealism, for believing others who [are different] [can] and should belong, too." Yes, in an age of accelerating global interdependence and contact between strangers, "the bridges of understanding that we have to build are longer, the chasms they have to span much deeper." But that is the challenge.

In our ever more complicated world, generalists who wrestle with a broad spectrum of ideas and seek to help us understand often difficult issues and events are in short supply. In the crowded (and increasingly noisy) public square of the twenty-first century, reasonable, thoughtful, and generous are not adjectives applied to many: Thomas Friedman is all three, and Thank You for Being Late offers some of his best work to date.

Michael Weston-Murphy is a writer and consultant based in New York City. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

5 Questions for…Alison Taylor, Director, Business for Social Responsibility

December 13, 2016

The corporate social responsibility debate took an interesting turn in 2016, as critics of ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil and gas company, alleged that company executives "knew humans were altering the world's climate by burning fossil fuels even while [the company] was helping to fund and propel the movement denying the reality of climate change." ExxonMobil's campaign to discredit its critics coincided with a decision by the Rockefeller Family Fund — a philanthropy established by the grandchildren of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, ExxonMobil's direct antecedent — to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies and, as fund president David Kaiser wrote in an issue of the New York Review of Books, to do so "gradually," even as it singled out ExxonMobil for immediate divestment because of its "morally reprehensible conduct."

The Texas-based multinational was not amused and moved quickly to rebut the allegations, arguing that it had become the target of "a well-funded and politically motivated conspiracy to harm its core business." But the controversy merely underscored the difficult act that global corporations, especially those in the energy and extractives sector, must pull off as they try to balance the expectations of shareholders against the demands of an increasingly "green" global public.

To learn more about the changing CSR environment, PND contributing editor Michael Wiener recently exchanged emails with Alison Taylor, a New York-based director at Business for Social Responsibility, a global nonprofit organization that works with a network of more than two hundred and fifty member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world. In September, BSR, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, announced the launch of an initiative aimed at building more inclusive global supply chains.

Philanthropy News Digest: How do you define integrity in the context of business sustainability?

Headshot_alison_taylorAlison Taylor: Business sustainability is one approach and framework for considering organizational integrity. The other is ethics and compliance. Ethics and compliance teams tend to focus on oversight of internal rules and processes and on ensuring that organizations comply with regulations, though they are increasingly being held responsible for wider organizational ethics. Sustainability and CSR teams consider issues of current and emerging public concern such as climate change, human rights, and social impact, with regulatory considerations secondary. Although questions of ethics and integrity are important for sustainability and CSR teams, they sometimes are less explicitly drawn. And frankly, in many organizations there is a disconnect between the two frameworks and approaches; there may be policies and Codes of Conduct that address organizational values, but companies can contradict themselves  for example, by investing in community development but also using offshore investment structures to avoid taxes. By considering integrity in a more integrated and consistent way, and by building structures and cultures to support that integrity, companies can reduce risk and improve their reputations.

PND: How are companies using ethical frameworks to drive business sustainability?

AT: I think sustainability practitioners use ethical arguments to drive support for their programs, but there is also considerable focus on the business case for sustainability and on demonstrating that sustainable businesses are more profitable and successful in the long term. I actually think that where there is considerable support from corporate CEOs and boards, they are more often compelled to take these actions due to ethical considerations. But many companies remain skeptical of the sustainability agenda, and so the field remains focused on making commercial arguments to support that agenda. Those arguments are becoming stronger, however, as public trust in business plummets and voices for greater transparency grow louder. Companies know they can no longer reliably control or manage their public profiles, and so they are paying more attention to sustainability.

PND: What do you say to people who argue that the most important responsibility of any publicly owned company is to maximize shareholder value, not to address social, environmental, or human rights issues or problems?

AT: The emphasis on shareholder value and quarterly reporting remains the status quo and reality. It's also why companies sometimes welcome environmental and social regulation, as the need to comply with existing regulations and laws means they can resist pressure to undertake unsustainable activities in order to keep investors happy. To date, only a few really large companies, notably Unilever, have successfully managed to resist quarterly reporting pressure when it comes to corporate sustainability measures. However, the growing focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues among investors, coupled with widespread disruption and ongoing failures of leadership and governance in the private sector, means that there is more and more discussion of leadership and growth models that might work better.

There is overwhelming evidence, for example, that companies need to do more to consider community and society's needs and not just take a narrow, self-interested view. Even Milton Friedman argued that companies needed to do this in order to survive over the long term. But once you start to consider sustainability issues, it brings into play huge amounts of complexity in terms of priorities, decision making, and even a company's core activities. I think it's the reason why the shareholder-value concept has been so powerful for so long. It enables prioritization and clear decision making around priorities.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 15-16, 2016)

October 16, 2016

Fruits-Fall-HarvestOur 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

Contra Donald Trump, the majority of African Americans do not live in poverty or inner cities. Alana Semuels reports for The Atlantic.

In Yes! Magazine, Liza Bayless interviews Marbre Stahly-Butts, deputy director of racial justice at the Center for Popular Democracy, about why divestment from the prison and military industries is critical to a just future.

Climate Change

On August 7, Scotland, one of the windiest countries in Europe, generated enough electricity from wind turbines to power the entire country. And it's goal of running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2020 may be within reach. The Washington Post's Griff Witte reports.

Communications/Marketing

"Most people are uncomfortable talking about race, discrimination, privilege and power," writes the Knight Foundation's Anusha Alikhan, who moderated a panel on diversity and inclusion at the Communications Network annual conference in Detroit in September. "[W]e get tripped up by the need to be nonpartisan, while balancing the interests of a variety of groups and even our own upbringings.... [But how] do we produce real change in these areas if we don’t acknowledge their roots?" Alikhan shares some takeaways from that conversation that communications teams can use to "advance hard conversations and create deeper connections with their communities."

Disaster Relief

Relief efforts for hurricane-battered Haiti gained some traction during week, with the United Nations launching a $120 million appeal to fund its activities there, the World Health Organization gearing up to send a million cholera vaccine doses to prevent a more serious outbreak of the disease, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announcing a gift of $2 million in cash and product donations, and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt announcing he will donate $10 million through his foundation for recovery efforts. To learn more about recovery challenges and opportunities for donors, check out this webinar hosted by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Haitians need all the help they can get. But according to the Washington Post's Peter Holley, they don't trust the American Red Cross to provide it.

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