The Commonplace #1

We wrote in Essayings #1 about the idea of a commonplace book.   This series is intended to be that – a (hopefully) weekly collection of assorted ideas, quotes, notable news, and epehemera – at least peripherally related to social possibility.

Word of WeekGallimaufry.  I found this word and LOVE it.   Rooted in a French word for a stew made up of odds and ends, it roughly means a “jumble of unrelated things, a hodgepodge, a chaotic mixture of things”

—Poems are windows into possibility and wonder.   As recent U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith writes, “Poems call our attention to moments when the ordinary nature of experience changes—when the things we think we know flare into brighter colors, starker contrasts, strange and intoxicating possibilities.”

Smith has a 5 minute podcast (and accompanying or alternative daily poetry email) called The Slowdown.  A curated poem selection arrives each day, encouraging readers or listeners (depending on your preferred modality) to slowdown, listen, and reflect.  The selections, and Smith’s short introductions, are consistently interesting and affecting.

—Among other places, I was in Hazard Kentucky yesterday, which I’ll write more about.  The conversations there are causing me to think more about how we might better understand social entrepreneurship as a kind of spectrum.  As Bailey Richards, the city’s infectiously positive downtown coordinator shared, almost every business has a social entrepreneur element in a small town.  She talked about the tattoo parlor that supports fundraisers and events and the new bookstore that provides an important “third space” for readings and events.  Here’s a video for more on Bailey and some of the good work in Hazard:

— The notion of a social entrepreneurship spectrum may be important to remedy a much-too-common equating of social entrepreneurship with more market-driven, revenue-generating, scalable models that happen to include a social aim.  Jyoti Sharma describes this problem well in her piece for the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  A neoliberally framed definition of social entrepreneurship is problematic in part because it emphasizes the language of the market and de-emphasizes the beneficiary and the community.

—-One of the challenges we face as a country is persistent structural inequality.   I was floored to be reminded about the extent of the racial wealth gap in this Fast Company article by two researchers at The Ohio State University, Darrick Hamilton and Travon Logan.  Among other stark data points, the typical black family has only 10 cents for every dollar held by the typical white family based on data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finance.  Hamilton and Logan make the important point that this disparity is rooted in structural causes – as it was

“…government policy, and to some extent literal government giveaways, that provided whites the finance, education, land, and infrastructure to accumulate and pass down wealth. In contrast, blacks were largely excluded from these wealth-generating benefits.”

Read the full article here.