Civic Practice

These are some of the core, thematic issues that nonprofit professionals, civic leaders, and policy-makers are asking.  If there’s an issue you think should be added, let me know through the comments or @jsradford! [These summaries will include links to posts related to these issues once they are available.]

  • Outcome Measurement and Impact Philanthropy: Measuring, utilizing, and reporting implementation, outcome, and impact data is becoming an increasingly central part of the nonprofit operation.  Largely pushed for by foundations, social enterprise theorists, and organizational leaders; the central emphasis is accountability, knowledge-based decision-making, and best-practice development.  Each of these functions, pushed for by different constituents, have very different, yet overlapping strategies that each present their own problems and solutions.
  • Internet/Technology: Theories and research on how new technologies are changing our society are as old as the technological revolution of the Renaissance itself.  However, the technologies themselves and how they enable us to do what we do are novel.  The question of technology then is a practical one.  How do we utilize these newly minted means to better accomplish our goals and how are they changing us and the world around us?
  • Collaboration: The civic sector is increasingly being defined by relatively small, issue-based, do-it-yourself advocacy and service groups and clubs.  This overlaps with the changing face of participation in the U.S. so much of this thinking will overlap.  A central question then is how this cornucopia of services, interests, and resources can and should relate to one another.  How much collaboration should we shoot for and under what conditions do different kinds of collaborations succeed?
  • Social Enterprise or Not-For-Profit: The role of money in any organization is central to its activities, goals, influence, and structure.  In fact, we’ve defined two completely separate sectors of society based on money – the for- and not-for-profit.  Bring these two worlds together under the banner of social entrepreneurship or social good is not a simple, straightforward process and one fraught with issues that go to the core of what nonprofits, voluntary organizations, social enterprises, and businesses are and do.  Can nonprofits make a “profit” and what does a profit motive do to/for the organization?  What are the costs and benefits of turning basic goods (like clean water) and social values (like poverty-reduction) into capitalist endeavors?  Finally, what is the impact of corporate social responsibility and what does it mean for the company, its community, and its owners?

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