Wednesday, December 07, 2016

'Tis the Season: Charity 2016

Happy holidays, bleeps-

Yes, it's been a while since I have posted on our charitable giving. That's not because we haven't been continuing to give. But, as you have noticed, I'm not blogging as much (who is?). And, I try not to repeat things I have already said once.

But it's time for an update. Over time, things change. We are giving to some new and different organizations. Some because of changes in our family's interests, and some due to a changing world (some of you may feel as concerned as we do about how minorities and the environment will fare following the recent US elections). Recently, a few friends and family members have asked me for my "list".  As with all of my posts, I am hoping that it will have some small impact in how you think and what you do. So, here is an updated list showing where we are giving. As in prior years, I say a little about who and why, but not how much. And I try to throw in a few helpful hints, mildly humorous observations and broad encouragement to give what you can to organizations that effectively help others.

I will start with something that seems to be changing.  It is worth reflection. It has to do with who supports charities, and in particular, those that support the organizations that work to help the disadvantaged. For many years, studies showed that the poor and middle class gave a higher percentage of their income than the wealthy. And, they tended to support organizations that help the disadvantaged. In comparison, the largest gifts from the wealthy tended to go to universities, museums and hospitals. Things one can put a name on.* But this may be changing. Not so much that the rich are giving more, but that the poor and middle class are giving less. As one article says, "the growth in inequality is mirrored in philanthropy; as wealth concentrates in fewer hands, so does philanthropic giving and power." Don't get me wrong- I am happy to have the wealthy giving to charities of their choice (and giving to universities is good, one in particular!). I just feel that society is healthier if many are giving, rather than few. I am a fan of participatory philanthropy and democratic donations (that's a small "d", folks).  

OK, OK, here's the 2016 list:

Health (15% of total):
Doctors w/o Borders (Nobel prize winning org providing care for those who need it most)
Against Malaria (working to prevent malaria; primarily through bed nets)
Watsi (crowd funding health care for those who can't afford it)
Last Mile Health (providing health care in Liberia)

Environment and Conservation (20%):
Nature Conservancy (preserving significant landscapes)
National Park Foundation (helping support national parks, since government funding falls short)
IdeaWild (small grants to wildlife conservationists) (climate change activism)
CSU Center For Collaborative Conservation (long term conservation through collaboration)
NRDC (sometimes, we need to play defense)
Wilderness Society ("in wildness is the preservation of...")
Outdoor Alliance (access to public lands for human powered recreation)

Social Justice/Community Development (25%):
One Acre Fund (helping farmers grow their families out of poverty)
Women for Women Intl (helping women in conflict affected regions)
Mission Continues (volunteering for veterans)
Anera (supporting poor communities in Gaza, West Bank)
ACLU Foundation (protecting our constitutional rights)
Sylvia Rivera Law Project (GLBT civil rights and legal support)
MALDEF (Latino civil rights)
International Rescue Committee (refugee assistance)
Planned Parenthood (women's health and family planning)

Education (10%)
Intercambio (cultural integration and language for immigrants)
10.10.10 (entrepreneurs tackling wicked problems)
CSU Global Social Sustainable Enterprise MBA (check it out, it's tremendous)

Independent Journalism/Research (10%)
High Country News (news about the Western US)
Pro Publica (investigative journalism in the public interest)
Grist (environmental reporting)
Colorado Public Radio (NPR, plus great local reporting)
Union of Concerned Scientists (because science doesn't care what you believe)

Local (20%)
SAINT (transportation for seniors in Fort Collins)
Food Bank of Larimer County
One22 (community services in Jackson)
Community Safety Network (shelter in Jackson)

I hope this list will give you some ideas of what you might like to support this year.

If you wanted my idea for one organization where even a small gift would make a difference, I'd suggest Watsi. Your entire donation goes to life changing health care for someone who needs it. I have been involved in the organization for several years and continue to be impressed by their work.
*Much has been written about the motivations for giving. I have said my piece here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A New Geography of Hope?

The following is derived from an introduction I gave for Marjorie Kelly, who was a keynote speaker and guest at the annual convening of the Intermountain West Funders Network (IMWFN) this spring. 
Good morning and welcome to our annual convening. The website says "the Intermountain West Funder Network is a unique opportunity for funders to join together to engage residents in strengthening their communities, supporting research and learning, and building a philanthropic community that will leverage funding and support for one of the nation’s most iconic and fastest-growing regions.”

Today is a day for sharing and learning about community wealth building from one of the real experts in the field, Marjorie Kelly. This is my first convening, and I hope it represents a beginning for our foundation… a chance to collaborate with others here to do real work throughout IMWFN’s region and network.

"Community---Wealth---Building"- we will explore the meaning of these three words today. To start, we can acknowledge the paradox that we now confront- that one of the great drivers of building wealth, markets, may also be one of the great destroyers of communities.

In Stephen Marglin's wonderful book- The Dismal Science- How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community" he says: 
“economics relies on value judgments implicit in foundational assumptions about the self-interested individual, about rational calculation, about unlimited wants, and about the nation-state, and it is these assumptions that make community invisible. In arguing for the market, economics legitimizes the destruction of community and thus helps to construct a world in which community struggles for survival.”
This group comes from, and is based in, a place called the "Intermountain West." As our website says, it is "iconic and fast growing" and this creates unique challenges for building communities. Just as there are aspects of markets that undermine community, there are aspects of our "Westerness" that exacerbate this problem. One of my favorite writers, Wallace Stegner, is famous for his line that the West’s wilderness is “the geography of hope” for America. As he got older, Stegner became increasingly uncomfortable with this view, and spent much of his writing analyzing the unique social and environmental challenges facing communities in the West: 
“Visionary expectation was the great energizer of the westward movement, and something like it still drives the rush to the Sunbelt. But exaggerated, uninformed, unrealistic, greedy expectation has been a prescription for disappointment that the West has carried to the corner drugstore too many times. Ghost towns and dust bowls, like motels, are western inventions. All are reflections of transience, and transience in most of the West has hampered the development of stable, rooted communities and aborted the kind of communal effort that takes in everything from kindergarten to graveyard and involves all kinds and grades and ages of people in a shared past and a promise of continuance.”
Which brings us to our keynote speaker, Marjorie Kelly. She has been writing about the effects of markets on communities for many years. In her books, The Divine Right of Capital and Owning Our Future, she has critiqued “extractive ownership,” and studied regenerative models of capitalism. What I find so helpful about her work is that she does not take the easy posture of critic and cynic, but instead the posture of searcher, learner and teacher. She has also searched the world for the outliers, the organizations and institutions, the cities and companies, the cooperatives and foundations, that are taking paths less traveled. As an Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Democracy Collaborative, she is mapping out new models for communities, under the concept of Community Wealth Building. 

I think this map sets the vision for a new “geography of hope”… of hope for more connected, resilient and healthy communities. In the Intermountain West, in our nation and around the world.  Please welcome Marjorie to lead us in a day of exploring this new geography, and the paths and pioneers that are rebuilding American communities.

Friday, October 10, 2014

How To Be Successful in Life and Business

Get Lean. Lean In. Be disruptive. Move from Good to Great.

There is much written and spoken about success. As a business. As a person. As a country.

Humans like a guiding star, and they take comfort in being told there is a map for their future journey. If you are starting a business, "how to" information is comforting. If you are a company struggling to innovate, "how to" advice is comforting. If you are starting your career as a recent graduate, "how to" information on leadership and career trajectory is comforting.

Many are happy to tell you "how to" be successful. Before rushing to read the next book, sign up for the next seminar or watch the next video posted on Facebook, it might be worthwhile to step back for a minute and ask a question:

Is this "how to" advice descriptive, derivative, prescriptive or predictive?

Descriptive: uses historical information to describe what others* have done. "This is what these successful companies** did."

Derivative: uses descriptive information to derive principles or approaches. "Here is a map that shows what these companies did to be successful." Beware. There may be many other companies that did the same things, but were not successful. No one talks about these or writes best selling books about them.

Prescriptive: uses derivative information to put forward a framework that may be applied to a new situation. "These companies used this map and were successful. You should use this map too."

Predictive: uses prescriptive information and claims correlation/causation in order to propose that those who follow the framework will be successful in a new situation. "If 100 companies use this map, 67% of them will be successful" or "If you use this map you will be successful".

There are many instances where doing what was done before can lead to a successful outcome. Making spaghetti. Opening a barber shop. Driving to work. Making another bottle of beer. In these situations, you may chose to just use prescriptive or predictive approaches, and jump right over the descriptive and derivative.

If you are attempting to do what has never been done before, descriptions may be helpful.*** Derivations, prescriptions and predictions much less so. If they feel comforting, it is a false comfort. The map is wrong.

If you want to be successful in leading a life or starting a business that has been done before, I can be prescriptive (and even predictive)- just follow the maps of others. If you want to be successful in something truly new and different, I can suggest that you treat those maps as where not to go.
* There is a sub-genre. Business biographies describing "what I did to be successful." 'nuf said.
** These days: Google, Apple, Facebook. Not so long ago: Intel, Microsoft, Nokia. A little longer ago: Xerox, Gillette, Phillip Morris. Just by looking at these companies, you can also begin to question just what success is. If so, please pause and reflect about your purpose.
*** Helpful in two ways: i) it helps build your expertise to know the history of a field/industry; ii) you may learn from others experience (as long as you recognize these are limited to their circumstances and may be filled by the biases of those relaying the information). For instance, Randy Komisar's ideas on using analogs and antilogs can be helpful ways to analyze descriptive information in your field (recognize they are derivative, and may be of limited predictive value).