The "big ideas that matter" for 2016 include the changing structure of work and its implications for the social sector, leading philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz argues in (28 pages, PDF).
Published by , a service of , the seventh edition of Bernholz's annual industry forecast explores how changes in the structure of employment — especially the emergence of the freelance "gig economy" made possible by new technologies — and advances in automation will lead to shifts in the role and strategies of nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other "social economy actors." "How does the nature of support services — from child care to health access to insurance — have to change" to serve a community full of "on-demand" workers?, asks Bernholz, a visiting scholar at Stanford University's . "If structural changes are made to employment and benefits, how will we also restructure our social safety net, in which nonprofits play a significant role (especially in the U.S.)?"
Another issue that raises questions about the sector's role is the fluctuating value and liabilities associated with the prevalence of digital data — that is, the need to balance data collection against privacy rights. "It will take a collective effort to design governance and support systems for digital civil society," writes Bernholz. To help nonprofits and foundations assess their organizational capacity to adapt to these shifts, the report includes a worksheet with questions about automation, information and digital assets, and the social economy.
Bernholz's predictions for 2016 include at least one new foundation or foundation program focused on biological privacy being launched in the U.S.; social impact bonds growing in popularity despite the mostly disappointing results they have generated to date; and private data from a major nonprofit being hacked, leaked, and used for political purposes. And in her "glimpses of the future" — which focuses on voluntary action, private resources, and public benefit — Bernholz places high value on privacy and urges social sector organizations to embrace openness as their default.
"Philanthropy can no longer rely on a system that was based on a world of the past," said Bernholz. "The question now is, how will the activities, policies, and values need to change among those who are using private resources for the public good?"