Colin Greer is president of the New World Foundation in New York. He was a founding editor of Change and Social Policy magazines, a professor for many years in the CUNY system, and has written several award-winning books on education and public policy. His best selling book A Call to Character (HarperCollins, 1995) is a progressive response to William Bennett’s Book of Virtues.
He says: “The Democratic party isn’t a live political party in most places outside Washington. It’s basically a message and money machine at the national level that organises itself every four years for a presidential election. Without long-term and serious attention to the local and state, it was not ready tactically to do most of the things you need to do to win an election. By tactical, I mean that you can win elections by winning just enough votes to win the Electoral College, and if you’re really careful you can get enough votes to legitimate the victory with a popular vote. The Republicans have been deeply engaged in the tactics of doing that. Democrats haven’t and didn’t. In the Democratic party there’s virtually no relationship between local candidates and the national party, and no relationship between the electoral campaign structure and local multi-issue organisations … (full interview text, Dec. 22, 2004).
… But if we DO want to engage new audiences, we must, as Colin Greer told us today, approach our new allies with a spirit of humility, listening deeply and harvesting what we hear as a prelude to action … (full long text of TCG National Conference 2006 – Building Future Audience).
Colin Greer – USA
A Call to Character is a unique family reader that brings together a liberal assortment of voices from novels, short stories, plays and poetry – both the well loved and the obscure – to enrich and enliven a child’s imagination. The unusual breadth of readings illustrates lives defined by hign standards of personal character, such as courage, honesty, fairness, responsibility, compassion, empathy, generosity and love. (BAMM.com).
His book A Call to Charakter.
… Formerly, he was Professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY. He is the author (with Herbert Kohl) of The Plain Truth of Things and A Call to Character, Harper Collins. Other books include: What Nixon is doing to Us; The Solution is Part of the Problem; After Reagan What? and The Divided Society. He is best known for The Great School Legend and Choosing Equality: The Case for Democratic Schooling (which won the American Library Association’s Eli M. Oboler Intellectual Freedom Award). He was a founding editor of Change Magazine and Social Policy Magazine. He is a contributing editor to Parade Magazine. Dr. Greer participated in and directed several studies of US Immigration and urban schooling policy and history (at Columbia University and CUNY). He wrote briefing papers on philanthropy and government for First Lady, Mrs. Clinton, and on education policy for Senator Paul Wellstone. He chaired the President’s White House Fellows Program (1992-4) and chaired the Funders Committee for Citizen Participation for ten years. He currently chairs Healthcare without Harm (Boston), The LARK Theatre Company (NYC), and The Culture Project (NYC). He serves on the Boards of the Teachers and Writers Collaborative (NYC), NY City Interfaith Center, Tikkun (California), Open Democracy (London, UK), and the American Institute for Mental Imagery. He is currently working on studies of philanthropy and social justice under Ford Foundation grants. (theatre communications group tcg).
Social justice philanthropy: roots and prospect, March 2006.
He writes: Activism wasn’t always dependent on organized philanthropy. But today, many progressive groups are heavily reliant on foundations and investor donations, detracting valuable time and resources from the more important work they do. I was reminded of all this in a recent conversation with Harry Belafonte, the legendary musician and activist, just before he went to Caracas with Danny Glover, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley to meet with Hugo Chávez … (full text).
Choosing Equality, The Case for Democratic Schooling.
He says also: “but we need to avoid the typical social engineering ethos which foundations follow that cuts off the experience and potential power of those whose condition is to be reformed and restructured. There have to be links between grassroots organizing and policy development. One should feed the other so that we get an ever-expanding constituency for change. Foundations don?t typically connect in this way and they need to. This means that foundations should support both intra- and inter-sectoral dialogue across professions and across race and class boundaries. Whether we like to face it or not, race and class are rigid barriers that philanthropy has yet to challenge seriously. This will increase understanding and then we will be able to communicate results to wider audiences and begin to shape public expectations. Foundations will then be able to prioritize advocacy of two kinds: firstly, that organized on behalf of people living in severe conditions and secondly, that organized by people living in severe conditions … (full interview text, Feb 2007).
… Contemporary sociologist Colin Greer in his Divided Society: The Ethnic Experience in America, (1974) offers a series of analytical essays with alternative ways of viewing ethnicity and assimilation. To Greer, the quintessential” making it story” is characterized by myths that “celebrate the democratic structure of American society”. Traditional scholars of ethnicity and immigration history have tacitly accepted the idea that there is an unavoidable price that an immigrant must pay for upward mobility and assimilation/Americanization. Most have refused “to question either the route or the outcome.” Greer characterizes this as nothing short of an acceptance of ideology: it serves to confuse social conscience by a romantic involvement with the magnificent triumph of some individuals over great diversity. It does not necessarily follow, however, that the spectacle of that triumph exonerates our system from reponsibility for the less fortunate or for the everydayness of adversity itself. One of the “ironic contradictions of capitalism”, according to Greer, is that “it perennially throws up the expectation of improvement among those it needs to exploit” … (full long text).
Find him and his publications on Open Democracy; on amazon; on ISBNdb.com, database: Bibliography of Greer, Colin, by subject; on Barnes and Noble; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google GROUP-SEARCH; on Google Blog-search.
Social Change Philanthropy and How It’s Done;
Alliance, Supporting community action on AIDS in developing countries;
Playwrights of NY Fellowship, photos;
Civil Society Watch Newsletter CIVICUS;