Michael Edwards Responds

Michael Edwards, whose anti-social capital market blog post I criticized yesterday, offers a rebuttal via comment:

Thanks for your response Sean, but it doesn’t change my views. “It’s not a competition” says Si Kahn, one of America’s leading community organizers. “There are twenty other organizations as good or better than us. I’m a movement person, and at a very deep level it doesn’t matter whether we get a grant or someone else does, so long as the movement has enough money to do its work.” “We are steadily losing the absolute basic instinct that collaboration and mutual support come first” is another quote from “Small Change” that readily springs to mind.

When you say that “last I checked, nonprofits were competing fiercely to convince donors to support them” you need to check again, since these quotes are not isolated examples – they describe the reality of a large amount of voluntary citizen action, so why don’t you recognize and respect it? And if nonprofits ARE competing with each-other, have you ever paused to reflect on your own role in making that a self-fulfilling prophecy?

As I said in my first blog post on Philanthropy Central on Monday, civil society and the social economy are very different things, animated by different mechanisms, fulfilling different roles, and requiring different forms of support from philanthropy. One cannot simply ignore the trade-offs that exist between competition and cooperation as you do. nor sweep under the carpet the difficulties imposed by the fact that social ‘goods’ are not commensurable or substitutable (now there’s a mouthful!). That’s the subject of today’s blog post, so I encourage you to check it out.

A “farmers market” is still a market, and markets are places where people buy and sell. Civil society is not, and that’s why we need more “meeting grounds”, not markets.

Michael might think I don’t get civil society and I might think he’s got a shallow view of capital markets, but he ends his most recent post on the Philanthropy Central blog with:

"I would much rather have full-throated debates about these issues than the soft-shoe shuffle of the Council on Foundations and its ilk. That way, when consensus arrives it might actually mean something beyond the disguised disagreements that haunt the corridors of foundations.

On that, at least, we both agree!

One Comment

  1. Jeff Mowatt says:

    “The disguised disagreements that haunt the corridors of foundations”

    I’d like very much to talk about disguised agreements between foundations and businesses, especially where human rights abuse is swept under the carpet, but that can’t be too public.