Monday, January 21, 2008

The functioning of not-for-profit, philanthropic, or “civil society” organizations

Let me wish you a happy new year! Maybe I should say I hope you had a happy 2007 and fulfilled everyone’s wishes for you! As you may have noticed, we took our usual break in December. This time we were busy moving both Visionscentret Framtidsbygget (The Vision Center) and our household. For a Futurist it was a very short-term, strategic thing to do. The logistics was unbelievable.

Now we are here in the country and I am writing from our new office. The naked trees still stand out in front of a grey-blue sky as darkness approaches.I have written before about alternative money systems and the need for revision of corporate legislation, that is give incorporated business more social and environmental responsibility.

This current Sign-of-the-Times has an American University and the United Nations working together to look at unsung contributors to the DNP (Gross Domestic Product), non-profit and volunteer sectors. In 1978, Hazel Henderson opened the subject for me with her book “Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyond Economics”. In it she has a cake with each layer representing a different contribution to the economy. Most of the layers have never been considered a part of the official economic measure, GDP; the earth's resources (Mother Earth) and Sweat Equity, the whole non-profit and volunteer sector including home based production, unpaid household and parenting and more were left out. The only thing that counted was the private and public sectors.
I spoke to Hazel and asked her where she thought we were now in the trend to change how we measure the economy, figuring that it started with her book in 1978. Think of a trend as an "S" curve.

Hazel indicated she thought we were still on the upswing, but not at the highest part of the curve yet. She said that acceptance for change was high but that the biggest hinder was academicians who were deeply invested in their market economic paradigm. The inference here is that more inclusive ways of measuring our economic and social success will revolutionize our economy and that is a scary proposition for those invested in current methods. There is evidence that high percentages of Europeans understand that GDP doesn’t work, so there is growing grass-roots support for new ways to define success. Many new ways of measuring our success on the planet are already developed and have been described in earlier Signs of the Times. See “Previous signs of the times”, August 21, 2003 titled “Increase in holistic measurement of human development and quality of life” (near the bottom of the page) at: There may be a measurement for your city, region or organization.