Courage where feedback loops would work

A bit of buzz round the 'hood at the courage displayed by Ami Dar of Action without Borders in a post over on Omidyar.net.

That this post is viewed as courageous speaks more to the power imbalance in philanthropy than to individual character. The problem is that there aren't any feedback loops in the philanthropic system to shape institutional accountability. With all the possibilities of open source, web 2.0, community driven content, 'prosumers,' (blah blah blah) institutional philanthropy hasn't had to respond to any of it - the fact that there is now a 'conversation' underway in response to the post is as far as this goes.

Time Magazine may think YOU are the person of the year and big advertisers reveled in having YOU create a $12 ad for the $2million time slot they bought during yesterday's football game. Much of this looks to me like the old "Tom Sawyer gets you to whitewash the fence for him" trick.

Using new media to drive responsiveness, accountability, and public commitment to the improvement of institutions is going to be a lot harder than getting kids with cameras to create TV ads for free.

3 comments:

Ami said...

Hi Lucy,

Thanks! And I agree :-)

Ami

Beth said...

Some on this attempt to drive accountability
http://www.youthnet.org/blog/page/blog/20070208

Read the comments.

kevin jones said...

The power relationships between funder and fundee are inherent; one has the power to decide much of the future of the other. On the other hand, Omidyar.net is a social network that potentially levels the playing field, but it's like the Bill Gates question. when he walks into a bar, the average net worth of all the people inside skyrockets. it's hard to have a conversation that doesn't take that into account. All the efforts on transparency that venture philanthropy funds try to bring to the table address transparency around impact and efficiency on their impact; the investee side. But what about transparency on the capital sources?

Omidyar is spending his own money and is perhaps more transparent than many foundations. But unless a funder has as it's fiduciary responsibility giving money back to investors to do good with again, what are the incentives that force transparency around decisions or performance within the funding vehicle, whether foundation or social venture fund?

What would move the meter on this issue? How could philanthropy be re-envisioned or re-engineered bring in some of the transparency that is built into the traditional capital market?

If it's a structural problem, technology alone won't solve it. But that transparency is part of a broader shift in the zeitgeist, that the technology is just enabling. To exist in this new world do funders who have their own pool of money really have to act differently?