Philanthropy Buzzwords - Full list




The list of top ten buzzwords is intended to capture the gist of the jargon in the year gone by and serve as a guide to terms you’re likely to hear in the next twelve months. Some are meaningful; some are satirical. Some may have lasting implications and be a catchphrase that summarizes an important idea; others will pass by as quickly as they came.  (Reprinted from Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2014 - available for free download)

1. Privacy
Privacy gets my vote for the buzzword of the year – and it’s one with real sticking power. Edward Snowden put it on the front pages, our pervasive reliance on digital communications makes us all vulnerable, and the delicate balance between private and public that defines associational life makes us all stakeholders.

2. Performance Management
This is the next generation measurement buzzword. We’re still working on measuring outcomes, but in the meantime organizations of all sizes and shapes are working to improve their own operations. Hence, performance management tools and buzz. Don’t be surprised to find a management consulting firm (or two) with just the solution you need.

3. Peer-to-peer services
Peer-to-peer[af1]  is another name for the sharing economy. There is an deepening schism among enterprises that help people share cars, bikes, and couches. Some of them are still rooted in a resource-saving, sharing mentality while others, particularly those funded by venture capital, have taken on the growth expectations and business practices of big ticket commercial enterprises.

4. Constituent Feedback
Now that almost everyone on the planet has a mobile phone, the cost of speaking directly to constituents is within reach for almost any organization. Getting feedback from beneficiaries has never been less expensive, though it’s still not simple. Using the information one gathers is also hard. Expect more and more efforts such as the GlobalGiving Storytelling project, the YouthTruth project started by the Bill & Melinda[af2]  Gates Foundation, and Keystone’s Constituency Voice work.

5. Makers
One of the odd outcomes of the digital age is newfound interest in old-fashioned handmade goods, such as wooden birdhouses, knit sweaters, and other crafts. Libraries, museums, and independent workshops provide space and equipment for these Makers. There are frequent Maker Faires, a magazine, and an explosion in urban workshops to serve the crafting needs of DIY-ers (do-it-yourselfers) everywhere. Makers especially like to mix and match the digital with the analog: think remote control robot inside crocheted baby toy[af3]  or hand carved wooden drones.[i]

6. Bitcoin
Bitcoin is a digital, nation-less currency with a value that fluctuates at rates previously only seen during tulip-buying frenzies and dot-com booms. It’s popular with financial speculators and some nonprofits, including the Internet Archive and Sean’s Outpost, a homeless shelter and food bank in Florida that uses it to raise donations.[ii] Because it can be “harvested” by anyone with time on their hands and an Internet connection it recently drew attention as a new form of panhandling.[iii]  


7. Commons
Nothing has put the old-fashioned concept of resources held “in common” back on the front burner as powerfully as the metaphor of the Internet coupled with our collective fear of a warming planet. Thankfully, there’s Nobel-prize winning research behind these ideas and some efforts, such as a new approach to development being pioneered in Ecuador that could put some meat on the rhetorical bones.[iv]  

8. Metadata
This is the data about data. Once the purview of coders and librarians, metadata came to public attention when the American National Security Agency claimed it wasn’t storing all of the content of our emails and phone calls, just the metadata about them (in other words, who we emailed or called, when, and where they were). Metadata has also brought down many a philandering politician, scam-conducting executive, and lying schoolboy. Human rights activists are particularly careful about the metadata tracks they leave behind.

9. Randomista
The tongue-in-cheek derogatory term for an evaluator or social scientist who believes that the only meaningful evidence is that which comes from random control trials.

10. Solutionism
Evgeny Morozov coined this term to describe the digital innovators who think they can solve every community problem with an app. Solutions, as compared to progress or adaptation, run counter to the lessons from one of our 2013 buzzwords – resilience. PBS even ran a program on this - mixing sharing economy with solutionism

Bonus Buzzword – Hackers
Those who break into, remix, repurpose, and create software code. Some do it for good – think of all the hackathons, codejams, and data–mining events where software coders and social activists create new digital tools for organizing. The term, however, still retains it allure of the outlaw, malicious “black hat” even as the mindset and skills of hacking are recognized for the potential positive outcomes.


[iv] Elinor Ostrom won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics for her research on the commons. In 2013 Ecuador announced a new development planning process to be led by Michael Baumens, founder of the P2P Foundation and a global proponent of commons-based governance.



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