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July 30, 2012


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Momma Sue

We can only hope the value of these "borderlands" is more widely appreciated overtime.

What Would Jesus Track?

Soon we will have every square (extremely small measurement) mapped and navigable by GPS. Then shall we wander happily bumping into nothing.

Clean as a whistle...

"Where's John?"

"He's right......there."

"My God, that's amazing! What's he doing?"

"Nothing. He's a Placeholder™."


K. "Kitty" Dishwitz

Got any happy accidents to report, Poindexter? I'm rootin' for you, fella, don't let me down.

Enrique the Gay Philosopher

So a spark plug walks into the Borderlands Bar and orders a beer and the bartender says, "All right, I'll serve you, but don't start anything."

Michael Edwards

Correct diagnosis Dr Albert but a dubious cure, and you underestimate what is already going on to tackle the disease in lots of different places, albeit on a small scale. As a first step, foundations could help to map, connect, evaluate and support these efforts. Unlikely of course, but you never know.


lol, the bare-ass Poindexter is the best!


I'll add one more kind of "borderland" group: Religious congregations (churches, mosques, temples, synagogues...).

You can forget about the congregations that define themselves according to who is "good" and who is "bad." I'm not talking about the ones where judgement is a central theme, and where scientific facts are treated like the Devil's own public relations tactics. A lot of our political diseases are incubated in those places, and it's no wonder that "religion" has a bad name among so many thoughtful people who are not jerks.

But there are many congregations that are oriented around seeking truth and loving the neighbor, even when that's inconvenient. Those more welcoming, less judgmental congregations are better than any other kind of American institution at bringing together people from many different racial, class, and experience backgrounds to focus on seeking justice.

I know that including religious groups in the mix gives a lot of philanthropoids hives. There are a lot of good reasons for avoiding them. Judgement-oriented religious groups have managed to convince many of us that by its nature, "religion" sanctifies prejudice and inequity by proclaiming in the name of God that certain kinds of people and "good" and others are "bad."

But that's only part of the picture. If we really want to promote meetings at the "borderlands" where different kinds of people can promote the common good together, we need to include faith-based groups.

For some reason we forget that faith groups were crucial leaders in the last progressive American movement that really made significant change: the Civil Rights Movement. The Occupy Movement is great. I love it. But what a disappointment, in terms of its achievements. What has it amounted to, other than mountains of words? Like many other progressive initiatives, it has created a giant echo chamber full of people who agree with one another, which intersects with the echo chambers of people who think differently only at times of conflict. OK, I know that's a little harsh. But I still say that to make real change in this country - to really work at the borderlands between groups - we need leadership from progressive faith groups.


Mike: By way of elaboration: I'm writing only about the U.S. context and my own very limited observations of it. And if it were just a matter of bringing the rich and the middle class together with the poor to break bread or share some other kind of meaningful moment, my census of borderland institutions would grow. But it's a rare space in which members of these different groups share their basic assumptions about our social, economic, political structures; where they debate alternatives; etc. I have my own doubts about what you call a "dubious cure," and, admittedly, few foundations--community or otherwise--explicitly encourage these kinds of intergroup discussions. But I've witnessed them with my own eyes, and was surprised when I saw them. I was especially struck by the fact that the discussions I participated in were about one of the most fraught subjects of all: the fair distribution of resources in American society.

Grace: I share your high regard for religious institutions that are strong champions of social justice. I count my own (Episcopal) congregation among them. I also agree with the wag who claimed that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week in America. As much as I love the inclusiveness of my church and its social justice missions, it's not what I would call a borderland institution, lacking as it does a mechanism for abetting the kinds of cross-group conversations that Piore envisioned. You are lucky to be part of such a faith community.

Phil cubeta


Your thoughts on the translation function of the program officer reminds me of Joel Orosz's analysis in his Effective Foundation Management. He has many wry comments on the art of pitching social justice initiatives to board members who only will support those initiatives of they are labelled and explained in the blandest market-positive terms. Joel is clear that the price of being too much of a activist while on staff at many foundations is termination. This would lead one to conclude that the borderland is a buffer. It absorbs the energy of change and cushions the shock in both directions. By preventing real dialogue and replacing it with foundation speak it serves the purposes of those in charge, while doing what good it can along the way.

Your willingness to discuss such things in public is of great concern to me as a friend of philanthropy. You are on the Watch List for downgrade to Dumpster status.



I started my polemical career as one of those potato bugs that scurries out from under your dumpster when they lift it off the ground for emptying, and I haven't yet been able to improve my standing. You at least have your Thunderbird and unerring moral compass to comfort you. When your compass fails, you can gnaw on it for essential minerals.

I share your concerns about defanging a potentially transformative conversation. But I would rather encourage these conversations the way some philanthropoids do rather than the way most people don't. Our translation of hard-nosed, social justice demands into bland, market-agnostic ("market-positive" is too strong) terms serves those who are in charge. Granted. On occasion--and this is for me the primary purpose of this kind of translation--it also serves the purposes those who are in greatest need.

Dave Bratcher

Let's point out the elephant in the room: Actor bands are not notoriously successful enterprises. I can't think of any.

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