The Future of Philanthropy and the Social Economy

What does the future hold? Great question and one that Lucy Bernholz has addressed in her Blueprint 2016: Philanthropy and the Social Economy. This publication is an annual industry forecast about the ways we use private resources for public benefit. Bernholz writes about two insights that will have a stronger impact in our sector – structure of work and the shape of civil society.

societyThe structure of work is changing in our society. More and more people are structuring work by patching together different part time jobs. As Bernholz says, “gig work is the new ‘normal’.” It is estimated that 43% of Americans who work a 40 hour week do not have a full-time employer. Shark Tank anyone?

In our economy, the structure of work is debated. One set of scholars is focusing on robotics and automation. Other scholars and activists are discussing compensation inequality and focusing on increased wages for the lowest-paid workers. Two forces, a social economy of options and digital connectivity, are the reasons why Bernholz argues that the future of work is a hot topic.

So how does workforce structure relate to philanthropy and social economy? Nonprofits will have more”gig” work too. Also, nonprofits have often lagged behind in paying competitive salaries. Bernholz also points out that there is a bit of hypocrisy – helping improve lives and advocating for a more sustainable communities but can’t pay staff competitively.

As for the shape of civil society, a combination of citizen action and digital tools are going to impact 2016. Bernholz says, “[d]igital tools are stretching the boundaries of civil society and changing what participants need to know.” One example she used was the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S.

How can you use these two insights at your organizations? Bernholz provides an organizational capacity worksheet with a list of questions about automation, information and digital assets, and social economy. She encourages you to discuss the questions as part of team meetings or strategic planning processes. To access the worksheet and read the entire Blueprint publication, download it here.


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