I've been reading Beth Simone Noveck's book, Wiki Government, which is one outcome of a "modest proposal" for peer-to-patent that Noveck posted to her blog back when she was a law professor at New York Law School. Now she is the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government at the White House. Peer-to-patent is real. Open government is a practical manner of working for many municipalities, states, and national governments - in the US and elsewhere. Those are pretty impressive outcomes from a "modest proposal."
At the same time, I've noticed that manifestos appear to be all the rage. Here's one on innovation, here's one on the internet (and the future of journalism), here's one on "awesomeness," and here's one on philanthrocapitalism. One thing I noticed and appreciated about these manifestos is their generous use of bullet points - so herewith, my modest manifesto on open philanthropy:
- Open sharing of ideas in philanthropy serves us all as we seek to solve shared problems.
- We need a Freedom of Foundation and Nonprofit Information Act. These organizations are tax-privileged data repositories. As such, their tax privileges should be linked to the degree they openly share and contribute the information, data, and knowledge that they produce for the public good.
- Openness extends to the interoperability of data - ours and others. Efforts to open government reporting, data sharing from municipalities and states, and open access to public records on donations, nonprofit filings, and public funding sources are all in the best interest of solving social problems.
- Experimenting with openness will show us what works. The Sunlight Foundation's recent "datajams" and Sunlight Live coverage of the health care reform discussions are a great working example of what information matters to whom, about what, and when. Their explanation of how they did it is fascinating - and further demonstration of "what open looks like" in practice.
- The ability to be open and our expectations of it are changing. These new expectations will change what transparency really looks like and how it works (Here's one version - the Cycle of Transparency). Philanthropy can guide this or react to it but it can not ignore it. Some leaders among large foundations are helping to shape the Glasspockets site from The Foundation Center, and the Center for Effective Philanthropy broke ground in this space. However, the most significant change is still to come - as the tools of transparency are now in the hands of the "viewers" not just those to be "viewed."
- Open matters to communities. Given the tools of today, we should consider at least the following possibilities:
- Crowdsourced peer reviews of tax exempt entities (e.g. nonprofits);
- Crowdsourced community needs and recommendations on social sector infrastructure;
- Mandatory online filing of nonprofit and foundation tax forms;
- Real-time data feeds from state attorneys general on nonprofit openings and closures;
- Real time data feeds of foundation grants (that can be mashed up with similar feeds from public agencies and other grantmaking bodies);
- Aggregated analysis of giving and loans from online giving marketplaces to show trends from the long tail. APIs and interoperable data structuring to allow these data and foundation data to be mashed up;
- Use of external expertise for developing and assessing giving strategies (peer-to-philanthropy model, adapted from peer-to-patent);
- Interoperable data streams from online games that generate social activism;
- Standardized privacy protections developed, agreed to, and used by public and philanthropic data sources to protect individuals' identity while providing access to aggregate data;
- Statements of usage and ownership for intellectual property that align with the nonprofit or philanthropic entities' missions, rather than the default use of copyright protection. Use of alternative and open content licensing where appropriate.
- The kinds of data and information sharing strategies that underlie efforts like CrisisCamps or Ushahidi should be understood and considered in all domains.
"A few more thoughts from me (which I also will go back and post into original)
- Data on embedded giving (affiliate marketing, cause-related giving - whatever you want to call it) needs to be open and accessible. This would include how much each company "give at the cash register" effort raises, how much is donated, and to what organizations. These efforts should be tracked and revealed in common visible way.*
- How we give is rapidly changing. We need data systems, and open protocols for sharing info on:
Our systems for tracking, revealing, and sharing data on these trends need to account for these revolutions and those to come. Otherwise we face the same disconnect between "data collected" and "actions taken" that we've had for years because we track foundation giving but not that from donor advised funds."
- Text donations.
- Embedded giving is already the MOST COMMON form of giving (according to recent Convio report).
- Mobile phones will become the standard platform for organizing, volunteering, and giving - Ushahidi and The Extraordinaries are the tip of an iceberg for how we are shifting to P2P philanthropy (See Tim Ogden in March 2010 Alliance Magazine (subscription req'd)
- Giving in games and virtual worlds.
One of the things we've learned from the open source software movement is that codes of professional practice matter - the early licensing efforts to create code that developers could access, use, improve, and share again are critical to how software development happens. We need similar codes of professional conduct and practice in philanthropy.
While the capacity to reach out to and incorporate community and expert input is all around us, the organizational impetus is to act otherwise. This is ever more so as the universe of social good producers diversifies to include nonprofits, social enterprises, social businesses, and corporate social responsibility efforts - each type of enterprise has different incentives for sharing their information openly, and we can not assume that greater openness will be the natural choice for all.
Several years ago I offered these seven building blocks of open philanthropy:
1. Facilitate adaptation, don’t hinder itThe tools we have today for gathering input, sharing data, exchanging ideas with attribution while encouraging reuse and remixing, creating sustainable enterprises dedicated to social change, and engaging multiple communities over time have exploded in number and pervasive use since I first offered those building blocks. Now is the time to consider en toto the systems and tools of giving so that they deploy fully the tools, norms, and expectations of our times. This will position them to work most successfully in relation to the public and commercial sectors and increase our chances of making lasting change.
2. Design for interoperability, local specificity will follow
3. Build for the poorest
4. Assume upward adaptability
5. Creativity and control will happen locally
6. Diversity is essential
7. Complex problems require hybrid solutions
NOTE: I accidentally pushed the "publish post" button instead of the "save draft" button. So now, since some version of this has already gone live, I am pushing this out there and acknowledging that this is thinking "in progress." I'll continue to refine and edit.
Please add to the list, "Vote" on those that make most sense to you, or upload the list to a voting system or turn it into a survey monkey and spread it around. The best manifesto for better philanthropy will come from the input of the many.