Posted by Allison Fine on March 31, 2008
Al Gore just announced a new campaign to $300 million climate change campaign. It’s a very slick website called We Can Solve the Climate Crisis, or We for Short.
At the risk of being totally un-PC for We, I have some problems here (and I’m not talking about the shock of seeing the phrase, “Nobel laureate former Vice President Al Gore” — didn’t I just know him as boring Al?) So, here are difficulties that I have with this:
1. I wonder how much of that $300 million has gone into this too-slick web site. I’ve been wondering for a while where the first social media-driven global advocacy campaign was going to come from, and I imagined that it would come from young people using their social networks and Twittering and poking one another around the globe to press for drastic climate change. I was hoping that it wouldn’t look like an online version of RealSimple magazine.
2. This is probably an extension of the point above, but in addition to the slick feel of the sight are the creepy “real” people talking to me. I think I’d feel better if they were just actors rather than real people who are called “presenters”. I have no idea what that means. I really wish this site felt more like craigslist and less like Disney world.
3. In a truly disempowering sense, the We campaign already has it all figured out — and all we, the robotic consumer people who don’t look as attractive as the “presenters” have to do is click here, buy this, give them our name and email address and the names and email addresses of our nearest and dearest and the problem will be solved! Hey, ad exec. people making millions of dollars, we regular people may have some ideas of what to do, who to talk to, how to organize ourselves that hasn’t been focused grouped and put into pale colors yet!
I’ve got to get off this site, it’s making me really cranky!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Al Gore, Disney World, RealSimple Magazine, WE, We Can Solve The climate Change | 6 Comments »
Posted by Allison Fine on March 26, 2008
I was speaking at the Hillel conference in DC on Monday and talking about social entrepreneurship. I likened it to organic food –the words are thrown all around now but I’m not quite sure what they mean anymore.
Social entrepreneurs used to be people like me who ran nonprofits that has sustainable revenue streams. But, then something changed and for profits that have a nonprofit sense of purpose began to emerge: Meetup.com, Change.org, Razoo.com. And then mainstream businesses got into the act donating portions of their profits for causes (Ben & Jerry’s) campaigns to press companies to give more (Red) and now a new effort called Carrotmob.
Brent Schulkin, the founder of Carrotmob, reached out to me about a year ago to tell me about their plans. It’s a very interested connected activist idea. Brent wants to reward companies that are committed to being environmentally friendly. Carrotmob’s first campaign is planned for this Saturday. Here’s how the effort is described on the website:
On Saturday, March 29th, at 1pm, come to K & D Market (on 16th St at Guerrero in San Francisco) and buy whatever you want. Buy a lot. We’re going to be tracking everyone’s purchases and then calculating how much revenue we brought to the store. K & D has committed to spending 22% of all the revenue we bring in on energy-saving measures identified by an SF Energy Watch audit, in order to make their store more environmentally friendly!
You can see more here.
Good luck, Brent, on launching this very interesting, positive approach to consumer activism!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: carrotmob, Change.org, hillel, meetup.com, razoo.com | Comments Off
Posted by Allison Fine on March 20, 2008
In the Spring of 2006 I watched people of all ages and colors walk down the streets of San Francisco in protest of US immigration policies. I commented on the marches here on NPR and wrote about it here as well. The essence of the commentary then was how the array of new social media tools were being used to publicize and recruit marchers. As I wrote then:
The immigration marches have been an amazing display of the variety of ways that social media can be used to organize, connect and increase the “stickiness” of an event afterwards (meaning that the event lives on in cyberspace and allows others, who were and were not there, to discuss, relive, analyze and debate it far longer than was possible with traditional media.)
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary (that can’t be the best word to mark a milestone tied to such a shameful event) of the start of the Iraq war. Protest marches happened across the country, and again San Francisco was the center of the intersection of civil protest and social media. But this time a new tool was introduced, Twitter. Like Jeff Jarvis (read it here
) I was an initial skeptic of Twitter, it seemed too cute, just another way for Millennials to announce themselves to the world – whether we want or need to know where exactly they are at any moment in time. But, as described here
on Wired, Twitter played a critical role in helping to organize protesters throughout the day:
“What’s new in the last four years is the addition of the text messaging,” says Taylor. “In the past, (street protest organizers) have had walkie-talkies out there and a bullhorn, but the people with the radios would always get arrested by the police.”
Twitter allows participants to opt-in to the protest and enables the organizing body to move people around quickly and quietly. It isn’t a brand new development as much as a continuation and advancement on the pathway of self-organizing started with the social media revolution. It worked in San Francisco, it also works in Kenya, Tibet (fyi, Witness is doing an amazing job of posting videos chronicling the protests in Tibet here
) and other dangerous places where cell phones are critically important to connecting and organizing citizens.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Posted by Allison Fine on March 12, 2008
The panel I was on yesterday at the onPhilanthropy Summit yesterday was terrific (kudos to Tom Watson for doing a great job of facilitating a lively conversation!) Near the end of the session, Charles Best, the CEO and founder of DonorsChoose.org, mentioned that the organization provides an option for donors to support administrative costs — or not — for any project they fund. Now, taking exception with DonorsChoose is akin to criticizing Santa Claus, really it’s a lovely organization providing an easy opportunity for people anywhere and of any means to support all or part of school projects and needs like pencils, books or disposal cameras in largely low-income communities. It’s a wonderful organization that has been magnificently launched and run by Charles and his colleagues — except for the fact that they make the true cost of operating DonorsChoose optional for donors.
As Charles said on the panel yesterday, transparency and openness are critical components of relationships between causes and donors. Agreed, and his organization does a wonderful job of explaining their own operating costs. Here is a paragraph from the area on their website called “Sustaining Operations”:
The price of a student project includes an optional fulfillment fee covering the work performed by DonorsChoose.org (see Fulfilling Student Projects). After clicking to fund a project, the donor may decide not to include this fulfillment fee. By choosing to include it, donors support the necessary resources—staff time, office space, and technology—to bring their chosen projects to life.
Charles said that over 80% of donors choose to provide the fee. But, the problem I have is that it shouldn’t be optional. There has been an overreaction in the nonprofit sector to critics of overhead and administrative fees (prompted by the actions of a few bad apples with excessive fees and costs) to make it appear to donors that it doesn’t actually cost anything to make good things happen. Unless we want Charles and his colleagues to stand outside on a street corner shouting to attract donors to great school projects, they actually do need staff and offices and desks and phones and email and a website to be successful. And we need to stop apologizing for it or pretending that it’s optional. DonorsChoose can be as transparent as they are about the true cost of their services while not giving 20% of its donors the option of not fully supporting their efforts.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: administration, DonorsChoose, onPhilanthropy, Santa Claus, Tom Watson | 4 Comments »
Posted by Allison Fine on March 11, 2008
I’ll be speaking as part of the opening panel of the fifth annual onPhilanthropy Summit at the Yale Club in NYC tomorrow. Tom Watson, blogger and fundraising expert extraordinaire will be moderating our panel called CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World (it’s also the title of Tom’s upcoming book!) Other panelists include Micah Sifry, Robert Tolmach, Jason Paez and Charles Best.
Should be fun, give me a shout out if you’re there!
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Posted by Allison Fine on March 7, 2008
TechSoup and Flickr have teamed up to launch a new effort called, “Flickr for Good.” People working in social change orgs. will get “Pro” accounts. Flickr stores over a billion photos (holy cow!) that run the gamut from family photos, to photos of places, photo journals of trips. Flickr for Good is intended to enable cause organizations to better tell their stories using photos.
I love the idea of organizations using photos and videos to share their experiences and the urgency of their cause. But there is an additional power of using Flickr, and that is creating a community of photos across organizational lines. Most people, particularly young people, are most interested in the cause, breast cancer, climate change, AIDs, than in the organization. Organizations need to recognize this and rather than continue to try to “brand” their efforts to the exclusion of other organizations, look for ways to create win/wins across organizational lines. One way is to tell a community story about an issue using a group photo pool on Flickr.
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Posted by Allison Fine on March 3, 2008
I’ll be speaking at the 2008 Politics Online Conference tomorrow. I’m on a panel moderated by Micah Sifry with Ben Rattry of Change.org and Randall Winston of Project Agape which manages the Causes application for Facebook.
I’ve been thinking about the intersection of causes and social networks for a while now and am intrigued more by what we don’t know than what we do. It seems to me that there is something about the networks that catalyze a cause that are fundamentally different from those that don’t. Maybe, it’s in large part serendipity, a volatile mix of people and issues at a particular time that has folks talking about Darfur or Obama or Jena Six. But, I think it is more complicated than that. I’m still exploring and open to suggestions.
One thing that separates this conference out from most others is the inside-the-Beltway make-up of the attendees. I’ll be very curious to see what their take is, so far, on the primary elections. Stay tuned!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: 2008 Politics Online Conference, Change.org, IPDI, micah sifry, Project Agape | Comments Off