Don’t Want to Work on Maggie’s Farm No More

I’ve written previously on agriculture as a metaphor for social change, and the idea of funding ecosystems.

Lately I’ve been thinking in terms of ecosystems out of balance. What happens when too many funders are chasing too few opportunities for impact? Or when everyone tries to promote “innovation” and no one focuses on the meat-and-potatoes work that provides the basic infrastructure of social services?

Private foundations need to be particularly aware of this problem as individual donors become more persnickety and less willing to provide organizations with discretion in how to spend funds. Discretionary funds at community foundations have been on the wane for a while; everyone wants their direct say in how the money gets spent. Maybe some funding ecosystems need like an index fund – a standard “basket” of investments that you choose precisely because it’s safe and predictable.

I want to explore this further – what are different types of ecosystems, and what are different ways that they can go out of balance based on how the actors (foundations, nonprofits, individual donors) interact within them.


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