There’s nothing like a perch plucked from the depths of Lake Como, poached by a master chef, and arranged in pastry shells covered with a well-seasoned sauce béchamel, yolk of one egg, and knob of butter to inspire new thinking about the economic insecurity of American workers. I’ve not yet been invited to Bellagio or Davos, but I know it’s only a matter of time.
Scores of colleagues have made these pilgrimages, worrying about the state of the world as they take in the mountain air. My turn will come. I notice, however, that these colleagues tend not to insult their hosts by implicating them in petty shortcomings. Nor do they dwell on the spectacular failures of our field. Rather they conduct research and predict trends that are challenging and upbeat, enabling their patrons to strut, au courant, in front of restive board members. I am in their debt, being generally rather slow on the uptake.
Philanthropic Capital Markets, Impact Investing, Networked Nonprofits, Big Data! Critics call them passing fads hawked to insecure CEOs like me. I call them the Keys to the Kingdom, l'oca che spende tutta la notte da barba se stessa, e ancora non è stanco (the goose that spends all night shaving herself, and still is not tired).
Lest I be accused of being yet another leach on the body of American generosity, I hope you’ll marvel at my own well-researched predictions for future trends in the foundation field, available in TED Talk, Pecha Kucha, Ignite, and 140-character formats with speaker’s fees waived and optimized for alpine vistas:
Biggest Data Ever. Genetic engineering will create miniaturized monkeys who’ll be trained to type vigorously on specially designed keyboards. Their output will be mined for interesting patterns by highly compensated experts.
Voucher Philanthropy. Instead of making grants, foundations will award grant vouchers directly to the deserving poor, snapping a towel—with market force—on the buttocks of underperforming charities.
Nano-Lending. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will increase, and the number of poor grow so large, that micro-financing will become unobtainable by most. Instead, low-income people across the world will be offered nano-loans collateralized against small pieces of plastic and other debris.
The Wearable Foundation. This all-graphene suit will insulate the most sensitive among us from too much reality and provide extra headroom for personalized liberal echo chambers. Optional micro-hydraulics will provide a confident gait while spoken words are sifted through a Universal Scrambler™.
Quantum Grantmaking. Quantum theory tells us that Schrödinger’s cat can be alive and dead at the same time, prompting physicists to posit parallel universes in which each possibility and everything in-between is simultaneously instantiated. Taking advantage of this phenomenon, evaluation-fixated foundations will soon require not only outputs and outcomes from their grantees, but hyper-outcomes as well—benefits to parallel universe denizens affected by real-world interventions.
Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) Market Efficiencies. In the United States, it’s considered at best impolite to kill the poor. As a nation with deep religious roots, we strongly prefer that the market do it for us. To increase the efficiency of market forces, the poor, who generally lay about listlessly, will be bled daily for valuable plasma and have their unused organs harvested for deserving job creators and their pets.
Dearest Western European Conference Organizer: I offer you a heady tour of poverty parks, genetically modified program officers, and more! A world in which the apple you’re saving for lunch is networked to implants in your salivary glands—ready to signal the optimal moment of ripeness. A world in which throngs of “network weavers” and nonprofit visionaries wander through your streets cataloging and creating connections between things real and imagined. Trust me: I can make you look good! Hey, MacArthur, are you feeling me yet?