'Digital Civil Society' Emerging, 'Blueprint 2014' Forecasts

The adoption of digital technologies and practices has the potential to change the structures of work in the social economy and create opportunities to establish a new standard of trust with respect to how private data are used for public benefit, leading philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz predicts in her fifth annual industry forecast, Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2014 (32 pages, PDF).

Published by GrantCraft, a joint service of the New York-based Foundation Center and the European Foundation Centre in Brussels, the latest edition of Bernholz’s Blueprint — which for the first time considers the European as well as American context — examines the challenges philanthropic enterprises face as global interconnectedness, access to data, and social activism reshape how citizens interact with their governments and each other. Civic technologies — both those used by governments to reach out to and engage citizens as well as those developed by technologists to improve the livability of cities — raise issues of privacy and right of association, ownership and governance, and the role of data as a core resource, Bernholz argues, and eventually will require the formulation of rules to govern their use.

The report also highlights examples of "civic tech" — tech-savvy individuals who provide services to local governments on a pro-bono basis — and includes sector forecasts for 2014, including Bernholz’s predictions of a major scandal in the crowdfunding marketplace, innovation in new mobile money tools, and the emergence of GitHub as a widely used sharing platform for nonprofits. Bernholz’s "buzzwords" for 2014 include "privacy," "peer-to-peer services" and "makers," while her "wildcards" for the year include social welfare organizations being legislated out of section 501(c) of the tax code and being made subject to regulation by the Federal Elections Commission.

"Now, more than ever, we need new frameworks to understand and shape philanthropy for the twenty-first century," said Bernholz, a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. “I'm hopeful the Blueprint can further regional and global conversations about how philanthropy — in all its various forms — can best evolve to meet society's needs in this rapidly changing world."

"As changemakers strive to make the world a better place, Lucy Bernholz has their backs by looking ahead," said Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center. "Everyone in the social sector can benefit from Lucy's perceptive observations and insights on where we are now, where we are headed, and most importantly, where we should be headed." 

"Data Spurs Emergence of a ‘Digital Civil Society’." Foundation Center Press Release 12/04/2013.