Saturday, November 03, 2007

grantmakers grab new media options

We've just come from the Communications Network in Philanthropy annual meeting in Miami, where the group got its hands around options for using new and social media--not just to replace traditional communications, but to engage applicants, field-test ideas, network with key constituencies, and more. After a video tour through YouTube, MTV's, and other sites being used to engage volunteers and donors (from a 21-year-old intern at the Knight Foundation), we heard what's already in play. Perhaps boldest are the MacArthur Foundation experiments with Second Life, where they've created meetings on philanthropic issues and hope to get feedback on new funding ideas; these Second Life forays grow out of an initiative exploring digital life and its impact on young people. Covered here by the New York Times, and here on the foundation's website, the initiative is described with care by the foundation, which emphasizes it's experimental, and notes:

...we are cautious about claims that technology can solve longstanding social problems. The unintended or negative consequences of virtual worlds may demand the attention of foundations as urgently as any exciting benefits. MacArthur’s digital media and learning blog has already been discussing such unexpected consequences as girls’ career choices. In virtual worlds, it is reasonable to expect that some social concerns may quickly benefit, while others may face new challenges.
The Skoll Foundation's Social Edge site combines blogs, discussion threads, YouTube video interviews with social activists, iTunes podcasts and more. Storytelling is key, we were told by the foundation's Victor d'Allant, who showed gripping video interviews from Global X, a series of 3- to 7-minute video interviews with leading social entrepreneurs talking about stories that had a significant impact on their lives and their view of the world in 2017. They're consistently ranked at or near the top on iTunes podcasts, and some have resulted in direct calls from funders to the entrepreneur on the video, offering funds.

New ways to reinvent annual reports, outreach to youth audiences and other uses for new media also were covered, but the proof that new media have caught on came when some of the group created on the fly a Facebook group for the network, to encourage meeting participants and network members not present to continue the discussion online, by way of practicing use of social media.

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