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The book begins with background on why nonprofits often fail to embrace the competitive dimensions of their work and instead choose to focus attention on forming collaborative relationships. The authors roll out the usual suspects here including an overall orientation towards inclusiveness and sharing and an antithesis to values normally associated with the marketplace whose spillover ‘bads’― inequality, poverty, lack of opportunity― they seek to mitigate. La Piana and Hayes point out as well that collaboration is often something foisted on nonprofit organizations by the foundations and governmental entities that fund them.
Want to read the full review? The folks over at Nonprofit Central are now hosting our reviews on their site. Point your browser here to view it.]]>
Proscio goes on to offer a theory for why left leaning discourse is so obtuse. It’s centered around the idea that as the foundation community’s ideals about altruism, sacrifice and the common good loose force in a culture dominated by the materialist ideology of the marketplace, left leaning organizations retreat and come to develop a culture of isolation complete with a secret and inbred language all their own.
We disagree. In our view it’s quite the opposite. Foundationspeak is what it is because foundations seek to align their language with their primary reference group, academics, policy makers and other experts who require a (seemingly) value neutral language in order to sound non-partisan, dispassionate and ultimately, scientific. As Proscio himself points out, much foundationspeak parrots the latest language of business school– ‘metrics’, ‘value-proposition’, etc. Straight forward talk about beliefs and values are nowhere to be found.
This theoretical disagreement aside, there is much in this essay to value. We particularly liked his deconstruction of some leading foundation buzzwords and his presentation of the pro-jargon position– yes there is such a thing and it is more compelling than you may think.
Take a look. Whatever position in the jargon wars you take, it’s nice to know the arguments on both sides.
By the way, you can find a complete dictionary of foundation jargon, based largely on this essay buy clicking here.]]>
While there is much in this volume that will be interest to arts organizations seeking public (and private) support, any organization which offers a program that provides intrinsic benefits should take a look. Here’s an example.
We did an evaluation some time ago for an organization that teaches chess to children in the public schools. The program wanted to be able to document that chess helped kids concentrate, improved their spatial reasoning skills, and their ability to persist at solving problems. Despite a strong evaluation design, many thousands of dollars later all we could document were very modest effects. Does this mean chess should be eliminated. Of course not. Teaching chess to kids is an intrinsically valuable thing to do. It makes a small, if not entirely measurable, impact on many kids as the study showed. And it will probably make a significant impact on at least a few (say those who go on to play at the tournament level), but that’s not the point. Exposure to chess gives kids a chance to try something new, something other than reading, math and, increasingly, test prep. It gives them the chance to try something different, exercise new intellectual muscles, and connect with a pastime that is centuries old.
There are two issues to think about here. The first relates to finding ways to persuade funders that a program’s worth isn’t always reducible to its instrumental benefits. As we said before, Gifts of the Muse provides a language for doing that. The second relates to figuring out how measure its intrinsic benefits. That’s usually not easy and sometimes impossible to do. We’ll work on developing some suggested strategies and post them as they percolate up.]]>