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Showing posts from August, 2008

SEA Chapters

I recently took on the role of chairing the Social Enterprise Alliance, the main grassroots group representing social enterprises in the U.S. and Canada. One of our new strategies to respond to the increasing demand for social enterprise knowledge is to encourage chapters to form. The initial chapters have just been starting this year. Our first chapter was in St. Louis, and our second one in Baltimore, and more are forming all the time. I know that a group is starting here in the San Francisco bay area, and I’m looking forward to joining it. You can contact SEA’s chapters and organizing groups on the SEA Chapter page.

Kris Prendergast just told me that the second meeting of the Chicago chapter formation group was attended by more than 100 people! I’m delighted to hear there’s so much energy around social enterprise in my hometown (I grew up in the Chicago suburbs).

Austrian Mountain Top

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I love my digital camera and taking lots of pictures. However, most times that means I'm not in the picture. Neil Soiffer of Design Sciences took this nice picture of me on the top of the mountain for the ICCHP conference's Mountain Attack on July 12th, 2008.


Of course, I had forgotten to bring a jacket, so I used a handy conference umbrella during a brief rain on the mountain top.

Fiscal Sponsorship Resources

Setting up as a nonprofit is not easy. Starting a for-profit in California took me one or two weeks, and I think it's still that fast. But, setting up a nonprofit and getting 501(c)(3) status can take a year or more and cost ten or twenty thousand dollars (unless you get pro bono legal help).

Many folks doing starting up nonprofit work might be better off finding a fiscal sponsor. This is a qualified nonprofit (i.e., has charitable status) that will steward the new program and take care of being a nonprofit and filing the annual returns. In exchange for a fee to cover their costs, donations are fully tax deductible.

Many folks ask us to be a fiscal sponsor for their social tech projects, but we've decided it would be a distraction from our core work, plus we're not experts in supporting other projects.

In the San Francisco area, the Tides Center is best known for offering fiscal sponsorship. I've heard it costs roughly 9% of donations, but that's not authorit…

Booksharian Heroes Hit 40,000

Bookshare.org just hit a milestone by reaching 40,000 accessible books in our collection. This is always a cause for celebration by our team, recognizing the incredible amount of work involved in bringing each book to our Bookshare.org members by our volunteers and collection development staff.

Reading our volunteer email listserv this morning, I came across lyrics to a song about our volunteer community. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and recognize the heroic nature of volunteer service! Thanks to volunteer Lissi for writing this.

Volunteering is a fascinating, fulfilling blessing resulting in my reading wonderful books, learning new things and getting to know people I enjoy, care about and admire. I wrote this parody of Paul Overstreet's song, "Heroes," with all Booksharians in mind.

Booksharian Heroes

He opens up his scanner
In the hours before dawn
So he can finish up this book
Before the day is gone.

He optimizes settings
He holds the book down tight
Scannoes out a…

Still more debate on Just Another Emperor

Michael Edwards continues the debate with a fresh comment, but says it's his last post because everything he says I dismiss as spin. That's too bad, because Michael is starting to actually engage with some of the arguments I'm making, and avoids the most objectionable rhetorical techniques that I keep pointing out.

It's true that I have a serious problem with the claims made by Just Another Emperor, and with the rhetorical techniques used. I point out that that these techniques are weak in quite a number of ways. His subtitle on Just Another Emperor is "the Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism." My thesis is that his pamphlet (as he describes it) is long on myth and short on reality.

I'd summarize his pamphlet as building its case as follows:
- "Philanthrocapitalsm is a movement is flawed in both its proposed means and its promised ends"
- A key means is social enterprise (social entrepreneurship)
- Philanthrocapitalists and social ent…

More debate on Just Another Emperor

Thanks to Michael Edwards, author of Just Another Emperor, for investing the time to comment on my last blog post. I'm excited about the chance to continue to make my case that Just Another Emperor utilizes spin techniques rather than balanced research in its quest to make the case for its policy recommendations. Michael's post provides ample opportunity to make my points more clearly.

For those tracking the progress of this debate, I would say that Michael and I have a similar view of the other's arguments: distorted, misrepresented and ignored seem to sum it up. In addition, we're in agreement that those interested in the issues being discussed would benefit from reading Michael's book and evaluating the strengths of our two arguments. I think we also agree that:
we should certainly increase funding for work that addresses the root causes of social injustice, strengthen foundation learning and accountability, give “beneficiaries” a greater stake in governance…

A critique of Just Another Emperor

The recent book, Just Another Emperor, is getting a lot of attention in philanthropic circles these days. It slams the use of business thinking and approaches in philanthropy, and makes some drastic policy recommendations to fix elite philanthropy by those dubbed philanthrocapitalists. The term comes from Matthew Bishop of the Economist, whose book Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, is coming out next month.

I really don't like Just Another Emperor, and it's because of the spin techniques used to attempt to make the case for the policy changes it advocates. I couldn't contain myself and wrote a lengthy seven part critique on the Global Philanthropy Forum's Discussion Forum on the topic. If you checkout the link, my comments start near the bottom. I'm attaching my conclusion below.

If you read the critique, you can tell this got me going. I'm working on writing this up as an essay (with editing) rather than a series of blog posts.


A P…

Bernie Newcomb article

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation just published a very nice article, Leveling the Field, about one of our key Bookshare.org supporters, Bernie Newcomb. Bernie was VP Engineering and co-founder at eTrade. Amazingly enough, eTrade started in the same building where Benetech is currently located (under its original name of Trade Plus). Bernie grew up as a visually impaired kid and Oregon and rejected the low expectations of the then-education institutions and went to college and on to become an engineer and successful entrepreneur.

Bernie is very low key, and I'm glad the Foundation encouraged him to go on the record with why he does what he does. He's a great role model for students with disabilities, as well as successful tech entrepreneurs!

A Romance on Three Legs

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I've had the pleasure of knowing Katie Hafner, New York Times reporter and author, for at least five years. She generally writes on tech topics, so I was interested to see her latest book on the famous pianist Glenn Gould, A Romance on Three Legs.

As a geek, it feels good to see some of the oddities of tech people translated into the music world. Gould was a real character: maybe even stranger than my Caltech classmates. But, brilliant of course.



A significant character in the book is the blind piano tuner, Verne Edquist. I had no guess that reading my first Hafner piece on music I'd be getting a window on what it was like to be a visually impaired kid growing up in the prairie during the Depression. So, it's a book about unusual people and technology (in this case, a unique Steinway that Glenn Gould loves and Verne tunes).

I'm enjoying the book a lot and look forward to adding it to Bookshare.org after my wife reads it (actually, I bought it for her because she…