A 5-part dose of new (year) thinking

21 Jan

So I’m a fortnight into a new role, and just back from a few weeks holiday, so I’ve had the luxury of doing a fair bit of reading and thinking, rather than ‘doing’ per se. I’m sure that won’t last and the email volume will rise….but here’s the five things I’ve found most interesting, insightful, inspiring or challenging. Hope you think so too:

1) Us white charity CEOs need to talk – my background is the same as Thomas Lawson, CEO of Leap Confronting Conflict, who wrote this powerful call to action. I’m going to be returning to this regularly on privilege, prejudice (personal & subconscious), lived experience and diversity. [a side-note, McKinsey’s latest research reinforces the link between diversity and positive company financial performance; though this shouldn’t be the prime motivator]

2) For this ‘Righteous Entrepreneur’, fighting hunger goes way beyond food – I had the privilege to spend a bit of time with Mike Curtin of DC Central Kitchen at an event, and he’s a lovely, down-to-earth guy. This is a great, in-depth article on the organisation’s work. Their eight rules of ‘righteous’ entrepreneurship are worth repeating:

  1. It’s Ok to be a little antisocial in service of your mission (stick to your principles)
  2. Maintain a sense of productive impatience (get better every day)
  3. Beware the folly of scale (it’s lasting change you are after)
  4. Shoot to thrill (capture imaginations by exciting others)
  5. Be proactively responsive (have a flexible approach to problem-solving)
  6. Failure is an option (if you learn)
  7. Don’t take **** from anyone (no-one should disrespect the people you serve)
  8. We have a moral obligation to put ourselves out of business (or go out of business trying): NB – does not apply to all models, but many

3) BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Supportnormally I wouldn’t include the CEO of an investment firm sending a letter, but this was interesting in that it is a large player on the investment side (they manage $6 trillion apparently) talking squarely about social purpose, and how every company must make a positive contribution to society. Understandable then that this has been welcomed (and indeed heralded) by many in social and impact investment, especially in the US. Although of course nice words need to translate into action – BlackRock are one of the investors who seem to have profited from ‘shorting’ Carillion in the past year, for example….

4) The power of little: 6 things you need to know about small and micro community organisationsan interesting post from Nicola Frost of the Devon Community Foundation, and an insight into the so-called ‘below the radar’ organisations that are so crucial in communities (and aren’t necessarily conservative) with their understanding of place and connection.

5) Grant-Makers Must Learn New Tricksthis short provocation paper is part of a series from NPC, commissioned by Lloyds Bank Foundation, looking at how foundations and other funders can do more than just give grants: through non-financial support, through direct advocacy, and through building the knowledge (through research) and capacity of organisations they support to influence and advocate too. Recommended reading.

And a bonus bit of suggested listening. The Criminal podcast is unfailingly excellent, and I’ve learned a lot listening to it over the months (years?). One of the most recent episodes, The Choir, goes beyond being interesting though – it is a profoundly affecting interview with Professor Lawrence Lessig (a pretty famous internet-specialist law professor in the US). Not an interview about his day job, but about the abuse he suffered in his childhood. For anyone who doesn’t understand the profound repercussions that such abuse can have throughout someone’s life, or how an institutional environment (& the people who populate it) enables it to happen, should listen. In fact, anyone should listen, if you want to hear what courage, articulacy, and honesty sound like.

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