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News from the Case Foundation and what people are talking about this week in the world of giving, tech and everything in between.
The weekly roundup was on hiatus last week with the July 4th holiday, so in this edition, we're taking a look at the news we've been thinking and talking about for the last two weeks.
President Obama unveils details on innovation fund At a gathering of more than 100 philanthropic leaders at the White House last week, President Obama unveiled additional details on the $50 million innovation fund, part of the Serve America Act, signed into law this spring. As reported by the NonProfit Times, "the fund will provide grants to existing grant-making institutions that will invest in growing innovative, results-driven nonprofits." According to the Associated Press, Domestic Policy Council director Melody Barnes and members of the White House Office of Social Innovation have been tasked with leading the effort to identify the most innovative nonprofits. Numerous reporters, bloggers and other experts commented on the impact of the news, including Harvard Business School's Clayton M. Christiansen, who wrote an article for the Huffington Post, concluding that:
If the White House Office of Social Innovation can improve the context for social innovation, its impact will extend far beyond a new government bureaucracy -- it will transform the way we solve problems; create a powerful new alignment around impact; and foster an environment where government, the vast reservoirs of American philanthropy, and socially innovative entrepreneurs will spend less on things that don't work, and more on things that do.
At the Philanthrocapitalism VA£U€$ blog, they argue that as part of the new innovation fund efforts, there "must be a new division of labour, in which each of government, business, non-profits and philanthropy do what they can do best, and get out of what they do not do well." And in an insightful series of blog posts this week and last, Sean Stannard Stockton at Tactical Philanthropy talked about why he believes the social innovation fund is a big deal (if done right), his evaluation of the President's unveiling of the fund, and also published America Forward's response to some of his criticisms of the announcement.
The New York Times' Kristof stirs debate on humanitarian marketing In an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that one of the reasons G-8 leaders are falling behind in meeting humanitarian commitments is in part because humanitarians "are abjectly ineffective at selling their causes." He goes on to suggest that many of the negative statistics that are touted by humanitarian efforts may be impeding their cause:
Perhaps this is because, as some research suggests, people give in large part to feel good inside. That works best when you write a check and the problem is solved. If instead you’re reminded of larger problems that you can never solve, the feel-good rewards diminish.
In addition to sparking a lot of discussion on Twitter, several bloggers posted their reaction to the piece, including Allison Fine, who strongly disagrees with Kristof's statement that "Any brand of toothpaste is peddled with far more sophistication than the life-saving work of aid groups," stating that:
It is exactly these kinds of habits, of developing messages that are focused groups but have no real connection with regular people, of doing things at people rather than with them that were created on Madison Avenue and adopted by too many cause organizations that has led us to this place of silos and fortresses, of public relations people and marketers working at odds with program people, of “selling” causes rather than weaving networks.
However, on his blog A Digerati Wannabe, Michael Riggs takes a different viewpoint of the article, stating that "The idea Kristof put forward fit very well with the currently trending organizational theory of "tribes" and offer an explanation for the success of initiatives like Kiva." He goes on to talk about the potential need to focus on igniting marketing efforts at the grassroots level.
What's your take - do you agree with Mr. Kristof?
Reflecting on Michael Jackson's impact on philanthropy While the world spent a lot of time in the last two weeks talking about Michael Jackson's legacy and impact on music, some in the philanthropic community took a look back at his charitable efforts that in some ways were a reflection of his controversial legacy. The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Give and Take blog notes that "As a humanitarian, he is perhaps best know for 'We Are the World,' the 1985 song he wrote with Lionel Richie that raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa..." but goes on to say that "Yet as with the rest of his life, Mr. Jackson occasionally triggered controversy with some of his philanthropic efforts." Fabiola Charles at Examiner.com reflects that 'He was such a generous individual that he was listed in the 2000 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for 'Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star,' with that number being 39."
Facebook users are getting older According to a new study from iStrategyLabs, the demographics of Facebook users is shifting, with significant growth in older users of the social networking site. As reported by Mashable:
...the overall number of users between 18 and 24 years of age has grown only 4.8% between the fourth of January and the fourth of July of 2009. In comparison, the number of users aged 25 – 34 has grown 60.8%; the number of users aged 35 to 54 has grown 190.2%, while the number of users older than 55 years has grown a tremendous 513.7%.
Reporting on the study, The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed iStrategyLabs' chief executive who "attributed the influx of older people to job networking amid the gloomy economy. He also pointed to the 2008 presidential campaign, during which the candidates and media outlets like CNN invited people to connect." PC World debated whether the influx of older users means that Facebook has an "identity crisis," and eWEEK contemplated an explanation for the exponential growth in users in the 55+ age range.