The “Good particle”

Now that physicists have confirmed the discovery of the Higgs bosun (the sub-atomic “God particle”), the world can turn its attention to pursuit of Mayer’s bosun, the elementary particle that defines Social Benefit resulting from philanthropic activity.

Call it the “Good particle.”

Taking the form of Einstein’s famous theorem, it looks like this:

B = Rc²


B is “Benefit.”  B expresses the smallest increment of positive change recognizable as “satisfying” to more than 50% of the people.  For example, it’s the increment of Annual Personal Income, or Emotional Intelligence, or World Peace that’s recognized as satisfying by more than half of the people.  “Change” can be to any of the indicators of quality of life recognized by the Effective Communities Project or other sanctioning body.

R is “Resources.”  Resources includes the particular set of resources directed at producing Benefit.  The directed set is drawn from the full set of resources that can conceivably be deployed, including financial, political, organizational, cultural, moral, and spiritual resources.

c is not a constant but a complex number representing momentum towards Benefit.  It’s the result of forces that accelerate — and forces that decelerate — the momentum towards Benefit.  These forces include skills, commitment, access to resources – and their opposites.

The exponent refers to the smartness of that allocation of resources.  Zero signifies random.  Whether the exponent is 2 or something else, I’m actually not quite sure.  Okay, I’m not really a physicist.

Discovery of this “Good particle” clearly merits the Nobel Prize in Economics.  Whether it will ever be found is questionable.  Perhaps building a super-collider in which resource particles chase benefit particles around a track under the Alps would hasten its discovery.

In the meantime, the theorem can be fruitfully discussed in workshops on strategic philanthropy, among donors and their staff, and in classrooms or chat-boards.  Each of the terms in the equation has its expression in every-day philanthropy of both the individual or institutional variety.  One could bet on values of B, and create B-futures markets.

One could even build grantmaking strategies around targeted values of B, speculative values of R and possible configurations of c.

Any theorem that links benefits to resources, as modified by a complex of social forces and accelerated by the intelligence of their allocation is worth considering.  Semi-seriously.

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Steven E. Mayer, Ph.D. / Effective Communities Project / March 18, 2013