New Norms in Technology and the Social Economy Are Transforming Civil Society
Blueprint 2016 Documents Philanthropy's Role, Predicts Future Shifts
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New York, NY — December 9, 2015. GrantCraft, a service of Foundation Center, has released Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2016, the annual industry forecast authored by scholar Lucy Bernholz. In its seventh installment, this year's report explores how changes in the structure of work, especially the emergence of the "gig economy" made possible by new technologies, will precede an associated shift in the role and approach of civil society organizations. The observations in Blueprint can help social enterprises think about and plan for the future.
Bernholz documents changes underway in the nature of employment (as more than half of workers may soon be freelancers); the spread of automation; and the fluctuating value and liabilities associated with prevalence of digital data (the need to balance data collection against personal privacy rights). As these developments take place in the broader economy, they raise serious questions for civil society about how systems of social supports must adapt accordingly.
"Philanthropy can no longer rely on a system that was based on a world of the past," said Lucy Bernholz, visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. "The question now is, how will the activities, policies, and values need to change among those who are using private resources for the public good?"
To accompany her insights on the "big ideas that matter" around the changing structure of work and the forces shaping civil society, this year Bernholz includes a new worksheet to help philanthropies and other social enterprises assess how prepared their organizations are for the broader societal shifts. In her "glimpses of the future" for digital civil society — which focuses on voluntary action, private resources, and public benefit — the principles Bernholz offers for the ethical, safe, and effective use of data require active consent, place a high value on privacy, and call for openness by default. Whereas digital data is the newest resource in civil society's toolkit, standards and practices around the governance of that data still need to be developed.
Blueprint 2016 contains predictions of global events and developments in the coming year that are intended to help the social sector plan for the future. For example, Bernholz envisions that at least one new foundation program focused on biological privacy will launch and that social impact bonds will grow in popularity, despite disappointing results in those instruments to date.
"The forward-thinking ideas in Blueprint resonate with me," said Jake Garcia, vice president for data and technology strategy at Foundation Center. "For example, as Foundation Center automates more and more of our data collection, it both compels us to think differently about how we deploy our staff resources and also presents new possibilities for what we're able to do with data."
This year's "Buzzword Watch," a regular feature of Blueprint, offers terms categorized by four broad themes: social economy and philanthropy; science, evidence, and integrity; infotech and digital; and biological technologies. Explanations of these concepts orient readers to cutting-edge ideas that may become common parlance in the coming year. Among this year's 12 terms are "effective altruism" (an idea that one should seek the greatest returns possible for charitable activities); "thing hacking" (which refers to security concerns with the "Internet of things," one of last year's buzzwords); and "biononymity" (a reference to personal DNA anonymity).
Foundation Center is the leading authority on philanthropy worldwide, and its GrantCraft service shares the practical wisdom of funders. Philanthropists, social business leaders, nonprofit and association executives, individual activists, and policymakers use Blueprint's annual forecast of what is on the horizon — where digital technology and civil society intersect — to develop adaptive strategies for their own work.
In her career as a consultant, writer, and blogger, Bernholz has established herself as an incisive authority in the complex arena of data and philanthropy. The Huffington Post calls Bernholz a "philanthropy game changer," Fast Company magazine named her Philanthropy2173 blog "Best in Class," and she has been named to The Nonprofit Times' annual list of 50 most influential people. Throughout 2016, Bernholz will continue to investigate and cultivate conversations around the ideas in Blueprint at the GrantCraft blog and on Philanthropy2173.
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About Foundation Center
Established in 1956, Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. Foundation Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit Foundation Center's website each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of more than 450 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. For more information, please visit foundationcenter.org or call(212) 620-4230.