Advancements similar to the hyper-evolution of our phones in technology have improved our ability to consume information, tether ourselves to friends and family thousands of miles away, and quite literally live and learn in an instant. This new world has also begun to have a significant impact in the way we enact to accomplish social good.
Lucy Bernholz came by to speak with over 150 attendees from DSVP and the Dallas community about just this development – new technologies of social good. A noted analyst of the philanthropic industry, author of “Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology & the Future of the Social Sector” and founder of Blueprint Research & Design, Bernholz consults with corporations and individuals who want their giving to be impactful. She serves as a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and her blog, Philanthropy 2173, has been called a “philanthropy game changer” by The Huffington Post and was named a “Best Blog” by Fast Company Magazine.
The first point Bernholz made very clearly was that we must expand our concept of technology beyond being a label for the gadgets, gizmos, and circuitry of our whosits and whatsits. Technological innovation in the world of social good also describes developments in systems of giving, rules that govern how we do good better (sound familiar?), and the new tools that expand the efficiency and reach of that work.
New Social Economy
The world of social good is now more complex than it was 20 years ago. Instead of simply operating under familiar terms of “non-profits” and “philanthropy”, we’ve made room for fancier tastes such as social investment dollars, B Corps, L3Cs, and microfinance. This expansion of ways to create social impact are the fauna of the what Bernholz calls the Social Economy. There are now more and more ways to become a Donor or Do-er. But the most important, and exciting, notion is that the best ways to function in the Social Economy have yet to be invented.
Technology is fundamentally altering the expectations of how we engage this new world. Whether its vastly increasing Reach (see: YouTube and Kony 2012), shifting the Roles of who are the funding decision-makers and where do they find each other (see: Awesome Foundation, Kickstarter), ratcheting up the speed of Responsiveness (see: Pinterest leverage in reversing Susan G. Komen decision), or reshaping the legal landscape for giving (see: Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. FEC), there is a new status quo for our interaction with Social Economy. And it’s constantly evolving at the speed of possibility.
Data, Data, Data
Bernholz insists, “It’s about 1s and 0s”. The ability to capture things in digital representations is the key to what’s connecting us – the essence of Bernholz’s coined term, “the Internet of things”. Technological improvements have increased our sophistication in data collection. Consequently, this information from this improved data has become the currency of strategic and funding decisions in the social economy. “This century is the century of data, that’s the defining thing.”
Bernholz closes with the thought that these paradigm shifts that come with technology advancement have also created a host of questions that we have the fortune to begin to answer. An example: on the biogenetic horizon one of the most active emerging markets of the social economy will be in “philanthropy of the body”. Human tissue will become potentially the most valuable resource to help our fellow man through research or even transplants… but who will own that commodity? What are the legal implications of its transfer from one entity to the next? These conundrums and many more will require tomorrow’s enterprising minds to solve.
A wonderfully engaging and knowledgeable speaker, Bernholz asserted that her expertise was a direct result of engaging groups similar to the composites of the day’s audience – passionate and bright people who’ve dedicated their talents and treasures toward helping make their world just a bit better than it was the day before. DSVP Partner Jim Brewer, capped off the event, with words apropos from Martin Luther King, Jr., “There is an invisible book of time that records our vigilance or our neglect.” We truly look forward to continuing the Friday luncheon series with the vigilant as we increase our capacity to do good better… together.
Guest Blogger Byron Sanders
VP Group Excellence
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