How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’ve written previously on agriculture vs. engineering as a metaphor for social change. I’m thinking that one way this applies to philanthropy is in the pursuit of innovation.

When too many funders in a given nonprofit ecosystem only want to fund innovation, and not enough fund what’s already working, the ecosystem gets out of whack. There’s a nobility and an inherent value in supporting community resources – soup kitchens, senior centers, arts groups – that make up the fabric of civil society. These groups aren’t necessarily trying to solve problems in a way that makes replication and scaling a kind of moral imperative – if you’re solving this problem and it works, aren’t you obligated to try to solve it more and more places for more and more people? Instead, they make everyday life a little better for broad groups of people.

Every garden, every ecosystem, needs these kinds of plants, these kinds of organizations. But what happens when all the funders want to focus on what’s innovative, on an exotic new hybrid or breed? Who watches out for the health of the ecosystem as a whole? Who guards the gardener?* Or makes sure that the gardener exists?

*A spin on the classic question of political science, “who guards the guardian?”


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One Response to “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

  1. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » (Lost in) A Forest Says:

    […] The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" BETA version, new title in the works. New post each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (for now). « How Does Your Garden Grow? […]

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