Why does corporate philanthropy usually get slotted into the marketing budget/ vision of the company? In this age of conversation and co-production, community engagement/community affairs/community philanthropy seems to me to be a ripe R & D activity. Get out into communities or issues, see what they need, see if you can be useful. It's like social media - a conversation, not a broadcast.
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(Regularly scheduled programming)
I listened, attentively, to the story "autopsy" on This American Life. I think they set a new (high) standard for handling the mistakes we all make and are increasingly making in public. After watching, listening and talking about the Invisible Children video and how it compared to the Komen events of a few weeks ago, I realized two things:
- The two-way, conversational, visible and video-able nature of our media lives - in which everything is both instant and archived - is part of how our future institutions will need to look. These are attributes of 21st organizations, not just social media efforts.
- We engage in words, video, and photos - which broadens the conversations far beyond those who are comfortable writing. Commenting and conversing in video and photos - this is where digital media are taking us. Pinterest is one recent example of this - the boards are conversations in photo form. I post a photo, you respond with a photo, others chime in with photos of interest to them. This development further expands the conversation - not everyone is going to write down their thoughts, but we're all carrying video cameras in our pockets and will get more and more comfortable with recording and sharing our responses, ideas, conversations.
(Photo from Wikipedia)
When this photo was first shown to us earthlings, according to Degrasse Tyson, many people took it as proof of life on the red planet. Really, those are just rocks. The photos that scientists used to locate water on Mars show a barren landscape (no "faces"). His point is this - if you go looking for life on a distant planet and think that it's going to look like you, you're not going to find it.
My point - if we go looking for the institutions of the 21st century, and think they're going to look like those from the past, we're not going to find them. So I've started thinking instead about the attributes that viable organizations will have, given our expectations and technologies. A starting list includes:
- Permeable and transparent or very clear on why they're not.
- Generative - they have to do more than make one thing happen, they have to be able to set the conditions for the next thing to happen.
- Longer-term time horizon than one-off networks, but shorter-term than in the past (e.g. perpetuity).
- Public governance will change to expect and include outsiders (stakeholders?) in viable ways. Corporate public governance may go beyond shareholder proxies and public nonprofit governance will go beyond self-appointing boards of directors.