In the first episode of “Giving Ventures,” DonorsTrust investigates poverty in America and interviews three nonprofits dedicated to reducing it.
We’re all familiar with the saying that you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime. But what if it’s illegal to fish in the first place? “Giving Ventures,” a new podcast from DonorsTrust, seeks to answer this question and others that get to the heart of reducing poverty and improving markets in America.
DonorsTrust helps conservative and libertarian donors grow their giving and, through “Giving Ventures,” aims to introduce donors to organizations that can help them advance their philanthropic goals. By introducing listeners to organizations effectively tackling social issues today, they also hope to change the minds of people who doubt that conservative or libertarian nonprofits are effectively reducing poverty.
In the inaugural episode “New Approaches to Reducing Poverty,” Peter Lipsett, podcast host and vice president of DonorsTrust, interviews leaders from three think tanks that are tackling a different cause of poverty: barriers to employment, education, and the homelessness crisis. It's worth hearing these stories to learn about various nonprofit-sector approaches to strengthening communities and promoting a healthy society.
FIGHTING POVERTY LOCALLY
So, is it really illegal to teach a man to fish? Randy Hicks, the first guest, and CEO of the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), discusses obstacles to teaching fishing over giving a fish.
He recounts the tale of a single mom named Shannon, who was offered a promotion and pay raise at her job. Shannon turned the opportunity down in tears because the thousands of dollars offered by government assistance was greater than her promotion, and would disappear altogether if she took the promotion. To destroy the welfare cliff that Shannon experienced, GCO recently launched a new project called Alliance for Opportunity, where they partner with the Pelican Institute and Texas Public Policy Foundation.
This project exposes the troubling relationship between incompetent government programs and a market that is inaccessible to lower-income people seeking to climb out of poverty. Hicks emphasizes that rather than trying to reform social welfare, this project is focused on “reducing the demand for social and government programs.” As a result, individuals like Shannon with the will to achieve self-sufficiency can take advantage of opportunities that come their way.
Promoting free-market ideals is meaningless if the message falls on deaf ears and communities remain victims of bad government policies. That’s why the Human Dignity and Freedom Project, supported by Matt Warner of the Atlas Network, is finding practical ways to ensure the principles of free enterprise benefit those who seek to improve their lives.
What’s the key to effectively communicating how free markets reduce poverty? Stay local. Funding local NGOs enables them to move quickly and respond to the needs of their community. “It’s what Hayek calls the freedom of time and place,” said Warner. “It’s what do-gooders and central planners can’t ever collect and use to make decisions in real-time.”
These organizations, which champion civil society and free enterprise, capture the nuances of their communities’ needs with accuracy and speed unrivaled by government agencies.
Fittingly, the Oakland-based Independent Institute is a classic example of localized nonprofit problem-solving in San Francisco, where homelessness has notoriously been skyrocketing. Graham Walker, the executive director, points to three key factors contributing to this growing crisis: restrictive housing, zoning, and environmental policies; the social assistance programs; and failures of California leadership that eliminate the bottom rung of the housing market.
In an astonishing show of bipartisan unity, Walker’s Urban Vision Alliance project has brought together diverse nonprofit and for-profit groups that are concerned about homelessness and open to free-market solutions.
Through shared values and a keen focus on individual lives rather than politics, the Urban Vision Alliance is working to provide housing for the homeless and help them integrate into the society and economy of San Francisco.
NONPROFITS AND A HEALTHY SOCIETY
By highlighting these groups doing important work, Giving Ventures underscores the central role of nonprofits in solving problems caused by government overreach and a restrictive market. Nonprofits strengthen local communities by providing a necessary buffer to those who fall victim to bad government policies. They create conditions for the free market to operate as it should: at the service of communities that seek to overcome economic hardship. In places like San Francisco, where the structure of society is at risk of collapse, local organizations can move with dexterity and wisdom to rebuild and renew civil society.
Giving Ventures should be a valuable podcast for anyone interested in a healthy democracy, a free society, and the role of the nonprofit sector in securing these goods.
Listen to last week’s episode to learn more about how think tanks and charitable organizations “can go beyond white paper and policy briefings and make real change in people’s lives.” And you can stay involved after this episode to learn about more organizations working in the nonprofit space to leverage charitable dollars and free-market ideas to promote a more flourishing society.