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 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.
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.
Dear Reader, I’m writing to you from Man About Town’s Brooklyn redoubt – where we have been spared from the very worst of hurricane Sandy. We never flooded, and we never lost power. Like so many of you, Mrs. Man About Town and I have been glued to Twitter, NY1, WNYC, the NY Times, and a host of other news sources trying to grapple with the scale of the devastation caused by surging storm waters and wind. And, like many of you, we’ve wept over the terrible loss of life, and been inspired by the ingenuity and dedication of emergency personnel, public leaders, and generous neighbors.
Dear reader, your Man About Town has been to the very precipice, where I stood and looked down. It was weird.
You see, it all started when some of the lovely folks over at the Municipal Art Society (Hi Mary! Hi Anne! Hello Vin!), invited me to come and do a research project for them called “Who Pays for the Arts.” The job was to tool through data provided by the Cultural Data Project (CDP) and better understand how arts organizations in NYC make their money. To whit: in order to apply for public funding in NYC, you have to submit, like, a gajillion data points to CDP.
Exciting! Data geek that I am my little heart just fluttered with glee. Numbers! Charts! Oh yeah! Uh huh! That’s right!
So I started digging through the data and the very first question I asked was, you know, what does the distribution curve look like? Given that I’m looking at total 2010 revenues for 723 organizations, and that the whole group all mushed together made $2.5 billion, how many groups are on the high end, how many in the middle, and how many on the low end?