The Confluence of Philanthropy, Justice, and Evaluation
By Steven E. Mayer, Ph.D
Where all three themes flow together … 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 for disadvantaged groups experiencing disparities in how our systems work, and a more just society.
For years, my blog, “JustPhilanthropy.org” ran with the tagline: “From the confluence of philanthropy, justice, and evaluation.”
Where is that place? I imagine it like one of those braided Alaska rivers with crisscrossing streams that flow in and out, and all together carving out some big territory. I imagine philanthropy, justice, and evaluation as three such streams with the similar potential to carve out some big territory.
Philanthropy as a stream
Philanthropy takes in the full sweep of nonprofit, foundation, civic, community, associational, networked organizations donating their “time, talent, and treasure” to advance a social or charitable purpose. Philanthropy is itself formed from the confluence of generosity, strategic giving, faith, and accountability. The “philanthropic sector” of society is, by common definition, distinct from the “business or private sector,” as well as from the “government or public sector.”
Justice as a stream
Justice refers here to social and economic notions of fairness as it plays out in 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 to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Evaluation as a stream
Evaluation is the process of discovering and communicating the value of something – in my case, the value of an organized effort in pursuit of its goal. It is practiced by everyday human beings as they notice what’s good and not good enough in the way things are done, as well as by social scientists practicing their academic disciplines. In the path of this stream are discussions of evidence, signs of progress, measurements of progress, and assessments of effectiveness — and who has the authority to make such judgments.
Confluences of the streams of philanthropy, justice, and evaluation
Where Philanthropy and Justice flow together, I’ll create posts on using the resources and authority of philanthropy to further a more just 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?
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 for disadvantaged groups experiencing disparities in how our systems work, and a more just society.
This blogpost was published in an earlier form to this website on February 11, 2011.
How to cite this blogpost: Mayer, Steven E., The Confluence of “Philanthropy, Justice, and Evaluation”. Minneapolis: Effective Communities Project. Downloaded from EffectiveCommunities.com [month, date, year]