Entries in Theory (3)


Traditional Ecological Knowledge

I recently watched this video (below) from Bioneers about traditional ecological knowledge. The mission of Bioneers is to inspire a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.

The Bioneers Indigeneity Program works to promote indigenous leaders and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as a critical path to support all people in learning to honor bio-cultural landscapes and reconnect to place-based ways.  Native peoples are keepers of the earth's "old growth" cultures, living in harmony with their Native environments for thousands of years.  This indigenous science offers a different way of knowing that provides a crucial complement to the tools of western science.

Over the last decade, Bioneers commitment to indigenous peoples' social and ecological issues has brought together some of the greatest indigenous leaders of our time in one place. 

I originally wanted to post a presentation by Melissa K. Nelson, Ph.D. (Anishinaabe/Métis [Turtle Mountain Chippewa]), a cultural ecologist, scholar-activist, writer and media-maker, is a Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and the President of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native American nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures and their ancestral lands. She is the editor of the Bioneers anthology, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future and producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Salt Song Trail. She is the co-founder/co-producer of the Indigenous Forum at Bioneers and co-founder of the new Bioneers Indigeneity Program as well as serving on Bioneers’ board.

However, they password protected the video (why do they not want to share this?!?!), so I removed the link.  Hopefully, Bioneers will be more share-friendly in the future.



As a recent addition to the steering committee of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) — Bay Area Chapter, I’ve promised to promote membership and involvement in this helpful professional development organization.

The mission of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy is to strengthen the next generation of grant-makers, in order to advance effective social justice philanthropy.


EPIP works toward its mission through the following programs:

  • We organize unique Networking opportunities for our constituents through local chapters and national meeting spaces (both virtual and in-person).
  • We develop the Leadership skills and analysis of our members for successful engagement in the workplace and the broader philanthropic field.
  • We build an Advocacy voice for our generation aimed at transforming philanthropy, and strengthening the pipeline for young people into social change careers.


EPIP members are professionals at foundations, government and corporate grant-making entities, and philanthropy support organizations (such as regional associations of grantmakers, affinity groups, and financial advisory firms). Some members are foundation trustees, or donors involved in giving circles and other forms of organized giving.

Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in becoming a member!

Philanthropology: EPIP 2011 National Conference

The 2011 Conference theme statement is Philanthropology - Understanding Foundations, Democracy and Power Across the Generations. Philanthropology is EPIP's unique curricular resource for learning philanthropy.

The conference is organized into four main learning tracks, according to the modules of Philanthropology:

Understanding Philanthropy

Exploring the history, trends, knowledge and systems that shape the foundation community

Social Impact

Sharing cutting-edge ideas and practices that help philanthropy to effectively bring about social change

Managing Power Dynamics

Successfully navigating the roles, relationships, and perspectives of trustees, foundation professionals, and grantees

Generations in Philanthropy

Gaining insight into the lessons-learned, strategies and challenges of foundation leaders across generations

Each track will be composed of workshops developed and delivered by EPIP, our members, colleagues and partner organizations

In addition to workshops, plenary sessions will anchor the tracks with high-level keynote speakers, panelists and performances, including:

Ana Marie Argilagos, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of International and Philanthropic Innovation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Daniel Lee, Executive Director, Levi Strauss Foundation

Emmett D. Carson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Gabriel Kasper, Practitioner, Monitor Institute

Jennifer Ladd, Co-Founder, Class Action

Nat Williams, Executive Director, The Hill-Snowdon Foundation

Pamela David, Executive Director, Walter and Elise Haas Fund

Pamela Freeman, Associate, Class Action

Rob Collier, President and CEO, The Council of Michigan Foundations

Sherece West, President and CEO, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

Sterling Speirn, President and Chief Executive Officer, W. K. Kellogg Foundation

Suzanne Immerman, Special Assistant to the Secretary / Director of Philanthropic Engagement, U.S. Department of Education

Terry Odendahl, Chief Executive Officer, Global Greengrants Fund

Urvashi Vaid, former Executive Director, The Arcus Foundation


Be sure to register TODAY for the full conference and 10th Anniversary Gala!

Check-out this video of highlights from EPIP 2010 National Conference:



Book Review: Small Change by Michael Edwards

Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the WorldSomtimes I think, "If I wanted to go into business, I would have gone into business..."

It seems often forgotten that many people – myself included – make an active decision to avoid politics and business. We have a variety of motivations and missions, but we seek change that comes beyond convention. Nonprofit… nonpartisan… we are defined by what we are not. And I think that’s great.

I am reminded of the special nature of civil society as I read Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World by Michael Edwards. The primary purpose of the book, in my view, is to be practical by raising challenging questions about the role of business in progressive social change. In response to a wave of “Philanthrocapitalism” (a la Matthew Bishop, Michael Green, et tout le monde), Edwards provides an analysis and critique of the movement, as well as an argument for what he calls “Citizen Philanthropy.”

Edwards sums his message early in the preface, when he argues against a "business-is-best" philosophy:

"That's an attractive proposition, but also a dangerous mirage. Can we compete ourselves into a more cooperative future, or consume our way to conserve the planet's scarce resources, or grow grow our way to out of deep-rooted poverty and oppression, or fight our way to peace?" ..."The claim that business thinking can save the world is a convenient myth for those who occupy positions of great wealth and power; and the constant celebration of the rich and famous individuals is a dangerous distraction from the hard, public work of finding solutions, all of us together" (p. xi). 

“Social transformation is not a job to be left to market forces or to the whims of billionaires. Perhaps if we supported the energy and creativity of millions of ordinary people, we could create a foundation for lasting progress that will never come through top-down planning by a new global elite, however well intentioned. When this principle is accepted and philanthropy is reconfigured to be less technocratic and more supportive of people’s own self-development efforts, then change will come – larger than we can control, quicker than we can imagine, and deeper than we could ever hope for by reducing everything to market forces” (pp. xiii-xiv).

To be fair, it seems that his message is meant to provoke debate. He isn’t suggesting that market forces are always inappropriate as a tool to advancing social change. However, he does argue that it can be detrimental to always use market forces in a blind manner.

I was able to hear Edwards speak about the book at an event with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) – Bay Area Chapter in early Novemeber, 2010. Speaking to a group of young professionals, aspects of his message seemed to encourage our dedication to advancing social change, no matter the method. He suggested that we think critically about when markets (and associated tools) are appropriate and inappropriate.

I found the book to be an extremely interesting, quick read with some powerful and profound points. Coupled with a re-reading of Philanthrocapitalism, it’s worth knowing these perspectives and the arguments these authors make. Keep in mind that the dialogue is friendly, as you can watch Michael Edwards and Matthew Bishop debate on YouTube: