Post #179 • December 20, 2003, 8:39 AM • 3 Comments
I have seen the future of arts funding in an article by Emily Eakin in this morning's New York Times.
If Mother Teresa, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her charitable work with the poor and the sick, embodies the old way of treating social problems (compassion and Band-Aids), then big thinking, solution-minded pragmatists like Mr. [J.B.] Schramm [of College Summit] represent the new. According to the theory emerging from some of the nation's top business schools, they belong to a powerful and growing breed of innovator: the social entrepreneur.
"We need innovative solutions to social problems, and increasingly societies are realizing that private citizens, acting in entrepreneurial ways, blending business tools with relevant social expertise, are the best hope for finding those solutions," said J. Gregory Dees, director of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and a leading expert in the budding field. "These citizens are social entrepreneurs."
In New York City there is Sara Horowitz, a lawyer and labor activist, who started Working Today, a group that provides low-cost health insurance to freelancers, who typically have little access to benefits but who now make up nearly a third of the labor force. Better known are Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, which hires young graduates from top colleges to teach in deprived urban and rural schools; Paul Farmer, a doctor who is transforming global health-care policy toward the indigent; and Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who revolutionized the concept of micro-credit, making millions of successful small loans to poor people through his Grameen Bank.
William Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, an organization that since 1981 has provided funds and intellectual support to just such citizens around the world, has perhaps done more than anyone to encourage the trend. And he speaks of it with near revolutionary fervor. Rattling off impressive statistics about the growth of nonprofit and citizen groups in the last two decades, he declares social entrepreneurship to be "the most important historical force at work today," adding, "The social half of society has tipped: it has become as entrepreneurial and competitive as the business half of society, and the consequences are extremely dramatic."
Every state in the union, to my knowledge, is slashing arts funding. Florida's allotment went from $28m to $6m this year. The consensus is that programs, once cut, labor with difficulty to return to their original splendor. Anne Robertson for the Phoenix Business Journal:
As the local arts scene struggles to stave off a 14 percent budget cut and raid on its endowment fund, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia warns it is very tough to rebuild a thriving arts community after such drastic cuts.
The arts have been shown to provide great economic benefit. After arts groups - the NEA in particular - realized that they could not make a philisophical case for the art they were supporting, they switched strategies to emphasize those economic benefits. But the question that has always bothered me is why, if they are such moneymakers, do they need public support? Indeed, this strategy finally blew up in their faces this year. But if the economic benefits are real, the arts ought to be a viable candidate for social entrepreneurship.
In fact, my first project for the new year will be to start a private, for-profit, free-market arts advocacy entity. I need to get the website up first, but once I do, I will share details and solicit suggestions on how to make it work. Sitting around and waiting for grant programs to recognize my work and that of my friends is beginning to strike me as stupid. I'm going to take action.