Friday, August 13, 2010

Philanthropy Buzzword 2010.4 - Curator

Buzzwords seem to be coming along more slowly than in the past. Here it is August and we're only up to #4. We are wide open to submissions - feel free to tweet me (@p2173) or add to comments any buzz in philanthropy that you've noticed that hasn't been captured here.

photo by Lucy Bernholz, San Francisco storefront

Philanthropy Buzzword 2010.4 - Curator

No one hosts a conference anymore, they curate them. See Pop!Tech, TED, TEDx, etc - all curated.

Why has this word, once the rather exclusive purview of galleries and museums become the "go to term" for the talented folks putting on conferences, hosting crowdsourced blogs, and editing jointly published presentations/reports/etc? Because it describes precisely the role of the organizer in this era when everyone is a producer. I think it is a very apt description of how our online expectations have begun to influence how we act offline.

I can write, edit, post photos, draw, make videos, even be a T-shirt designer online. Why would I want to just go be "talked to" at a conference? And the person who pulls all that talent together to make a conference worth attending? They're doing the job of curating - mixing and matching speakers, sessions, media types, workshops, breakouts, streaming, etc in ways that are interactive and engaging. Each piece needs to stand on its own and somehow relate to the others. They need to convey a theme without being pedantic; provide enough variety that many people will find something with which to engage; and take advantage of the specific strengths of the venue and participants.

Curator is by no means a philanthropy-only buzzword, but given the importance of ideas in the social change space, it is particularly apt. More and more we need talented, creative filters who can identify and organize information and data (in all their multiple forms) in patterns that spark action and new thinking. This is the role of curators.

Additional note, from Twitter exchange: Curators used to be titles earned by folks with advanced degrees. No more. The ripple effects of broad usage of the term may not be a good thing, looked at from within the field and hierarchies from which it came. HT @hazelbrown for the insight.