Lean In, One Year Later

March 19th, 2014 § 0

It’s been a good year for Sheryl Sandberg. In January, she became one of the youngest billionaires in the world, joining the small group of women on the list and the even smaller group of women who made their own fortunes. The value of Sandberg’s bank account pales in comparison, however, to the worth of the global conversation launched by her best-seller, Lean In, published a year ago in March 2013.

The book is still on multiple best-seller lists, and will be a perennial gift every June during commencement season. There’s even some chance the book will be made into a movie. Sony Pictures acquired the rights and hired Sandberg’s co-author, Nell Scovell, to write a script.

Despite all this—or perhaps because of it—Sandberg has been the object of scorn and anger. It began before the book was even published, with Jodi Kantor writing a snarky portrait in the New York Times in February 2013. Kantor’s article described the book as a welcome evolution beyond the mommy wars, in which stay-at-home mothers criticize working women and vice versa. But the article did not quote a single male, opting instead to highlight what Kantor called a “notable feminist row” between Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Lean In was not to be understood as a discussion with men and women about the barriers to female success, but as a cat fight between women.

Maureen Dowd followed suit a few days later, proclaiming that she was leaning out and that the book was nothing more than a marketing device for the brand of Sheryl Sandberg.

A year later, a bizarre attack piece arrived by Rosa Brooks. “Recline!, or Why I Hate Sheryl Sandberg” was published in Foreign Policy and republished in the Washington Post. Brooks catalogues the many reasons she hates Sandberg, including the fact that Sandberg has nice hair and taught aerobics in college. Brooks blames Sandberg for urging women to work hard and suggests that the world Sandberg aims to bring about is all work, no family, and no play. But Sandberg says just the opposite, advocating for time spent with children, partners, and on oneself. What’s most shocking: Brooks is no linkbaiting hack. She’s a law professor at Georgetown.

And so it goes. Lean In and Sandberg have become a touchstone for intra-feminist squabbles. One needs to take a side. Are you for her or against her? Do you like her or not?

How sad.

It’s as if Kantor, Dowd, and Brooks hold Sandberg more responsible for the inequalities and injustices faced by women in the workplace than they do male sexism. The irony is that all three female writers are high achieving women, exactly the sort of female role models I think Sandberg champions.

For me, Lean In is not a feminist manifesto. It makes no pretense to novelty in crafting a feminist position. Sandberg is animated by what one could call a familiar and elementary feminist premise: the idea that women are the moral and political equals of men. Starting from this unobjectionable position, Sandberg asks why women are not the equals of men in leadership positions or in compensation in the workplace. And while acknowledging the problems of failed public policy and institutional sexism, Sandberg trains her attention on what women themselves can do to improve gender equality: negotiate harder for salary and job position, choose a partner who is willing to share in domestic labor, reject the myth of doing it all. As Anne Applebaum wrote in one of the more interesting reviews of Lean In, Sandberg’s achievement is not an advance in feminist thought. Her achievement is in writing “the first truly successful, best-selling “how to succeed in business” motivational book to be explicitly designed and marketed for women.” What’s to dislike about this, much less inspire hate?

None of this is to suggest that Sandberg should be exempt from criticism. But let criticism not be ad hominem, and not levied only by women, as if men had nothing at stake, or no responsibility, in promoting gender equality.

Goals vs Tactics

Sheryl Sandberg’s goals are, it seems to me, unassailable: she’s in favor of gender equality in the workplace, equal pay for equal work, and more female politicians. What’s worthy of debate are her tactics, and Sandberg welcomes such debate. Does Sandberg provide smart recommendations? Does Lean In support savvy public relations efforts?

When Lean In appeared last year, it was accompanied by the Lean In organization, dedicated to promoting female aspiration and workplace equality. Sandberg recruited men and women to shares stories on video and supported the creation of so-called Lean In Circles. Kantor’s New York Times article seemed skeptical that many such circles would come to exist, but in twelve months more than 13,000 circles have been created in dozens of countries.

A few months ago, Lean In partnered with Getty Images to make available a collection of images depicting women and girls as leaders. “Woman” is the most commonly searched term on the Getty site, and the new collection is welcome step beyond stockphoto galleries of women seemingly thrilled to be eating salad.

Less impressive, to my mind, is the most recent effort by Lean In. On the one year anniversary of the book’s publication, Sandberg launched an effort to ban the word “bossy” from use in describing girls and women. Replete with celebrity endorsements, a social media campaign, and a partnership with the Girl Scouts, the ban bossy effort certainly made a big splash.

A better move would have been an effort to co-opt “bossy” in order to de-stigmatize the word. Several others have noted as much, including Margaret Talbot, who wrote, “Banning is really only for words that solely degrade or demean, and even then you want to proceed with caution because you’re depleting the expressive richness of the language.”

Follow instead the example of groups who re-appropriated derogatory words. Gays and lesbians, for example, co-opted a far more injurious term, “queer”, as in “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” Or less dramatically, Stanford students gleefully adopted an identity as “nerds”, branding themselves “Nerd Nation.” Stanford athletes are the prime movers behind the effort, even making several excellent videos about it.

My reservations about Ban Bossy notwithstanding, I count myself as a strong supporter of Lean In. I have seen the book inspire and encourage many students, both female and male. I admire Sandberg’s courage in undertaking an effort she certainly didn’t need to do and that she must have known would be controversial. The book’s sales figures are testimony to its reach. And the Lean In organization continues to grab headlines and define an agenda. May the second year be as successful as the first. And may the debate about the book focus on tactics rather than goals, strategy rather than personality.

On Private Giving to Public Schools

September 5th, 2013 § 1

Glamorous and lucrative school auctions to support wealthy suburban schools have become a stock feature of popular writing about Silicon Valley. David Kaplan opened his 1999 book, The Silicon Boys, with an account of the over-the-top excesses of the annual charity auction of the Woodside School Foundation.  And George Packer’s recent article in the New Yorker updated the scene:

The Woodside School Foundation now brings in about two million dollars a year for a school with fewer than five hundred children, and every spring it hosts a gala with a live auction. I attended it two years ago, when the theme was RockStar, and one of Google’s first employees sat at my table after performing in a pickup band called Parental Indiscretion. School benefactors, dressed up as Tina Turner or Jimmy Page, and consuming Jump’n Jack Flash hanger steaks, bid thirteen thousand dollars for Pimp My Hog! (“Ride through town in your very own customized 1996 Harley Davidson XLH1200C Sportster”) and twenty thousand for a tour of the Japanese gardens on the estate of Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the country’s highest-paid chief executive. The climax arrived when a Mad Men Supper Club dinner for sixteen guests—which promised to transport couples back to a time when local residents lived in two-thousand-square-foot houses—sold for forty-three thousand dollars.

Were Woodside an anomaly, it would be easier to ignore the phenomenal amount of private giving to public schools. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Not Very Giving, I chose the Hillsborough Schools Foundation as an example of the trend. (Its 2012 Live Auction Catalogue is really quite something.) And it would be easy to point to similarly outsized fundraising efforts by local school foundations in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Orinda, and Los Altos. The same is true elsewhere in the country: in pockets of New York City, in Montgomery County outside Washington D.C., and so on.

Kaplan and Packer see the fundraising galas thrown by school foundations as an opportunity to shine a light on the excesses of our current tech titans. In the current overheated Silicon Valley economy, in an age of growing inequality, school auctions only scratch the surface of such opportunities.

But the problem with school foundations goes much deeper than exposing the follies of fundraising galas among the one percent. The problem is that such activity actually exacerbates inequalities in funding between public schools, widening the already large gap between rich and poor.  And it is carried on under the name of, and legal recognition as, charitable activity.

Here is a case where charity does not aid the poor, is not indifferent to the poor, but actually confers additional advantage to the already well-off.  For those who understand charity to mean something about alms-giving and support for the poor, it is surprising how little of the roughly $300 billion given away annually in the United States is directed to the needy. (A few links on this: report from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Wonkblog post, a 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Sheryl Sandberg, and a new, but gated, article I wrote on the topic here.)

In the case of school foundations, I don’t blame well-intended parents.  They are seeking quite naturally to support the education of their own children. Punishing parents by banning or curtailing their support for their children is no answer, but neither is publicly subsidizing behavior that encourages activity which predictably worsens inequalities between the educational opportunities of rich and poor kids.

The problem here is policy, not parents. So the focus should be on public policy, on the basic framework that defines, structures, and governs philanthropy. This is the topic of much of my recent research. What role should philanthropy play in a democratic society? What norms should inform the policies that govern the philanthropic sector?

Such questions are also core to the work of the scholars and practitioners at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and in our magazine, the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  In 2005 I wrote there about the perverse incentives in tax policy that structure charitable giving, A Failure of Philanthropy: American Charity Shortchanges the Poor, and Public Policy is Partly to Blame.  The piece has some data about the extent of private giving to public schools in California and discusses a range of public policy problems and solutions.  Earlier this year, I contributed to a forum in the Boston Review on the topic What Are Foundations For? And I am completing a book, entitled Just Giving, that seeks to provide a full treatment of the role of philanthropy in democracy.

 

 

 

Philanthropy and Caring for the Needs of Strangers

August 15th, 2013 § 0

The New School for Social Research hosted a conference in December 2012 on Giving: Caring for the Needs of Strangers.  It was an eclectic and interesting gathering, including presentations from tax lawyers, economists, journalists, religious studies scholars, evolutionary psychologists, nonprofit leaders, and philosophers. The journal Social Research has just released a special issue with some of the papers from the conference.

My contribution examined two things:

1. As an empirical matter, is philanthropy directed at caring for the needs of strangers?

2. As a normative matter, should public policy for philanthropy favor caring for the needs of strangers?

Many people believe that charity is primarily an activity that supports the needy and disadvantaged.  But this is untrue: very little charity is alms-giving. The annual Giving USA reports show the same distributive pattern year after year: the bulk of charitable giving goes toward religion, trailed by higher education and health. Giving to support the poor and disadvantaged amounts, at most, to one-third, of all giving, and is very likely far less. (See here and here, for instance.)

The articles are gated for six months, but with university access you can likely download them here.  If you want a copy just of my piece, email me.

What are Foundations For?

March 27th, 2013 § 0

I’ve been writing about the role of philanthropy in democracy for the past few years. Through my work with the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, I’ve come to understand a little better the work of one significant component of American philanthropy: private philanthropic foundations.

Foundations are institutional oddities in democratic societies.  They are largely unaccountable, non-transparent, permitted to exist in perpetuity, and the beneficiaries of significant tax breaks.  Why create such an institutional form in democracy? What are foundations for?

That’s the question I explore in a new forum in the current Boston Review.  There are interesting responses from Stanley Katz, Diane Ravitch, Christopher J. Coyne, Deborah Fung, Paul Brest, Rick Cohen, Scott Nielsen, Tyler Cowen, Seana Shiffrin, Pablo Eisenberg, Larry Kramer, Eric Beerbohm, Robert K. Ross, Gara LaMarche, and Emma Saunders-Hastings.

Lead paragraph of the article below the fold.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Journalism, Sheryl Sandberg, and Debates about Feminism

February 24th, 2013 § 3

The New York Times ran a front page story by Jodi Kantor on Friday about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, and her effort to create a women’s social movement through the Lean In foundation. The book won’t be out for another two weeks, but the framework for thinking about the book is being formed now by journalists. We are to think of Sheryl Sandberg’s book and organization as a salvo in a war (or, worse, a catfight) with Anne-Marie Slaughter. An intra-feminist debate.

The issues raised by Sandberg (and Slaughter) are of the first importance, and I’m glad to see major publications like the New York Times and the Atlantic give them prominent attention.

Yet it’s a terrible framework, and I think Kantor’s article has some pernicious, even if unintended, consequences.

First, it doesn’t surprise me when hacks reduce large and important social issues to personal squabbles between high profile people, but it does surprise me when smart and significant journalists do so. It is a mistake to make Sandberg’s book and mission into a personal disagreement between her and Anne-Marie Slaughter. It is a mistake to suggest, as Kantor does, that this has the makings of “perhaps the most notable feminist row since Betty Friedan refused to shake Gloria Steinem’s hand decades ago.” It seems to me to stoke controversy for the sake of selling newspapers and making headlines. It turns the debate from the tensions between feminism and reigning social norms into an intra-feminist squabble. And it mistakes the personal interactions of the authors rather than the substantive issues that divide or unite them for the real story.

There will be plenty of people — men especially — who will seek to make any feminist argument into a story about women fighting other women.  Smart journalists like Kantor shouldn’t aid and abet that cause. On the very broad map of attitudes about feminism in our society, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg are in much closer proximity than a story about a “the Sandberg-Slaughter match” would suggest.

Second, on the substance of Sandberg’s book, I’d like to see more people say the following in print. The basic premise of the book — indeed of feminism in general — is completely unassailable: women are the moral and political equals of men and deserve equal opportunities for success. When we see educational achievement by females exceed that of males, and yet we see stalled progress in female representation in the workplace and in politics, a natural question is to wonder why.
 People can differ on strategies to realize the basic feminist premise, but the premise itself seems to me beyond criticism. THAT is worth reporting on.  THAT is a central lesson of the book.

And what of the strategies?  It’s true that many strands of feminism have explained women’s unequal success in the workplace and in politics as a consequence of both background gender discrimination by men and the failure or absence of social policies (e.g., child care policies) to support working parents. Sandberg, by contrast, calls attention to the psychology and ambition of women, asks women to look inward at themselves in addition to looking outward to social policy or cultural norms. Sandberg’s book is alive to gender discrimination and she’s hardly against ending cultural stereotypes about women or advocating for policy change. It is false to suggest (not that Kantor did so) that Sandberg thinks women themselves are the whole problem by failing to “lean in”.

John Stuart Mill in his 1869  “On the Subjection of Women” famously wrote

“I deny that any one knows or can know, the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another. Until conditions of equality exist, no one can possibly assess the natural differences between women and men, distorted as they have been.  What is natural to the two sexes can only be found out by allowing both to develop and use their faculties freely.”

Is it not possible that — as a consequence of centuries of gender discrimination, cultural stereotypes about women’s proper place, and the failure of social policy to grant men and women equal opportunities for success — that some women have internalized attitudes about their proper place? Is it not possible that they have, as social scientists call it, “adaptive preferences”?

As I read Sandberg’s book, she is exhorting women to show the courage of the basic feminist conviction — that women are the moral and political equals of men — and that they can and should make decisions large (about the kind of partner they want in life) and small (negotiating for a salary increase) with this in mind.

The message I take away is that women should “lean in” to careers and not let themselves be the “fall guys” (girls) for the bind that happens when kids come. That men should play a role at home, that social policy needs to change to accommodate two working parents, that women can learn to negotiate better at work to achieve salary parity. These are not radical ideas.

Are Lean In Circles a good strategy? I have no idea. Maybe they’ll flop. But is it an idea worth trying? Hard to criticize Sandberg, or the book, for the effort.

This paragraph in Kantor’s article is the important one, but it comes at the end, after the earlier parts have the feel of a catfight story:

The Slaughter-Sandberg match may represent what some may see as a welcome new phase in the debate over work and motherhood. The “mommy wars,” with working and stay-at-home mothers sniping at one another’s choices, may have finally run their course. Instead, Ms. Sandberg, Ms. Slaughter and many others are arguing about the best strategy for fulfilling feminism’s promise.

So let scholars study and journalists examine Lean In Circles, and lots of other strategies too.  Let’s hear from academics and journalists about other stuff too.  More Joan Williams: Slaughter vs. Sandberg — Both Right.

Let’s not turn this into a catfight. It’s not a catfight. It’s a situation where two prominent, influential women are talking — a lot and influentially — to two different audiences about the same problem. Young women, listen to Sheryl Sandberg. Corporations, listen to Anne-Marie Slaughter. And let’s bring men into the conversation. Until men feel they have more freedom to buck the ideal-worker norm, ladies, nothing’s going to change.

In addition to Jodi Kantor and Maureen Dowd, let’s see David Brooks, Eduardo Porter, Joe Nocera, and Ron Lieber write about the Sandberg book.

It seems to me that Anne-Marie Slaughter may feel the same way.  A few hours after the appearance of the New York Times’ article, she tweeted:

New Book — Occupy the Future

January 28th, 2013 § 1

This week marks the release of a new book on the Occupy movement – Occupy the Future, from Boston Review/MIT Press – that I had a hand in producing. (Order information: Amazon, Powell’s, MIT Press).

The Occupy movement peaked, it’s fair to say, in the fall of 2011. Occupy Sandy and Occupy Debt notwithstanding, the political force and overall engagement of the Occupy movement have waned.  This is not to say Occupy was a failure.

To the contrary, one reason Occupy might have waned is its success in placing massive inequality atop the political agenda and framing the issue in terms of the now well-known 1% – 99% divide.

However one judges its effect, Occupy was never especially clear about identifying, much less pushing, actual policy reforms. Occupy found its strength in the enduring ideals of democracy – equality of opportunity, social mobility, equal political voice – and yet said little about how an open, decentralized social movement might realize these ideals.

In the fall of 2011, I and three colleagues at Stanford (David Grusky, Doug McAdam, and Debra Satz), organized some of our colleagues to write short opinion pieces about Occupy. We asked them to reflect not on Occupy as a movement or on its potential for success. We asked instead that they write about the gap between American ideals and actual practices, a gap we thought Occupy had called welcome attention to.

These opinion pieces were published in an online forum in the magazine Boston Review, and they reflected the varied backgrounds of the scholars by addressing such diverse issues as the institutional sources of rising inequality, the influence of money in politics, the declining access to education, and the role of art in social change.

Stimulated by responses to these short opinion pieces, we asked the contributors to the online forum to expand what they’d written into short chapters, adding empirical detail and supporting argument.  Occupy the Future is the result.

While Occupy’s political potency is weaker today than in late 2011, the issue of extreme inequality remains with us. We hope Occupy the Future contributes to continuing conversation about the causes, significance, and when appropriate, remedies of such inequality.

It’s an all-star list of Stanford scholars. Full Table of Contents below the fold:

» Read the rest of this entry «

Larissa MacFarquhar at Stanford: Extreme Morality

January 5th, 2013 § 1

There’s no better writer on the lives and ideas of intellectuals than the New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar.  Her profiles, frequently of academics, and often of philosophers, are always good reading.  As someone who opens the New Yorker and thrills to a MacFarquhar profile as most do to an Anthony Lane review, I’m excited that MacFarquhar will be in brief residence at Stanford with the Program on Ethics in Society in mid-January.

In addition to conducting some writing workshops with seniors working on their honors theses and meeting with freshman in the Structured Liberal Education program, she’ll be giving a public talk on January 15, 2013 with material drawn from the book she’s currently writing on Extreme Morality, profiles of people whose moral commitments lead them to extraordinary acts and exceptional lives, often at seeming great cost to themselves and the people they love and who love them.  Details on the poster below.

I think her specialty is capturing the strange beauty of monomania.  If you’ve seen the recent documentary on Bill Cunningham, eccentric fashion photographer for the New York Times, or on Jiro Ono, eccentric genius from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you will know the kind of monomaniac I have in mind: individuals who cannot do other than passionately devote themselves to a single activity.  MacFarquahar’s profile of Momofuku chef David Chang fits this mold. So does her article on Pat and Paul Churchland, philosophers at UC San Diego who work on the mind-body problem.

My personal favorite is her 2011 piece on Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit, How to Be Good [gated].  Parfit is one of the most important living philosophers.  In addition to nimbly conveying the substance of his views on the objectivity and unity of morality – hardly the stuff of a page-turning New Yorker article – she captures the person behind the ideas.  I have never met Derek Parfit, but I know and admire the type:

He moved into rooms at All Souls and settled into a monk-like existence.  There was usually a woman in his life somewhere, but he spent very little time with her. Almost all his waking hours were spent at his desk. All Souls resembles a monastery.  Its fifteenth century stone arcades surround a vivid lawn that is immaculate because it is seldom used: All Souls has no undergraduates and is not often open to the public – its gates are shut.  All his needs were taken care of by the college: he was housed, fed, and paid, and nothing in the way of emotional output was required of him. This was how his life had been since he went to boarding school, at ten, and it suited him. He had become, he realized, what psychiatrists call institutionalized – a person for whom living in an institution feels more normal than living in a family.

. . .

Other than his trips to Venice and St. Petersburg, the only reason he left All Souls for any length of time was to travel to America, to teach. He had appointments at Harvard, Rutgers, and N.Y.U.: he wanted students, because he found that it was discouragingly difficult to persuade older philosophers to change their minds. He also needed students, because only they would talk philosophy with him for twelve hours at a stretch and then wake up the next day wanting to do it again.  Older philosophers (and his students from past years were now in this category) had children and spouses; they sat on academic committees and barbecued in their backyards.

I am not capable of this kind of devotion, nor would I wish for such a life, were I capable of it. I have a spouse and children. And I both serve on academic committees and barbecue. I am happy, and better off, for all of these. But I admire Parfit’s life and am grateful that our social arrangements make possible such lives. Monomania need not be madness. It can be greatness.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships at the Stanford Center on Ethics in Society

December 5th, 2012 § 0

Stanford’s Center on Ethics in Society has several fellowships for post-doctoral scholars in two areas: scholars working generally on ethics and scholars (including those with social science PhDs) working in some way on questions concerning educational opportunity. Full details here:

The Center for Ethics in Society Post Doctoral Fellowships

For 2013-2014, we seek up to four new post doctoral fellows. We are also expecting to be able to offer an additional three post doctoral fellowships. These three position will play a role in courses tied to the new undergraduate ethics requirement at Stanford.

We welcome candidates with substantial normative research interests from diverse backgrounds including philosophy, the social sciences, and professional schools. We are especially interested in candidates with research interests in inequality, human rights, immigration, and environmental justice, but we welcome all applicants with strong normative interests that have some practical implications. Fellows will be involved in teaching, interact with undergraduates in the Ethics in Society Honors Program and help in developing an inter-disciplinary ethics community across the campus.

The appointment term is September 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014; however, the initial term may be renewed for an additional year. Applicants must have completed all requirements for their PhD by June 30, 2013. Candidates must also be no more than 3 years from the awarding of their degree (i.e., September 2010).

Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. It welcomes applications from women and members of minority groups, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions to the university’s research and teaching missions. Salary is competitive.

For information on how to access the online system to submit your application, visit our website .

Spencer Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowships in Equality of Opportunity and Education at Stanford University

For 2013-2014, we seek up to two post doctoral scholars for a project focused on issues of equality of opportunity and the public provision of education. These fellowships have been created with funding by the Spencer Foundation. The fellows will join the community of post doctoral fellows at the Center but will be selected on the basis of their fit with this multi-year project on Equality of Opportunity and the Public Provision of Education. We seek scholars with a PhD (from disciplines such as philosophy, education or one of the social sciences) or a JD with research interests related to (any of) the following questions:

1. What ideal of equality should govern the public provision of education?

2. What are the implications of this ideal for concrete decisions about school financing, admissions practices, and the national, state, and local distribution of educational responsibility?

3. What are the practical obstacles to achieving this ideal in education?

Fellows will receive training and mentorship; work closely with distinguished faculty related to the project; participate in multi-disciplinary seminars and conferences and meet with leading scholars and policy makers in the field. Fellows may be assigned some teaching responsibilities (at most one course per year), and will be asked to participate in faculty-graduate student workshops, interact with undergraduates in the School of Education and Ethics in Society program and help in developing an inter-disciplinary ethics community across the campus.

The appointment term is September 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014. Applicants must have completed all requirements for their PhD by June 30, 2013. Candidates must also be no more than 3 years from the awarding of their degree (i.e., September 2010).

Stanford University is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty. It welcomes applications from women and members of minority groups, as well as others who would bring additional dimensions to the university’s research and teaching missions. Salary is competitive.

For information on the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, visit our website .

Application deadline is January 10, 2013 5:00pm (Pacific Standard Time). Please submit your application material via Interfolio.

Contact person: Joan Berry at joanberry at stanford dot edu

Giving Tuesday and GiveWell

November 26th, 2012 § 1

Thanksgiving.  Black Friday.  Cyber Monday.

And now: Giving Tuesday.

Tomorrow is the inaugural Giving Tuesday, an effort to create a national day of giving at the start of the holiday season. The media reports widely about the unabashed consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Giving Tuesday aims to deploy traditional media and social media to stimulate charitable giving and volunteering, something much more in keeping with the holiday spirit of gratitude and generosity.

I serve in an advisory role to the team of folks behind Giving Tuesday, and I’ve tried to do two things:

First, get credit card companies to drop or eliminate transaction fees for individual donations made to nonprofit organizations on Giving Tuesday.

Transaction fees charged by credit card companies and other online giving platforms range from two to five percent of a donation, meaning that a $100 gift to a nonprofit is in reality only a $95 gift, with $5 lining the pockets of American Express, Visa, or Mastercard.  Dropping or eliminating the transaction fees, even if just for a day, would not only deliver more money to nonprofit organizations but might stimulate individuals to donate more than they otherwise would, knowing that on this day fully 100% of their donation will get to the charity they wish to support.

On Giving Tuesday there will be several options to make donations without transaction fees: for CapitalOne credit card holders here, and for mobile donations made via PayPal.  More in the works for 2013.

Second, while Giving Tuesday champions giving of all kinds – time as well as money – to any charitable organization, Giving Tuesday is highlighting giving opportunities for some of the most highly rated and effective charitable organizations. My hope is that Giving Tuesday will not only stimulate more people to give money away but for them to give money away more thoughtfully.

There are a number of charity evaluation organizations that provide a wealth of information about nonprofit organizations: Charity Navigator, Guidestar, Great Nonprofits.

I think the best of these organizations is a small outfit called GiveWell.  GiveWell examines only a small handful of charities in a small handful of areas: international development and American primary and secondary education. Their website provides more information than a donor could likely process, and unfortunately in a singularly user-unfriendly format.  But their analyses are first-rate.

I trust their evaluations.  And GiveWell has just released its annual recommendations for the top charities, the organizations it deems most worthy of a charitable donation.  Why most worthy? Because a donation to these top charities will have a large and demonstrated positive impact.

GiveWell’s top rated charities for 2013 are:

1. The Against Malaria Foundation

AMF provides long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (for protection against malaria) in bulk to other organizations, which then distribute them in developing countries.

2. GiveDirectly

GiveDirectly transfers cash to households in the developing world via the M-PESA mobile phone-based payment service. It targets extremely low-income households and aims to deliver at least 90 cents directly to recipients for every $1.00 in total expenses.

3.  The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) assists African governments with treatment of neglected tropical diseases.

Tomorrow, on Giving Tuesday, I will be making a charitable donation to GiveWell’s top rated charities.  My hope is that because of Giving Tuesday, and with the information provided by GiveWell, others will do the same.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships at Stanford PACS

November 14th, 2012 § 1

The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society will once more appoint two post-doctoral fellows for a 1 or 2 year fellowship.

Full description of the fellowship is below, and information about how to apply is here.

Postdoctoral Fellowship

Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society

Application deadline: January 9th, 2013

Stanford PACS invites applications for a one or two-year postdoctoral fellowship. The Center will award fellowships for two scholars to spend time at Stanford University and participate in Center activities. We seek to appoint promising post-doctoral scholars who are actively engaged in research on topics related to our core scholarly mission, which is to develop and share knowledge to improve philanthropy, strengthen civil society, and effect social change. It is a broad mandate, encompassing scholars from across the university. Potential applicants can get a sense of the wide range of scholarly projects under the PACS umbrella by consulting the research projects of current and past PhD and postdoctoral fellows at the Center.  Topics range from the ethics of humanitarian aid, debates over school financing and form, assessments of the efficacy of foundation efforts at field-building, organizational capacity for continuous innovation, studies of altruism, and the role of social movements in civic engagement, to name only a few topics.

Each fellow will be affiliated with a disciplinary department or school at Stanford University and with the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.  The postdoctoral fellowship provides young scholars with the opportunity to pursue original research related to philanthropy, social innovation, civic engagement and civil society and to work closely with a Stanford faculty member, while participating in program activities such as our research workshop on philanthropy and civil society and monthly public events.  The fellowship provides ample time for the fellows to pursue their current line of scholarship and also expects collaboration with Stanford scholars.

Stanford University faculty members who are potential sponsors of a postdoctoral fellow include the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society Faculty Co-Directors Paul Brest, Woody Powell, and Rob Reich.  A longer list of potential faculty is available on the PACS website under the link for the faculty steering committee.

The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society is a program of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS).  Since 2006, the Center has supported PhD students and undergraduates from across the university, and since 2010 the post-doctoral fellowship program reflects our effort to fund research from outside Stanford.

The annual fellowship stipend is $50,000, plus the standard benefits that postdoctoral fellows at Stanford University receive. The fellowship program falls under U.S. Immigration J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa activities.  Stanford University stipulates that postdoctoral fellows must have received their PhD within the past four years.

Please include the following information in both electronic and paper format:

  1. Cover letter detailing the reasons for the applicant’s interest in coming to Stanford, including comment on the faculty member or members with whom the applicant wishes to work.
  2. Curriculum Vitae.
  3. Fellowship proposal detailing the research that the fellow would undertake while at Stanford (five page limit).
  4. Writing sample consisting of either a dissertation chapter or a recent published paper.
  5. Graduate Transcript with proof that applicants have completed all the requirements for the PhD, or a letter from their PhD advisor stating they will do so by June 2013.
  6. Two Letters of Recommendation
  7. Please disclose if you have additional funding arrangements.

The deadline for submission is January 9th, 2013.

Applications should be submitted electronically to the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society via email to pacscenter@stanford.edu and may also be submitted by hard copy if necessary directly to the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, PO Box 20554, Stanford, CA 94309-8554.

Questions about the application should be directed to pacscenter@stanford.edu.