What I did on my summer vacation... Another "out of the box experience".
For those who know me well, I am not Sporty Spice... But I will try anything once, provided it won't kill me. So bunjee jumping and sky-diving are out, but 3 weeks camping by myself is something that I could do. So I am.
This is the first post of my roadtrip. I love road trips. The last significant one I went on was in 2007 when I drove across Canada, ending up in Ottawa on the Day of Action. You can read about this trip on my first blog, "What do we have in Common." I ended up taking all the side roads asking people along the way, what we had in common. I was seeking out the answer to this question because I was struggling with how the media kept portraying our differences, when what we have in common is actually greater than our differences. This trip led to my connection to the Milestone's Project. If you have the opportunity to see this exhibit: Canada - on display in the arrivals section of the Calgary Airport - International Level; USA - in Boulder, Co. multiple locations; I strongly recommend it.Read more »
At this past year’s SoCap, I led an Open Space conversation around the language that we are using in the social business/enterprise/venture space. I have observed over the past few years, as this sector evolves and pushes boundaries, there is much inconsistency in how we communicate what we are doing. These organizations are generating revenue by tackling some of the world’s biggest problems, yet there seems to be much confusion in the marketplace from those who are building the businesses and those who are investing in them.
Wow! That really sums up how I am feeling these days. In a recent article posted by the Financial Times people can now feel good about feeding their addictions. Okay, maybe that is a little harsh… But really, if you think about it – our TV watching habits took a philanthropic spin when American Idol launched their Africa projects a couple of years ago; and how can we ignore Oprah’s Big Give?! Now our online gambling addictions can have a positive social impact.In Canada a large number of charities receive government funding from dollars generated at casinos. Gambling is not a new source of revenue; what is new, is the betting on prediction markets.
Non-Profits Place Bets on Prediction Markets, highlights an organization that allows individuals to bet on the outcomes of real-life scenarios. Like, who will win the Democratic Nomination. The website - Bet2Give, is tapping into the social entrepreneurship of the non-profit sector and providing donors with the opportunity to play with their money. The winner of the bet gets to choose which charity the dollars will be invested.
The focus of this blog is on strategic philanthropy. I was drawn to what Bet2Give is doing because of the focused nature of the philanthropic investment once the winner has been declared. So why aren’t more people accessing this site? Since September only 400 people have “played” this game and of that only $1000 was generated. What is it about this type of giving that is not attracting mass appeal of the online gambling sector? Is it because this site was created by a for-profit company that is using philanthropy to attract web-traffic? How is this different from when a company like Target or Ford use the Oprah show (okay pay for the rights to be on Oprah) to generate traffic to their sites and stores and showrooms? Is this not just another form of sponsorship (in a loose way)?
I pose this (among many other) question - Perhaps there is a way for donors to direct societal change through these prediction markets. Instead of posing a question that is currently reflected in the news and can be answered in a short time (within two years), what if donors were to start asking questions of society that would lead to systemic change?
There is a group that is sort of addressing this, and is also highlighted in the article – The Long Now Foundation. I think we need more of these long-term think tanks that are driven from a grassroots level and that encourage the everyday donor, small business owner and general philanthropist to engage in the process of societal change.
Oprah’s Big Give is a reflection of a grassroots movement whose catalyst (or tipping point) was Oprah. There is obviously something in the North American psyche that is not being fulfilled with today’s consumerism. If millions of people can not only be convinced to turn on and tune in for an hour a week to watch other people give Target, Ford and Oprah’s money away, and then go and do something in their community; what is missing in our society?
Here’s my thing with The Big Give – besides it was shameless promotion for Ford, Target and the various other companies that paid to be involved, there was no discussion on sustainability. I understand the pay-it-forward concept – and by helping one family in need perhaps others will do the same (hence the groundswell of Random Acts of Kindness that appeared around the US and Canada). I ask this – when you help a group of women who are living with AIDS have a nice day so that they can forget about their plight are you really impacting them or are you putting a band-aid on a situation? What if that same contestant had actually invested those funds in supporting the AIDS hospice with funding that they could then provide ongoing quality of life programs for their clients? Would that not have generated more “pay-it-forwardness” and ultimately helped more people?
I didn’t watch every episode of The Big Give, mostly because it irritated me over the lost opportunities on educating Oprah’s viewership on effective philanthropy and not just making people feel good by throwing a party. This was culminated when Ford gave the car to the gentleman who was attending college to make his life better for him and his family. Oprah’s comment was – he has to take the bus to school and work. Well gee – I am sorry to hear that, and now we have one more gas-guzzling SUV on the road. Would it not have been better for Ford to say, we will cover your tuition and educational expenses AND when you are done we will consider hiring you in a position with our company, or using our network of people find you a job in the field that you are studying? Then this guy could not only be a positive role model for his 4 children, but would be a contributing member of society and break the cycle of poverty and addictions that he has been living and afford to buy his own vehicle.
Oprah said in one of her shows that she is trying to bring to light how much we consume and how it is possible to live on less (ironic coming from her, no?). Then she goes and gives $1Million to the best philanthropist (last I checked - philanthropy was an act benefiting society that went unrewarded) and strengthens our resolve to buy more by giving away the one item that is epitomizes American consumerism – the automobile!
This blog post was not meant to be a diatribe against Oprah. She is an amazing woman, I just think she had so many opportunities with this game and she missed out. The one thing she was successful with, was getting others to look around them and see what needs to be done in their communities. Perhaps that will translate into more long-term forward thinking action and then the Bet2Give people can join forces with Oprah’s people and really generate social capital.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments.