(how) will technology change philanthropy? This is a frequent topic of this blog, and also the subject of a piece of research and eventual article I've been working on for some time. The research has given me the excuse to talk to some of the most forward-looking people in tech, some skeptics, some entrepreneurs, lots of donors, lots of foundation executives, lots of people who work in nonprofits, and lots of other folks.
It is also partly responsible for the new project I seem to have launched with a blog post last week - the philanthropy policy project -(#philpo in twitterese) which will be an attempt to raise the discussion up from the weeds and tactics of metrics and online grant applications to the tree canopy and bigger vision of how the systems that shape giving and social investing can be improved. Or - as the tagline asks - can we change the rules to change the world? If you want to join in that discussion, please check out the placeholder blog, the emergent policy map (editable with a free mindmeister registration) or join us on Thursday September 3 at #SoCap09.
But let's go back to technology and philanthropy. Here's some of what my co-authors and I are working on:
- Mutual aid, human kindness, and altruism are not technologically bound
- Faster, global, easy access information sharing is a landscape shifter for giving, just as it has been for recording, publishing, stock trading, newsgathering, and countless other industries
- The data-scape will change in cycles similar to industries - and the last several years of idiosyncratic innovation may be about to birth a period of consolidation. The data-scape cycles are definitely beginning to have ripple effects out from the data sources to broader markets such as analysts, information providers, intermediaries, and financial product vendors.
- Remixing information from different sources shifts the business proposition for foundation staff, philanthropy advisors, family office staff and others (see many posts on the changing data-scape of giving)
- New business models for institutional philanthropy - not based on asset management fees - are being created as donors manage complex giving portfolios and rely on multiple information sources.
- Organizational charts, job titles, and professional roles in philanthropy will see a great deal of re-structuring in the next phase of innovation - managing grant portfolios will increasingly require investment-level financial analytic skills, information will be omnipresent so a market may emerge for strategy and analysis capacity, and top-notch program officers may find themselves competing to influence donor dollars across institutional boundaries, rather than simply guiding grants within a single organization. Imagine a marketplace for freelance program officers...
- Attention and commitment to causes and institutions is harder to maintain over time, and those whose work involves generating or supporting those commitments in others are finding new ways of doing it.
- The long tail of giving (pdf) has benefited from more dynamic technology innovation than has the head of the system, and the latter can increasingly learn from the former
- Omnipresent online networks have made exclusive information access and face-to-face learning opportunities ever more desirable.
- In a venn diagram drawn from acting, giving, and learning, technology has fully disrupted the two bottom circles (giving and learning). Acting (for institutional philanthropy at least) has been the slowest to change, but it too is beginning to show signs of disruption.