Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Jan 11, 2010 - Social Science - 125 pages
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A powerful critique of a seemingly beneficial trend that is actually undermining the effectiveness of philanthropyWritten by an insider -- a former official with several high-profile nonprofitsCo-published with the prominent New York think tank Demos A new movement is afoot that promises to save the world by bringing the magic of the market to philanthropy. Nonprofits should be run like businesses, its adherents say, and businesses can find new sources of revenue by marketing goods and services that benefit society. Dubbed OC philanthrocapitalism, OCO its supporters believe that business principles can and should be the primary drivers of social transformation. What could be wrong with that?Plenty, argues, former Ford Foundation director Michael Edwards. In this hard-hitting, controversial expose he marshals a wealth of evidence to show just how far short the promise of philnthrocapitalism has fallen, and why the whole concept is fundamentally flawed. Some business practices can be beneficial to nonprofits, and itOCOs definitely a good thing that the for-profit sector is developing a social conscience. Edwards carefully specifies when businesses and business thinking can help. But to really get at the root causes of the systemic problems most nonprofits wrestle withOCohunger, poverty, disease, violenceOCorequires a completely different way of operating. Social transformation demands cooperation rather than competition, collective action more than individual effort, and values patient, long-term support for solutions over short-term results. Philanthrocapitalism concentrates power in the hands of a few major players, mirroring the very inequities civil organizations should be trying to ameliorate. With a vested interest in the status quo it shies away from fundamental change. At most all it can promise is valuable but limited advances: small change. Ultimately, Edwards argues that the use of business thinking can and does corrupt civil society. ItOCOs time to differentiate the two and re-assert the independence of global citizen action."
 

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Popular wisdom says that nonprofit entities could achieve reform and efficiency best by acting like for-profits, and that being businesslike is the finest all-purpose path for organizations addressing the world’s problems. Social activist Michael Edwards disagrees. In this thoughtful, articulate argument, he enumerates – without ever slipping into polemic – the pitfalls in that line of thinking. He explains how nonprofits develop their own methods, and how vulnerable their processes are to inflexible thinking. He discusses with clarity and rigor the likely role business tactics could play in solving pressing issues, and he examines how capitalism and philanthropy do and do not work together. At first, this fascinating discussion seems contrarian, but it gains common sense as it goes along. getAbstract highly recommends this book to those who want to know how capitalism and philanthropy unite, to those who are interested in changing the world (or even the street) and, of course, to anyone with billions who wants to shift the social dynamic.
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Contents

chapter
16
chapter three
35
chapter four
63
chapter five
86
Acknowledgments
107
About the Author
124
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Michael Edwards is a writer and activist affiliated with the think tank Demos in New York, the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, and the Brooks World Poverty Institute at Manchester University in the UK. Previously, he was director of the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Program and worked for the World Bank, Oxfam, and Save the Children.

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