In the last few years, I’ve noticed a culture of deconstructionism sweeping its way through the social sector. What’s in vogue in this moment are populist ideas around tearing down the legacy systems, rebalancing the old power dynamics, defanging the established institutions of their influence. There is merit in such critique. The established systems and institutions haven’t always been just or equitable, and I haven’t withheld my voice from the chorus of progressive deconstructionists (faithful readers of this Insider will remember my exhortations of traditional philanthropy to take bigger risks and reinvent themselves).
At their best, these critiques are rooted in love, and quickly followed by new alternatives and approaches. At their worst, these critiques are lobbed as grenades and used to brandish a strident ideological purity that is quite content having deconstructed without any consideration for what ought to be reconstructed in its place. For the organizations committed to constructionist building, their ability to make true progress — instead of getting stuck in endless cycles of virtue-signaling — requires strong leadership that acknowledges the value in deconstructionism while also pushing its team not just to run away from what they hate, but to name and chase after what they love.