Sunday, December 06, 2009

Disrupting Philanthropy

Finally - the "technology paper" I've been working on all year is ready to go live! (Draft 2.0, that is) Thanks for your patience. Those of you who requested copies should have received them via email over the weekend.

Anyone else who is interested can read the document (and download and print it) here and below. If you tweet about it please use hashtag #DisruptPhil (I forgot to add this at first, oops!)

For those of you just tuning in, the paper is about the following:
  • The point: data are the new platform for change. They will continue to fundamentally alter how philanthropic capital flows.
  • The changes are not about the digital technologies that allow access, or about the data themselves. They are about the expectations and behaviors they unleash.*
  • These changes, coupled with changes in the public and private sectors, are pushing a transition to a "social economy" made up of interdependent public, private and philanthropic capital and creators of social goods.
  • All of these changes are not an end of a story, they are simply the beginning.
  • Philanthropy is an industry of passion and volunteerism in which collusion should be encouraged. It may not change in the same way, at the same speed, or driven by the same forces as the newspaper or music industries or the public sector.
Blog posts about it can be found (in order) here, here and here.

We'll be hosting an invitation-only seminar about the document in February and then revising and publishing a final(ish)* version. We don't have the budget to invite you all to the meeting, so my colleagues from Duke and I hope you will download, read, share, and comment on the paper.

Please do so in the comments below, via email to lucy [at] blueprintrd [dot] com, or on twitter at @p2173. All of the input is valued - those of you who read early, early drafts will notice (I hope) the depth and impact of your insights in this new version.

If you tweet about it please use hashtag #DisruptPhil (I forgot to add this at first, oops!)

*Does anything get finished anymore? In this age of crowdsourced rapid prototyping of ideas, it feels like writing has become a series of conversations - draft - conversation - draft. But we'll call the post - February version final. Ideas and improvements and iterations after that will have to take on a new name.


Anonymous said...

Thank you...since I expect you will be hit with a tsunami of comments next week, let me take the opportunity to jump the gun. Having identified the challenges/opportunities of digital technologies..there are three specific matters that I would recommend for further focus..A) digital money/value...not just talking about new forms of bank-related fund transfers, but the use of ' value' exchanged thru mobile devices will take any increasingly important role in commerce thruout the world..truly disruptive activity, which will affect the activities of both donors and recipients..including micofinance organizations...B) the value of the digital an example, I am working with an nfp consortium developing new types of environmental monitoring technologies capable of real-time data capture, we examine the types of information that will be collected, we realize that its value goes beyond the intended uses of understanding water fact, there is an enormous commercial appetite for this data as it affects the capital investments decisions, and the pricing of corporate and governmental securities and related financial broadly speaking, one of the challenges for forward-thinkers is to help those organizations who are assisting the nfps in entering the 21st century to understand that the information they are collecting/generating in the course of performing their philanthropic mission may not be an expense item , but may in fact have a value that can be used to provide long-term revenue to the nfp itself. (C)..managing the flow of the digital information, including healthcare data, educational information and the micropayments that will as a result of digital wallets will generate billions of dollars in transaction fees paid to the for-profit data storage/ processing companies that will migrate into this this point in time, there is an opportunity for nfp leaders to think about how to position the nfp world so that a fair share of the transaction fees which are generated by nfp activities can be captured for the direct benefit of the nfps..if more detailed comment or guidance in any of these matters is requested, I will be happy to step Regards. Norm Friedland

Anonymous said...

Very interesting paper which pretty much covered all the territory but the one perhaps small yet significant exception that your Clay Shirky quote “communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring” points to: ironically the fascination with cool new digital technology has blinded philanthropist just as thoroughly as it has blinded the technologist exactly


DebL said...

Bravo! I am beyond thrilled that you are working on this. Recently, as a Pop!Tech social innovations fellow, I had my E.D. aha! moment. For 15 years, I've been pounding on using technology for sexual and repro health. At the Pop!Tech fellowship program, I realized that it's no longer about the tech, BUT the process of using health data, applying technology and measuring health and behavior change. While this is what ISIS ( has done for the past 8 years, it's not how we have characterized our work.

If you can help change philanthropy to understand this remarkably linear process (and circular too, back to the data!), all the power to you!

I'm happy to review the document in more detail if you need more reviewers. (And I promise not to use so many exclamation points.)

Best, Deb Levine, Executive Director and Founder, ISIS, Inc.

Christine Egger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
phil cubeta said...

A greast service for the field, thank you, Lucy. You have created a cross-over between the world of "serious readers of white papers" and the online people who are improvizing solutions. You basically have bestowed legitimacy on what has seemed to some to be a insurgent, semi-disreputable, vaguely threatening online world. Disruptive is a good for word it.

Anyway, thank you for the study and for making it publicly available.

Christine Egger said...

Man, this is like Christmas coming early :) So much to appreciate about this paper, Lucy, not the least of which is that it's the first robust assessment of the philanthropy + technology intersection to come around in a long time. I expect to generate a few posts, comments, etc. while it's in draft form. This first one is to share a broad thumbs up on the content, tone, direction, etc., and to make two minor suggestions (not taking the opportunity for granted -- really appreciate your crowdsource-y process):

In the subsection titled “The long tail of philanthropy” (pp. 16-18), there’s great coverage of how information innovation is influencing each category of donor. It would be great to also draw attention to how those innovations will also increase the capacity for those categories to influence each other. Foundations open up via tech developments and influence individual donors; individual donors’ activity and feedback loops, available for analysis in the aggregation, will increasingly influence foundation activity as well.

One of the paper’s most important points (imho) was made in the description of FasterCures: “The FasterCures feedback loop – linking how data are gathered and reported, with how donors use them to make funding decisions, with how organizations use data on funding decisions to make their own decisions, generating new data – is only just becoming established.” (p. 21) Those feedback loops are what will drive the second- and third-level changes referred to earlier in the paper. They bear repeating, perhaps on p. 24 at the end of the bullet list of “Five philanthropic practices” (because working through that list to “use data for external change” and then deliberately using that data to set new goals and formulate strategies is a critical component of those loops); and perhaps again specifically in the “Using data for change” section starting on p. 37.

There's an opportunity, too, to clarify the distinctions between cloud computing (where data is hosted) and open data (how data is licensed) (p. 43). I’ll generate some suggested language soon, or watch for others' feedback.

All for now -- more soon -- and in the meantime will enjoy watching the online conversation build --


daniel-f-bassill-7291 said...

I'll be pointing members of the Tutor/Mentor Connection's network to this in our own efforts to apply these ideas into our own innovations. Our use of mapping is one more example of how intermediaries and aggregators can draw volunteers and donors to same-type organizations operating in different parts of an urban area.

Bunny said...

Lucy -- My company, Kachingle, just launched our beta site. We are a generalized micropayment crowdfunding tool for all types of online content and services. Many philanthropies have extensive valued online content and news so Kachingle is a good fit for them. Our first target market is journalism and news sites and there are many non-profits in that space.

Further info on our blog or contact me directly.

Cynthia the Chief Kachingler

Buy Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.