image1   image2   image3

Reading List: philanthropy Theme

St. Stevens Day, or, How Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma

At the risk of piling on the beatification bandwagon, an interesting post from the good folks at Harvard Business Review. The author argues that Jobs solved (Clayton Christensen’s) Innovator’s Dilemma upon returning from the wilderness, citing the radical changes he made at Apple. You know the ending: the case of Jobs and Apple is an excellent illustration of the difficulty, rarity and reward of “solving the dilemma.” I was equally struck, however, by some of the language employed.

He notes (emphasis mine):

Apple talks a lot about its great people. But make no mistake — they are there only in service of the missionIt didn’t matter how great you were, if you couldn’t deliver to that mission — you were out. Profit was viewed as necessary, but not sufficient, to justify everything Apple did.

Apple may arguably be an outlier amongst commercial firms in this respect, but I found the treatment of both mission and profit (substitute “sustainability” if you like) interesting in context of deeply embedded assumptions held by many in our field about the “for profit” world. (And vice versa, to be sure)

What do you think? Is Apple a mission-driven organization? Does this enable them to achieve (and/or get away with) things others can’t? Does this affect how Apple is viewed as a corporate citizen? See here for halo view and here for questioning, slightly less breathless view. Ironically, Christensen himself notoriously failed to recognize Apple as a disruptive innovator, asserting the iPhone would only be a sustaining innovation.


Steve Jobs Solved the Innovator’s Dilemma – James Allworth – Harvard Business Review.


Who Is Governing Whom? Senior Managers, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms

Interesting new research from Christopher Marquis and Matthew Lee at Harvard Business School on key structural drivers of corporate philanthropy: gender of senior managers, CEO tenure and board structure all have an impact on a firm’s generosity…and you may find some of them counter-intuitive.

  • Corporate philanthropy is highest in corporations with new CEOs, and decreases with the length of CEO tenure.
  • The greater the proportion of female senior managers in a company, the greater the corporate philanthropic contributions will be.
  • Companies with larger boards tend to have higher philanthropic contributions.


What impact might this have as you seek partners for your work?

Who Is Governing Whom? Senior Managers, Governance and the Structure of Generosity in Large U.S. Firms — HBS Working Knowledge.


Disrupting Philanthropy 2.0

An overview of how technology is being used in philanthropy. The foundation activities are pretty well known. However, there are good examples of where experimentation is happening, and interesting activities happening outside established institutions. The effect of technology on philanthropy comes across as marginal today, but the tech trends & experiments point to what we can expect in 3-5 years, when the experiments become mainstream and the underlying tech is mature and “dull.”

Disrupting Philanthropy 2.0.


The Cost of Information Sharing in Philanthropy | Tactical Philanthropy

The argument here is that there isn’t — and shouldn’t be — any conflict in the not-for-profit sector between the social benefit and the personal gain from information and intellectual property. Why? Because the not-for-profit professional’s goal *is* social benefit, and therefore the professional wants to and must give away all information so society can do the most with it. Those who do otherwise are engaging in “a form of corruption,” as stated in one of the comments. I think the argument made in this piece is incomplete (email me if you’re interested in my take, which is too long for this space). However, I think this article is an interesting example of a broader debate I see happening: what is the “right” way for not-for-profit professionals to balance their commitment to achieving a vision and their need to care for themselves, their employees, and their families. It is an important debate to make sure we have a voice.

The Cost of Information Sharing in Philanthropy | Tactical Philanthropy.