Virtual Platforms for Good: Empowering Individuals

BlogHer Original Post

Photo of my avatar, "Beth Kavka" with Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation.

I wanted to highlight a couple of observations that Lucy Bernholz makes in her analysis of yesterday's discussion about philanthropy in Second Life by the MacArthur Foundation.   She points out why this was such a groundbreaking event and suggests a compelling new metaphor for philanthropy:

Imagine
if philanthropy sought to be an "empowering platform for individuals
(and organizations) to make change."

But
to really be a platform for individuals, where the participants decide
how to do things, where the successful organizations are only those
that help residents succeed, where feedback loops are tight, fast, and
respected - these are new ways for philanthropic institutions to act. A
good start, a conversation with anyone who could get there, was made
today. I hope the Foundation and its partners are successful in
achieving their goals: listening to new voices, providing means for
isolated groups to get together, offering support for creative
solutions "in world" that might transfer to "real life." The
conversation started - lets hope (and help) it continues.

What is interesting to me about this concept of a platform for change that is very different from say - campaigns on social networking sites like Facebook or the use of widgets and charity badges on blogs for personal fundraising campaigns -- is that while Virtual Worlds are empowering individuals -- we are empowering collective action.

I was also surprised to read this post by the Web Metrics Guru, not the usual type of blog that covers the nonprofit world or philanthropy.

Just as blogging is now becoming mainstream, but was ahead of the curve three or four years ago (and several Bloggers, are now seen as influencials (and members of the Press (sorta) - if they have a wide enough audience).   

I predict the same fate for Second Life and other 3D-Virtual Words
- although the time frame is closer to 5 or 6 years from now (and I
think it was Gartner who said that by 2010 or 2011 pretty much everyone
is going to have a "Second Life" in a 3D Virtual World -I wrote about
it in More people leading 3D virtual lives online) due to hardware and platform restrictions that prevent a wider adoption now.

I noticed that Macarthur Foundation is not limiting themselves to Second Life -
but also are exploring There.com.  I saw There.com at Virtual Worlds
2007 but did not focus as much on them, being more interested in just
covering the whole event and making contacts, which are already proving
to be very useful and helpful to me.

But it's clear to me the lines have been drawn, even at unlikely places like Search Engine Strategies (I wrote about my first hand impressions at the last SES in NYC  in Search Marketers and Second Life don't seem to mix) -
as many in the Search Engine market have traditionally seen themselves
as the innovators - when in reality they have now become mainstream and
tomorrow, some of them will be forgotten unless they, as group, move
forward - to innovate and see what's happening now.

That's always the challenge ... to move forward...you have to give up something.

The UgoTrade Blog shares some notes from the event, but also tells us about the magic of Second Life and the ability to provide access to people:

Both Philip Linden and Jonathan Fanton stayed after the
event to chat one on one with people.
I sent an IM to Jonathan Fanton about an African intitiated Virtual
Africa portal to Second Life (see next post!). And, I got an instant
response. Not only did Jonathan Fanton himself want to stay in touch
with project. He immediately sent contact information for the person
most involved with Africa at The MacArthur Foundation.

Here's an update on the round up of coverage:

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