Weekend Reads: Social Entrepreneurs, Bond Investing, and Human Nature
As I was sitting down to compile this week’s roundup of interesting reads, I saw a tweet that caught my eye.
So I did the inevitable: I clicked on the article,”The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems,” from The Development Set. It’s a fascinating read. In my previous life, as a reporter for the Financial Times, I did a stint covering philanthropy. I heard a lot about social entrepreneurship, philanthrocapitalism, and the ways that some philanthropists and nonprofit organizations were tackling some of the world’s toughest, seemingly intractable, social ills.
The article opens with a fascinating imaginary scenario:
“Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you are a 22-year-old college student in Kampala, Uganda. You’re sitting in class and discreetly scrolling through Facebook on your phone. You see that there has been another mass shooting in America, this time in a place called San Bernardino. You’ve never heard of it. You’ve never been to America. But you’ve certainly heard a lot about gun violence in the U.S. It seems like a new mass shooting happens every week.
“You wonder if you could go there and get stricter gun legislation passed. You’d be a hero to the American people, a problem-solver, a lifesaver. How hard could it be? Maybe there’s a fellowship for high-minded people like you to go to America after college and train as social entrepreneurs. You could start the nonprofit organization that ends mass shootings, maybe even win a humanitarian award by the time you are 30.
“Sound hopelessly naïve? Maybe even a little deluded? It is. And yet, it’s not much different from how too many Americans think about social change in the ‘Global South.'”
— Christoph Dahn (@greenblut_kris) February 4, 2016
The article is thoughtful and sobering. “Resist the reductive seduction of other people’s problems and, instead, fall in love with the longer-term prospect of staying home and facing systemic complexity head on,” writes Courtney Martin. “Or go if you must, but stay long enough, listen hard enough so that ‘other people’ become real people. But, be warned, they may not seem so easy to ‘save.'”
Here are some other interesting and fun reads, in case you missed them:
- A BNY Mellon Investment Management survey recently found that two out of five individual investors weren’t aware that bond prices fall when interest rates increase, and vice versa. This prompted Ben Carlson, CFA, to pen a blog post on why bonds are so confusing. “Even those investors who do understand bond math often misinterpret what this really means since this is from the standpoint of prices and principal value,” he says. “It doesn’t consider total return. Yes, if interest rates rise a substantial amount in a short period of time investors will see losses in their bond holdings. But these losses are temporary when we’re dealing with high quality bonds. And rising interest rates doesn’t have to lead to losses in bonds. It all depends on the starting yield and the magnitude of the rate rise.” (A Wealth of Common Sense)
- If you’re wondering why you should own bonds, Isaac Presley, CFA, says, “Bear markets highlight the value and the important role that bonds play in a portfolio. The start to 2016 is a reminder that while bonds do have a low yield currently, they do still play an important part of building a diversified portfolio. While reaching for yield may seem tempting it can disappoint just at the moment the protection is needed. ” (The Cordant Blog)
- Take it from someone who has seen a lot in his career: “Advice for Rich Uncles and Others . . .” (The Big Picture)
Well-Being and Team Management
- “Need to Improve Your Relations with Others? Start by Getting Human Nature Right,” says Shane Parrish. “Most of us periodically struggle to manage our relationships, whether we’re trying to manage a company, a team, a marriage, or a friendship,” he observes. “The problem is that we’re often fighting, rather than riding, the tremendous current of human nature. And when we fight a tide we could be riding, we do ourselves a great disservice.” (Farnam Street)
- Scary, but true: “Many of us couldn’t quit email any more than we could quit electricity or running water,” writes Molly Young. “The only way out of these anxieties, especially if your job depends upon connectivity, is through them: We must get better at managing our entanglements with technology.” Young reviews four new books on productivity and connectivity. (The New York Times)
- The “always on” mindset is “dangerous and unproductive.” While stress can be contagious, the converse is also true. “Help Your Team Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout” (Harvard Business Review)
- A new study, “Leading on Mental Wellbeing: Transforming the Role of Line Managers,” urges managers become more adept at recognizing indicators of stress, depression, and anxiety among their workers. “Ask simple, open and non-judgmental questions about an individual’s mental health, give staff an opportunity to communicate what keeps them well at work,” the report says. (Financial Times)
- Can compassion be good for the bottom line? According to Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track, the answer is a clear yes. Not only does it improve your relationships, it also inspires enduring loyalty and is good for your health. (Knowledge@Wharton)
- Action addiction is counter-productive and the result “of an untrained mind.” (Business Insider)
And Now for Something Completely Different
- If you are a regular reader, you’ll know I love photography. This week’s visual treat is courtesy of Ho Fan, a teen photographer in the 1950s in Hong Kong, whose beautiful street photography offers a look into daily life at that time. (Where Cool Things Happen)
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image credit: iStockphoto.com/JLGutierrez