Digital Innovation in Civil Society Is a Growing Global Phenomenon
Annual Blueprint Anticipates the Future for
Philanthropy and the "Social Economy"
New York, NY — December 9, 2014.
The revered annual industry forecast for philanthropy was released today by GrantCraft, a service of Foundation Center. Authored by scholar Lucy Bernholz, Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2015 provides a global perspective on how digital data and infrastructure are being used for socially-positive purposes. The report provides evidence that beyond the realm of traditional nonprofits and foundations in the U.S., global civil society is also made up of for-profit firms, religious bodies, informal associations, and networks that are making investments in the social good and using digital tools to do it.
"A great deal of innovation in the use of digital for social good around the world is coming from outside of nonprofits," said Lucy Bernholz, visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and author of Blueprint 2015. "We are seeing an increase in the diversity of the types of organizations that participate in the global social economy, partly due to the fact that new and ubiquitous digital tools level the playing field."
Foundation Center is the leading authority on philanthropy worldwide, and its GrantCraft service shares the practical wisdom of funders. The Blueprint is a forecast that anyone using private resources for public benefit — philanthropists, social business leaders, nonprofit and association executives, individual activists, and policymakers — can use to innovate and be more strategic.
This year's report is informed by Berlin-based betterplace lab's "Lab Around the World" initiative, a 14-country exploration of "digital social innovation." Bernholz highlights a few of its case studies describing groups that are using digital technologies for social good in places as diverse as Brazil, China, and Indonesia. The examples show how digital civil society is blossoming in places with vastly different government structures and cultural practices.
Bernholz also presents big ideas that matter about digital civil society in the U.S. and abroad; the increasing organizational diversity of players in that community; strategies for promoting digital innovation; and progress in particular domains, such as human rights, health, and education. She also makes predictions for 2015 (and presents a scorecard of those she made for 2014) and considers questions for the future with regard to the use of digital tools in impact investing, the sharing economy, and political funding.
"Worldwide, philanthropy is being transformed by the emergence of new forms of social enterprise and new digital tools," said Bradford K. Smith, president of Foundation Center. "The Blueprint's thoughtful examination of what lies ahead makes it a unique resource in the field."
A prominent feature of each year's Blueprint is a top 10 list of emerging philanthropy-related buzzwords, including terms like "the internet of things," "citizen science," and "giving days." The Blueprint also predicts wildcard world events — unanticipated legislation, scandals, or disasters — that have the potential to mitigate or accelerate the timing of big shifts in the social economy. For example, Bernholz projects that foreign foundations working in China will face increasing oversight and public scrutiny by the Chinese government in 2015.
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 2015, Bernholz will continue to investigate and cultivate conversations around the ideas in Blueprint at the GrantCraft blog, in online discussions, and on Philanthropy2173.
Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2015 can be downloaded for free at grantcraft.org/blueprint15 and discussed online using #blueprint15.
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About the 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 470 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. For more information, please visit foundationcenter.org
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