The Confluence of “Philanthropy, Justice, and Evaluation”

Philanthropy, Justice, and Evaluation
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For years, my blog, “” ran with the tagline: “From the confluence of philanthropy, justice, and evaluation.”

Where is that place? I imagine like one of those braided Alaska rivers with crisscrossing streams – the three themes that flow together and carve out some big territory.

“Philanthropy,” for one, takes in the full sweep of the nonprofit, foundation, civic, community, associational, networked sector. It includes institutional, non-institutional, and anti-institutional donor interests. The philanthropic sector is, by common definition, distinct from the business sector and government sector.  “Philanthropy” is itself formed from the confluence of generosity, strategic giving, faith, accountability, and quality of life.

“Evaluation” is the process of discovering and communicating the value of an effort. It is practiced by social scientists as well as by everyday human beings as they notice what’s good and not good enough in the way things are done.  In its path are discussions of evidence, signs of progress, measurement, effectiveness — and who gets to say.

“Justice” refers here to social and economic notions of justice applied to an entire society. It is based on the idea of a just society which gives individuals and groups fair treatment and a just or equitable share of the opportunities and benefits of society.

Where “Philanthropy” and “Evaluation” flow together, I’ve blogged on evaluating the practice and fruits of philanthropy.  By what standards and with what evidence can philanthropy be judged successful, or held accountable?  What would upgrade the state-of-the-art?

The intersection of “Philanthropy” and “Justice” suggests posts on how the resources and authority of philanthropy can be used in furthering a more just society.  How can the resources of philanthropy be used to further progress?

Where all three themes flow together – Philanthropy, Justice, and Evaluation – I’ll write on how we can know when societal institutions, drawing on the support of philanthropic actions, are creating more positive opportunities for all, more equitable outcomes, and a more just society?


[This was the first article posted to, an early site of the Effective Communities Project.]

Originally appeared: On an early website of The Effective Communities Project called

Original date: February 11, 2011