In her 14th annual industry forecast on the ways we use private resources for public benefit in the digital age, philanthropy expert and scholar Lucy Bernholz highlights the current landscape and challenges of the year, and big ideas and predictions for the coming year in Philanthropy and Digital Civil Society: Blueprint 2023.
Bernholz, senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and director of the Digital Civil Society Lab, is a highly valued thought leader in the sector and has a long relationship with CMF, as a key partner and a presenter at CMF hosted learning opportunities.
According to Bernholz, her intention with this year’s Blueprint is to “challenge you, the reader, to recalibrate your understanding of how much philanthropy and civil society can and must do.”
In the Blueprint Bernholz digs into challenges our civil society faces on digital dependence, the need for protecting data, access, technology and our digital civil society.
Bernholz defines digital civil society as “collective action enabled by digital systems, about digital systems or that takes place exclusively on digital systems.”
She reflects on where we are now in the global context and in the U.S. She unpacks the current state of digital civil society, the condition of digital governance within nonprofits and philanthropy, opportunities for institutional innovation in digital civil society and the importance to our democracy of digital pluralism.
The Blueprint also includes five essays, two by Bernholz, that investigate components of digital civil society that reveal the gaps between analog and digital norms. They explore “where we are now, how it’s different from where we were in the past and how it’s not where we may have thought we’d be.”
Highlights of Bernholz’s predictions for philanthropy and digital civil society in 2023:
- There will be a boom in “cy pres” funding for nonprofits. Courts will order the creation of philanthropic funds from the settlements born of class action defamation suits.
- Foundation and nonprofit workplaces, including those that stay as hybrids of in-person and remote work, will begin to adapt to the needs of colleagues who are disabled and chronically ill.
- Crypto giving will wind down as the rest of the crypto world deals with the fallout of massive fraud and collapsing value.
- Trusts will return to fashion, especially as a way of creating funding sources for both philanthropy and politics. Bernholz references Patagonia Purpose Trust and Marble Trust.
- Twitter will cease to exist in any meaningful form.
- Labor fights against surveillance technology will increase globally, including within the nonprofit sector.
Bernholz reflects on what she got right and wrong about the past year. Here are a few of the notable predictions that came true:
- Crypto donations will increase.
- Restrictions on the right to protest will increase in the U.S. and in other countries.
- The number of collectives will increase. Bernholz notes that cooperatives and mutual aid efforts also continue to grow in number.
- Accountability for foundation pledges on racial equity will continue.
According to Bernholz, this is an important moment for digital civil society and philanthropy.
“It is a moment for digital systems that protect individuals, that prioritize safety and autonomy, and that distribute rather than extract wealth,” Bernholz said.
Read the full 2023 Blueprint.