Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The poll is closed and the votes are in

To see them you will need to go to the blog - I don't know how to paste the graphic into an email.

There is nothing scientific about this poll - it is a widget on a blog not a phone call from Gallup. There were 155 votes - I have no idea from whom, so even if 155 voters was a lot (which it isn't) we know nothing about who or what these people represent. We do know it is not a random sample of the universe weighted for demographic (or any other kinds of) variables.

Caveats out of the way...drum roll please...
When asked "How should a foundation's social purpose be reflected in its investments?"

31.6% (n = 49 ) of voters thought
"Financial investments should fully support the social purpose of the foundation"

34.2% (n = 53) thought
"The foundation's social purpose should be considered in making investment decisions"

24.5% (n = 38) thought
"Financial investments should not contradict the social purpose of the foundation."

9% (n = 14) thought
"Foundations should invest for maximum return and use shareholder power to express social concerns."

0.6% (n = 1) thought
"Maximum financial return on investment portfolio is all that matters"

For once I'm going to hold my opinion to myself for a minute. What do you think of those results?

Hudson Insitute Panel, Feb 12, Washington DC

Here is the link for the panel at the Hudson Institute on Feburary 12. Registration is live on the site and the event is free to the public though seating is limited.

Event info from the Hudson site:

Event Description

Several weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times published a two-part series on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, suggesting that the effects of some of its corporate investments are at direct odds with its grantmaking. This raises a question that has long roiled the philanthropy world: should foundations practice "social investing," by screening their investments to insure they’re aligned with their missions? No, argued American Enterprise Institute Adjunct Fellow JON ENTINE in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial: "The dark secret of 'social investing' is that it is neither art nor science: It's image and impulse. It reflects perceptions, not performance."

COVER IMAGE: Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected AgeOn the contrary, blogger and foundation adviser LUCY BERNHOLZ insists: "What Entine calls image, impulse and perceptions, I call values. If you are going to invest in public companies - which it's safe to say Foundations are going to do - thinking through how they align with your values, where they compromise, where you compromise for portfolio balance, etc. - is appropriate." ALLISON FINE, Demos Senior Fellow and author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, agrees with Bernholz: "Given the Foundation’s resources and ability to hire anyone from anywhere with the necessary expertise to review their investments, it is mind boggling to believe that finding socially conscious companies to invest in - to at least avoid companies that are specifically and actively counteracting their grantmaking efforts, would be too difficult or distracting for them." (For more, click here to visit Allison Fine's blog, A. Fine Blog.)

The issue of the Gates Foundation's view of social investing is thus well-joined, and on Monday, February 12, Hudson Institute's Bradley Center will pursue it further in a panel discussion with the above-named authors and scholars: American Enterprise Institute Adjunct Fellow JON ENTINE, LUCY BERNHOLZ of Philanthropy 2173, and Demos Senior Fellow ALLISON FINE. The Bradley Center's WILLIAM SCHAMBRA will moderate the discussion. Lunch will be served. Please join us.

More on social entrepreneurs and public policy

I've been thinking a lot about the intersections of the market, public policy and philanthropy. This has been going on for a long time, but I've been doing a lot of thinking in the last few days. These posts from yesterday and December 2006 show one line of my thinking - on the dangers of raising expectations about the potential of market solutions for social problem-solving.

Because I am traveling I didn't get a chance to read the NYT until last evening. So imagine my surprise to finish my day - including the blogging, pick up the Times, and discover that Nicholas Kristof and I agree on something. His column about social entrepreneurs has some simply awe-inspiring anecdotes about what some of these individuals are accomplishing.

Of course, it is the very juxtaposition of these entrepreneurs with the rest of the 'machers' of Davos that feeds my concern about unrealistic expectations and confusion about roles. (Thank God; the thought that I might really agree with Kristof made me need to sit down). Kristof mocks the abundance of policy leaders at the World Economic Forum but the setting makes my point clear: for all the phenomenal work that individuals and networks of social entrepreneurs can accomplish it is critical that the public sector do its part to redress the individual injustices and the context which creates them.

So, imagine my relief to find another Times article on an economist, Professor Dani Rodrik of Harvard. Rodrik may be committing professional heresy by focusing on research that shows that international trade policies need to be about more than just costs, wages, and tariffs. They they need to actively promote 'social insurance' policies as well. As Rodrik puts it, " insurance and free trade are "two sides of the same coin.""

Rodrik's work is beginning to influence policy wonks from Robert Rudin to Bill Clinton to those whose political careers still lie ahead of them. Maybe we could add Rodrik to the list of social entrepreneurs, because with changes of the kind he proposes along with the incredible work of the Gillian Caldwells, Nic Frances, and Isaac Durojaiyes of the world, we might actually get somewhere. Somewhere better, that is.

Use-able information for philanthropy

One of the best interactive displays of information for philanthropic use that I've ever seen is here, courtesy of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the Institute for the Future. This interactive map shows trends influencing education over the next decade. How do I know how cool this is? Besides having faith in my own opinion, friends of mine from nearly every profession - from graphic designers to corporate strategists to Blueprint colleagues to foundation executives to teachers to education researchers to policymakers have sent me the link. So check it out.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

AUDIO: Gates Foundation CEO

Free audio of Diane Rehm's interview with Patty Stonesifer, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, addressing questions on opportunities and challenges in grantmaking and the foundation's investment policies.

Disruptive philanthropy: the good and the bad

Not many people took note of this post from a month or so ago on the "myths of philanthropy" but it did get this response over at the nonprofiteer.

In the spirit of the Ralph Waldo Emerson's observation that "Great geniuses have the shortest biographies," maybe I should file this under "The ideas that get the least response may matter the most."

In just a few years the the belief that philanthropy and the independent sector are farm teams for market-based solutions has become standard operating procedure. In the last half-decade entrepreneurial activities have become required components of any pro-social idea, commercial revenue is seen as a 'must-have' in any project or organizational budget, corporate social responsibility has gone mainstream, and approaches that either screen the financial markets for their social impact or require market-based strategies for social benefit activities have become standard procedures (to say nothing of media darlings).

Why do I care about this conviction? It has already had many positive disruptive effects including new respect for social entrepreneurship and hybrid organizations, increased innovation in the capital markets for social good, and a more nuanced understanding of the operating costs consistent with delivering high quality services. These are just a few examples of the positive ways this conviction has disrupted the staid world of philanthropy and nonprofits.

On the other hand, the conviction has been fueled by and in turn accelerated demands by foundations that nonprofits need 'sustainable' strategies and that they, the foundations, need exit strategies. It has contributed to the growing role that earned income plays in the revenue models of nonprofits, without concurrent analysis of who gets left out by those fee structures.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. No one of these strategies, structures or market tools is inherently bad. A lot of good has come (and will come) from each of them - from ApproTek to microfinance to double bottom line investment instruments. I am a proponent of many of them.

Taken together, however, we are in danger of losing sight of the limitations of markets, the failures of markets, and the need for tri-sectoral solutions to tri-sectoral problems. No single sector created things like environmental damage, poverty, or racism and no single sector (or single type of solution) will fix them.

Here are the questions we must ask ourselves when we create, support, and laud these philanthropic/market solutions:
  • When philanthropic ideas become the basis for market solutions, what gets lost?
  • Who no longer gets served?
  • What metrics start to matter and which ones no longer count?
  • How do these approaches exempt the public sector from playing a role?
  • What is the role for the public sector vis-a-vis such blended solutions?
  • What role did each sector play in creating the problem and how might that help us think about creating solutions?
The irrational exuberance about bringing together commercial markets and social benefit puts us in the position of possibly conflating two related, but absolutely distinct, sets of priorities. . The first priority is to drive more financial capital to social benefit activities - through product creation, innovative structural practices, and market or regulatory incentives. This is positive disruptive change.

The second priority is the interest of commercial financial firms to drive ever-larger segments of philanthropic assets into their coffers. To the extent that these firms and their products help grow the overall resources for social benefit, I support their contributions. To the extent that this set of priorities actually diverts resources from social benefit work or further reduces resources available to issues where no profit can be made they are powerful, negative disruptions.

To prevent the conflation of these two priorities (by the public, the media, policymakers, philanthropists, and others) we must mind the cumulative direction of these developments, not simply assess the benefits or failures of individual actions.

Tags: , , , ,

What about social TV

When we think about television we tend to focus on the cost of Super Bowl ads and upcoming seasons of Survivor or American Idol.

But social media is not just limited to Internet or mobile phone enabled technologies. It has in fact moved in on American’s television watching habits. Part of this is simple math – 300 million minds divided by 800 cable or satellite TV channels, 200 satellite radio stations, another several hundred broadcast AM and FM stations and countless video games, web sites, blogs, and recorded audio/visual options means that we now have almost one medium per mind at any given point in time. So television can move in on social, community and cultural niches that would never have been possible when mass audiences mattered most.

Social media may have originated with the rise of literacy rates and cheap printing presses in the 19th century. By the mid 1980s social media was defined by the masses watching to see who killed JR on Dallas, legions of trekkies gathered around Star Trek, or the cultural commons created by the last episode of M*A*S*H.

Now? Social TV is being created by things like Current TV and the soon to launch,
Fora.TV. Current TV – fronted by Al Gore – uses content produced by users, integrates communications technology into the viewing options, and relies on watchers being able to email favorite segments to their friends. Fora.TV takes these capabilities to new audiences – namely folks who would normally go to a local bookstore to hear an author reading, subscribe to an independent lecture series, and join nonprofit or college-based literary salons. Fora will allow these kinds of presenting organizations to get their program offerings to subscribers via televisions, cell phones, and laptops. Subscribers will be able to comment, recommend, and send materials to others.

I have no inside information but might there also be philanthropic investments behind this commercial enterprise? Fora.Tv is still raising operating capital - perhaps a foundation interested in media is looking to make a PRI?

So what for philanthropy? Think about where you get your news from. How do you know what is going on in your community? What is going on around the globe? Does TV fit into any of your answers? Now think about nonprofit activists or community organizations you support, volunteer with, or fund. How do they get their message out? How sophisticated are they about communications? How are they going to get heard in this increasingly multi-platform mix of content? How can philanthropy help with these challenges?

I've just arrived in Washington DC for a series of meetings and has a chance to read the Washington Post on the way into town. The version of the TV/ community story that plays in this town has to do with two of my other favorite issues - the public commons and intellectual property rights. Smithsonian Networks - an odd deal struck by the venerable Smithsonian Institution and the not-so-venerable Showtime Network just announced its first line up of shows. The issue here - the Smithsonian is owned by the American people. Most of those Americans don't subscribe to Showtime - so these shows, built around public goods are for sale on-demand to certain gold-plated cable or satellite TV customers. Here is what David Bollier had to say about this back in April 2006.

Well, at least they like the name

The Synergos Institute and the World Economics Forum put out a newsletter, Global Giving Matters, which can be accessed here. In the December 2006 – January 2007 Issue (Issue #28) the newsletter includes this short story:

What’s in a name: Philanthropy 2173
Lucy Bernholz, [President of Blueprint Research & Design, Inc and] a consultant to foundations, writes Philanthropy 2173 (online at, a blog cited in Fast Company magazine’s December 2006 “Best Blog” column. The name of the blog was inspired by Woody Allen’s movie, Sleeper, which takes place in the year 2173.

“Among other things, Sleeper helps us realize that so much of what we think is true may not be,” Bernholz explains on the site. “Talking about the future – and making philanthropic investments – requires that we keep a sense of modesty and humor about what we are doing. Philanthropy is for the long-term – for the year 2173.”
Well, thanks for the link. I appreciate your note because it included neither of the two most common reactions I get from what must be the incredibly young readers of this blog. Those reactions are either "Sleeper? Never heard of it" or "Woody Allen. He's that old guy from New York, right?

Besides my "too-clever-by-half" title, is there anything else you'd like to add?

Monday, January 29, 2007

New coin of the realm

Or, another possible title for this post would be: The flip side of the coin

Sunday’s New York Times ran a story on nonprofits that ‘screen’ their donations. This practice is perhaps best embodied by Doctors without Borders, which neither asks for nor accepts donations from:
“…companies or their foundations that derive income tobacco, alcohol, weapons, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, biotechnology, oil, mineral, gas and other extractive industries like diamond mining.”
This is, of course, the other side of the aligned investing questions for foundations. There were only a few nonprofits mentioned in the article. Most of those mentioned were health-related including the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the afore-mentioned D w/o B. It may be that is easier for these organizations to distinguish between their health-promotion goals and those potential funders whose core businesses clearly run counter to these missions.

Other nonprofits, such as The Institute for Global Ethics, point out that they refuse support from funders that are clearly aligned with a specific political position. As the Institute’s President noted, “We’re here to help people how to think, not what to think, and to the extent that people see us as coming from a particular position because of the money we receive, it dilutes our mission.”

One interesting note in the article, pointed out by Diana Aviv of Independent Sector, is the competitive pressure on nonprofits to raise funds. These organizations face real challenges of survival that one might presume would mitigate their ability to screen potential supporters. Something about beggars and choosers comes to mind here.

It is important to note that even with their pressing needs for funds, nonprofits set screens about what money they will take. This complements the aligned investing discussion taking place on the foundation side of the house – where recent research notes a doubling of the “number of foundations screening their investments in the last decade” and “a tripling of the amount of new foundation dollars invested annually in mission related investments.”

I see several important trends behind these kinds of stories. Here’s a list:
• The growing availability and competitiveness of screened investments instruments.
• The rising attention to corporate social responsibility
• Multitudes of new structures for donors to manage and deploy their philanthropic resources.
• The proliferation of social enterprises and hybrid ‘commercial and pro-social’ organizations.
What might all this portend?
• Ever-finer screens on how organizations allocate resources to meet their missions.
• Greater interest in easy-to-use data sources that help users make sense of philanthropic capital flows.
• A blending of legal requirements that govern commercial enterprise and nonprofit organizations into a new class of rules for social enterprises.
• New cultural assumptions about who does pro-social work, who funds its, and how different types of entities act responsibly.

Like many things, these developments are currently unfolding on parallel and seemingly unrelated tracks. But, as we all know, when we follow the money they are in fact quite tightly connected. Best we act now to envision and facilitate the positive changes that such revised social capital markets, structures and assumptions could bring.

What does all this have to do with coins of the realm? Increasing attention to how missions are carried out - credibility and trust - in other words, may be returning to center stage as critical assets for social benefit work.

Great American Think-off

Here's a contest called the Great American Think-Off. Its sponsored by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, in New York Mills, Minnesota. The population of NYM is 1180 (a fact proudly proclaimed on the center's website). Bully for them for a) hosting the Great American anything, and 2) asking great questions, even if you don't choose to write and submit the 750 word essay.

If you don't want to write, you can always vote in their online poll.

The 2007 question:
Which do you trust more, your head or your heart?

2006: Which is more valuable to society: Safety or Freedom?

2005: Competition or Cooperation: Which benefits society more?

2004: Should Same Sex Marriages be Prohibited?

2003: Do We Reap What We Sow?

2002: Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword?

You can read the essays from past winners here.

Polls are still open

We're now effectively running two open polls. The first, on the right hand column of the blog , is our public opinion poll on foundations and aligned investing. We have received early interests in the results from two major national papers, some trade press, and a new ezine - so lets get those numbers up. Be sure to vote by 5 pm PST on January 31st.

Second, I'm building a list of social network and virtual world philanthropic efforts. Two parts of the growing list can be seen here and here (remember to read the comments).

Online social networks and Second Life philanthropy

Thanks to Allison Fine and Beth Kanter - you can add these examples of networked philanthropy to the list that is growing here.

More examples of SL fundraising.
Homeless Avatar - Raising money for homeless teens in Span
Summary of Early Efforts to Fundraise in Second Life (6 months ago, includes ACS)
Relay for Second Life
Yak Campaign
World Vision Gift Catalogue
Some examples of fundraising campaigns mounted in social networking sites ...or as participatory media campaigns -
Street Kids - raised $8,000 from $10 donations from flickr contacts
Creative Commons Swag Contest - you had to purchase some swag (how they raise annual funds, take a photo of yourself in flickr, winners get Lessig on their answering machine) -- part of an overall annual campaign that raise a lot of money - culminated with a party in Second Life.

Kansas City Cultural Center chaired by Jan Kraemer
Sharing Foundation (Note Sharing Foundation's fundraising campaign here started on Beth Kanter's blog down the left side)

And donors look like this:
Kevin Bacon's Six Degrees site
ChipIn (a widget that can be added to a site) or Network for Good's Sharing Network
Global Giving
Here is a resource site for additional for additional how-tos/pointers

Beth has a helpful case study of her widget fundraising experience at

And Beth points to Nick Booth's interview and his UK perspective how-tos:

Please Send More...

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Market that invests in Good

Check out, an endeavor of Calvert Foundation, GoodCapital, SVT Group, Collective Intelligence with funding from Lemelson Foundation, Omidyar Network, and RSF.

Its open source, community driven, and a wonderful addition to the resources available to social enterprises, social investors, philanthropists, and all of us who care about 'markets for good.'

A very cool feature is xigi maps - find the relationships between companies, products, people and places.

Social Network Philanthropy - Redux

Months ago (08.06) I posted a call for examples of "social network philanthropy" - something along the lines of SocialPicks.

Here's what I've found - please send yours:



59 Smartest Organizations list is worth looking at including their criteria

Avatar Action - which is a website and 2L world connected


Missionfish - which powers eBay giving





And there was's collaborative funding project

I'll keep thinking...Please send me yours

Sharing criteria

Sharing decision-making criteria is a practice particularly fitting for the web. Rather than trying to share best practices, case studies, pros/cons of certain philanthropic initiatives or decisions, its often helpful to know the criteria that others used in doing what they did.

Here are three examples:

The 59 Smartest Organizations contest has a list of its choices, with details on the 'smartness' of each. More important - they also posted their criteria for making these decisions - with which you can agree/disagree/fine tune. This seems like the logical starting place for anyone trying to decide how to 1) get on the list, 2) 'smarten up' their organization, 3) re-define 'smartness.'

Here's a post on when it makes sense to use simulations in learning. Three criteria - easy to apply across all kinds of learning opportunities. Again, agree/disagree/fine tune.

Finally, the whole issue of foundation's investment and/or grant decisions - each organization has the freedom to make their own criteria. These needn't be public (though that would be great) but they need to be known - and applied consistently - by internal decision makers. And again, they can be agreed with/disagreed with/fine tuned.

Back to taxes

Here's a story of a woman who is leaving her homeland in New Zealand because the tax laws are 'unfavorable' to charitable giving. This example, and the laws it cites - which have to do with the amount an individual gives, not whether they give - is in line with the research I have seen on regulations and generosity.

Philanthropy New Zealand has several papers on the tax laws in the country.

Another view on aligned investing

Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription req'd) has an article by Jon Entine on social investing - which he calls a farce. The article is titled "What should Bill Gates Do?" Here's a quote:

The dark secret of "social investing" is that it is neither art nor science: It's image and impulse. It reflects perceptions, not performance.
Well, but here's the thing. All investing is some nether-world mix of art and science. What Entine calls image, impulse and perceptions, I call values. If you are going to invest in public companies - which its safe to say Foundations are going to do - thinking through how they align with your values, where they compromise, where you compromise for portfolio balance, etc. - is appropriate. These are precisely the same set of questions the foundations are (or should be) asking on the grant making side of the house.

Here's another slant on this - business leaders of grantmaking foundations have been pushing for a long time to make grant making more outcome oriented and more metric based - more like the investment side of the house. My question to them would be, why bother, if you're not also attempting to somehow leverage the 95% of the assets that work as investment capital. Doesn't it make sense that the skills, values, compromises and tricks from the investment side be complementary to those being sought on the grants side?

It may be true that no single foundation's investment in any particular company can change that company - though I doubt this in reality. But, what if foundations and other endowments collectively said we're moving just 10% of our assets to alternative investments - that would be about $50 billion available in one sweep. What would happen? You'd have the same market making capacity (and possible overload) that may already be happening in microfinance. It also happened in the last few years for hedge funds and before that in venture capital funds. Endowments are a large part of the capital available to the financial markets - they can have an impact.

Entine, who closes his article today noting that he was asked to do research on social investing for Gates Foundation, will be on the panel with me at Hudson Institute (Feb 12, 12- 2).

I invite Jon (and you ) to vote in the poll on aligned investing.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nonprofit Commons in SecondLife

There is a great picture of the 2L nonprofit commons at Beth's blog.

The dancing man and the piano were making guest appearances - they were part of the TechSoup demo at NCG.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

and photos, too!

Thanks to Eugene Chan of Community Technology Foundation of California here are the photos from the NCG meeting on Social Change and New Media that took place this morning.

And here is Anil's Vox blog of the NCG Group

So, there you have it: A live meeting with SecondLife demo using Skype and IM, blogged, flickr'd, MP3'd and audio blogged.

So what for philanthropy?
  1. Did anyone text anyone else during the meeting?
  2. Did anyone take notes on paper with a pen/pencil and not have a cellphone/PDA with them during the meeting?

Public Self Reflection

In the spirit of Anil Dash's comments to NCG this morning - and starting a conversation: here is his post about his presentation and the event. What I like is the self-reflection he practices - "Here's where my assumptions were off this morning." A good practice for all of us -- along the lines of my daily mantra with my tending-toward-perfectionist 6 year old. "Today, I made this mistake [fill in the blank]. How about you?"

In further keeping in the spirit, I'm off to find out how to get a "what can I do better" widget for this blog. Please don't hesitate to let me know what you think.

worldchanging ideas from Zurich

This from the worldchanging blog.

  • Lex MundiLex Mundi is a global non-profit that leverages a worldwide network of 160 law firms to support social entrepreneurs around the world on a pro-bono basis. Managing Director Dave Roll, former chairman of DC power firm Steptoe & Johnson, and board member Ben Greer talked about their work to aid innovative organizations in developing countries using the first-rate legal talent of their enormous roster of attorneys. Absolutely a first rate idea.
  • The Elders, a new initiative being developed by Richard Branson. It has not (yet) been officially unveiled, but it sounds a bit like a real-life Justice League. Imagine a team of celestial personalities headed up by Nelson Mandela and who are called on by world leaders in times of great need (no word on whether they will use the Bat signal) to help solve difficult global challenges. I am not making this up: Branson himself discussed the concept in a meeting in Toronto last September.
  • GoogleSoft At an afternoon panel on Monday, Larry Brillant casually mentioned that he had just met Akhtar Badshah who manages the global community affairs program for Microsoft and suggested they work together. Badshah confirmed today that, when they met, a conversation in Urdu ensued (this itself seems noteworthy) and the two counterparts decided to explore a possible corporate alliance. Their focus will be to develop technology to enable early warning detection of natural disasters. Amazing what a casual meeting in this setting can muster. I wonder whether this partnership will have NOAA crying antitrust

Hudson Institute

So the panel at Hudson is shaping up.

In one corner , Allison Fine and yours truly will be arguing in favor of aligned investing for foundations. In the other corner, Jon Entine and a challenger still to be named, representing - I presume - the late Milton Friedman.

Given Mr. Entine's book "Let them Eat Precaution: How Politics is Undermining the Genetic Revolution in Agriculture" and my support for Denise Caruso's view in Intervention - we should have a lot to talk about.

February 12, 12 - 2 pm, The Hudson Institute

$1 billion to social investments

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Surdna Foundation are supporting an effort to move $1 billion in foundation endowment dollars into social investments in the next five years.

Find out how here.

Funders and social media

Here is the audio from NCG's lunch panel on Issues for Funders. The Panel included:

Anil Dash, Six Apart
Victor D'allant, SocialEdge/Skoll Foundation
Tessie Guillermo, Community Technology Foundation of California
Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, former investor, consultant, Omidyar Network

Moderator: Eugene Chan, Community Technology Foundation of California

What issues do you think funders face with regard to social change and new media?

Audio Link:

On changing sectors

In today's San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus has a very important column on the increasing social and political leadership role of corporate CEOs. He's pointing in particular to the news conference on Monday when several CEOs* called for limits on carbon dioxide omissions.

Lazarus quotes Columbia business school professor, Raymond Horton, who says,

"Today's business leader is more cosmopolitan and socially concerned than in the past...I wouldn't be surprised to see a more-aggressive stance on public-policy issues."

This is all well and good. But here's my concern. Lazarus also writes,

"It's becoming increasingly clear that our elected officials - Republican and Democrat - are politically incapable of tackling some of the urgent problems that require far-reaching and difficult solutions."
If we can't rely on our elected officials to accomplish these goals, must we rely on corporate CEOs? What about the independent sector? How can, should, and will the independent sector and philanthropy define themselves as the roles of public and private sector leadership becomes blurred?

* Monday's news conference included CEOs from Alcoa, BP American, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehmann Bros., PNM Resources, and PG & E.

NoCal Grantmakers - with audio

This is a first. I am live blogging a grantmakers conference. Hats off to the folks at Northern California Grantmakers (NCG) for hosting Anil Dash of Six Apart in a workshop called From Podcast to YouTube: Philanthropy, New Media, and Social Change.

Here is the Mp3 -

Workshop leaders include:

Digital Storytelling
Elizabeth Soep, YouthRadio
Ken Ikeda, Bay Area Video Coalition

Text messaging and web-based innovation
Deb Levine, Internet Sexuality Information Services
David Young, Life Portal

E-advocacy and web-based innovation
Taj James, Movement Strategies Center
Jackie Byers, Center for Third World Organizing

Video Gaming and Virtual Worlds
Ellen LaPointe, HopeLab
Susan Tenby, CompuMentor

Ah, workshop on new technology and the old technology barely works - looking for a microphone. Glad to see a very full house here at this workshop on new media and social change. About 100 people in the room, 5 raised hands when asked "who has a blog?" Almost all raised hands when asked "do you read blogs?" Dash has been blogging for 8 years. There were 50 blogs when he started and he thought he was late. Now there are 50 million - its not too late.

Anil Dash - co-founder of Six Apart, not so interested in technology but interested in communities and social change. Social media - media that you make. tools for connecting and sharing with people you care about.

Key phrase - 'people you care about.' This is the old saw for any medium choice - who is your audience?

Blogosphere - unnecessary term- we don't have an email-o-sphere, cell-phone-o-sphere, etc.

Three key characteristics of social media that distinguish social media over email. They are persistent, they support annotation, and they are social.

  1. Persistence - you create content and it stays alive over time. Not ephemeral as email or SMS. Email/SMS gets less valuable over time - it disappears when someone leaves [LB comment: hmm, not so much, just ask Mark Foley]
  2. Annotation - the ability to comment on what you have created. Can also tag (categorize) content - the community adds value to the original content.
  3. Social - wide public can get access to it, when they need it. Compares it to the horrors of the 'cc' line on an email. The challenges of whom to include, whom to exclude, what to do when you're cc'd. CC'ing says to someone, "you may need this eventually, you are not important enough to get it directly, but I am going to interrupt you now." Email interrupts and it may not be what you need when you need it. In comparison, blogs, wiki, etc. put the info there for you to use when you need it.

[LB comment] ... on timeframes and multi-tasking. His example: being in a meeting getting interrupted by an email newsletter that breaks his train of thought about the email he was looking for. Most of the audience is of a generation that uses email to be less intrusive than the phone.

He assumes 1) everyone checks email in meetings, 2) blogs are more permanent than email, 3) permanence means what?

Compares grantmakers to VCs. Grantmakers are "kinder" but play a similar role to the VCs. He notes that in Silicon Valley all VCs are blogging - yet these are people who get asked for money all the time. Yet they are becoming 'more open' - what he calls radical transparency - the VC blogs post how to get in touch with them (phone, email, skype, AIM, etc), they explain what they are looking for, why they do what they do, and when and why they say "NO." The VCs do this because it raises the bar on the business plans they receive. Also expands their social networks - they can find the person two contacts away who can make something succeed.

So what for philanthropy?
  • Where is radical transparency motive in philanthropy? [that is a rhetorical question]
People fear uncontrolled element of social media. What are the credentials of the person speaking/blogging? This is evolving over time - we are starting to realize that everyone in the organization has an opinion and can be a spokesperson for the organization. Everyone can also be a documentary photographer - simply by carrying their cell phone.

So what for philanthropy?
  • You have to be willing to cede some of the control - you can't control who will communicate what message.
What is in the social media? Its not all text. Its video (YouTube) and annotations (digg and Also need to think about these as communications channel - how do you do something and document it in a good enough way that it will get recommended and the people who need it can find it? These recommendation engines are third party channels to the old communications systems, which assumed you just sent what you had to whoever needs it.
So what for philanthropy?
  • Social media is massively 'edited' - through the recommendations/tagging process. The world can register its opinion of what you are doing. Now that is new for institutional philanthropy - feedback channels. Check out the widgets from DonorsChoose in which case individuals can re-post to their own blogs the gifts they've made at DonorsChoose.
  • Also notes that interplast uses its website to get public opinion about what they should do better.
  • [LB Comment] I'd be willing to make a donation to an organization of the foundation's choice if a grantmaking foundation puts up a blog with a link, "What should we be doing better?" Email me if you do this.
  • Modestneeds. From one person's ideas to a community of giving in a matter of weeks/months.
Point of personal clarification. He's often referred to as an evangelist of blogging. He prefers to think of himself as a witness.

Great talk. Thanks, Anil.

Video Games, Virtual Worlds

Blogging the NCG workshop: Video Games and Virtual Worlds

Ellen LaPointe, HopeLab
ReMission - a game for teens with cancer. Available on game download sites and at HopeLab. Its free for those with cancer. There are 50,000 copies out there.

How to work with oncologists and game designers? Ask the kids - what do they need to know, what matters to them? What did the kids tell HopeLab - make it real, cover the embarrassing stuff (constipation as side effect)

They also held a randomized study of kids - some get the game, others get Indiana Jones game. Surveyed the kids and took their blood over time. Impact - increased kids' knowledge about cancer, increased self-efficacy, kids took antibiotics more consistently and maintained higher levels of chemo in their blood.

Creating the game is expensive ($2.5 million to develop the game and $3+ million for the research study). It had to be good enough to compete with other video games (not with other cancer treatments).

Susan Tenby, CompuMentor/TechSoup
Started by TechSoup employee participating in SecondLife as a focus group participant. Wanted to create a nonprofit community in SecondLIfe - there are now about 300 active members. Also has a 150+ members in the associated Google group.

Its all volunteers, 2L avatars have donated cash (~$36,469 LindenDollars)

NPSL and TechSoup are the flickr tags for the community.
The NPSL Community is working on:
  • Comprehensive npo directory
  • Central community for npos to network and meet
  • Meetings are every Friday in the TechSoup space in SL at 8:30-10am (PST/SLT)

So far, awareness is really the outcome for NPOs in 2L. Its the same 'stumble upon' factor that helps musicians take advantage of MySpace.

Glitteractica Cookie - Susan's avatar.

This must be a first for foundation staff - SecondLife Demo, talking with avatars on Skype, IM'ing as well.

Blogging Davos

This is Arianna Huffington's view of blogging Davos:

"..Ben Hammersley, who created The Guardian's Comment is Free, said only half-jokingly, "If we're doing it from Davos, blogging is officially over." I countered that it was just the beginning of the next blogging explosion. "Today Davos, tomorrow the Bohemian Grove. I can't wait until someone is videoblogging Henry Kissinger running naked in the woods."

So what for philanthropy? Davos = an elite of an elite. Blogging = the rest of us. Issues being discussed = significant for all the world. Philanthropy = well represented at Davos, desperately in need of connection from the rest of the world. I'm so curious as to how to take the Prospero idea of a 'visual commons' that doesn't reflect a one-way view and use the experience of blogging Davos as an example of the need for talking, not broadcasting.

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Questions for Bill Gates

If you could ask the world's richest man one question, what would it be?

I was asked to generate questions for Bill Gates's panel in Davos. The panel Topic:
Scaling Innovation in Foreign Aid with one of the subquestions being "What innovative approaches achieve holistic and synergistic results, and how can they be scaled up?

We'll see what happens with that. What would you ask him?

Giving...its all in your head

And not just anywhere in your head but specifically in the posterior superior temporal cortex (pSTC in neurologist's terms). In laypeople terms - its all in the back of the brain.

This according to a study done by researchers at Duke and reported in the Washington Post. The study used students, computer games, and MRIs - and discovered that the parts of the brain that lit up when the students acted altruistically was not what the scientists expected. In the words of the lead researcher:

"Perhaps altruism did not grow out of a warm-glow feeling of doing good for others, but out of the simple recognition that that thing over there is a person that has intentions and goals. And therefore, I might want to treat them like I might want them to treat myself," explained study author Scott Huettel, an associate professor of psychology at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C."
In other words..."This is your brain. This is your brain on giving."