Virtual philanthropy simulator

Scientific America reports on the latest development in SecondLife - using it to recreate psychology experiments. The clip - called "Don't stand so close to me" reveals how even avatars like a little personal space. (You can click through to NPR to watch the video clip of the experiment)

Watching this made me think about all the ways virtual worlds can change research. What if you, we, or a group of large funders used SecondLife as a virtual philanthropy simulator? This could be a way to build off the the non-virtual, non-simulated funding experiments like that being run by NetSquared.

Here are some questions that a simulated community might be able to help answer.

From the endowed foundation perspective, we/you/they could use the virtual space to see what happens if you show up at a meeting with a lot of money but no ideas.

  • What if you show up with a lot of ideas but no money?
  • What if you bring both?
  • What if you, as grantmaker, were held accountable to how you defined the problem, whether or not you engaged the right partners, and how much of other people's money you could move, by virtue of your own compelling, valuable work?
For social entrepreneurs:
  • What if you tried to rely on markets for every social good?
  • What if every market entity had to report out a "triple bottom line?"
  • What if every NGO had to earn 50% of its operating budgets from fees?
  • What if mergers/acquisitions were rewarded the way they are in market economies?

For everyone:
  • What if you ask the community to define not only the problem, but the process, and measure success?
  • What if every individual action were matched by an anonymous contribution?
  • Is there a level of transparency about grantmaking decisions that is too high?
  • What if nothing could be endowed?
Its not quite the same thing, but the Horizons Project is looking at how virtual worlds will change learning environments. You can learn more about it here - perhaps it will stimulate more simulation questions.

2 comments:

Bruce Trachtenberg said...

Your suggestion about conducting philanthropy experiments in the virtual world is intriguing. But what Id give to see some of those things tried right now in the real world. Things like:

"What if you, as grantmaker, were held accountable to how you defined the problem, whether or not you engaged the right partners, and how much of other people's money you could move, by virtue of your own compelling, valuable work?"

What if you did that?

abenamer said...

You don't need a virtual anything to do this. A good Web 1.0 site could do this just as well. You could probably do this with good forum software. Second Life is generally speaking, a bad simulator -- you can't get good analytics out of it since you don't control server access and don't have access to the server logs.