Newly Released: Blueprint 2016 Documents Philanthropy’s Role, Predicts Future Shifts

Blueprint 2016Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2016, the annual industry forecast authored by scholar Lucy Bernholz, has been released by GrantCraft, a service of Foundation Center. In its seventh installment, this year’s report explores how changes in the structure of work, especially the emergence of the “gig economy” made possible by new technologies, will precede an associated shift in the role and approach of civil society organizations. The observations in Blueprint can help social enterprises think about and plan for the future.

Bernholz documents changes underway in the nature of employment (as more than half of workers may soon be freelancers); the spread of automation; and the fluctuating value and liabilities associated with prevalence of digital data (the need to balance data collection against personal privacy rights). As these developments take place in the broader economy, they raise serious questions for civil society about how systems of social supports must adapt accordingly.

“Philanthropy can no longer rely on a system that was based on a world of the past,” said Lucy Bernholz, visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. “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?”

To accompany her insights on the “big ideas that matter” around the changing structure of work and the forces shaping civil society, this year Bernholz includes a new worksheet to help philanthropies and other social enterprises assess how prepared their organizations are for the broader societal shifts. In her “glimpses of the future” for digital civil society – which focuses on voluntary action, private resources, and public benefit – the principles Bernholz offers for the ethical, safe, and effective use of data require active consent, place a high value on privacy, and call for openness by default. Whereas digital data is the newest resource in civil society’s toolkit, standards and practices around the governance of that data still need to be developed.

Blueprint 2016 contains predictions of global events and developments in the coming year that are intended to help the social sector plan for the future. For example, Bernholz envisions that at least one new foundation program focused on biological privacy will launch and that social impact bonds will grow in popularity, despite disappointing results in those instruments to date.

This year’s “Buzzword Watch,” a regular feature of Blueprint, offers terms categorized by four broad themes: social economy and philanthropy; science, evidence, and integrity; infotech and digital; and biological technologies. Explanations of these concepts orient readers to cutting-edge ideas that may become common parlance in the coming year. Among this year’s 12 terms are “effective altruism” (an idea that one should seek the greatest returns possible for charitable activities); “thing hacking” (which refers to security concerns with the “Internet of things,” one of last year’s buzzwords); and “biononymity” (a reference to personal DNA anonymity).

Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2016 can be downloaded for free at and discussed online using #blueprint16.