Michael Maranda put me on to this. Please check out the 15 minute film and the related site. And this key post on the Stewardship of Open Source Networks. The vision is incredibly compelling, and at least half way practical. Count me in as a node on this network. I will commit (assuming there is a need for this) to creating a free online node for those high capacity funders who want to educate themselves to make wise giving decisions in an open source, open space, coalition of the willing for a thriving planet. Log on, converge, swarm.
If you are a regular Gifthub reader, please take the time to investigate the links above. Then, please drop a comment or an email on how you think those capable of "philanthropy" might be brought into this mix. How can donors support an ever-evolving network of often evanescent nodes ("the swarm") devoted to social change in the face of an increasingly militant status quo (Beck, Koch, et al)? How can such a network of networks be funded? I have specific thoughts on this. What occurs to you?
Recently I discovered that the Gifthub readership skews towards women in nonprofit roles who are old enough to recall the social activism of the 60s. Comrades of the Female Gender! For very good reason, you don't comment here. If I were respectable, I wouldn't either. But if you do have insights into how to convene, connect, and fund a global network of organizations so tiny that most are not legally nonprofits, I would appreciate your getting in touch by email. Community foundations are, presumably, part of this mix.
I guess I don't see how this is an innovative proposal: nonprofits already work within networks, either locally through partnerships, regionally and nationally through associations, and crosswise through affinity networks (like NTEN or AFP). And new networks are being started all the time as new tools and professionalizations emerge. That these networks haven't formed into networks of networks is the age-old issue of resources: nobody funds capacity building, and networking is not program delivery.
For this initiative (and I understand knowing where the organizers are coming from), I'm a little disappointed that it's framed as a technology problem (and from the video, a "war"). It may be an issue of "interoperability" as they frame it, but the problem isn't that our websites aren't talking. The problem is that we're not talking, we're not creating consensus between our different visions for the future, and we aren't developing common actions to bring us closer to them. Speaking of the 1960s, whatever happened to leadership development schools like the Highlander Folk School. Why haven't they grown at the same pace as the rest of the nonprofit sector?
In terms of building global networks, my opinion is that you must strengthen them from the bottom. Which means funding local engagement and community organizing. I would like to see more donors and funders supporting local social justice outcomes---which requires, as you've been writing about lately, developing a vision.
This whole thing makes me think of a quote from the conclusion Rushkoff's "Life Inc.":
Posted by: Ben | September 08, 2010 at 11:28 AM
Ben, thank you for the very thoughtful and nuanced response. I learned a lot from it. Also, thank you for the Rushkoff quotation, that is one to treasure. I will file it under Philanthropy/Hyperagents.
So, we have the hyperagents, the supperrich, and the megarich, and the rich, who are said to be able to save us, and we have the nonprofits who can indeed sometimes network and sometimes do, and we have meliorism, the gradual making of things better - one cruel response might, "How is that working out for you?"
Posted by: phil | September 08, 2010 at 02:47 PM
How's that working out for us ?
Posted by: Jon Husband | September 09, 2010 at 12:01 AM
The Frame of the Normal is what is killing us. News is the deviation from the Normal. And philanthropy preserves the Normal, as best it can. But challenging the frame of the normal requires, it seems, disaster. And each disaster is used by those in power, whether blue or red, to ratchet us farther towards a world under corporate control, a world where we are consumers more than citizens. This of course is war by other means. It turns ugly only when challenged. How ugly, Beck, of course. CIA beatings, of course. Omnipresent surveillance, of course. The Spectral Overseer, who smiles when told, "But there is nothing new here! We are already doing this!" Nice children get pats on the head. Here is a token gift, Sonny, now beat it.
Posted by: phil | September 09, 2010 at 09:20 AM
I am token and beaten ...
Posted by: Jon Husband | September 09, 2010 at 01:42 PM
Good experience for when you go back to coaching the beaters.
Posted by: Phil Cubeta | September 09, 2010 at 05:47 PM