Let’s call this more of a year-end note than a newsletter edition. The set of links is still included below, but it’s briefer.
Maybe that’s because I’ve had less time to keep up with what’s changing in the sector. Or maybe because time itself has stopped and nothing has changed. There was a joke from last year about how it was always March, so instead of (say) October 9th it was March 223rd.
By that count, today is 652nd day of March 2020. 🗓️ It’s been a long month.
Those of us lucky enough to live someplace with vaccine access and uptake have now gone through at least two cycles of thinking life was about to open back up, only to have a new Covid variant temper those hopes. I don’t have a strong sense of how folks in other places are experiencing it, partly because I’ve restricted my travel in the past two years and also because my work has taken a more domestic focus. But needless to say, Covid continues to amplify the structural inequities inherent in our systems.
Speaking of my work: I had two great chances recently to talk about it more directly than I usually do (typically I prefer to let it speak for itself, through my support to clients). But I got invited on two podcasts earlier this year.
First, on NGO Soul + Strategy (find it on Apple or Spotify): Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken invited me on her podcast to talk about what it means to do strategy work in the social change sector, especially in uncertain times. With apologies for my fast-talking (I was just so excited to be there!), this turned into a fascinating discussion.
Then, on Democracy That Delivers (also on Apple or Spotify): My frequent collaborator Flor Guerzovich and I were interviewed by Peter Glover of the Center for International Private Enterprise. We talked about research that we did along with Sol Gattoni (not on the podcast) into what anti-corruption reformers need when facing rare political “windows of opportunity” for change—and especially what support global or regional actors can provide to help them prepare for inevitable windows.
Heading into 2022, I’m looking forward to finding more space to talk about the work. And perhaps, if the stars align, you’ll see a book from me next year as well. More soon.
What’s good 👍
💸 A Primer for Participatory Grantmaking - Kelley Buhles in NPQ breaks down how participatory grantmaking often gets started, the ways to define who participates, and the ever-present question of how to make decisions.
Understanding Strategic Capacity for Constituency-Based Organizations - This report from the P3 Lab (led by Hahrie Han and Jane Booth-Tobin at Johns Hopkins) explores the nebulous but critical concept of strategic capacity, which they define as “the ability of an organization or movement to adapt to changing power dynamics in ways that help it move closer to achieving its goals.” The framework centers two components—learning and resource adaptability—and comes with a survey tool to help organizations self-assess. (Bonus: they have a webinar coming up next month on the topic.)
Grief Belongs in Social Movements. Can We Embrace It? - Malkia Devich-Cyril shares a beautiful reflection on the role of grief and trauma, personal and communal, in social change.
What’s bad 👎
📻 Right-wing operatives deploy massive network of fake local news sites to weaponize CRT - This piece is just one example of the great work that Judd Legum and co at Popular Information have done recently to expose underhanded right-wing tactics.
The Radical Young Intellectuals Who Want to Take Over the American Right - Sam Adler-Bell in The New Republic with profiles the “illiberal upstarts trying to remake conservatism”. I’m sure there’s another layer of nuance, but this strikes me as a good-faith effort to describe these activists in their own terms.
🦹 The Bad Guys Are Winning - Anne Applebaum writes in The Atlantic with a pessimistic long-form assessment on the balance of power between autocracy and democracy.
What’s in between 🤷
Is It Ethical To Work At Facebook? Justin Hendrix of Tech Policy Press pulls together a few views on the ethical minefield of working at Facebook—I mean, at Meta Platforms, Inc.—or in Big Tech more generally. In short: it’s complicated.
A Prehistory of DAOs 🕸️ - There are no shortage of online explainers for DAOs (“decentralized autonomous organizations”) available out there. But I found this long read fascinating for how it connect DAOs to civil society and the cooperative movement. It gives an interesting window into what DAOs are (and could become) based on their cultural, administrative, and political antecedents. What I’m not sure is how much of what’s here is real versus revisionist history… but it’s a good read anyway.
That’s all. I hope you close out the year with clarity, find space to pause and rest deeply, and enter the new year with intentionality. But most importantly: take care of each other.