Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ground level philanthropy

A few posts back I wrote about Steven Johnson book, The Ghost Map. It led me to thinking about the need to connect ground-level expertise with birds-eye expertise. In the book, two men find the source of the 1848 London cholera epidemic by using city-wide data on deaths, water companies, and sewer systems alongside door-to-door knowledge of who got sick in which house on what street on which day.

To better use philanthropic resources we need to be able to use both systems-level/global knowledge about things like crop production, water tables, migration patterns, and cultural values with local expertise about which families are keeping their adolescent girls home from school because of the lack of private toilets or which areas have been so deforested that solar ovens might now be an attractive alternative to wood stoves.

This website, Outside.In, doesn't contain the knowledge I'm interested in, because it is tracking neighborhood-level conversations and issues in places like the wired, wealthy parts of San Francisco or Atlanta. However, the idea and platform provides a glimpse into what might be possible.

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