Thursday, May 18, 2017

For this edition of philanthrosaurus, we’re pulling from terms we heard echoing in the hallways at MCF’s Annual Conference in January 2017. We anticipate you’ll continue to hear these words over the next year and even find them showing up in your own vocabulary.

By Leah Lundquist

Illustration by Doug Panton


Algorithmic Bias: While speaking at the MCF conference, Amy Webb, author, futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute highlighted that bias is being coded into software patterns by biased raw data. Computers are learning and reinforcing these biases. In addition to things like recognition software and hiring sites being biased, we are all living in media echo chambers as we are fed more of the headlines we click on and less of those we don’t. Her solution? Diversify the software engineering workforce, diversify data sets, don’t blindly accept algorithmic decision making and be mindful media consumers.

Trickle Down Community Engagement: Vu Le, author of Nonprofit with Balls and executive director of Rainier Valley Corps, has been using this term for a couple of years, and it’s one that sticks with his audiences long after they hear it. He used it again at the MCF Annual Conference as he described a new social contract between foundations and nonprofits. His premise is community engagement should go beyond Post-it Notes to true partnership and funding of community members’ time for participation.

Ecosystem: The Knight Foundation is funding ideas to improve the information ecosystem. The Bush Foundation is supporting ecosystem organizations that “help create an environment for big things to happen in the region.” What used to be called issue areas, sectors, domains or fields of interest are now identified as “ecosystems.” The term captures the interdependence of not only organizations around an issue but also businesses, laws, infrastructure and individuals. The hope is that by funding turnkey or multiple parts of an ecosystem, foundations can have transformative impact.

Scenario Planning: Scenario planning is one step a futurist takes when predicting the future. It involves taking an informed look at multiple possible futures to determine what is most likely to happen and to develop strategies in response. MCF President Trista Harris has been conducting post-election scenario planning sessions for members to map out what might happen if foundations increase their giving or it remains stable and if federal and state funding decreases or remains stable in the new political landscape. She is happy to share more about this process with any interested members.


Two of these terms match those shared by Lucy Bernholz, senior research scholar at the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, in her Annual Industry Forecast Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2017. We encourage you to check out her full list of buzzwords in the Blueprint, available via GrantCraft: