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May 02, 2013


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Tidy Sum

My dear friend,

I take great joy in watching your spirited attempts to nudge philanthropy beyond its protective bubble. The six of us who read your blog owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for this pleasure. But do take care with your flights of fancy.

Philanthropists cozying up with social science? Ew. You insult social scientists everywhere. We are taking mucho umbrage at this mash-up.

You see, we have beards and hairy legs. Let philanthropy nod contentedly in its narcotic buzz of market-based sanctimony and business-class effluvia. Let it scratch its incessant itch for attribution like a flea-ridden dog. We social scientists want no part as tutors. You've ignored us too long. Besides, we don't like to wear ties. We ride bikes and have things like ethics and peer review. Everyone knows philanthropy avoids accountability or public deliberation. Ethics and transparency? You guys make a sport of wheeling and self-dealing.

We read hardcover books for godsakes! Our jargon is in French and German. We use umlauts. Our words have more syllables. We don't have "thought leaders", or "create spaces" or "convene stakeholders". We don't opine about collective impact or big data. Philanthropy can barely handle little data. Our epistemological tools are too dangerous for the uninitiated. My God, can they even spell heuristics or phenomenology? And if you spill the beans on the likes of Clifford Geertz, the next thing you know they'll be quoting Heidegger or Baudrillard at the GEO conference. Can you imagine? No. We watch Bill Moyers and listen to jazz - we can handle complexity. Philanthropy is in its golden era of Newtonian reductionism. Why spoil the party? If foundations start digging into open systems, it might scare the pants off of them. It could destroy their whole organizational schema for making meaning about the world. Social science is too powerful in the wrong hands. Let em Youtube a TED talk at their desk if they want to feel smarter. Leave critical theory to professionals.

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