Foundation Center President Brad Smith had a great post last week, The Brave New World of Good. In it, he poses thoughtful questions about newer models of achieving social good that are complementing, some believe disrupting or even replacing, traditional philanthropies and nonprofits. These include open data, private markets, hackathons, innovation practices, impact investing, and transparency practices.
Lucy Bernholz then posed additional questions about the potential negative interactions between those models in her post, Good (and not so good?). Her post linked to new documents from Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab that look at related public policy challenges.
These posts came on the heels of articles about nonprofits that facilitate giving money directly to the poor, including GiveDirectly and Benevolent. These nonprofits and others are complementing, some say inappropriately bypassing, traditional social service intermediaries and international aid groups.
Lastly, philanthropic advisor Laura Loescher wrote an interesting post on how “Indie Philanthropists” are challenging traditional giving models.
I’ll concede that the posts probably don’t appeal to most nonprofits worried about making ends meet or the majority of donors and grantmakers who are content with their giving practices. And, as Doug Smith notes, there’s not much hard evidence to show new models and disruptions are consistently more effective than old models.
I think the posts and articles are on target for describing the increasingly messy and confusing world of improving communities and society. We don’t yet know how the models, practices, and policies will play out in the long run. But I think they’ll impact our daily work in philanthropic and nonprofit management sooner than we’re ready for them to do so.
In the meantime, if you know any graduate and doctoral students stuck for research topics, send them the links above. Hopefully they’ll find something inspiring in those topics and help us all learn how to lean into the unfolding changes.