Charity Police

Philanthropic organizations are increasingly demanding that grantees measure impact. It is not the measuring of impact to which I object, it is the way this expectation is unidirectionally communicated and enforced. This paternalistic practice is an abuse of power that emphasizes control and containment over partnership and possibilities.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is an amazing example of trusting philanthropy (and I hope to be one someday!). Grantees are selected according to their contributions and are then trusted to make decisions about the best use of the funds; reports are not required. As a teacher, I take a similar approach with my students in the community or online setting. I expect students to take what we learn in class and to use it to the best of their ability in their context. My hope is to inspire change that can’t be captured in numbers or even words, and to provoke changes that are multiplicative.

With trust and freedom, great things will happen. Let’s share with each other out of love rather than fear.

Feedback or Critique

Feedback represents audience response. It consists of statements through which participants or spectators take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Critique, on the other hand, consists of complaints about comparisons with unmet expectations. Through critique, participants or spectators assert their power over the artist or teacher by instructing her or him regarding what to do differently. Different actions require adjusted thoughts and feelings.

I love feedback. I despise critique.

I have tried and tried to accept the advice that constructive criticism is helpful. I do not find it so. In fact, one negative critique of my first Fruition Academy class broke me down for four days. Four precious days of my life were wasted because I allowed someone else to have power over me. While I am open to accepting constructive criticism when I am in the role of apprentice or student –or when it is specifically solicited, I otherwise find it distracting, demoralizing, and dehumanizing. If I were to attempt to accept such critique and to allow it to change me, I would diverge from my true self both in concept and in countenance.


The first time I published an article in an academic journal, I worked with an editor whose political views diverged from mine. He used his power as an editor to attempt to censor my thoughts by excluding sections of my work and suggesting rewrites that changed the meaning of what I wrote. I begrudgingly compromised in some areas and firmly stood my ground in others. It was an ongoing battle with several rounds of edits on each side.

The topic of my paper was something that to me seems very politically benign, almost common sense. My analysis was balanced, thorough, and fact-based. Yet, it provoked a power struggle that led to a diminished message. I think it would have been more constructive to include my fully flushed out thoughts as a beginning point for dialogue or even debate.

I welcome challenge. It helps me to affirm my core while expanding my range of knowledge and understanding. Editors should challenge, not censor.

I am currently working with the best team of editors – at least from the perspective of this writer as an artist. They have yet to suggest content changes, only stylistic (capitalization, abbreviations) adjustments.  It is wonderfully unique for my voice to feel trusted and valued.

Infinite Resources

Some resources are finite: coal; oil; gas.

Some are renewable: sunlight; water; plants; wind.

Others are infinite: power; love; compassion; wisdom; hope; sincerity.

I’m not sure where money falls on this list because it is superficial; it represents  odd combinations of the above items.

Infinite resources multiply when they are used and they should frequently be used toward good ends. Finite resources are depleted when they are used and therefore should only be used in emergencies. Renewable resources should be carefully used to meet daily human needs. People should be treated as though they are infinite resources, rather than finite ones.

The three types of resources should not be confounded. We should not have limited hope or love because certain resources are limited. Instead, we can shift collective understanding and sharing of resources by using the infinite resources of unlimited love, hope, and power.