Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2015

Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2015 is an annual industry forecast written by leading philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz about the social economy — private capital used for public good.

Foundation Center is pleased to again partner with Lucy to offer the Blueprint as a GrantCraft guide. The Blueprint provides an overview of the current landscape, points to major trends, and directs your attention to horizons where you can expect some important breakthroughs in the coming year.

Tweet about this year's Blueprint using #blueprint15

Highlights

  • Partnership with betterplace lab
  • Insight: Big Ideas that Matter for 2015
  • Foresight: Predictions for 2015
  • Hindsight: Renovations to Previous Forecasts
  • Questions for the Future
  • takeaways
    Where Might the Future Lead?

    Given all the different variables, many futures are possible. Here are sample scenarios that might come to pass (in whole or in part) over the next several years:

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  • takeaways
    Bonus Buzzwords The design edition

    Design Thinking

    Professional designers often take a surprisingly methodological approach to creativity. The catchall phrase for this approach is design thinking. Heavily influenced by the design field’s work with material and product development, design thinking is a user-centered approach to developing something — a strategy, event, process, or practice. Design thinking (and its corollaries, human-centered design or user-centric design) includes each of the buzzwords below (plus many more).

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  • takeaways
    Buzzword Watch

    The list of top 10 buzzwords for 2015 is intended to capture the gist of the jargon you’re likely to hear in the next 12 months. Think of the list as "anecdata.“ Some are meaningful; some are satirical. Some may have lasting implications and be a catchphrase that summarizes an important idea; others will pass by as quickly as they came. Regardless of how you feel about these buzzwords, don’t confuse my inclusion of a particular term as an endorsement or rejection of the idea. I’m the eavesdropper and rapporteur, and I’m happy to say that the list this year includes contributions from colleagues in North America, South America, and Europe.

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  • takeaways
    Foresight Predictions for 2015

    What can we count on happening in the next 12 months? Here’s a list of possibilities that go beyond just the theme of digital civil society to other realms that matter to philanthropy. Most of these are U.S.-centric; this is the area I know best and the primary intent of this document. I’d welcome predictions about the nature of change in other parts of the world — please feel free to contribute your best guesses about what next year holds in your part of the world. You can submit these (for public discussion) on the GrantCraft website and join me here a year from now to see how well you did!

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  • takeaways
    Glossary Blueprint 2015 Read More »
  • takeaways
    Research Resources

    An important step will be to capture and catalogue the global research resources that are developing. One of the areas we should all be watching over the next years will be the ways civil society actors “layer,” partner, complement, and ally themselves in different contexts. Useful examples here include the research of Lab Around the World, Nesta, the Nominet Trust, and the Building Change Trust in Northern Ireland. MIT’s Center for Civic Media, for instance, is working with data from the Digital Activism Research Project and cataloguing stories and case studies in an online book, Global Dimensions of Digital Activism. The visualizations and map at digitalsocial.eu show one research set of innovation examples. A good next step would be to connect it with the resource databases held by others.

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  • takeaways
    Codes for Digital Civil Society Software, organizational, and legal

    The Stanford PACS’ Digital Civil Society Lab is focused on informing and building three kinds of codes that digital civil society will need going forward. These codes are software, organizational, and legal.

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  • takeaways
    Digital Skills and Organizational Capacity

    A great deal of attention has been placed on nonprofits and their potential uses of digital technology. Foundations, too, are beginning to address their own capacity to use digital data and infrastructure well and to support nonprofits to use digital tools and data in smart, safe, and secure ways. Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) and its new Digital Civil Society Lab will launch a Digital Data Governance Guide first developed at the Packard Foundation. This resource will be available in the coming year for use by foundations, organizations, networks, consultants, and philanthropic capacity building efforts.

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  • takeaways
    Increasing the Safety of Digital Social Action Further resources

    Other resources that directly address the safety, security, and privacy of digital social action include trainings and resources from the Tactical Tech Collective, the work of WITNESS, forthcoming guides from ZeroDivide, legal resources and tools from Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, and the tools and community being built through the Responsible Data Forum. A working list of ethical codes that inform the digital activities of some sectors of civil society was developed for the Ethics of Data Conference at Stanford in September 2014. In addition, several innovation challenges are starting to include ethics panels in their review processes. Humanitarian groups, disaster relief agencies, and data science groups are all looking at how the capacities of digital tools serve their purposes but also challenge certain existing practices.

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  • takeaways
    New Ideas on Governance Sharing software standards

    CodeForAmerica is growing its international network through partnerships with public agencies (such as park and recreation departments), conservation nonprofits, and individual eco-activists to create common software code standards that will allow all partners to share data, build common tools, and easily expand their reach. At the same time, it will allow others to adopt the software code, too.

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  • takeaways
    Strategies for Promoting Digital Innovation A few approaches

    Examples and stories from the Nominet Trust, Nesta, Lab Around the World, and elsewhere offer hints of the various strategies being used to promote digital social innovation around the globe. While it’s always tricky to try to derive a comparative logic from the work of others, especially from afar, I see hints at a few approaches to promoting digital social innovation:

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  • takeaways
    Increasing Organizational Diversity Not just nonprofits

    Outside the U.S., nonprofits have less dominion over social purpose. Informal associations, community groups, co-operatives, and social businesses are all experimenting with digital tools for social benefit. In some cases, there is no formal nonprofit or public benefit organization involved in the work. Many examples of digital innovation come from individuals with an interest in a cause. Examples include online communities where people with specific diseases share insights and provide each other with emotional support, innovators tinkering with 3D printers to create open-source blueprints for building low-cost shelters, and networks of citizen “scientists” using free phone apps to monitor air quality in their communities. These are all examples of “digital innovation” going “social.”

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  • takeaways
    Digital Civil Society A double lens

    This double lens — civil society and the social economy — is particularly important as we try to understand digital civil society, that is, the ways we use our private resources for public benefit in the digital age. Digital data and infrastructure are being used for many socially positive purposes — from the use of mobile phone text messages to inform pregnant women of prenatal care options to crowdsourcing home-cooked meals for people in homeless shelters. When you look for digital applications for social good, you quickly realize that many of them exist and thrive outside of nonprofits.

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  • takeaways
    Expression, Protest, and Distribution Three purposes of civil society

    Even with the diversity of enterprises and financing mechanisms, civil society (within democracies) largely serves three purposes: expression, protest, and distribution. That is, we organize to express ourselves artistically, culturally, or as members of a particular group; to protest or advocate on behalf of issues or populations; and to provide and distribute services or products that the market or state are not providing. All of this is shaped by (and often funded by) government regulations and cultural norms. Market forces also influence the shape and scale of civil society. The edges between all three sectors are, and mostly have been, blurry and dynamic. This dynamism will only increase with adoption of digital tools. We will face more confusion and blurring — as digital data and infrastructure conflict with our old assumptions about public and private — before things get clearer.

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  • takeaways
    What is the Social Economy? A brief definition

    The social economy includes the structures by which we voluntarily use private resources for public benefit — through donations of money and time, social enterprises, networks of individuals, activists who connect locally and globally, and formal nonprofit or nongovernmental associations. In the United States, because of the role that nonprofit social welfare organizations play in electoral politics, it also includes political donors and the independent groups that they support.

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This is the third year that GrantCraft is partnering with Lucy Bernholz to publish Blueprint. GrantCraft became an editorial and publishing partner because we feel it's important to host conversations about the bigger picture context for funder work. In that vein, we'll be hosting guest blogs and discussions reacting to and building on ideas shared in the Blueprint, and will tag them as related content below. 

Some ways you might consider using this Blueprint include:

  • With colleagues at your organization, this publication can open conversations about the context for your work and any thoughts on expanding your strategic framework.
  • With grantees, this publication can foster conversations outside of specific funding conversations that might also lend context or theory to their approaches.
  • With peers and other foundations, this publication can lead to dialogue about how we as a collective sector may contribute to or challenge the predictions for 2015, and if we're tuned into current trends and buzzwords.
  • With our GrantCraft community, you can consider submitting your own reactions and connect with others on theirs by following subsequent blogs and discussions.

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