I attended the Guardian’s Activate summit this week and was heartened to see a sprinkling of attendees from our sector.
It is refreshing to witness many of our oldest charities embracing technology and the social web like toddlers finding the space to play and make new friends.
The complexity of the problems we face in the world out-paces the ability of any individual organisation to address them. Many people are now asking whether organisations working through networks could do better, and this was a constant theme through the day.
For example, should we give more focus to finding alternatives that tap the power of networks such as ‘crowd-funding’, which not only bring in money, but it also power the community?
Crowd-funding has found itself in the spotlight since President Obama’s election victory in 2008, and I shared in the excitement of Tom Thirlwell, CEO at Big Balls Films, as he showcased the crowd-sourced film peaceBOMB, the money for which was raised in 30 days by over 100 people using the Kickstarter platform. All effectively became ‘producers’, and will get a name-check in the finished film; in Bob Dylan flipping cue cards-style.
Other themes were transparency, and how more of it is inevitable, whether we like it or not. Charities should expect it. Soon.
Ditto, charities as “sensemakers” – mashing data with storytelling – a topic that Peter Wanless blogged about this week.
Technology is driving a sea-change in peoples’ expectations of communication, with many now expecting charities to be as open with them as they are with their own relationships.
This is something ‘netroots’ charities like the Child’s i Foundation instinctively do well, using stories to illustrate impact and encouraging its supporter community to share what they have done with their friends.
However, this change in tone and posture appears much more difficult for many charities – those “not hardwired” for digital – as another speaker, Martha Lane Fox, put it.
I, however, remain an optimist and it was repeated more than once at Activate that this stuff is ‘90% people, and only 10% technology’.
That’s down to us then.