• Barry Hessenius is out with his second annual list of the 25 most powerful and influential leaders in the nonprofit arts sector. Bob Lynch (president of Americans for the Arts), who took the top slot last year, has to share it this time with the Curb Center’s Bill Ivey, who has increased his clout thanks to his new book and the role he played in shepherding arts policy for the Obama transition team. Dick Deasey, Sam Miller, and Claire Peeps, among others, are off the list, while Rocco Landesman, Claudine Brown, and Michael Kaiser all make big debuts. I’m pleased to say that I’m one of two “Barry’s Picks” (given to “younger leaders who…are very likely to grow into major contributors to the arts in this country over time”), along with my former colleague from the Hewlett Foundation, Marc Vogl.
  • In a recent series of posts here, I’ve been arguing that money and value are not the same thing, and that one component of “value” is happiness. Can money buy happiness? The conventional wisdom says no, but it turns out the answer isn’t quite so black and white. This excellent article from the Boston Globe explains why:

    Dunn and others are beginning to offer an intriguing explanation for the poor wealth-to-happiness exchange rate: The problem isn’t money, it’s us. For deep-seated psychological reasons, when it comes to spending money, we tend to value goods over experiences, ourselves over others, things over people. When it comes to happiness, none of these decisions are right: The spending that make us happy, it turns out, is often spending where the money vanishes and leaves something ineffable in its place.

    Any attempt to put these findings into practice, however, has to contend with the subtle but powerful ways money itself channels our thinking, and the ways it plays on human attitudes about sharing and scarcity. Recent studies have suggested that merely thinking about money makes us more solitary and selfish, and steers us away from the spending that promises to make us happiest.

    This line of thinking, it is worth noting, is very much in line with a couple of the arguments that Richard Florida lays out in The Rise of the Creative Class: namely, that the so-called “experiential lifestyle” is on the rise, and that having a network of like-minded individuals in one place greatly enhances those individuals’ experience of that place.

    There’s much, much more to contemplate in Drake Bennett’s thought-provoking article, and I highly recommend you just go read it.

  • This week’s BLOGGER ON FIRE is Sean-Stannard Stockton, with a great series telling the story of his blog Tactical Philanthropy, all leading up to some major new developments (the nature of which he hasn’t yet revealed). You can read the series entries here, here, here, here, and here. I’ve also been greatly enjoying Sean’s “Friday Afternoon Mental Health Break” videos, which I think are exceptionally well-curated and often have an artistic component. This past week’s video is from the Peery Foundation, which has been making waves among the philanthropy Twitterati lately for its unusually open working style (including the live-tweeting of a Board meeting). The video is great–a fluff piece, basically, but a really effective one.
  • FSG Social Impact Advisors cofounder and Harvard Business School professor Mark Kramer tells about a philanthropist with an unusual story of success, Thomas Seibel, and uses it to outline a vision of “catalytic philanthropy.” And Lucy Bernholz gives a preview of the paper she and colleagues from Duke have been working on how technology will change philanthropy. Lucy is one of the most visionary thinkers on the subject out there, so attention must be paid.
  • Seth Godin outlines what it’s really like to live on $2 a day in an impassioned pitch for the Acumen Fund.
  • Detroit’s Community Foundation Challenge, an effort to raise $3 million for arts organizations in the area, is both a success and a failure: a success in that it exceeded all expectations and ended up raising an additional $750,000 on top of the original goal; a failure in that technical difficulties caused numerous donor headaches and caused some people’s credit cards to be charged multiple times for the same donation. But hey, go Detroit!
  • The New York Times‘s Economix blog is finished with its cost-benefit analysis for high-speed rail, and concludes that even taking environmental benefits into account, a hypothetical Dallas-Houston line would have a net cost to society of $375 million a year. Obviously these projections are based on lots of assumptions and other lines may make more sense, but it does seem possible that America is no longer built for rail in quite the way that Europe or Japan were. Our country’s decision to invest big in highways instead of trains looms large 50 years later.
  • And via Freakonomics, Yahoo wants to try out a new model whereby people can opt to pay a penny per email message in order to ensure getting past the spam filters. Before all you net neutrality folks get up in arms: the penny goes to charity. Could this be a huge new market for embedded giving? (Though I fear it won’t last if it’s successful, as more and more providers will be tempted to skim a portion for themselves.)
  • More beating the drum for newspapers to become nonprofits. Though it should be noted, in no way are newspapers not already “allowed” to become nonprofit organizations. There are plenty of nonprofit media outlets already (NPR being only the most obvious example). They just need to decide they’ve had enough and do it. Meanwhile, the Knight Foundation, established by the family behind the Knight-Ridder news service, is funding an intriguing experiment in “networked journalism” (I’d call it distributed journalism) that will bring together hyper-local sources and mainstream media.
  • On the heels of last week’s news about the Netflix Prize, the Foundation Center’s PhilanTopic has a nice interview with Peter Diamandis, CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. PhilanTopic’s Mitch Nauffts also has a good take on the case for optimism in the midst of recession.
  • The Ford Foundation has released its report on the internal restructuring that came with Luis Ubiñas’s ascension to the President’s office. It looks like the foundation’s arts support will be hyper-focused on cultural facilities, particularly in “diverse communities,” in the near term.
  • I found this comment from Andrew Taylor on Les Paul’s death interesting.

    What’s extraordinary about the interview — beyond the obvious energy, passion, and persistence in the face of so many physical challenges — is his motivation for his inventions. He created all of these extraordinary tools and techniques not to serve a market, make a fortune, or even change the face of music. Rather, he was compelled to invent solutions to get the sound he wanted in the way he wanted it.

    Food for thought on the collateral benefits of creativity for its own sake.

  • No more Radiohead albums? The greatest active band in the universe is planning to release songs individually from now on.
  • Bettina

    Ian, Barry is right to include you. Your blog posts are thoughtful and full of great arguments. I wish I had more time to read all the scholarship and news out there; by reading your blog I feel I have at least gotten a glimpse. Thank you.

  • Ian David Moss

    Thank you, Bettina! I appreciate the response to the blog and it definitely helps me keep going. And I'm glad you find the Arts Policy Library useful! You should be seeing a couple of new write-ups in the next week or two.