Monday, September 29, 2008

more adapters: garage and gallery

At the Communications Network in Philanthropy meeting last week, the authors of a new report on foundations' use of Web 2.0 technologies noted that -- no surprise -- grantees are ahead of foundations in adapting social networking applications to their work and communications, and foundations are wrestling with issues of control and transparency, as well as identifying where the conversations are that they should join. But a session on Web 2.0 yielded more examples of what I call new-media adapters, organizations that are retooling their communications using Web 2.0 tools.

One such foundation is the Rasmuson Foundation, which has created a Second Life gallery to highlight the Alaskan artists it funds and to reach the "creative class" that populates Second Life's virtual world. Here's the description of the gallery from the foundation's announcement of the gallery opening, held in the real and virtual worlds on the same day:
Located on a snowy hill, the Rasmuson Gallery of Alaskan Artists takes full advantage of the creative possibilities of building in a virtual world. Enormous paintings and photographs hang in midair around the outdoor space. Avatars can either walk around or fly around the exhibits to view the select pieces of Alaskan art. One exhibit, a poem, is mounted as words on a towering post which can be read by flying to the top and floating back down to the ground. There are three levels to the gallery - the ground floor will house art from some of the 2008 award recipients, the second floor houses additional artwork from grantees from previous years, and the third floor is a social gathering space for Second Life residents and Alaskans in Second Life.
In addition, the foundation is using Facebook, MySpace and blogs to connect art collectors, artists and others with its Alaskan art resources, encouraging conversations with the artists as well as views of their work. (If you're a member of Second Life, you can see the gallery here.) It's a great example of using social networking tools to communicate from a remote location and increase your global reach, as well as a novel arts promotion tactic that's gaining wide acceptance: Second Life features more than 1,000 such art galleries.

Innovation moves from the gallery to the garage at the Knight Foundation's "News Challenge," which gives away up to $5 million a year to innovative projects that bring news and information to communities. The Garage is an incubator of sorts, where prospective applicants can post their ideas before they submit a grant application, getting mentor advice, job applicants, comments from other applicants, and general help in shaping the proposal to advance its success. Live meetups are scheduled for applicants in various cities to augment the online experience, and frequent updating of the site with new submissions makes it a lively virtual experience. Previously, a foundation seeking submissions might issue an electronic and print call for proposals to people on its mailing list and website, and work individually with applicants during the review process. Opening up the "garage" opens up new opportunities--and challenges, as some applicants may hesitate to share their ideas publicly. But the Garage holds promise for other organizations wanting to publicize their contests and applications processes, while gaining new audiences and partners along the way.

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