Monday, April 28, 2008

Philanthropic gaming

Maybe the age of philanthropic reality shows is over. Why might I say this, other than wishful thinking? Because the age of philanthropic reality-based gaming is upon us. Per this announcement about an angel investment on TechCrunch (thanks Denise):

"Akoha, a startup working on a “new type of multiplayer online/offline social game”, has raised $1.9 Million in funding from angel investors. The company won’t release details about the exact nature of their game until this Fall, but they have stated that it was inspired by “elements of social entrepreneurship, massively multiplayer and reality-based games.” As far as we can tell, it will mix user-generated content with casual gaming elements, both online and in the real world (think geo-tagged photos taken on a cell phone). People will play for both fun and charity."
What is reality-based gaming? Well, it combines a game environment - clear goals, challenges that get harder as you get better, instant feedback, social interaction - with a virtual environment - an online world or a digital interface - and an offline world - like your neighborhood or community library.

Where does philanthropy fit in? As far as Akoha's model goes, I don't know. The tag lines on their website says "Play it forward" and "Karma's Kontagious" - which tell us nothing. Maybe you play the game for points and turn those into donations? Maybe you play at being good/doing good? Maybe the goal of the game is "systemic reform of institutionalized injustices" or "entrepreneurial solutions to global poverty" - but that seems likely only if the game is being created by the communications department of a major foundation.

This development is interesting beyond just the gaming of philanthropy. It may be another example of embedded giving. It shows significant interest ($1.9 million US worth of angel investment) in some kind of social-benefit oriented game, often called serious games or games for change.* There is growing philanthropic support for games as learning environments and/or as catalysts to action as seen in the program for the upcoming conference of Games For Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's investments in this area, the MacArthur Foundation's work on digital media and learning, and HopeLab's Ruckus Nation and Re:Mission.**

I'm particularly interested in how the commercial investments in Akoha's product might relate to /align with/ run counter to philanthropic investments in similar efforts. This is a confluence of funding streams - angel investment and charitable investment - that I believe we will see become more and more common. As the social enterprise movement and philanthropic endeavors have worked to define social return on investment and the balance between public purpose and private enterprise, so must we begin to look at how these various streams of capital - commercial, charitable, public - come together around issues and within certain enterprises. This is the essence of a philanthropic capital market - all of the various financial resources coming together in rational, related, and mutually reinforcing ways to advocate for and accelerate social solutions.

*, **Disclosures: I am on the board of Games4Change, which promotes the use of games for positive social good. My company advises the MacArthur initiative and I was a judge for Ruckus Nation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Learning from our future

"How can I possibly keep up with all the blogs, tweets, texts, books, papers, and news I'm supposed to be following?" Every time I present at or sit in on a conference or workshop discussion about technology I hear this question. It is usually, though not always, posed by someone about my age or older, with a professional position, decision-making authority at work, and - given the kind of work that I do - an interest in how communities work, global events, policy and change, and social issues.

Here are some of the ways I try to learn how to keep up. Note, my requirement for these practices is that they may alter something I'm already doing, but not add to my to-do list. Why? Because that list is already too long and adding to it ensures that something won't get done.

  1. Only join boards of directors on which you will be surrounded by people significantly younger than you;
  2. Mimic your kids for a day and watch how they get their information. Then try it.
  3. Arrange a meeting to happen at a local community college, high school, or university campus. Arrive 5 minutes early and stay 5 minutes late and watch what students do.
  4. Next time you are stuck at the airport pick your face up from your laptop, look around for someone 10-20 years younger than you, and watch how they work.
  5. Same as above but watch someone 10-20 years older than you. Compare with what you saw in number four above.
  6. Walk somewhere everyday and think about what you've done or learned that day.
OK, since this is not a blog about time management you may now fairly ask me, So what? Well, the next generation of technology users, the next generation of information producers and consumers, and the next generation of our work colleagues are all now one and the same. I want to be able to keep up with them, know where they look for information, how they expect to receive information, and with whom and how they build working relationships.

For some expert information on this, I I highly recommend checking out this panel from the recent discussion "From MySpace to HipHop: New Media in the Everyday Lives of Youth." Produced in line with the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative the panel featured Mimi Ito, danah boyd, Heather Horst, and Dilan Mahendran discussing three years of ethnographic research about young people and media.

Don't let the fact that you missed the actual panel stop you - this is one of the first things to realize about learning and these media. The event is online here, it took place in SecondLife, and you can cruise around the web to find out more. Remember this next time you are organizing something - people will come to your event, and expect it to be captured and saved for them to consume whenever they want.

Disclosure: My company works with the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Initiative

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The price of trust

I have a much longer post on health disparities, race, and insidious marketing techniques that mis-appropriate people's trust people, but I'm still working on it. However, this evening, I heard this story on the radio (KQED, broadcast of All Things Considered) and had to get this down now.

In the story (transcript pending) Douglas Kamerow comments on the news that Merck pharmaceuticals may have written stories about VIOXX and then published those stories in medical journals under the names of medical doctors and researchers who the drug company has paid. The practice is politely called guest authorship - doctors and scientists are paid to lend their names to studies. Some call it by the more devious name ghost authorship - in which the company pays for the research and hires ghostwriters - masking its own involvement in the research but making sure it gets into the medical journals and literature that matter most to your doctor and mine.

Kamerow's commentary tells of articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine that discussed the benefits of a lung cancer screening tool. "On investigation" (Kamerow's words) the study was found to have been paid for by foundation funds. A foundation set up entirely by tobacco industry money. Five words in a Google search revealed this (from the New England Journal of Medicine):

"The Lung Cancer Screening Group's research was funded by 32 different entities, one of which was the Foundation for Lung Cancer: Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment. It has not been our practice to inquire about the specific sources of funding of foundations such as this. We recently learned, however, that this foundation was headed by the principal investigator of the 2006 study, that it was housed at her academic institution, and that the only contributor during most of its existence was the Vector Group, the parent company of Liggett, a major tobacco company. We and our readers were surprised to learn that the source of the funding of the charitable foundation was, in fact, a large corporation that could have an interest in the study results."

SourceWatch had this to say about the event:

Vector claims it exerted no control or influence over the research, but some tobacco control advocates believe Liggett funded the study to show that lung cancer is not as bad as many have long believed since such a high proportion of people who get lung cancer, a disease closely associated with cigarette smoke exposure, can be saved by screening.

Henschke's study, and her Foundation, also raised questions about the use of foundations to shield information about funders -- and particularly corporate donors -- from publishers and the public.

And here is what is posted on the Weill Cornell Medical College site, where the doctor behind the Foundation for Lung Cancer: Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment and the study in NEJM are located.

The Foundation for Lung Cancer: Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment received an unrestricted gift of $3.6 million from the Vector Group, the holding company for Liggett Tobacco, in a series of payments, from July 2000 to June 2003. The gift was used appropriately for the public good -- to support Weill Cornell Medical College's highly regarded, multi-institutional, international I-ELCAP [International-Early Lung Cancer Action Program], whose objective is to perform CT screening research for lung cancer in order to determine whether such screening improves cure rates for persons at risk.

The original $2.4 million pledge to the Foundation -- and the work funded by the Foundation at Weill Cornell -- was fully and publicly disclosed at the time through a press release, and was substantially covered in the lay media. It was discussed and disclosed in the academic community at conferences, which were widely attended by advocacy groups, agencies, and by investigators from around the world interested in lung cancer screening. It was also fully disclosed to other foundations and groups wishing to contribute funds to I-ELCAP.

The other post I am working on involves a letter from a major labor union encouraging its members to ask their doctors for a certain drug prescription. This is well-covered on the HealthBeat blog here. The title of the post, "Pfizer enlists a Labor Union (SEIU) to Promote the "Cholesterol Con"" gets to the heart of the matter - after all, why would a labor union be recommending drugs to its members?

These are troublesome practices. For (at least) the last seven years the public trust in nonprofits - be they universities, foundations, labor unions, social service organizations, publishers, health providers, or any other kind of organization in the sector - has been on the decline. Confidence in the sector hovers in the mid 60th percentile.

And here's the irony - these kind of marketing shenanigans involve a lot of players - corporate interests, individuals (the doctors), nonprofits, the media, and the public. Yet at the end of the day only one of these - the nonprofits - will pay the highest cost in terms of trust and confidence. Why is that ironic? Because these organizations have the most riding on keeping that trust and confidence.

In other words, these schemes in which the funders of research or opinions are paying others to serve as a mask for their vested interests will destroy the "reputational capital" of the others, be they medical journals or labor unions. But at the end of the day, the effect that they have on on the original vested interests will be minor and fleeting.

As a society we're likely to "pooh pooh" the bad behavior of tobacco or drug companies, or shake our heads in disgust and then move on. But somewhere in our minds, when we remember the story of the doctors and the lung cancer study, what we'll remember most accurately is that there was a nonprofit somewhere in the mix in that story. And later, when we are asked whether or not we trust nonprofits we'll think back to these stories. We won't remember the details (like how the nonprofit medical journal uncovered the funding coverup) but we'll remember there was something fishy in there. And we'll cast our doubt on the nonprofits. Our confidence will slip. Our trust diminish.

That is a high price to pay.

Your digital age

My SSIR blog post from yesterday updates the philanthropy adoption cycle I first posted here.

Versions 1.0 and 1.1 of this are somewhat tongue in cheek (yes, I am trying to provoke some kind of discussion) I am seriously thinking about the paths and timing and cycles and barriers to the application of technology to philanthropy. I'm doing this for several reasons:
  • I need some conceptual frame to the booms and busts and "next new things" coverage of technology as I try to make sense of where philanthropy is going;
  • Tech adoption cycles in other industries are only somewhat useful for thinking about philanthropy, because of the voluntary nature and passion-driven elements of philanthropic entities;
  • I'm curious about this stuff; and
  • It will be part of the new book I'm working on, and similar questions are already part of books like Momentum and, I anticipate, CauseWired.
I welcome any thoughts or refinements to my thoughts as posted here or here.

I was also struck by this tool to calculate your digital age, a joking yet engaging marketing tool put out by Orange Telecom. It is a bit like potato chips - I bet you won't being able to resist taking this survey and finding out if your "internet age." Are you an "online infant or virtual veteran? Find out here. Hat tip to Bryan Miller at Giving in a Digital World.

BTW, I am 13 in Internet years, according to Orange Telecom, which the survey tells me means
"You know the internet like the back of your hand. Still, the internet changes on a daily basis so it's going to be exciting trying to keep up."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The difference between dreams and nightmares - Goldman Prize 2

By now, you've read about the winners of the Goldman Prize. You've also seen the full page ad taken out by Chevron, claiming the Foundation was duped (that is my word, Chevron says the foundation was "misled" by two "con men.") You may even have heard the Foundation's response, explaining the process it uses to select the prize winners. "...[including a]... nomination process that includes research by environmental experts from 50 organizations and five months of fact-checking by foundation staff." Richard Goldman, founder of the foundation and the prize, pulled no punches in explaining Chevron's perspective:
"As for Chevron's contention that it's been scapegoated in the process, Goldman said, "If you had a bunch of stockholders out there, what would you say?"
What you didn't read in the paper or hear on the radio was one of this year's winners, Ignace Schops of Belgium, reminding us that "Martin Luther King Jr did not motivate people by having a nightmare. He had a dream." Similarly, Rosa-Hilda Ramos, of Puerto Rico, might have unleashed the next big thing in San Francisco activism by sharing her story of "invading" the Puerto Rican legislature with thousands of schoolchildren dressed as butterflies.

What you also heard (if you were at the event) was the spirited applause and heartfelt appreciation from audience members as the winners took the stage and spoke of the community-centered nature of their work. In Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, and English each of the winners noted that they were honored to receive the award on behalf of their campesinos/as, colleagues, allies, families, neighbors, etc. Not one of them took sole credit for their accomplishments. They made no pretense of doing the the work by themselves. For some of them their humility in the spotlight was a treasured reminder that people do good for good's sake, not for honors or awards.

And they do so at considerable individual risk - several spoke of direct threats or actions taken against them and their family members. The work gets done with community, for community. Direct threats get made against individuals.

Mr. Goldman noted that we are all threatened by mis-directed policies and wrong-headed leaders. He spoke candidly of the forces working against the goals of the foundation and all others who care about the environment. He called for both individual and government action to turn the tide of climate change and noted his belief that we each must change our behaviors and we must change our governments and policies.

It would be easy to focus only on the controversies and conflicts that underlie this work - you can watch videos that describe the efforts of each of the winners. These reveal story after story of local communities fighting against international companies and the deflating local effects of international trade agreements or nationalized energy policies. But the videos (new and old)- and the event's inclusion of updates on past winners and their continued efforts and successes - also reveal the community nature of environmental advocacy, the multi-generational aspects of environmental concerns,* and the hardiness of the planet itself.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gaming for Gorillas

Since I am working out some ideas on how and why and when philanthropic foundations adopt technology and because I am on the advisory board of Games4Change and because I am going to the Goldman Environmental Prizes celebration tonight and because I thought this NYT story on mobile phone anthropologist Jan Chipchase was fascinating and because we advise the MacArthur Foundation on their Digital Media and Learning Initiative -- I thought I'd draw your attention to a revised version of a mobile phone game that generates cash for gorilla has a little bit of everything...and is being re-launched today as Silverbacker.

If you want to pick up where I left off on the role that cellphones play in organizing change - do read the NYT story on Chipchase and follow these links from his website to trends and research. Also check out - a partner in Silverbacker and an African NGO bringing technology to African and other NGOs.

Goldman Environmental Prizes

Here are the winners of the 2008 Goldman Prize: (I'll have more to say tomorrow, after the big celebration).

North America
Jesús León Santos, 42, Mexico: In Oaxaca, where unsustainable land-use practices have made it one of the world’s most highly-eroded areas, León initiated a land renewal program that employs ancient indigenous practices to transform depleted soil into arable land.

Feliciano dos Santos, 43, Mozambique: Using traditional music, grassroots outreach and innovative technology to bring sanitation to the most remote corners of Mozambique, Santos empowered villagers to participate in sustainable development and rise up from poverty.

Marina Rikhvanova, 46, Russia: As Russia expands its petroleum and nuclear interests, Rikhvanova campaigned to protect Siberia’s Lake Baikal, one of the world’s most important bodies of fresh water, from environmental devastation brought on by these polluting industries.

South & Central America
Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and Luis Yanza, 35 & 48, Ecuador: In the Ecuadorian Amazon, Fajardo and Yanza led one of the largest environmental legal battles in history against oil giant Chevron, demanding justice for the massive petroleum pollution in the region.

Ignace Schops, 43, Belgium: Belgium Raising more than $90 million by bringing together private industry, regional governments, and local stakeholders, Schops led the effort to establish Belgium’s first and only national park, protecting one of the largest open green spaces in the country.

Islands & Island Nations
Rosa Hilda Ramos, 63, Puerto Rico: In the shadow of polluting factories in Cataño, Ramos led the movement to permanently protect the Las Cucharillas Marsh, one of the last open spaces in the area and one of the largest wetlands ecosystems in the region.

One note of note - this is the first time I've seen a story of philanthropically-supported prize winners run in the paper on the same day as an announcement of corporate unhappiness about said prize winners. From Matier & Ross in Sunday's SF Chronicle:

Prize fight: No sooner did the curtain drop on San Francisco's Olympic torch run controversy than the city became the backdrop for another global flareup, this time involving homegrown Chevron Corp. and the eco-politics of oil drilling in the Amazon.

It's all being ignited by San Francisco's Goldman Foundation's announcement today that the organization is awarding one of its prestigious environmental prizes this year to Pablo Fajardo and his associate Luis Yanza.

Fajardo is a former Ecuadoran farm laborer who rose to take over as a lead attorney in a nearly 2-decade-old fight to force Chevron-acquired Texaco Inc. to pay billions of dollars to clean up 1,700 square miles of rain forest polluted by years of drilling and the dumping of oily wastewater. Yanza is a fellow community leader in the cause.

Once San Ramon's Chevron got wind of the Goldman Foundation selections, the oil giant began gearing up for a full-scale media counterattack charging that the charity founded by philanthropist and former San Francisco Protocol Director Richard Goldman had been "sadly misled" in honoring the Ecuadoran pair. Chevron says most of the pollution has happened under Ecuador's own government-run oil company, which took over drilling in 1990.

Chevron enlisted high-priced San Francisco PR crisis manager Sam Singer to push its assertion that the company is the victim of trumped-up charges and greedy lawyers. On Friday, it sent a letter to Goldman accusing Fajardo and his supporters of being "dishonest and duplicitous in their campaign" against Chevron.

On Tuesday, Chevron plans to roll out a full-page ad in The Chronicle - the start of a nationwide campaign that will also feature ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Introducing "Bernholz's Law" of philanthropic adaptation

I've written about prediction markets before - these are idea exchanges (my term) that let interested parties buy/sell/trade positions on ideas or social issues. Prediction markets is the nice, vogue term for betting on the outcome of an issue - it melds voting, betting, and trading and can be used (are being used) for anything from tracking influenza outbreaks to picking winners of the Nobel prize to the direction of relations between China and Taiwan. As the Iowa Electronic Market (IEM) describes itself, it is

" on-line futures market where contract payoffs are based on real-world events such as political outcomes, companies' earnings per share (EPS), and stock price returns."

For example, there are prediction markets that allow people to place a trade on who they think will win the 2008 US presidential election. In fact, this is such a popular market segment that that Slate has aggregated them here. Essentially you "buy stock" in an outcome and if that outcome comes true, you win (make money). These kinds of markets are also used by companies to test ideas and to track product launches and by epidemiologists and public health officials to track diseases.

For the companies that host these markets the trick is to now drive traffic to their markets instead of the next guys. If everyone hosts markets where you can trade shares (or place a bet) on the presidential elections, than you need to differentiate your site either by hosting different types of markets (the direction of the economy or NHL draft picks) or by using new tricks to attract users.

So, not surprisingly, we have now found the metaphorical offspring of embedded giving and prediction markets - Here you can bet on the same old issues you find elsewhere, but the "winnings" go to charity. If you win, you pick the charity. If you lose, someone else picks it.

All of this leads me to begin working on "Bernholz's Law" of philanthropic adaptation (doesn't have quite the same ring as "Moore's law," but I'll work on it). This will be my attempt to lay out the general processes by which philanthropy adopts technology and eventually adapts to the changes created by technology.

Herewith, Bernholz's Law 1.0:
  • First phase - ignore new technology.
  • The second phase of philanthropic adoption of a new tool is for fundraising. (See this application of iPhones)
  • The third phase (in the case of bet2give phase one and two are simultaneous) is using charitable giving as a means of attracting customers to some other business model (See good2gether or goodsearch)
  • The fourth phase is using the tool to publicize the philanthropic status quo (see almost every foundation website)
  • The firth phase is to consider how technology might change the edges of philanthropic practice (see Packard Foundations Nitrogen Wiki)
  • The sixth phase is to up-end our understanding of where and how change happens and nurture new philanthropic supports for those new ways of being (see... help me out here, anyone have examples in this phase?)
  • What would the seventh phase be...and eighth...and beyond?
I'll need a cool graph to show this cycle over time....

PS: I was going to save this post till Monday, but then I remembered that the Goldman Environmental Prizes are coming up. I think these are the most inspirational prize winners and one of the coolest - and most hope-filled - events of the year. We take our seven year old to the event and he agrees. So I'll post this now and then blog about the Goldman prize next week. Winners will be announced on Sunday and the celebration is Monday, April 14.

Organizing - 2008 edition

Photo credit: NY Daily News, Valasquez

In case you missed it, the Olympic torch relay, protest, and redirect that took over the streets of San Francisco on Wednesday was largely facilitated by cellphones and text messaging. In Global Philanthropy Forum-speak this would be called "web-based, purpose-driven social networking" (of course, cell phone texting mostly skips the web part - except you set it up here).

So what for philanthropy? This is how global activism happens now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Global Philanthropy Forum 2008

This conference, now in its 7th year, continues to be one of the best gatherings of doers, funders, and thinkers. What I have always appreciated about this event, regular conference caveats aside, is that it makes a real effort to live up to its name - it strives for global participation (though it is always held in the US, usually in Silicon Valley) and it is a forum - people speak together. The need for global gatherings and those that bring together folks from all sides of an issue is gaining acceptance (see this Alliance interview with Steve Gunderson of the Council on Foundations about the upcoming Philanthropy Summit), but the GPF has been refining this practice since 2001.

The theme this year is one that speaks to an underlying premise for philanthropic action that is too often overlooked - social solidarity. Of course, that is my term for it.* The title of the conference is "Human security, human rights and the shared responsibility to protect: A conversation between elders and emerging leaders."

That is too much of a mouthful for me. Having listened to several speakers so far and mingled in hallways with activists and attendees from around the world, the topic on every one's mind is this: "How can we work like we're all in this together?" I like to think of it as a discussion about "with," and the end of "unto" or "for."

Shifting a discussion on philanthropy to really be about "with" is much more than a semantic shift. Philanthropy, or anything else (school reform, international aid, democracy) that is done unto others, doesn't work. We know this - intellectually and experientially. Yet we continue to establish organizations or financial products that divide us. This is beyond putting the "golden rule" into practice - the message is about not doing unto others, but doing with others.

The second part of the conference theme "elders and emerging leaders" takes the "with" a bit further. The American Jewish community has been concerned about "next generation" Jews for what seems like at least a generation now. Secular philanthropy is catching up to this concern - several new reports focus on leadership challenges and deficits. Everyone loves to talk about the "techno-generational" gaps. Again, the focus is usually on the gap, not on the connection. A new organization, TheElders, is playing a large role at the GPF this year and it offers an alternative frame for the old/young divide - we are in this together and there are those among us who have lots to offer - as global village elders. These are folks - you know the names (Desmond Tutu, Aung SunSuu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Ela Bhatt) - who've dedicated their lives to change and are recognize that their next best contributions rely on actively teaching and learning from those just starting out on these paths.

Conferences are what they are. Good ideas, lots of conversations, some entertainment, (hopefully) some provocation, and always that question of whether or not it was worth the time. Here's what is worth it - we are in this together. This is so simple, yet runs counter to so much of what we have claimed for philanthropy. Philanthropy fails when it separates givers from doers, them from us, and uses words likes "unto" or "for." Change relies on all of us. Giving and doing with others requires us to recognize that we have a self interest in making change happen - not hiding our solidarity, but working from it.

*Alicia Fernandez, MD, deserves some credit for this phrase in this context.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It wasn't even April Fools day

I checked the date of the post when I saw the headline that NBC is planning a superhero series called The Philanthropist. Wasn't posted on April Fools day, so who knows if its real or not.

Yesterday, as I waited in the airport, I watched the captions scroll by on Oprah. So far as I could tell her guest was one of the contestant's on Oprah's Big Give who had just been thrown off the island (or whatever they do on that show). The quote/caption that caught my eye (paraphrasing here) :

"No, I wouldn't change anything I did. The only thing that really bothers me is the competitive nature of the show. You see people in need, you should help them - not worry about winning."

Oprah nodded. But isn't that the premise of the show - competition? It's not really about giving, its about winning. And if that's not motivating enough, Come 2009 you can channel surf from Oprah to The Philanthropist for more daredevil feats of human goodness. Or something like that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Solutions (not an April's Fools joke)

First the good news. Then the bad news. Then the good, then the bad, and so on and so on and so on. I'm not the only who is feeling this way - on Saturday this was the lead-in to a front page NY Times story:

"More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can’t afford their mortgages and in some places now they can’t even afford rice. ... None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right."

This same cycle of good and bad applies to the news in philanthropy.

There's been a flurry of research lately about the good feeling that giving gives you.

Of course, there have also been really depressing stories about fraudulent uses of gifts - according to a recent study the estimated amount of fraud in the US nonprofit sector is just about equal to the value of all foundation and corporate giving to the sector. (Hat tip to S Strom and the NY Times, I'm woefully behind in reading NVSQ where the study was published).

There is also continuing attention to social entrepreneurship and important new public policy efforts at increasing voluntarism and (potentially) social enterprise. Michigan has a state government foundation liaison and California has a new cabinet position focused on volunteer service.

Vice President Al Gore's latest climate change offering fits in with this trend - his newest "no holds barred" website is called WE CAN SOLVE IT. (and, of course, it is no mere website -it is a social networking community). It offers stories and ideas and opportunities to solve the climate crisis. Hey, if giving makes us feel good so should positive promotion of individual efforts. So lets hope that this positive, can-do attitude is not an April's Fools joke.