Insularity and our Nonprofit Sector: Not a Good Look

Print Share on LinkedIn More

I enjoy sitting on my couch in my house in my own neighborhood, but I also like wandering around in other countries so that I can get a real good sense of how big and unknown the world really is. It opens up the mental, emotional, artistic, and intellectual doorways to other ways of living and doing.

One of the things that I believe limits the power of the civil sector is the lack of enthusiasm of many working in it to learn across boundaries. The boundaries still often are those between the subsectors—an artifact, kind of, of siloed funding. In fact, very often, programs existing under the umbrella of the same organization don’t build upon the learnings or work of one another. That is just odd. But one of the silliest habits of the civil sector in the United States is to ignore the shape, questions, and understandings of developing civil sectors overseas.

So I would like to direct your attention to a really remarkable article, titled “Civil Society Chinese Style: The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector in Post-Mao China.” We published this online yesterday, and I cannot recommend it enough;
 it is a low-key but thorough and fascinating account of a moment in history. There are some profound lessons in the article that could and should inform the way we think about our own U.S. scheme of nonprofits, government, philanthropy, and community, and 
I would encourage each of you to tweet this article to colleagues and to comment on what lessons it may have for us all. Let’s talk it up!