Jacob Harold Follow Up

Well, well. Is Jacob Harold an outstanding thinker or what? I think one of the best things about the way Jacob outlines his ideas is that he paints the possibility of a philanthropic capital/information market without invoking the idea that philanthropy needs more “business thinking”.

I’m back from vacation and while sitting in the sun I read an advance copy of Paul Brest’s (The CEO of the Hewlett Foundation, where Jacob works) forthcoming book Money Well Spent. I’m not going to comment on the book now, but I was struck by a study cited in the book that showed how powerful the framing of an issue can be. The study presented the classic game of The Prisoner’s Dilemma and watched how it was played depending on what it was called. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a study in “game theory” in which two players can either behave in a cutthroat way or a collaborative way. They must make their choice without knowing what the other player has chosen. In the study cited in Brest’s book, the researchers found that if they told participants the game was called The Wall Street Game, players tended to select the cutthroat choice more frequently than if they told the players it was called The Collaboration Game. The game didn’t change, but the players significantly changed their behavior based only on what they believed the game was called.

This ties into earlier conversations we’ve had on this blog about renaming nonprofits (for-benefit organizations?). But it also shows how Jacob (as an employee at a foundation) is better able to discuss the topics he focused on than I am as the owner of a wealth management company. We’re both talking about them same things, but we present them with different frames.

All of this ties back to the debate around Philanthrocapitalism. I think that the area between disciplines yield the most interesting discoveries. I believe that “consilience” is the key to the advancements in philanthropy that are starting to kick into gear. But the next big thing is not to force philanthropy to be more “business-like”, nor is it to get capitalism to be “more good”. The next big thing is mining the knowledge of the two fields and creating something completely new.

I think Jacob is one of the people who is well ahead of most of us in understanding what that “something new” will look like.