What do algorithms and workers’ benefits have to do with civil society? They are a facet of the changing nature of work and employment, an unpredictable force shifting the ground under civil society organizations. These ideas come from Lucy Bernholz, author of Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2016, the seventh instalment of her annual series.
Many people piece together their incomes one gig or one day at a time. Their working conditions are unstable, their incomes unreliable, job security non-existent. Online matching platforms powered by proprietary and invisible algorithms are changing entire industries, from taxi driving to hotelling. As these platforms expand they bring these altered work conditions to ever more sectors of the economy.
These changes touch non-profits and non-governmental agencies in both tangible and abstract ways. Organizations that provide job training need to understand a new type of labour market. They change the inventory of community needs (shift workers need child care at different hours) and assets (areas underserved by public transit may benefit). They also change the nature of freelance and contract opportunities that NGOs themselves rely upon.
This year the Blueprint includes a worksheet to help people incorporate the key trends swirling around the sector into their organizational planning efforts. The worksheet is designed to augment capacity planning and to push managers and funders to consider the implications of global trends on their daily activities.
This year’s Blueprint argues that philanthropy must recognize how broadly and fundamentally the context in which it operates has shifted. The social economy framework introduced in the first Blueprint in 2010, and our pervasive dependence on digital technologies, are now givens, Bernholz argues. From here on, philanthropy needs to assume these structures and work with them to succeed.
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