Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Humans Crave

JoAnna Schull from SYPartners sent me a link to some work by Jane McGonigal.

She pointed out (and I agree) that the following was particularly compelling:
What humans crave:

1. Satisfying work to do
2. The experience of being good at something
3. Time spent with people we like
4. The chance to be a part of something bigger.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Six Drivers of Goodness

The acclaimed new book Forces For Good by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant reviews twelve high impact non-profits and distills several common characteristics. These organizations:
  1. Work with government and advocate for policy change
  2. Harness market forces and see business as a powerful partner
  3. Convert individual supporters into evangelists for the cause
  4. Build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups as allies
  5. Adapt to the changing environment
  6. Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good
I like to think we do a pretty fair job at #2, 4, 5, and 6. Not perfect, but good.

With respect to #3, this year, we saw five "evangelists" each mobilize over 1,500 from their extended networks to support specific projects. Based on that, we are now designing some powerful - and hopefully fun - evangelist tools for the coming year.

We deliberately downplayed #1 until we had a track record to give us credibility. The GlobalGiving platform has now mobilized over $14 million of funding to 1,000 projects run by nearly 500 organizations in 90 countries. The funding came from a web of tens of thousands of individual donors as well as ten Fortune 100 companies. The bottom-up, open-access marketplace approach works. So now, eight years after my "retirement" from the public policy sphere where I spent the first fifteen years of my career (mostly at the World Bank), we are starting to engage again on policy matters. In fact, three of the largest aid agencies have recently called asking for us to provide advice to them on how they can adopt our approach themselves.

Stay tuned.

Sell or Buy?

For two strikingly different takes on the current economic situation, see the following:

1) A presentation by Sequoia , a VC firm, to the CEOs of its portfolio companies at a mandatory meeting last week.  The basic message:  Sell.  Be afraid; be very afraid. This is the worst crisis since the Great Depression.  Get rid of staff, shed expenses, reduce your horizons, and try to get to cash flow positive at all costs.  Optimism Index Quote: "It's always darkest before it's pitch black."

2) An article by Warren Buffet in the New York Times. Basic message:  Buy.  This is one of the greatest possible times to invest.  Opportunities like this do not come often.  There are lots of solid companies that are sound and that are significantly undervalued.  Find them and buy them. Optimism Index Quote: "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."


Monday, October 27, 2008

Each project is the beginning of a story...

You might think of us as a marketplace for giving, but we are also a set of tools for building a giving community, both on your street and around the world. Each project is the beginning of a story - an opening line of some great unwritten tale. We have our heroes (social entrepreneurs), our villians (disease, unjustice, poverty, you-name-it), and every reader is also a novelist. We buy the next volume each time we donate, but we also write the next chapter when we comment on projects, updates from the field, and tell others about a project by email, on Facebook, CouchSurfing, LinkedIn, or whatever your flavor of friend-manager happens to be.
That is from a very nice post over at our GlobalGoodness blog by Marc Maxson.  (I urge you read the whole thing.)

GlobalGiving is often called the world's leading marketplace for online giving.  But in reality, the extraordinary giving culture in the US is based on community rather than merely one-off transactions.  People to give to causes and initiatives in their local community, and people often give to things their friends recommend. 

GlobalGiving is leveraging the web to enable people across the world to connect around shared passions and concerns. Keep an eye out for new community features to in the months ahead.  And if there is anything specific you would like to see, send it to us.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I was wrong

"I was wrong."

Those words are rarely heard, especially in Washington. But earlier this year, I attended a breakfast meeting with Larry Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury and President of Harvard University. The title of his talk was something along the lines of "Three Significant Areas Where I Was Wrong." Larry is not a modest guy. But his talk made a big impression on me. It showed that he cared about the facts and about the truth, and that he was willing to change his mind based on evidence.

Today, Alan Greenspan joined Larry:

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.

A willingness to change one's mind based on the evidence, and not on ideology or preconceptions, is something we need a lot more of in this world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cutting to the chase

Poverty is bad. How’s that for over-simplification of a complex issue?
That is from a very nice blog post by Laura P. Thomas. She goes on to say:

When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

Sometimes complexity obscures and simplification illuminates. If you want to get a simple primer on why we should invest more in women and girls, read this post.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Focusing on the long view...

This graph comes from a blog post by Michael Clemens over at CGD.  Michael points out that short term shocks, while potentially severe, do not interrupt long term growth in well functioning economies.  The real  question, he writes, is how to ensure that economies are well functioning.