How we give

Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran this story predicting how technology will change the way we shop, entertain ourselves, get our news and several other things (specifically, how we search, how we make and maintain our friendships, and how we protect our privacy).

In making its (somewhat hesitant) predictions, the WSJ pointed to a consistent set of changes in technology that would drive the other social shifts - namely, near universal adoption of mobile gadgets, gps, social networking sites and data, and pressure to make public that which was once private.

So apply these drivers to philanthropy and see what you come up with. Here is my starter list -

  • Mobile phone enabled Kivas, (one of the recent winners of the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Competition, Always With You, may have done this by now)
  • Foundation program officers who make grants in the field and immediately transfer funds to recipient accounts;
  • Tag clouds of community-generated projects for urban renewal that are "widgeted" onto websites, blogs, and social networks; linked to by friends and others and funded through tiny payments affixed to credit card transactions;
  • Mutual aid societies that use P2P loans and community collateral, and also link instantly to other parts of the capital market for social good;
  • Real-time data on giving trends, aggregated from multiple online marketplaces, community funds, and even IRS submissions through APIs that protect individual identity but aggregate revenue flow. (OK this is such a pipe dream that I have to throw in a gratuitous link to this Onion post about Diebold voting machines)
  • Mashups of community assets, community needs, public revenue flow and philanthropic giving that make Maplight look like child's play.
  • Online searchable maps of social enterprises, community groups, neighborhood associations, and nonprofit organizations that let community residents shop for services according to their own preferences, e.g. accessibility, community knowledge and representation, cost, long-term commitment, etc...
  • Social networks built specifically as "mutual aid" societies - with permeable geographic boundaries and based on time dollars or other alternative currencies. Tool swaps, barn raising, loans for small businesses, rides to the doctor - think of it as Craigslist meets FreeCycle for Good, layerable and sortable and searchable and customizable by geography, age, race, timeframe, etc..
  • Charitable Reward Accounts that make our frequent flier status pale in comparison - since we now earn points on every single transaction we ever conduct, as embedded giving has expanded universally.
  • Taxes on our charitable reward accounts.
  • Millions of people left out of all of these things because they never learned how to use a computer, broadband access is too expensive, or their mobile phone service won't "credit" them into these systems....
Your thoughts?


Pete said...


Great ideas! On the last point, there are some promising signs that for a good chunk of those unconnected millions, there will be a way for them to connect, to tell from this post from Nicholas Carr:

Jason said...

Really great ideas. I think the future of philanthropy is really exciting.