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.


Bradford Smith said...

You have hit the nail on the head once again Lucy so somebody has to comment. We are so completely awash in information that we are becoming increasingly reliant on people, apps, etc. that can direct us to what we need and want. "Aggregator" was always kind of a bulky word and "curator" has bit of snobbery to it. My prediction: this buzz word won't last. Thanks for spotting it.

Debra Askanase said...

Really interesting term that I haven't seen much of myself. I think that the idea behind curator bad: bringing interesting ideas to the forefront for others to consider, engage with, and argue over. A great museum curator does that when putting on an exhibit. The problem behind the term is that it can also mean passing the buck along, so to speak, if not done in a way that is really insightful. That is a very difficult thing to do.

Thoughts on how the term might morph? Engagement curator?

Lauren Girardin said...

This is fantastic. In December, I started consulting with Holly Minch at LightBox Collaborative. As my role became clear and I gave myself a title: Tactical Curator.

I help our nonprofit and philanthropy clients strategically apply their branding and messaging in interactive venues like websites, presentations, and social media. My work helps translate from the written to the visual, and from function to form. The curation work (part of our "Inspiration" stage) has been a valuable part of our communications strategy consulting.

I'm banking on this buzzword to stick!

Geri Stengel said...

I love the term curator, he specialist responsible for a collection. The collection can be art in a museum, speakers at a conference or content on a website. When there is a need, such as with nonprofits need to learn social media, a collection can be organized by an expert. There is an extraordinary amount of information available. Some of it is relevant to nonprofits and some of it is not. Some of it is good and some of it is not. Ventureneer curates a collection of case studies, classes, tips, to help nonprofits centralized resource.