I keep saying this, but subscribe to the CBC Ideas podcast. Do it. Right now. It is probably the best podcast that is not related to celebrity, comedy or music.
A new series, called the “Kings of Philantropy” is about to be nixed from the list (Ideas only keeps about 4 podcasts up on its site at a time), but listening to it on my iPod the past day or so on the way to and from work has been amazing.
It talks about the new “social entrepreneurism” that is coming out of the big dollars being made by tech and media moguls like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Larry Page. I can speak to its relevance to libraries in a “good news/bad news” trope.
The Good News: The United States appears to be embarking on an era of progressivism and philantropy that could rival the efforts of Rockerfeller and Carnegie.
The Bad News: The money is going to international public health, and a few swipes are being made at spending for libraries.
I wonder how we are going to find entrepreneurs in the developing world without giving the people access to the world’s knowledge, eh? — that said, public health is probably the first step for most developing countries — then we can look at schools and libraries.
There is also a good amount of interesting discussion about the challenges of accountability for social spending under a philantropic envelope, and the problems a business-minded “results focus” can have when it crosses paths with long-entrenched social systems. An example offered is in Haiti, where a hugely amazingly high-level hospital was created to deal with public health, only to discover that a $200,000 expenditure on a better water system could help prevent visits from about 80% of their patients.
Either way, I think social entrepreneurism is a great move in the right direction. The world is just going to have to learn more and better to get the systems right over the long haul.