The New American Community?

I recorded my first professional style talk today. This series of talks called ARNOVA Talks is styled after the famous ( or rather infamous) TED Talks, that many love and others loathe. Those who love it, love it because it helps one present really complex research or work in a manner that is understandable, relatable to a general audience. Those who hate it, hate it for the very same reasons. They call it ‘dumbing down’ of research or ideas. Regardless of the controversy around the idea, I went ahead and did a 12 minute talk on my new book, that I have been working on. The book is titled ‘The New American Community: How Philanthropy is Changing our boundaries of Community.’ 

 The fundamental question I am seeking to answer in this book is this : Can philanthropy create communities?  While this question may seem too simple or even converse to what we know of, which is to say that most people think of philanthropy ( giving of money, time, efforts) in the context of community building, how can giving create this sense of belonging?

This book is essentially seeking to ask this question because of the kinds of collaborations, permutations and combinations of ideas that I am witnessing around me. Consider two examples.

  1. Muslims praying at an Episcopal Church every Friday, in downtown D.C. : While this is not out of the ordinary and there is no prohibition for Muslims to pray any place of worship, it is unusual and not a common day occurrence; as you may admit. This means that the creative spirit and pragmatic reality of life in D.C., where some Muslims ( who work in downtown DC) and need to pray during the day on a Friday has motivated them to explore an inter-faith idea, i.e, praying at a Church
  2. Indigenous communities’ land rights : Ford Foundation, among many others are promoting land rights for indigenous people, around the world; including in the U.S. The fact that much of the forest land is owned ( though not in direct control) of these indigenous communities is significant, given that they can control this land to prevent deforestation and abuse of land. All of this is crucial in mitigating the harmful effects of climate change.

As one can see, these two disparate examples show us, in a small way how different groups and people are coming together to address and tackle different ideas, that are forming new ‘communities of conscience’ going beyond their denominational categories.

It is not all good news though, as the same spirit that brings people to give for causes that build communities also gives rise to causes that create rift or tension. This is, what some scholars have called the ‘dark side’ of philanthropy.

More on that later in my next post.



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