David B. Crowley's blog

The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle

Ann Goggins Gregory and Don Howard have written an important article entitled "The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle", originally published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  They describe a vicious cycle that causes nonprofits to significantly under-invest in the infrastructure they need for long-term success: unrealistic funder expectations, pressure on nonprofits to conform with these expectations, and unrealistic reporting.

I'd encourage anyone interested in the health of the nonprofit sector read the article here; then pop back over if you'd like to hear my further comments on the article (which hadn't been posted over there yet as of this writing).

***  Read more

Un-Civil Discourse, #1

I've been pondering the question of whether the vitriolic debate over healthcare today is unprecedented or just another example of the rough-and-tumble nature of politics, played out in the 24-7 news cycle. Here, Tom Friedman makes the case that things have ratcheted up to a new and dangerous level. The precedent he cites is Israel shortly before Rabin's assassination.

The tenor of today's debate is surely disturbing, but our political history also includes such events as a sitting a Vice President killing a former cabinet member in a duel and a Senator being caned by a colleauge to the brink of death by while sitting at his senate desk. I'd like to know more and hear thoughts about whether today's un-civil debate is more-of-the same or has taken things to a whole new level as Friedman suggests. Read more

We ourselves must be the change...

"We ourselves must be the change we want to see in the world." Gandhi

I'm a big Gandhi fan (is anyone not?), and this is one of my favorite quotes, so I'm glad to see it cited a lot on and offline these days.  But most often I see it used as a reminder that we can all make a difference in the world.  This is part of the point, of course, but I think the subtlety and deeper significance of Gandhi's thought is lost if we interpret this as simply "we can all make a difference".

The big idea to me reflected in this quote is the concept that the change we want to see needs to start first with ourselves as individuals, who we are, how we carry ourselves in the world.  If we want to have peace on earth, we should figure out how to be more peaceful in our daily lives.  There are too many people who love humanity but aren't very kind to the person sitting next to them on the train.  Gandhi himself struggled with this--if you've seen the big Gandhi film or read about his life you know he wasn't always as kind as he could be to his wife for instance.Read more

Seven Values for the Social Capitalist

We're working hard this summer on our Social Capitalist Curriculum.  This curriculum will codify our 7 years of experience in a resource that will allow us to spread our impact by training people to be effective Social Capitalists; that is, leaders who possess a unique set of skills and attitudes that enable them to collaborate effectively, make connections, bridge differences, and nurture social networks to make a difference.  Early in the process, we identified 9 Social Capitalist Competencies, described in this document.  

In working on the training for the first competency, "Wear Social Capitalist Lenses", it became clear that we needed to define the values and principles that underly a Social Capitalist perspective.  Here's my initial working list of Social Capitalist Values, concepts that one most embrace and keep coming back to in order to effectively strengthen our social fabric.   I'd love to hear your feedback or additions to the list.  Read more

10 Ways (and Counting!) to Build Social Capital

As we work on our Social Capitalist Curriculum, we're thinking a lot about practical ways to teach people how to build social capital.  I've begun "tweeting" these ideas and now that we're up to 10, wanted to pull together into a blog post.  I'll update every time we've got another batch of 10 or so, and would welcome your contributions to the list.  You can add those by commenting here (approval needed) or by tweeting them with the hashtag #socialcaptips.  The idea of such a list isn't unique, in fact, the Saguaro Seminar has a great list of "150 Things You Can Do to Build Social Capital".  We seek to add to the practical social capital building tips by creating one based on our experience and sharing it here and via Twitter.

1: Fix a meal for new parents in your neighborhood.

2: Share your swimming pool with neighbors.

3: Recommend local businesses that provide good service to your friends and family. Read more

A Social Capitalist Take on the Gates/Crowley Incident

We talk a lot here at SCI about the value of knowing our neighbors. To suggest why crime rates are lower in neighborhoods where people know each other, I've often used the hypothetical example of seeing someone climb into the window in a home across the street--if we know our neighbors, we know whether to call the police or go help our neighbor get into his home. Now, in the incident with Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley (no known relation!) we have an unfortunate example of what can happen when we don't know our neighbors.

With good reason, race has been the dominant theme in the dialog that has followed last week's incident, but I'd like to explore the neighborhood angle along with the racial dimensions. Let me start with the obvious point that this incident could have simply avoided had the person who called the police had known Professor Gates was a neighbor. We aren't talking about being over for regularly for butter or bagels here, but even having met a few times and exchanged hellos walking in the neighborhood would have done the trick. Simple, right? Hold on...
Read more

Youth Council Members Report College Success

One of our AmeriCorps members, Kevin McGravey, was mentioned he'd been hearing several reports of former SCI Youth Council members who have attributed their success in college in part to the leadership experience they gained on the Youth Council. Sounds like this is an avenue we should think about for future impact evaluation. Meanwhile, this anecdote he relayed from a parent is compelling:

"My child was one of the first group of youth council members and just finished her second year of college. Her youth council experience gave her the skills she needed to succeed. When she was part of youth council I always thought it was a nice way for her to give back to the community but after a few years of youth council I noticed she was more independent, able to speak her mind and lead her peers. Those qualities have so helpful for her inside and outside of the classroom."

In Defense of Food--and Community

Volunteers at a local community farm

My interest in cooking (and eating) led me to read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, yet I was struck by how some of the societal factors that require food to be defended also contribute to the declining social capital we address here at SCI.

Pollan's basic plot, picking up where he left off in The Omnivore's Dilemma, argues that many of the poor health outcomes we see in the U.S. today result from the Western diet with its reliance on processed food, meat and dairy produced in disconcerting ways, and a limited range of grains. He suggests the link between the "food industrial complex" and nutritionists' quest for a single food factor, be it fat or carbs, that explains health also drives a frequent rollout of new fad diets and food products that at best haven't made us any better off.
Read more

Help SCI train new Social Capitalists!

We are just a few days away from our June 30 budget year end-can you help get us over the top?  We are down to $4,800 left to go to reach our individual fundraising goal for the year.  Donations of all sizes are a big help.Read more

Globe Article Suggests Social Media Strengthening Friendships

Earlier this decade, Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone indicted the television as one of the primary culprits for declining social capital. Then in 2006 the study, "Social Isolation in America" indicated that the number of Americans who are socially isolated, with zero or just one close confidante, roughly doubled over a 20 year period to 43%. This study's authors also implicated technology as one of the causes for the diminishing number of close friends Americans have today. Both works raised interesting questions about how Internet based technologies would impact social capital and friendships.
Read more

Syndicate content