Dear Reader, About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up. This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country. You can also read Part I and Part II of this series to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges of adaptive reuse. Continue reading
Dear Reader, About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up. This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country. Check out Part I of this series to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges of adaptive reuse. Continue reading
About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up. This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country. Continue reading
Dear reader, as part of a special report for Shelterforce I sat down with the heads of four of the largest community development intermediaries in the country and asked a simple question: Are you still relevant?
This six part series looks at the evolution of their role in the community development sector and their strategies for the future.
To binge-read the full report, click here.
Just about 110 years ago, the price of kosher meat pretty much doubled overnight. If you were a Jewish homemaker who had to make every penny count in order to keep your family fed, this wasn’t just an inconvenience: it was a serious threat to your economic stability. What’s more, it smacked of racketeering by wholesalers who had a captive market of consumers for kosher foods, and recalled anti-Jewish oppression levied through taxes on Kosher foods in other countries.
Jewish women fought back. They organized a massive boycott of butchers and meat wholesalers that not only succeeded in bringing the prices back down, but became a seminal act of defiance in community organizing and paved the way for major rent and labor strikes to come (including the 1907 Rent Strike and the Uprising of the 20,000).
You know, about a year ago I was having breakfast with a good friend over at Services for the Underserved – a well established nonprofit social services provider and affordable housing developer (Hi David!) – and we got to talking about corporate social responsibility. I mean, there are an awful lot of good intentions out there, and a lot of self-serving hoo ha to go right along with it. Where, we asked, could we have a substantive dialogue that advanced our little sector while addressing the needs of the most vulnerable?
Thus was #SUSConf2013 born: the SUS Social Impact Investment Conference. And it’s happening next Wednesday, April 3rd, generously hosted by Bank of America. There are a few (and I mean a few) tickets left. Don’t wait.
Thanks to our amazing Advisory Committee and the wonderful board of SUS, we’ve pulled together a really compelling group of presenters. Speakers and panelists include (in order of appearance):
- Donna Colonna, CEO, Services for the UnderServed
- Kerry Sullivan, President, The Bank of America Charitable Foundation
- Clara Miller, President, The F.B. Heron Foundation
- Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund
- Arthur Webb, Owner and Principal, Arthur Webb Group
- Tracy Palandjian, CEO and Co-Founder, Social Finance, Inc.
- Dan Letendre, CDFI Lending & Investing Executive, Bank of America
- Margaret Anadu, Vice President, Urban Investment Group, Goldman Sachs
- Scott Budde, Project Director, Sustainable Agriculture Credit Union Research Project
- Jill Schlesinger, Editor-at-Large, CBS MoneyWatch
- Elizabeth Luckett, Director, Impact Investing, Pershing Square Capital Management
- Lisa Hall, President and CEO, Calvert Foundation
We’ve been reaching out to lots of very smart folks to create content that’s meaningful, and we’ve heard a bunch of really great ideas. I wanted to share with you just a tiny bit of the thinking that’s gone into this conference.
Why is SUS hosting this conference? Innovation and change are all around us. SUS strives to play an active role in the trends that shape our collective efforts, and the emerging social impact investment sector holds both promise and challenge.
Nonprofits like SUS are becoming more complex. SUS manages both for-profit and nonprofit entities; makes regular use of structured finance in its work; draws upon management best practices from both the nonprofit and corporate sectors; has earned revenues as an important part of its plan for growth and stability; and can deploy larger capital allocations. These are all the hallmarks of an emerging class of complex nonprofits that blend a mission orientation with a sharp nose for business and the ability to operate at much greater scale.
For-profit social benefit corporations are both partners and competitors. There are a number of areas (affordable housing, education, healthcare, economic development) where for-profit corporations are taking on work previously provided by nonprofits. So you’ve got complex nonprofits intersecting more and more with social benefit corporations, or even traditional corporations seeking to meet needs closer to the bottom of the pyramid.
Convergence is good for social impact investment. Where complex nonprofits and social benefit corporations converge investors can frequently find revenue models capable of repaying principal, and even generating returns.
Social impact capital is no panacea. In spite of the opportunities of social impact investment, we must also carefully balance these against the need for grants, contracts, technical assistance and other resources.
Nonprofits need to drive more of the conversation. Nobody understands the needs and challenges of nonprofits better than the nonprofits themselves. By placing the voices of nonprofit leaders front and center on this issue, we’re advancing the entire sector.
We view this conference as a beginning. We hope to carry the ideas, alliances, and aspirations of this conference into an ongoing conversation with you and our collective stakeholders. We hope to see you there, and thereafter.
There’s something I have to tell you, Dear Reader. I have a secret life.
I’ve known this about myself since I was 14 years old. I experimented with this part of who I was a lot while I was in college, but eventually I moved on and settled into a more traditional lifestyle and quietly tucked this side of myself away. I lived like this for years.
But that’s been changing. It all started shortly after my first marriage ended, when I was looking for something to take me back out into the world. Suddenly, this other side of me seemed unavoidable – I felt so compelled to show who I really was, to do it again and again. I worked on Wall Street at the time, and suddenly it seemed people like me were everywhere and I had never noticed before: hanging out in seedy bars with late night open mics, or sneaking out during our lunch breaks to a quick session in a rented room nearby. We led a second life complete with different friends, different clothes, different mannerisms, but more fully ourselves.
And then I met my current partner, Ryan. Unlike me, Ryan had never hid behind another identity. Ryan is proud, fearless, open, visible. When, during one of our first dates, Ryan suggested we write a musical together, I knew I could no longer hide who I was.
ArtsBlog (the blog of Americans for the Arts) recently hosted a forum called: “So, Does Size Matter?” The short answer is hell yes it does, but I disagree with most of the writers about why. I found the best piece in the series was penned by the whip-smart Ian David Moss (Economies and Diseconomies of Scale in the Arts – Take Two), and it was his post that inspired both me to both write an initial comment, and then to take on the subject more fully below.
You see, Dear Reader, like many of my fellow funders and financiers I’ve often touted the benefits of moving toward greater scale: improved operational efficiencies, greater programmatic reach, increased access to resources, heavier political punch. But I’ve also struggled with the oft recognized but seldom addressed reality that scale is not an answer in and of itself, and that sometimes scaled solutions leave even larger problems in their wake. Thanks to Ian, I think I got the mental kick in the epiphany I needed.
And here’s why I think scale sometimes, well, stinks up the joint. Continue reading
Your Man About Town’s middle name is Moderation, Dear Reader; and although it is a somewhat awkward locution when making a full introduction, it nonetheless conveys the important fact that your Man About Town’s middle name is not Tom, Dick or Harry. I moderate. I facilitate. I have even been known, at times, to adjudicate.
So when the New York Chapter of the Grantmakers in the Arts asked if I wouldn’t mind moderating a panel on creative placemaking at the Queens Museum of Art earlier this month, I could no more deny them than I could my very nature. Or at least, the very nature of my personal brand. Continue reading
It’s been a year since I hung out a shingle and joined the independent workforce, and a very interesting year indeed. Your Man About Town has been busy moving the needle on mission related investment, geeking out on data, pursuing my ongoing passion for the arts, and assembling public / private partnerships out of thin air.
Frequently my job as a consultant is simply to help my clients think things they haven’t thought, meet people they haven’t met, and do things they haven’t done. In this inaugural newsletter, I’m pleased to share a bit about what I’ve been up to.
Mission Related Investment
Mission related investment (MRI) can be a powerful tool, but as a sector we still have much to learn. Man About Town has been fortunate to work with Contact Fund, expanding deal flow and advising on strategic development. Man About Town also stepped in to help the Altman Foundation underwrite a Program Related Investment to LISC. And whenServices for the UnderServed asked Man About Town to help them train their board on innovation in MRI and the needs of complex nonprofits, it just seemed like the right thing to do. Now, Man About Town and SUS have joined forces to convene a Social Impact Investment Conference in NYC. Our Advisory Committee includes Antony Bugg-Levine, Deb De Santis, Alice Korngold, Terri Ludwig, Brandee McHale and Michael Rubinger. Just getting warmed up folks! Coming April 2013!
- It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a… What the Hell is That?
- The Complexification of the Nonprofit Sector
- Why Leadership Pay$
Arts & Economic Development
This past spring, the Municipal Art Society invited Man About Town to come on board as a research fellow, analyzing economic trends in the nonprofit cultural sector through the Cultural Data Project. Data geek that I am, how could Man About Town say no? The result is the Arts Digest 2012, including my section entitled “Who Pays for the Arts?” And Man About Town has been busy applying all I’ve learned as a member of the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts Working Group, including a new case study onadaptive re-use in creating new cultural facilities – due out this November!
- The Art$ (Part I, II, and III)
- The Art$, Small Business, and Community Development
- In Praise of (Stinky, Noisy) Bars
Introducing Civic Consulting NYC
Last fall, Neil Kleiman introduced Man About Town to Chicago’s Civic Consulting Alliance. Civic Consulting aggregates high-level pro bono corporate capacity and provides it to the public sector – a national model for innovation in public/private partnerships. I fell in love. Man About Town has been building Civic Consulting’s NYC affiliate, and on September 13th we hosted a launch event with the Ford Foundation, Living Cities and special guest Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs for the local philanthropic and corporate community. It was a smashing good time, and you’ll be hearing a lot more about Civic Consulting NYC!
In short, life is good…
…thanks to all of you and your brilliant thinking, passionate commitment, and energetic leadership. I hope to see some of you at the Grantmakers in the Arts convening on November 15th at the Queens Museum, where Man About Town will moderate the morning’s panel discussion. And stay tuned for a major article in Shelterforce Magazine on the evolving role of community development intermediaries in today’s complex environment.
Until then, I remain your most humble servant,
Your Man About Town