Response to "Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World"

Resource Details
Publication Date: 
June 2014
Darren Walker
Stanford Social Innovations Review

In a response to the article Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World, Darren Walker calls on philanthropists to change the current paradigm of evaluative practice employed in social change work to develop sharper tools and more inclusive frameworks that account for the considerable complexity of real-world problem solving.

The refined tools Walker speaks of should both anticipate and embrace the complexity of social change work without neglecting rigor or outcomes.  While he makes it absolutely clear that defining outcomes—economic equality, environmental stewardship, and social justice—is vital, he observes that philanthropists are trapped in a binary discourse that fails to account for the ways in which social change transpires. This discourse undermines, rather than empowers, practitioner efforts.

Walker’s perspective is informed by his experience as a grant maker for Harlem’s Abyssinian Development Corporation.

Animating Democracy observes that this piece challenges philanthropists toward a more realistic approach to assessing social change given the complexity of real-world problem solving, while bringing to bear the necessity for a dialogue around practical, new evaluative tools and measures. This source does not articulate a specific solution, but urges philanthropists to investigate their practice, and challenge them to change.

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