It's intermission. I am going offline (email, twitter, blog, etc.) till mid - May. Please be in touch again after May 15.
I often write about emergent forms of philanthropy, enabled or accelerated by digital technology. And I spend a lot of time looking for ways that established philanthropic institutions are or could be using these tools. Here are two recent examples:
This was a fun interview to do, with Dave Erasmus of Givey (UK mobile giving platform). Nineteen minutes (in British and American English) on what we're trying to understand at the Stanford PACS Digital Civil Society Lab.
Posted by Lucy Bernholz at 3/11/2015 10:05:00 AM
What happens when a university with schools of arts and humanities, business, design, education, engineering, law, and medicine decides to develop interdisciplinary learning experiences for professionals, using the latest technology and assuming a global audience? And when they turn to former management consultants - experts in helping professionals learn new ideas - to help them do it?
Well, in one experiment you get Stanford's new Worldview program. A combination of customized online content drawn from faculty across the university, onsite interdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities, and digitally-native courses, lessons, and materials to work from in the meantime.
Is it the future of executive education? I don't know, but I had a great time being a tiny part of their curriculum for a new course on Data. I tried to convey how we use digital data and infrastructure matters in civil society should be driven by the sector's defining values of voluntarism (consent), assembly (privacy), and expression (privacy and data ownership).
Here's the list of suggested reading for the class. Check out the Worldview program - it might be just what you're looking for.*
"A laboratory of human behavior the likes of which we've never seen."
That's actually a description of a social media company. You can hear more in this fantastic Radio Lab podcast, The Trust Engineers, which Andrew Zolli of PopTech
Means of Data Science for Social Good helped to create.
The idea of a social media company as laboratory of human behavior is provocative enough to push us to ask, where does science get done? Citizen science, wearable technology, remote sensors - perhaps we've turned the whole world into a lab of human behavior.
There's surely more to come - with virtual reality and the blockchain two predictable next digital frontiers for civil society.
If the whole world's a lab, have you opted in to be a research subject? And have you thought about Values Aligned Technology?
I just finished a three part series on digital values and civil society. We'll have to call this post part 3.5.
As I did so, I was (slightly) relieved to see that the Chronicle of Philanthropy raised an ethical eyebrow at the growing practice of nonprofits' selling data and digital data rights in their link to this story from The Philadelphia Inquirer.*
This is a great example of the ethical conundrums facing nonprofits in the digital age. Gather and sell people's data? Nothing new in that business model - it's been working ridiculously well for social media giants and search companies for more than a decade now (works great for data brokers also).
I've been thinking a lot about values, society, and technological design. I'm trying to articulate what, when, and how the values that shape civil society should be expressed with and within technology. What I do know is that it's not just at the point of use. We need tools that default to the values we care about, not just those that serve the company that built the tool or the government that regulates its use. We can't continue to duct-tape our tech tools into our social sector work or political protest.
So far, most of what I've read about this, and the thinking I participated in at the Ethics of Data Conference, talks about ethical decision making across the data lifecycle. This is an important start. But it doesn't seem to start early enough in the tech/data development process. The values of the end user and the end uses need to be designed into the tools from the beginning.
"Typically, Robert Brunner explained, design had been “a vertical stripe in the chain of events” in a product’s delivery; at Apple, it became “a long horizontal stripe, where design is part of every conversation.”This is how we need to think about societal values and technology devices. Something that is considered throughout the technology creation process. Not the values of the device makers but the values of the end users and the sector in which the tools will be used. That would lead to technology that serves us, not situations where we need to jury-rig the tools for our ends. Values aligned technology - something to aspire to, especially as digital sensors and networked connectivity become part and parcel of everything.
Here we go again. A small group of #nonprofits will engage in the policy battle about data privacy. The rest of nonprofit sector and philanthropy will stand by, ignoring it. Thinking "consumer data privacy standards" - not our issue.
Yes, It is our issue. Replace the word "consumer" with the word "individual." Now, does it sound relevant? Digital data privacy matters to nonprofits and foundations. Digital isn't optional, it's integral. Data management (including privacy) is the equivalent of fiduciary responsibility.
Managing, protecting, securing, destroying and respecting digital data is the key organizational capacity issue for nonprofits and foundations today. You have data from and about your beneficiaries, your donors, your staff, you.
How nonprofits manage data matters. Handling it well could (and should) lead to long term retention of trust and integrity in the sector. Standing by and waiting for Comcast, Target, Home Depot, Sony, your health insurance company, JP Morgan, (and every other major corporate or government agency that's recently been hacked) along with Axciom and the other 3999 commercial data brokers to come up with a bill won't help civil society. Standing by doesn't help you as an individual (the proverbial "consumer"), it doesn't help your nonprofit or foundation think through these issues as they matter to you, and it doesn't help the sector.
The sector as a whole is missing an opportunity to stand up for the rights of individuals and to stand up and differentiate nonprofit corporations and their respect for data privacy from their commercial competitors. On the issue of people and their digital data why aren't nonprofits and foundation standing up saying "We Will Do this Right?" Here's what I wish nonprofits and foundations were saying right now:
"Since we're not in the data collection business to make a buck, and because we do collect (a lot) of data on you, this is how we handle it, this is how we use it toward our mission, these are your rights to get it back from us, and here's proof of our data integrity."What a moment to declare the integrity of the sector and collectively stand for trustworthy, mission-driven, transparent and understandable, respectful approaches to using personal data for public good.
Digital infrastructure and the nature of digital assets have been transformative. Business gets this - companies traffic in data, are valued in the marketplace by their ability to collect and manage digital data, products are designed around data, entire companies shift their focus from computers to music to telecommunications to wearables to automobiles (I'm looking at you, Apple). Business schools can't promote digital innovation headily enough. If the biggest topic in US healthcare a few years ago was the Affordable Care Act it's rapidly switching to use of your personal health data.
Governments get it and are opening their data stores, sometimes for good and sometimes to obfuscate and confuse. What data we want our government to collect on us in the name of security - and where and how they get it - has dominated news cycles and Administration edicts since the middle of 2013. Net neutrality is (literally) the policy issue of the day - and represents a major grassroots, civil society policy win.* Broadband access is gaining policy attention, and keep your eyes out as our attention shifts to Zero Rating as the next big threat to free speech and association.
You'd never know any of the above from looking at the philanthropy and nonprofit news or associational agendas. For example:
Independent Sector has released it's new guidelines for good practice and ethical principles for the social sector. There are important updates in here from the last version, especially raising data security to the level of governance responsibility that it deserves. But "secure your servers" is pretty much the extent to which these guidelines acknowledge the digital underpinnings of today's civil society.
Grantcraft has a new guidebook out on capacity building. It offers great guidance for funding institutions, but there's nothing in it that I found that wouldn't have applied to funder/nonprofit relationships in 1994 (pre-World Wide Web and mobile phones). Is that because nonprofits' digital capacity is so robust or because it's unimportant? Or not understood or undervalued?
Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has a new updated guide on capacity building also. A search for "digital" in the pdf file yields no results.Philanthropy and civil society need to step up to our digital reality.