Gonzo Philanthropy

I’m speaking about the power of food out at the Aspen Institute’s Environmental Forum this week, but I took an afternoon off to hook up with Joy Knox, my Colorado social enterprise soul mate (who also gets camera credit) to catch up on the work going on down in Denver, which is home of the country’s first Office on Strategic Partnerships, which we both hope that Governor Hickenlooper will take state-wide. We, and many others feel that this could make Colorado an epicenter of new thinking about the relationship between the statehouse and nonprofits, and we are trying our best to keep that dream alive. More on that later.

We could have plopped down at any of Aspen’s swanky digs, but we decided to drive out to the Woody Creek Tavern, the way-out-backroads watering hole of Hunter S Thompson, the legendary father of Gonzo Journalism, and his campaign headquarters when he ran for the Office of Sheriff of Aspen in 1970…on, of course, the Freak Power ticket.

I’m a mad fan of the Dr…..his love of bats, barbiturates and ½ bottles of ether made him an improbable sherriff, but his writings fuel much of my ongoing and deeply held belief that “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”. But more than the sum of his stories, or his legandary ability to imbibe, or the fact that he was the man behind Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke….he was a true believer in American politics, and the need for everyday people to own their power—to stand up for themselves (he once famously said “there’s some shit you just can’t eat”), and even, as he did in 1970, run for office yourself.

Hunter S isn’t for everyone….but he’s uniquely American take on power offers a potent prescription for what ails the nonprofit sector.