Posted on December 7th, 2010 No comments
Since I am often focused on local social issues and nonprofit organizations within the city, my recent encounters/findings have been rather unusual. The experience has inspired me to see philanthropy in different perspectives that I don’t normally consider. Mainly, a crossover between Western vs. Eastern philanthropy and reality vs. virtual philanthropy.
Allow me to explain…
Three weeks ago, SVP Calgary was invited by the Center of International Business Studies from University of Alberta to present to a group of government officials from Chongqing, China. The group came to Canada to learn about our system of non-governmental social sector and security net. Collaborating with CUPS (Calgary Urban Project Society), we had an hour long presentation covering general landscape of Canadian nonprofit sector. More specifically on trends and infrastructure of the nonprofits in Calgary highlighting community and individual effort. The group was very eager to learn and asked many thoughtful questions. Due to the cultural differences, they found the Western value of community (stemming from heavy religious values) fascinating in comparison to their values of family and socialist society. What we take for granted everyday – living in a system of well-developed social sector in comparison – the questions these Chinese officials ask reminded me of how different our mentality is and the strengths and weaknesses in our systems.
As part of the preparation, I also read a few articles reporting on the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge going to China to attract more philanthropist. Because of the differences among cultures, the trip was not successful soliciting any large donors but rather started a series of debates and conversations.
A couple of days ago, I read an online blog post analyzing recent trends and future of philanthropy. Midway through the paper, the author, Thomas Frey, talked about how virtual gaming currencies will become an integral part of philanthropy! He encourages futuristic thinking of philanthropy in virtual worlds meeting people where they are at, and not only in our current dollar system.
For example, in the gaming world, one U.S. Dollar equals:
- 10 Facebook Credits
- 125-170 WOW Gold (World of Warcraft)
- 80 Microsoft Points
- 10 Project Entropia Dollars (Entropia Universe)
- 6 Q coins (QQ.com)
- 250 Linden Dollars (Second Life)
- 1,500,000 Star Wars Galaxies Credits
- 6 Habbo Coins (Habbo Hotel)
- 10 Twollars (Twitter)
- 100 Nintendo points
- 1,000 IMVU credits
- 80 hi5 coins
- 5 Farm Cash (FarmVille)
- 5.71 WildCoins (WildTangent WildGames)
- 2,000 Therebucks
- 100 Whyville Pearls
- 25,000,000 ISK (EVE Online)
- 0.75 Mahalo Dollars
- 4 Zealies (Dogster)
- 10 Ven (Hub Culture)
Personally I haven’t heard of most of the currencies mentioned above (as I’m not a huge gamer!) Nor do I understand how the calculations of conversion came about. However, I think we’ve all witnessed the power of Facebook and Twitter in building an enormous and impactful network in our communities. By converting into other online currencies, Frey is seeing a broadening of philanthropy into other worlds – real or virtual, and endless possibilities.
What can 10 Twollars (Twitter) do? How can 5 Farm Cash (FarmVille) help people?
What do you think of this blurring border lines between nations and worlds? I invite you to post a comment and share your thoughts!
Posted on July 26th, 2010 No comments
I just read an online article published by Financial Times that made me very happy! According to the article titled “Business Education“, over 100 colleges and business schools in the US are offering courses on philanthropy as part of their MBA curriculum!
I’m happy because people are starting to recognize the importance of passing down these values and implication of philanthropy on a wider and sophisticated level. I’ve observed the perception of philanthropy usually on the two ends of the spectrum – either too simplistic seeing it as just rich folks giving away money, or completely avoiding it and deferring to a donor advised fund without really understanding why they are contributing. Elenore Garton, a senior researcher at the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis Univeristy, describes the first kind of situation well:
“People tend to think, ‘Philanthropy: that’s easy. You have a lot of money, and you give it away’. But to do philanthropy well, you have to understand social problems and what is at the root of them, you have to be able to take in a lot of information and evaluate what an organisation is doing and you have to make hard choices. Donors have a lot of challenges and I want students to understand their perspective,”
Examining philanthropy from different angles and perspectives, most of these courses involve lectures and readings on the history of philanthropy, issues in the grant-making process and concerns in philanthropy and public policy. I am also thrilled to read that these courses are gradually attracting students majoring in general business management other than non-profit studies. As philanthropy has evolved and morphed through the decades, branches of it have extended across sectors and disciplines and it’s about time that we recognize its impact on our society and understand it outside the box in a critical and analytical way!
Posted on May 27th, 2009 1 comment
My recent participation in the Calgary Social Forum and the Calgary’s Vital Signs conversation has been really inspiring. While there are many repetitions confirming once again the heavy reliance the non-profit sector has on government support and funding, I’ve observed other interesting comments and point of views.
The fact that many gathered to listen, discuss and provide feedbacks in conversations and gatherings like these prove that people care. Whether it is out of our love for all mankind or the love for Calgary as our city or out of a sense of belonging, people have recognized that it is during difficult economic times, community, creativity and genuine philanthropy thrives. Some claimed that Calgary is a chosen city to live in with strong neighborhood support, and some have great love for their communities and proud to be calling Calgary home. Nevertheless, aside from all the positive comments, words and phrases like “isolation”, “gaps”, “disparity between rich and poor”, and ”siloization” keep on popping up among various conversations and topics. Why is there such a big difference in opinions residing on the opposing ends of the spectrum?
Furthermore, conversations like the above indeed help raise awareness to many areas of concerns, however, does awareness equal true understanding and common grounds? Or are people still living in their own constructed realities? Does awareness equal action? What can we do to close the gaps and bring people together? How can we make changes happen? I am bombarded with so many questions that I’m not even sure where to begin! Perhaps Richard Harwood from the Hardwood Institute for Public Innovation has the answer…
Listening to him at the Calgary Social Forum was a great encouragement. According to Harwood, organizations (both for profit and not for profit) need to look beyond their own opinions, concerns, services and programs and turn outward. We need listen to the public and the rhythm of the community. Public engagement is not just giving a marker to someone for dot-mocracy’s sake, nor is it putting a microphone in the middle of the room soliciting comments. What Harwood refers to as “authentic engagement” is the deeper deliberation with the public and really understand people’s background, concerns, and choices. Rather than focusing inward in one’s organizational goals and programs, public input may shed some light as to how we can make positive changes in the community.
“The more leaders and organizations try to turn outward and focus on the communities in which they work, the more they reach for inward practices for guidance about what to do” – Richard Harwood
As it sounds all wonderful and inclusive, it’s not to say that there are fewer debates and push backs to Harwood’s philosophy. Some leaders think engaging the general public will just prolong the decision making process and that it contradicts with their style to get things done. Some have also expressed that attention, support and funding do not come easily without the measuring of how successful their programs are and until they can show impact, no one really cares!
Thus, I pose my questions here:
What do you see as good qualities and opportunities in Calgary? And what do you think are key concerns that need to be addressed in Calgary?
Are you listening to the rhythms of the community?
Is your organization program-driven or people-driven?
Perhaps language is already a barrier in itself calling it “our” programs and decisions from the organizations to “their” opinions and concerns from the public…
Thanks to Richard Harwood, Calgary Foundation and everyone that participated in the forum and conversations, for all the challenges and picking on our brains. It was great to meet so many interesting people.