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Pricing the Units of Philanthropic Work

In his 2018 book, “Bloomberg by Bloomberg,” former New York City Mayor and founder/CEO of Bloomberg LP, Michael Bloomberg, explains how his user-friendly invention of accurate, technology-assisted valuation of financial instruments became a breakthrough insight that made markets:

“When it came to knowing the relative value of one security versus another, most of Wall Street in 1981 had pretty much remained where it was when I began as a clerk back in the mid-1960s: a bunch of guys using No. 2 pencils, chronicling the seat-of-the-pants guesses of too many bored traders.”

Michael Bloomberg saw the opportunity to leverage technology to generate valuations in a way that nobody had previously conceived.

What the Bloomberg terminal delivered to finance, we propose to do for  charitable and humanitarian work  through the multi-step, technology-assisted approach to solving large-scale, complex human challenges we describe in these pages.

This requires re-framing charitable effort in terms of “what we, the stakeholders, want the outcome to look like” rather than in terms of which outcomes charitable entities are capable of providing. With the assistance of compelling visualization technology and a disciplined and indefatigable facilitation effort, the establishment of the superordinate goal, and then the meticulous stakeholder-driven analysis of the hindrances and obstacles to that goal, leads to the straightforward definition of “what needs to be done,” in a way that engages the stakeholders at every step in its construction.

By guiding the stakeholders to formulate their challenge from this perspective, the resulting problem description provides a natural framework for valuating effort on a per-dollar basis. Stakeholders describe their vision, their understanding of the problems broken down into finer and finer simplicity, and their weightings of the importance of the myriad solutions they’ve proposed to solve those more numerous but simplified problems. The simple performance measurement of each solution effort readily provides a measurement of how much the “needle” is moved — and in the right direction — for each philanthropic dollar spent.

When an accurate and unbiased valuation can be made of a commercial security, markets open up, investors act with confidence, commerce grows, and people prosper financially.

When an accurate and unbiased valuation of charitable effort becomes available, philanthropic marketplaces open up and become democratized, both donors and non-profit actors align themselves by “market forces” to do what works, and for so many of today’s seemingly intractable problems, the horizon of solutions comes into view.

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