BK Non-Profit - Open Space Technology Breakout Groups

Posted by David Marshall

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This was Steve Piersanti's topic. Thanks to Jesse Stoner for acting as the scribe.

Open Space

Exploration of B-K Non-profit

Steve’s Question:

At times it seems like BKs ability to achieve its mission is constrained by its for-profit status. (e.g. holding conferences). If we were going to explore BK as a non-profit, what are the needs that are not being met, that we are the right community to serve? That Berrett-Koehler is uniquely positioned to meet. We have a big mission. Are there are other ways we can come at it besides book publishing?

Michael Larsen: (“dean of literary agents” according to Steve) hosts a conference every year: “Writing for Change.” Something like this could be done in different cities around the country. It could be an annual thing.  B-K will be a sponsor of it this year.

Catherine Nomura: being a really good broker between people who have solutions and people who need them. Connecting the ideas with people who need them.  Electronically or through dialogue or make it known that this is an objective. Like hosting a café – people have needs and people who can help come

Michael: an electronic café where people would come.

Muriel: invite other non-profits with similar missions or helpful . 

Jesse: Could you say more about what you wish you could do that you can’t because you’re a for-profit.

Steve:  We’d love to have many more gatherings of people . But our existing staff does not have the energy or time. Then you get in the question of how to make it financially viable. Would we need to make it membership?

Joyce Roche: Non-profits biggest challenge is funding. Non-profits often look to set up for-profits to help fund. 

Michael: streaming teleseminars and events that people would pay for what they can. Education is what BK is about. How can you use the web to educate people. 

Stewart Levine: You’ve got 400 authors. You could tell new authors they need to tithe 10% of their profits.

Deborah Goldblatt Goldblatt: Parker Palmers Center. And thinking of what Meg said last night. I want to sit back now. Having initiated so much work with the social pioneers. For social change that would be a wonderful forum or container for social change people. We’ve amplified these voices through BK, how can we hold that and nurture those circles?

Steve: are you talking about membership, events?

Joyce Roche:  With the Center for Courage and Renewal, they have created 20-30 trained people to hold the circles of trust and they convene on a regular basis by invitation. They focus on education. BK could focus on social change. Could help fund the non-profit from the BK for profit. It’s difficult to police tithing. People will either do it or not.

Will will be funded by grants.


Michael: could have an internet radio and television show.

Stewart: for-profit companies would want to sponsor

Juana Bordas: Should start with a scan of the market to see what exists. Two needs are classism and the other is agism. We are an enlightened group of people. We have knowledge, which means power.  Spoke with City Year this week for a reduced fee. Nonprofits don’t have development money to train their people. Can you imagine a core of people going out to train teenagers who are volunteering? These conferences are expensive and serve a middle and upper-class.

Michael: it could be recorded and available on the internet.

Juana Bordas: we’re getting old. How are we training the next group of writers and thinkers to take  our place?

Michael: have people go talk in high schools, colleges, senior groups.

Deborah Goldblatt: identify the next generation of writers and thought-leaders.

Si: I want to take a slightly different tack. You’ve got to do a scan of who’s doing what. There’s an extraordinary network of people who are doing this stuff.

What’ tough – is there money available to do it. 100,000 non-profits closed last year.   The first question is a feasibility study – can we raise money? Chicken and egg is you have to define what you want to do before you do a scan? You tell them what you want to do and they say they love it, and then they back out. You can’t launch a non-profit unless you know you have funding for the next 5 years.

Si: I think you stick close to BK core competency – publishing books and doing the things in and around books. I would suggest books that aren’t going to make money that are critical to the world.

Michael: OBE is for that. Internet radio shows. Aybe a building where this could be concentrated.

Catherine Nomura: Where I’ve seen young thought leaders emerging is on the internet. Gave several examples of how they get together and share ideas.

Its not that they’re not doing it. They’re doing it differently.

Jesse: There are a lot of things being offered but that doesn’t mean people are using them because there’s no way of knowing what’s really good. BK is uniquely positioned because of its credibility. Can help people discriminate among on what’s worthwhile.  I wouldn’t shy away from offering things that are already being offered. Need to find out what’s being used, not just offered.

Juana Bordas: Wondering about partnerships. City year kids wrote their stories. It’s a beautiful book. They published it themselves but its only available for the core. BK could take it to the next level and make it available to there.

Deborah Goldblatt – the World View Literacy program goes into high schools., 10 weeks. They’re looking for sponsors.

Michael: City College – would give you space. Authors will donate time because it will generate their own business.

Stewart: The 1440 Foundation. 1440.org  They just had a contest for technology that helps connect people. Over 100 entries competing for $25,000 prizes.

Juana Bordas: What is Fetzer doing with that retreat center? It’s gorgeous.

Steve’s Question: If BK were to start a membership organization, what should be the focus of it? Is there any membership organization that doesn’t exist? A source of funding, and an ongoing group that you don’t have to keep chasing.

Stewart: The Institute for Collaboration (relationships and connectivity between people)

Deborah Goldblatt: 

Michael: different levels of membership. Access to speakers.

Deborah Goldblatt and Juana Bordas: membership organizations are a lot to manage.