Institutional philanthropy goes digital (slowly)

I often write about emergent forms of philanthropy, enabled or accelerated by digital technology. And I spend a lot of time looking for ways that established philanthropic institutions are or could be using these tools. Here are two recent examples:

HIPGive
Hispanics in Philanthropy is an association of foundation executives committed to expanding Hispanic leadership and giving and an international funders' collaborative. After many years of grantmaking and technical assistance to small organizations it has turned to the crowdfunding space to push this work even further. It has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Western Union, and California Wellness Foundation to launch HIPGive, a crowdfunding platform that will encourage giving to educational efforts. If it taps into a tiny percentage of the remittance flows in and among Hispanic communities those funds would add up quickly.

Why does the world need another crowdfunding platform? For some communities it may seem there are too many crowdfunding options (white-middle class-iphone-case designers, for example). For others, such as individual donors in Latin America, crowdfunding tools may not be familiar or trusted. HIPGive is about the networks, relationships and skills that it takes for a small organization or group of individuals to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. HIP is providing technical assistance on everything from marketing to matching grants. This is a great example of weaving together informal and formal giving, institutions like foundations with individuals and families of givers. It may also help claim all the many definitions and personas of philanthropists. The current site is being optimized for mobile use - as with any technology project it's constantly in process.
NewMusic USA
NewMusic USA is a grant making organization that supports the creation of new music. The organization resulted from the merger of two older organizations. When the new entity was formed it had the opportunity to design its grantmaking process from scratch. Kevin Clark and other members of the staff  turned to Kickstarter for inspiration, looking for ways that the application and reporting process could be useful to grantees rather than laborious and uncertain. The result? A participatory grants process that involves community advisors. A reporting process that uses the marketing of that grantees do of their concerts as the reporting for the grant. Yes, you read that right - the outreach activities of the grant and the grant reporting are one and the same. NewMusic provides an online system that lets grantees host web pages, concert announcements, do outreach via social media and count all that attention that gets generated via these systems as their grantee reporting! Imagine that, a grants reporting system that is actually helpful to the grantee. Who woulda thunk?

NewMusicUSA recognized that it could reinvent grantmaking processes using current technologies and behaviors. Because the organization is itself part of the community it serves (musicians helping musicians) the staff knows how real the time demands are on these artists.  It designed the funding process to help with marketing and time demands, as well as money. It

Both of these are examples of Values Aligned Technology. HIPGive has designed into it's crowdfunding efforts the trust, linguistic, cultural, and design features needed to encourage its community to try the platform. Crowdfunding - it's not just for hipsters anymore! Similarly, NewMusic USA could knew enough to design reporting defaults that served the applicants in a positive way. In doing so, the defaults it set for it technology mirror (and have nudged along) the default values in the relationships between funders and grantees. 

19 minutes on digital civil society

This was a fun interview to do, with Dave Erasmus of Givey (UK mobile giving platform). Nineteen minutes (in British and American English) on what we're trying to understand at the Stanford PACS Digital Civil Society Lab.




Beyond Big Data

What happens when a university with schools of arts and humanities, business, design, education, engineering, law, and medicine decides to develop interdisciplinary learning experiences for professionals, using the latest technology and assuming a global audience? And when they turn to former management consultants - experts in helping professionals learn new ideas - to help them do it?

Well, in one experiment you get Stanford's new Worldview program. A combination of customized online content drawn from faculty across the university, onsite interdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities, and digitally-native courses, lessons, and materials to work from in the meantime.

Is it the future of executive education? I don't know, but I had a great time being a tiny part of their curriculum for a new course on Data. I tried to convey how we use digital data and infrastructure matters in civil society should be driven by the sector's defining values of voluntarism (consent), assembly (privacy), and expression (privacy and data ownership).

Here's the list of suggested reading for the class. Check out the Worldview program - it might be just what you're looking for.*

© 2014 Lynn Carruthers, Worldview Stanford's The Science of Decision Making. Photo from http://worldview.stanford.edu/blog/big-picture-big-data-books-you-need-read
Here's one more thing to read - "The case for data ethics." Written by folks at Accenture and partly informed by Stanford PACS Digital Civil Society Lab's Ethics of Data Conference, September 2014.




* This is an unpaid, unsolicited promotional post on my part. I taped about an hour of video for Worldview, they may use somewhere between 0 - 5 minutes of it for all I know. But I spoke with them at length about what, how, and why they're doing what they're doing. I think it's very cool, and one more reason for me to be thrilled every time I realize that I'm lucky enough to have Stanford and Stanford PACS supporting my work.

Laboratory of human behavior...

"A laboratory of human behavior the likes of which we've never seen."

That's actually a description of a social media company. You can hear more in this fantastic Radio Lab podcast, The Trust Engineers, which Andrew Zolli of PopTech Means of Data Science for Social Good helped to create.


The idea of a social media company as laboratory of human behavior is provocative enough to push us to ask, where does science get done? Citizen science, wearable technology, remote sensors - perhaps we've turned the whole world into a lab of human behavior.

There's surely more to come - with virtual reality and the blockchain two predictable next digital frontiers for civil society. 

If the whole world's a lab, have you opted in to be a research subject? And have you thought about Values Aligned Technology?


Ethics, data, mission and revenue

I just finished a three part series on digital values and civil society. We'll have to call this post part 3.5.

As I did so, I was (slightly) relieved to see that the Chronicle of Philanthropy raised an ethical eyebrow at the growing practice of nonprofits' selling data and digital data rights in their link to this story from The Philadelphia Inquirer.*

This is a great example of the ethical conundrums facing nonprofits in the digital age. Gather and sell people's data? Nothing new in that business model - it's been working ridiculously well for social media giants and search companies for more than a decade now (works great for data brokers also).

  • Why should or shouldn't nonprofits sell data from those they work with? 
  • When should they do it? 
  • Under what conditions? 
  • Is there any nonprofit/mission-driven special privilege or pass or encouragement we want to endorse where this practice is involved? 
  • If there are special conditions for nonprofits or mission-based businesses what are they and who's going to monitor adherence to those conditions? 
  • And if there are not special conditions for nonprofit enterprises regarding their use of this resource, why are they nonprofits?
Please consider how the logic behind your answer regarding data for pharmaceutical research (as examined in the story) extend (or not) to other types of data, because it's more than physiological information that gets shared, it's also demographic, geographic, and other identifying information.

Some data may have real public value. Since many of us gladly (unknowingly? with reservations?) exchange our data for free 2-day shipping, the exchange of data for life-saving medical breakthrough may well be worth it? How can we value these exchanges? Make them more visible? And what spectrum of rights might we want regarding how we protect and how we share our data and for what purposes?

Got an answer to these questions for your nonprofit or your foundation? Great. If so, you are way ahead of the rest of the sector, which is still writing ethical codes that ignore the value and challenges of digital data.




*In the same issue the Chronicle is running an ongoing series of "he said, she saids" about "tech for good." It's not about how many drones, how many 3D printers, or who uses bitcoin - it's about purpose, respect, accountability, and with what limits and rights we pursue digital opportunities to achieve our missions. But at least the Chronicle stories engage different viewpoints about digital - instead of acting like it's not there.