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On April 1, 2010, Green For All hosted a Clean Energy Jobs Convening in Albuquerque at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Sponsors of the event included Green For All, Sierra Club, Concept Green, LLC, Renewable Funding, Central New Mexico Labor Council and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. The two featured speakers included State Senator Tim Keller and Jeremy Hays (Green For All, Clean Energy Works Portland).

(One of the event sponsors, Green For All, an organization based out of Oakland, CA, has committed to environmental and economic justice through the promotion of green jobs with justice. I honor and respect the work they are doing, and in particular am a huge fan of their founder, Van Jones. While Van left to serve in the Obama Administration  last year, they have continued a commitment to strong and inspiring leadership with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins.)

I just moved back to New Mexico from the Bay Area, living there for over six years, and it was amazing to see Oakland come to the table with a broad coalition of stake holders here in Albuquerque to talk about a model for promoting jobs with justice that has had some success in Portland. The goal of the convening was to learn more about the pilot project in Portland and then collectively work to tweak the model so that it can work here in Albuquerque – bringing a triple bottom line model of environmental and economic justice to New Mexico.

The convening focused on Clean Energy Works Portland’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program that is operating within Portland’s Renewable Energy Financing District. In 2009 New Mexico approved SB647, known as the Renewable Energy Financing District Act, which allows local governments to make available bonds (through federal stimulus dollars) to the public for the express purpose of increasing clean, renewable energy use. The bill was sponsored by Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe-25). Up to this point, no one in the state has significantly moved on the opportunities the bill has opened up for New Mexico. Santa Fe and Los Lunas are looking into it, but have not created a program yet.

Clean Energy Works Portland is suggesting that Albuquerque take advantage of the new bill by instituting a PACE program, but crafting it so that it works with our communities’ specific needs. Some of the highlights of the program Portland is modeling include: Read the rest of this entry »

There is at least one group in India willing to confront the issue of women’s relationship with their spiritual traditions, SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association). Mirai Chatterjee, a member of SEWA, points out in her essay, “Religion, secularism, and organising women workers,” that the need for attention paid to women’s relationship to their spirituality is imperative. She says SEWA recognizes the importance that religion plays in shaping world views and facilitating or debilitating relationships between communities of women. With the rise of communalism (defined as loyalty and commitment to the interests of your own minority or ethnic group rather than to society as a whole) throughout India, it has become increasingly important to understand how and to what extent religion/spirituality informs women in their everyday lives. SEWA has become aware of the use of religion by sadhus, mullahs and other religious leaders to forward their own communal agendas and the resulting devastation it has wreaked on individual women’s lives and the chances for alliances between women of differing religious communities.[i]

Amidst all of the communal devastation, SEWA has remained vigilant in encouraging open communication between its members from different religious traditions in order that “From this exchange [of both positive and negative religious experiences] ideas for action and further organizing could develop, together with a strengthening of our own bonds.”[ii]

SEWA’s efforts at encouraging dialogue between members include touching on issues such as:

  • communalism as a virus that, due to prolonged socialization, affects everyone and this internalization should be confronted;
  • recognition and emphasis on the positive, humanistic aspects of religion;
  • challenging the patriarchal, oppressive and divisive aspects of religion through a feminist lens is vital to creating alternatives, which are possible through introspection and collaboration;
  • women’s roles in religion and religious women’s contributions to society should be highlighted and understood- and not just leaders, but average’s women’s contributions through ritual, folklore and songs;
  • secularism needs to be addressed and an understanding of its role in dividing communities; disassociation from the definition of ‘religion’ used by communalists that only further divides communities and would-be allies;
  • encourage minority women to take up leadership roles;
  • encourage a ‘common civil code’ that respects everyone and is not co-opted by communalists and used to oppress women, dalits, the poor or religious groups.[iii]

(C) 2010 By Shannon Laliberte Parks. All Rights Reserved. Please Obtain Permission to Copy.


[i] Chatterjee, Mirai. “Religion, secularism, and organising women workers,” in Against All Odds: Essays on Women, Religion and Development from India and Pakistan. Kamla Bhasin, Ritu Menon and Nighat Said Khan, eds. Kali for Women: New Delhi. 1994. pp. 107-16.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Chatterjee, Mirai. “Religion, secularism, and organising women workers,” in Against All Odds: Essays on Women, Religion and Development from India and Pakistan. Kamla Bhasin, Ritu Menon and Nighat Said Khan, eds. Kali for Women: New Delhi. 1994. pp. 114-5.

Surge of Non-Profits After WWII

On the subject of volunteering, Susan J. Ellis, who wrote By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers, noticed while writing the book that surges in volunteering occurred right before and after every war. She says, “Military action evokes citizen action, and such activities have been remarkably similar from war to war…the first American peace/resistance movement began at the time of the Revolutionary War” (p.1).  And on the topic of nonprofits in particular (the notion of nonprofit, here, meaning the formal organization of volunteers into a professional entity), Peter Dobkin Hall of Yale University claims there was no conscious sector of nonprofits before 1970. Before this point (just before 1950), arts and culture organizations were structured and run as for-profit entities but they eventually migrated into the nonprofit domain, with tax incentives as the main instigation for the move. Interestingly, in the area of health, hospitals before 1920 that were nonprofit, made up only a quarter of hospitals in the United States. By 1970, more than half had converted to nonprofit status, one third government run and only 12% were private. He ends his essay with, “And there’s the whole issue of the shift of nonprofits from being donative/voluntary entities to being commercial enterprises operated by management professionals” (p.1). I must admit, that that is as far as I could get with respect to finding information on the history of nonprofits. I tried to research this by using other key words, such as “philanthropic organizations,” “history of nonprofits,” etc. That I could not find much information on the general topic (there was an overload of historic summaries for individual organizations) says much in itself. There seems not to be such an interest in knowing how nonprofits came to be. Although there is an interest in researching the emotional, positive aspects of people engaged in volunteerism and nonprofit work, but not much talk is centering on the fact that many people are choosing to make this a paid way of life now. Is this indicative of the refusal to accept that we as a society are not as altruistic as in previous eras? Were we more altruistic in past eras? Are people so disconnected with their own communities, that to “effectively” engage in this type of activity requires that they receive pay to work on ways to improve other people’s lives? Who is entering the nonprofit sector as professionals? People of color? People of privilege? Poor people?  Also, as Hall points out, the nonprofit historical picture is incomplete when public universities, endowed public libraries and parks are not included in this sector.

As far as surges in the numbers of nonprofit member organizations in Interaction’s database, I found that there were two large surges of nonprofit organization creation (and/or incorporation): 1940-mid 1950’s and 1970-1980’s. Thinking back on Susan Ellis’ essay, I would have to say this makes sense with regard to the surges surrounding war, with WWII and the Vietnam War. It would be interesting to further research whether the surges during these times were international or domestic efforts. Read the rest of this entry »