In an interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm, Reef McIntosh, a surfer facing the big waves on Oahu said, “Conditions on or off, it doesn’t matter. We’re all still going to be out there. So it was pretty much how it looked: you know, big and ugly and hard and challenging and all that stuff that comes with big-wave riding.” This seems like a good metaphor for what our readers have faced, hence the cover of this issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly.

As a part of our Nonprofits in the Age of Obama series, we have highlighted some of the knowledge that we aggregate in our daily online roundup, the Nonprofit Newswire (see “Trends: A Review of NPQ’s Nonprofit Newswire” on page 8). This section contains summaries of recent events and their meaning, which you might not expect from this publication.

In assembling this package, we were “re-impressed” with nonprofits’ ability to ride the big waves:

  • community-health centers positioned themselves perfectly to become much more central in the system of primary care in this country;
  • community-development loan funds stepped up to act as efficient and productive purveyors of loans to small business and nonprofits; and
  • community-development and housing organizations stepped up as primary players in the foreclosure crisis.

In each of these situations, these networks of community organizations mobilized quickly and efficiently to implement national strategies. For nonprofits during the recession, this is the really big news. These networks are powerful actors, especially when connected by their own communities and supported by national intermediaries.

The story of the power of networks is clear in “Unstill Waters: The Fluid Role of Networks in Social Movements” on page 52. Robin Katcher discusses what matters to network organizers and what influences social-movement effectiveness.

No doubt, this time has been incredibly uncomfortable, but if we wanted disruptive influence to spark a hard look at what works and what doesn’t, we got it. There are so many questions we must now answer:

  • What is and should be the relationship of nonprofits and philanthropy to government?
  • What is the most effective way to scale a response to a social problem?
  • Do we need to think differently about our budgets and revenue sources?

We look forward to continuing to think about these issues with you. For your surf report, be sure to subscribe to the Nonprofit Newswire. And write to me and let us know what you think.