Sunday, April 29, 2007

Citizen journalism and citizen sector

Session COF: Foundations and the Morphing Media

Arianna Huffington:
Will the new media with its citizen journalists direct more giving to smaller nonprofit groups? She contends the old mass media helped inform philanthropy to the degree that it helped large prestigious organizations.

Blogs are obsessive (suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder) as opposed to old media's attention deficit disorder (what is happening in Kosovo? Anybody heard about Elian Gonzalez lately?). This kind of ongoing coverage could be more informative for philanthropy.

A great possibility. And something for the philanthropic industry to jump on now and begin to track.


Anonymous said...

A key element of a citizen journalism website in New Zealand (with plans to expand to other domains) which I am involved in, is that we give a web presence at no cost to small, community not-for-profit groups when a small local business nominates that group for a free web page. All the business has to do is take their own (very low cost) web page on our website. The website is

We are relaunching in a couple of weeks with a re-designed site, having run a 6 month pilot last year.

Anonymous said...

The tip-off could be found in the description for the pre-conference session for Foundations & the Morphing Media: "Foundations and the media have always seen themselves as agents of social change, both working to serve the common good. But there has been a dramatic change in the media landscape." And what about the landscape shifting under the feet of the traditional citadels of philanthropy, powered by the very same forces of technology remixing the media in this Age of Particpation?

The democratization of the media landscape has opened the space for citizen journalists. It is not quite fair these days to say that freedom of the press belongs to those that own one. Everyone can be a journalist...and even with a bit more integrity and accuracy than the Beltway stenographers who helped sell the Iraq War. Likewise, we are moving away from the notion that the power of philanthropy is only in the hands of those who control great endowments. The field is seeing tools come online that enable more people to bear the mantle of donor, even reaching beyond our borders (see We are witnessing a lowering threshold for citizens to have tools, vehicles and knowledge for giving. For example, at YouthGive (, we enable kids and families to open philanthropic giving accounts for any amount, even for $1!

The large, vertical, often unaccountable and not-so-participatory institutions of the four estates are under question and seige.The barbarians at the gate are seeking a place at the table, or, better yet, setting their own tables for niche communities of interest to thrive.

The foundation sector is perhaps the slowest to see and react to the transforming technologies of participation that will remake philanthropy in the coming years. As Jerry Salole of the European Foundation Centre rightly sensed at the International Grantmakers dinner at COF, philanthropy is living in a time of transition between past and future, an interregnum before its transformation.

However, few in the organized philanthropy world truly grasp how fast the seemingly slow to change foundation order will be eclisped by new practices and paradigms of giving being incubated in the imaginations and associational forms being tried and tested by the Y Generation. It was encouraging to see aging boomers at the COF media session grapple with the generational digital divide that needs to be bridged by foundation professionals who can help midwife the new patterns of philanthropic participation that will reshape the industry.

Let's hope to see a session next year at the COF 2008 mega-gathering in Washington DC on the Morphing of the Philanthropy World!
Dan Siegel