Saturday, December 27, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Here are some of their answers, announced today:
*20 percent of Australians said they would give to charity, versus 16 percent in France and just 3 percent in the United States.
*53 percent of Italians said they'd splurge on a luxury item such as a car, versus 50 percent in France, 15 percent in Canada, and 5 percent in the United States.
For more poll results, click here.
(Photograph by Tomislav Forgo for istock.com)
Friday, December 19, 2008
"The Internet is specifically like reality television. Much has been made of the "transparency" of Change.gov -- but it actually is to real transparency what reality TV is to reality. Submitting your story on why the health system sucks does not allow you to discuss alternatives to some sort of nationalization of the health system under Obama. It's using Web 2.0 and the illusion of openness to support an existing policy position which is unlikely to change. The politicians are using the Internet to justify what they were going to do anyway. This is very shrewd on their part, but a far cry from what transparency advocates say they are for."
Check it out here.
(Photo-illustration by Shaunl for istock.com)
Thursday, December 18, 2008
As many as 100,000 nonprofits could go under if current economic trends prevail, says nonprofit management expert Paul Light, a professor at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. In an interview with Cause Global, Light says he thinks the most vulnerable are small-to-midsized arts and social service organizations that consistently operate at the margins. Light’s prediction comes as the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University today released a new study showing that nonprofits think they’re facing the worst fundraising climate since 1998. The center’s Philanthropic Giving Index, similar to a Consumer Confidence Index for charitable giving, is now 64.8, a 21.7 percent drop from just six months ago and a 27 percent decrease since December 2007. “Winnowing is going to occur [in the ranks of nonprofits],” says Light, “but the question is this: is this a random shooting or deliberate? Is most money now going to stronger institutions, the ones that don’t really need it as much?”
I caught up with Light today to discuss these trends, the rise of social media in advocacy, and his new book, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship, about the traits that distinguish social entrepreneurs. Light says they tend to be more tech-savvy and optimistic than others but urges leaders in this new field to start focusing less on its charismatic personalities and more on which ideas work—and which don’t. “You don’t find—and there hasn’t been—a good investigation of failure,” he says. What follows is an edited version of that conversation:
Why did you write this book?
I’ve been monitoring management reform in nonprofits and government for some years now and the concept of social entrepreneurship is pretty visible through organizations such as Ashoka and Echoing Green; more and more of our students at the Wagner School are interested in starting their own nonprofits and solving big problems rather than ameliorating them. I wrote an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2006 that said there appeared to be a cult of personality surrounding the concept of social entrepreneurship; we have become fascinated with these individual heroes and we have been putting the focus on finding these sparkly charismatic leaders and funding them to pursue pattern-breaking change. I wrote that it’s not the hero we should be focused on. I said that social entrepreneurship can come from existing organizations and big old organizations as well as fresh startups. It provoked a pretty instant response from the field. I then continued to do research and then wrote this book to summarize what I was seeing.
What did you find?
The more I read, the more was I able to unpack the underlying broad assumptions that define social entrepreneurship as an effort to solve a tough social problem through innovative or pattern-breaking ideas. I have come to agree that there is something different about the social entrepreneur. But I also found plenty of examples suggesting that social entrepreneurship is not a singular—but a plural. By that I mean that many organizations pursue social entrepreneurship through partnerships and teams and through networks, and our tendency in conferences and fellowship programs is to reward the individual when, in fact, we might be better off rewarding the idea or the organization along with the individual. In fact, the lone wolf entrepreneur is fairly rare and they’re often less successful in bringing their ideas to fruition than groups and networks and even communities of individuals. At the same time, I no longer feel there’s this cult of personality. There really are individuals out there who pursue pattern-breaking change against the odds and we should look for both types of entrepreneurs.
Social entrepreneurs behave differently than other high achievers?
There’s this prevailing notion that they’re more risk-tolerant, which does not appear to be true. What they are is extremely optimistic about their chances of success. And that goes for the lone wolves as well as for the socially entrepreneurial teams and networks. They all have very high confidence that they will succeed and they often ignore evidence to the contrary because they believe so strongly that they’ll succeed. We don’t have many stories about failed social entrepreneurs. The field as a whole has focused almost exclusively on success stories and perhaps that’s the way it is at the beginning of an expansion of any field. The focus on the entrepreneurial individual dates back to the early 1980s with Bill Drayton and Ashoka but it turns out that optimism and confidence are what drive the perseverance that produces this kind of constant focus on driving forward with change. It’s not that these people have a gene that can be identified as social entrepreneurship. It’s that they really see the world in very optimistic terms. Additionally, they’re not more likely to take risks than others but they do tend through their optimism to stick with it, and when they are told they are going to fail, they actually invest even more energy; they rebel against messages that suggest they’re somehow on the wrong track. This optimism can shift into overconfidence and entrepreneurs of all types need to be careful about that. They need to fine-tune and listen to what the “market” is saying to them about their idea. They also need to be aware that they do see the world in very optimistic terms and therefore need to check themselves from time to time and challenge their own assumptions about their ideas.
What have been some of the key failures?
There’s so much enthusiasm for the idea of social entrepreneurship that we are not taking careful inventories of where success occurs and where failure might reside. We’re lacking an entire branch of research that would be very useful for instructing nascent social entrepreneurs on what they can do to avoid failure. That’s a problem in the field right now and one of the threats to developing the field so it’s useful to people who want to launch a change effort.
What kinds of research would be most useful in your view?
There are sweeping studies about success and failure in the field of business entrepreneurship. Is the organization still alive? Is its market share increasing? Is it profitable? Yet when we go to blended organizations or nonprofits, we just don’t have those indicators. Ashoka uses some reasonable indicators to get the dialogue started, like; to what extent do their fellows affect policy change? To what extent are their ideas still alive? But we need better measures of outcomes if we’re going to start separating the wheat from the chaff in social entrepreneurship, and we just don’t have those yet.
There’s also a lot of argument over what constitutes success. Do you have to change the world or can you change a piece of the world? Does it have to be changing an entire policy regime within a country or within a region or even a continent, or can it be changing a city block and diffusing the idea so that others can pick up the change effort for their city blocks and eventually you have a cascading affect? There’s a lot of confusion in the field right now. There’s great promise in social entrepreneurship but we need to help social entrepreneurs know where to best invest in their own ideas to get them up and running.
To what extent do social media play a role in social entrepreneurship?
The most effective ideas out there harness new technologies towards large-scale change; in the Obama campaign and in the organizations I’ve come to really admire, Internet technologies are used very effectively. How well an organization uses technology may be a key marker of a potentially successful idea. The ideas I like expand through technology and use social media as a tool of rapid dissemination—yet some entrepreneurial advocacy organizations are really shy about credit-claiming. I like Accion, which is microfinance; I like idealist.org, which uses technology to empower change agents and help build the community; I like Environmental Defense, which has a model of environmental change that involves partnerships with business. Some of these organizations don’t apply for the awards, they don’t show up at the big conferences, they’re not involved in the dialogue about the Obama social entrepreneurship agenda. Yet they’re doing extremely important work and often reject the use of the term social entrepreneurship to describe what they do. But maybe some of those organizations are the ones we ought to be looking for, the ones that fly beneath the radar. Perhaps it’s our job to find them rather than rely on them to find us. There are a lot of them out there that are terrific at pursuing change but resist the term “social entrepreneur” to describe themselves. Maybe the field overemphasizes self-selected entrepreneurs and misses a lot of organizations reluctant to self-identify as socially entrepreneurial organizations but which could use more help scaling up and moving ahead. The venture capital model says you present to us and we decide if you get money. The social entrepreneurial model may require us to be more proactive in finding social change efforts and promoting the ones that could take off. That would, however, require the social entrepreneurial community to be more proactive and aggressive in identifying the work being done in the field.
(Illustration by Bodhihill)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
In a bad economy, it’s more critical than ever to track the impact of philanthropic dollars, right? Trouble is, measuring impact remains a big challenge for most advocacy groups, but less so for many social enterprises. Why? Mark Kramer of FSG Social Impact Advisors —a nonprofit strategy group founded by Kramer and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter—says the tools aren't the problem. Blame culture and a fundraising mindset.
Speaking to a group gathered at NYU’s Stern School of Business for the school's fifth annual Conference on Social Entrepreneurs, Kramer says social media are starting to give communities of philanthropists some of the tools they'll need to start tracking the performance of their do-good dollars. But most classic nonprofits still aren't ready for the scrutiny. Kramer's remarks come amid a report to be released tomorrow by the Center on Philanthropy at the University of Indiana showing overall confidence among charity fundraisers is the worst since 1998.
Here are some excerpts of Kramer's talk:
We live in remarkable experiment in the nonprofit sector. No other country has a nonprofit sector as large and vibrant as in the United States.
Philanthropic giving over the past 20 years, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has increased 250 percent; the number of nonprofit organizations has more than doubled. Yet when you look at where America ranks on the problems that the nonprofit sector is trying to address, it has steadily declined compared to other developed nations during that time.
We spend more than any other country in the world on health care but yet in life expectancy, the United States ranks 24th out of 30. Consider education. Out of 100 kids who start high school in America today, 16 will graduate college on time. And that’s nationally. Poverty? We are second only to Mexico for the percentage of children living in poverty. And on crime, we have 5 percent of world’s population yet 25 percent of the world’s prisons. And all of these things have grown dramatically over the last 20 years as philanthropy has burgeoned and as the nonprofit sector has burgeoned. So something isn’t working—and I believe that what fundamentally isn’t working is that we don’t know the impact of our contributions. And if we don’t know the impact of our contributions, we can’t make intelligent decisions about where to direct our money. And that is a failure of the sector.
Achieving greater impact with our dollars is not just about creating new social media tools in philanthropy. We also need to change the culture [of philanthropy], from one now focused on giving—asking how much did we give and how much did we raise —-into one that becomes more focused on performance.
I think social entrepreneurs are a wonderful example of that cultural shift. They are people who are focused on outcomes and performance rather than on the fundraising, alone. We can solve social problems but we need to focus on problem-solving, not just giving money to the nonprofit sector.”
What do you think? Is Kramer right? Is social entrepreneurship, with its focus on evaluation and measurement, the key to unlocking effectiveness in the nonprofit sector? Is it possible to shift toward a focus on performance without having to replace top leadership, and which social media tools can be used most effectively to build transparency and donor engagement?
To watch the video of Kramer's speech, released today, click here. Also check out the Center for What Works.
(Illustration, Investor, by Miroslaw Pieprzyk)
Monday, December 15, 2008
Social Actions Roundup 1
Here's their roundup from the week of December 8-14:
Firstgiving hosted fundraising pages for the 8th annual Santa Speedo Run in Boston.
Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report entitled, "The Future of the Internet III."
Chez Pim launched its fifth annual and highly successful Menu for Hope micro-philanthropy campaign.
Social Innovation Camp posted a report from the recent get-together in London.
Paul Brest of The Hewlett Foundation responded to Nathaniel Whittemore's question, "What is the one thing you need to know before you donate to charity this holiday season?"
What are Social Actions Round Ups?
Each week, Social Actions community members post links and news about online social activism. This round-up is a summary of the links that surfaced in the last 7 days. You can share links and news for future Social Actions round-ups in the Peer-to-Peer Social Change FriendFeed Room. You can also check out past roundups here.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Witness.org, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit started in 1992 by rocker Peter Gabriel and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation as a project of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, is marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nation's December 10, 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights with this short video, above.
What video or image first opened your eyes to human rights? Click here to see some images that people have shared so far with the United Nations.
What images first engaged you? For me, it was this one, below, Tomoko in Her Bath, by photojournalist W. Eugene Smith for a series for LIFE Magazine on the mercury poisoning of the waters off the coastal Japanese village of Minamata, by the chemical company Chisso, in the 1950s. It is known as Smith's best portrait, of a mother and her child—a victim of the pollution.
I visited Minamata in 1991, while a correspondent for Hearst Newspapers based in Tokyo. The stigma surrounding those born and raised in this former fishing village off the South China Sea persists, despite an aggressive public relations campaign by local officials to promote tourism, some 30-plus years after the poisonings.
Which images most moved you? Share them with Cause Global, and we'll post your recollections (either comments or videos/photos) in the coming weeks.
(*W. Eugene Smith photo, above, used here with permission)
Monday, December 8, 2008
A new report out this morning from The Foundation Center says that giving by U.S. foundations to international causes reached a record $5.4 billion last year, with 2008 giving likely to top that and set yet another record. "The prospects for international giving in the near term are less pessimistic than current market conditions might suggest," the center's president Bradford K. Smith said in a statement. "More U.S. foundations are spending more resources on international problems, challenges, and opportunities than at any time in history." Adds Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations in Washington: "In a globalized word, philanthropy is rapidly becoming global as well."
Among major findings in the report: The Gates Foundation accounted for more than half of the rise in foundation funding to international causes between 2002 and 2006. Excluding Gates, the greatest share of international grant dollars went to pay for international development, followed by projects aimed at improving the environment and public health overseas. Some of the funding went to programs to develop the use of social media as a means for publicizing new efforts and distributing new forms of aid.
(Illustration by istock.com)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Here are some final conference highlights:
* In Rebooting Politics 2.0, a panel featuring some of the Obama campaign's new media strategists, Sam Graham-Felsen, director of blogging and blog outreach, praised YouTube as a rapid response tool and urged cause activists of all stripes to use the video-sharing site to drum up support and shoot down opponents' attempts to spread misinformation. "During the [Obama] campaign, if the McCain team put out an ad with inaccuracies in it, I'd run over to our deputy economics policy adviser and have him instantaneously rebut the ad, and then we'd put it right on YouTube a few hours later," Graham-Felsen said. He also urged activists to assemble large, online armies to keep supporters engaged. "We had volunteers responding to every Facebook message and Myspace message that came in," he said. "Organizing is the essence of democracy, and the more organizing you do, the more democracy you reap." Added Joe Rospars, Obama's new media director: "At the end of the day, it's all about out-organizing the opposition."
* Luke Russert, MSNBC's 23-year-old youth correspondent and a Summit media panelist, coached conferees to keep their media messages short and targeted to mainstream issues and concerns. "Does a 44-year-old housewife in DesMoines, Iowa, really understand social networking? Probably not," he said. "Keep the cause, itself, the message." Check out Russert's recent interview, here, with Summit co-organizer Jared Cohen, a member of the U.S. Secretary of State's policy planning staff.
* During a panel discussion on how to protect privacy, personal safety, and avoid being shut down in the world's hot spots, Chris Michael of Witness.org warned conferees not to expect technology companies to defend social media-powered activists against censorship or other forms of intimidation. "If a government in a location wants information," he said, "it's very unlikely that a technology corporation will take a stand for an individual human rights activist."
* Sherif Mansour, a program officer at Freedom House, described his group's activist protection program, called the Blue Umbrella, which asks politicians, statesmen, journalists, and others in the West to speak out for those facing jail and torture in Egypt and across the Middle East. Check out this July 2008 video from JourneymanPictures, called Egypt's Facebook Face-Off. It describes how Egyptians are starting to use social media to protest government policies in Cairo:
Here are two "how-to" videos shown to conferees, produced by Howcast, a conference co-sponsor—How to Protest Without Violence and How to Launch a Human Rights Blog:
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Inspired by a sharp rise in the number of Facebook-organized political protests and mass demonstrations this year in cities around the world, dozens of youth activists from the U.S. and abroad met today at Columbia University for Day 2 of the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit—a first-time gathering hosted by Howcast, Facebook, MTV, the U.S. Department of State, YouTube, Google, and Access 360 Media.
Selected panel discussions—featuring many of the young people who organized these various mass-scale marches and civic actions in recent months—are being streamed live here. "We noticed a rise of movements all using social networking to fight extremism, so we thought now would be the perfect time to aid and help build momentum for those using online platforms to catalyze social change," said Summit co-organizer Jason Liebman, the CEO and cofounder of Howcast. "All of these groups arose independent of each other. It was time to come together."
Organizers also are using the two-day event to form a new nonprofit to unite global activists and to create a field manual that can be distributed to others about how best to affect Web-driven social change. Updated drafts of the manual can be viewed here.
Among conference highlights so far:
* Oscar Morales, a young engineer and founder of One Million Voices Against FARC, a Facebook group, discussed his use of Facebook to organize what many have described as the largest demonstration in Colombia's history. Morales told conferees his success has proven that social networking can be used to organize citizen campaigns against oppressive forces all over the world. The February 4 protest used word-of-mouth campaigns over Facebook to repudiate FARC guerrillas and turned out more than 1 million people on the streets of Colombia—as well as smaller groups in some 200 other cities across the world, from Berlin to Barcelona, London, Madrid, Toronto, Dubai, Miami, New York, and others. "The Feb. 4 protest was a big slap in the face to FARC, who saw that its ideals were no longer supported by the people, and many members of FARC then started abandoning the group," Morales said. "...Digital platforms are a means to social liberties...We proved that the digitally connected few can connect the masses."
* Juan David Lacouture, the founder of No Mas Chavez, a Venezuelan group that originated on Facebook to oppose Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s policies, said his movement "couldn't have started anywhere but on the Internet." The group, which has some 80,000 members on Facebook, staged a mass protest on April 11 that mobilized some 2,000 people to visit Venezuelan embassies in 25 cities around the world to call for an end to terrorism and corruption in that country. The protest also brought thousands of Venezuelans into the streets to call for change. “Facebook lets us stay in contact with friends, relatives, colleagues, and people from our past," Lacouture told conferees, "and it also helps us to express ourselves and carry our messages to thousands and thousands of people.” When asked if extreme left-wing or right-wing groups should have the same access to Facebook to organize, Lacouture said: “I don’t believe anything should be banned online. If an idea is not strong enough and you expose it for what it is, then the idea can be its own biggest enemy. Oppression is sustained by those who would keep bad ideas in the dark.”
* Gemma Olway and Sharon Singh, both 26, organized The People's March Against Knife Crime in London on September 20, which drew 6,000 to a protest rally and gained the attention of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, other politicians, and the media. The group, formed in July, started as a Facebook group. “We noticed a lot of anti-knife groups already on Facebook but we wanted to unite them to say that enough is enough,” Singh told a Summit panel.
* Elias Kuri, a cofounder of Iluminemos Mexico, organized an anti-violence march on August 30 that was joined by 2 million people in 88 cities across Mexico and in six other countries. Kuri said he organized the march at a time when many Mexicans were horrified by what was then the recent kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Fernando Martí, the son of a businessman. “Does a march work to make change?” Kuri asked his fellow panelists. “We think yes because when people are angry they want to do something...The important thing was that we didn’t use traditional media to protest. We used the Internet, Facebook, emails, and people just went to the march. The authorities were sure we were going to fail. They didn’t believe the Internet could have so much power.”
* Dustin Moskovitz, cofounder of Facebook, said the 40-and-older crowd is the fastest-growing demographic using the social networking site, a plus for the spread of social activism in the United States and abroad. "We started four years ago as a youth social network and now we are fighting that stigma," Moskovitz told conferees. "In other countries where Facebook is being used, the average age is 45 or 50 years. Our fastest-growing [age] demographics in the United States are 40-plus and we expect that to continue." Moskovitz acknowledged that Facebook groups are still "somewhat limited" in their ability to communicate to very large audiences but said the company is working to expand that capability. He also said Facebook is working hard to discourage al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from using social networks to advance their ideologies. "We work with law enforcement in many countries and we are going to fight people who try to repress free speech all over the world," Moskovitz said. "We already work to expel anyone using Facebook for hate and violence. You can't organize an al Qaeda group on Facebook and expect us to keep it up for very long." Moskovitz did acknowledge, however, that there is a "fine line between harassment and free speech" and told conferees the company is planning to hire more people to help it handle site monitoring.
* James K. Glassman, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the Bush Administration, commended Summit organizers for trying to create what he called "a giant global conversation about how individuals can oppose violence and extremism and stand up for universal values of tolerance, freedom, justice, and social change." He said U.S. government officials have arrived at the notion that the Net is "the locus of civic society" and that governments which don't use the Net to support pro-democracy movements at home and abroad face a greater risk of being ignored by the people they are trying to govern. "What we face today, these threats to liberty and security, cannot be overcome by governments, alone," Glassman said. "Only popular opposition can turn the tide. The forces of oppression and terror have little support but they do intimidate and frighten people into inaction. The Internet is a tool that will help people to overcome." Responding to a question, Glassman said he is confident that the incoming Obama administration will continue the State Department's policies of "Web 2.0 diplomacy." Said Glassman: "I would expect the new administration to take this new approach and expand it, and if they do expand it, I hope they also will provide the resources to do so."
In addition to Howcast videos posted on this site yesterday, see two more, below, released to conferees today—How to Smart Mob and How to Be an Effective Dissident. Watch this space for conference updates.
(Illustration, top, by Miroslaw Pieprzyk for istock.com)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The Alliance of Youth Movements—being organized by Howcast, Facebook, MTV, the U.S. Department of State, YouTube, Google, and Access 360 Media—is crafting a field manual on how to affect social change using the Internet. The first draft can be viewed here.
The alliance also is forming an online "hub" that will include links to community organizing information, a forum for sharing experiences, and instructional videos for creating citizen action groups around the world. The Summit brings together leaders of 17 organizations from 15 countries, including Save Darfur Coalition, One Million Voices Against FARC, Genocide Intervention Network, and Invisible Children. Panels will include talks entitled How to Use New Mobile Technologies and How to Preserve Group Safety and Security.
Cause Global will be covering parts of the conference; check this space for updates.
Here are two of the videos being collected by the Alliance as resources for helping cause-wired activists, first posted on Howcast within the last 48 hours:
(Illustration by istock.com)