Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter:
Two social entrepreneurs have written a paper calling for a social enterprise research clearinghouse along the lines of Nexis or Amazon, using e-commerce technology such as that of music download services or purchase recommendation engines. Jed Emerson of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Joshua Spitzer of the Sun Ranch Institute note that consumer-driven e-commerce innovations may offer the next advances in the sector in a paper for Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. From Fragmentation to Function: Critical Concepts and Writings on Social Capital Market’s Structure, Operation and Innovation offers six initial ideas to help improve what they call “social capital markets”: social enterprises broadly defined to include nonprofits and businesses that specifically aim to add social value. The online marketplace of ideas they propose would facilitate publishing, distributing, cross-referencing and controlling quality. Too much research into social capital markets lacks quality, cannot be considered objective and is too focused on case study and anecdote.
Meanwhile, a report reviewing “online philanthropy markets” calls for creation of a “performance data commons,” or an independent space for information and data exchange, pooling data on performance, donor behavior and other key data points. According to Online Philanthropy Markets: From ‘Feel-Good’ Giving to Effective Social Investing? by the nonprofit Keystone and funded by the Aspen Institute, online philanthropy markets, or Website platforms connecting small, individual donors to charities including Kiva and Network for Good, could indeed make a significant contribution, even transforming the entire field of philanthropy just as eBay altered the auction market. But they will do so only if they address their fatal flaw: the generally inadequate informational basis for understanding what difference the organizations are making. A data commons could allow long-term analysis to see what capabilities turn out to correlate to actual performance, helping to identify the capabilities that best predict impact.
It still seems, though, that the model is a penny stock exchange, ebay, or a dating site, rather than, say, The Bost Tea Party. Buying, selling, consuming, investing - is that your sociopolical ideal?