TechSoup's Susan Tenby, Senor Manager--Online Community Development , gave a prepared testimony before the the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on April 1st about the potential of Second Life for nonprofits. Her testimony was part of today's hearing: "Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars in a User-Generated Medium". Transcript and video here.
Susan also sent around a couple of links to stories in the press about her appearance.
If you think that virtual worlds means Second Life, there are many others. I just discovered this introduction on YouTube and thought I'd share it here. One thing I learned is that WhyVille is a virtual world that will run on low bandwidth (dial-up) and lower end computers. To learn more about virtual worlds in education, check out the Horizon Project Wikispace.
Leading Non-profits Discuss "Best Practices" for Using Virtual Worlds for Activism, Collaboration, Education, and Fundraising
Friday, February 8, 8:30AM PST, Plush Nonprofit Commons Amphitheater in Second Life
The year 2007 was a remarkable year for charitable and civil society activity in Second Life -- from the launch of the 32-office Plush Nonprofit Commons to the record US$100,000 raised by the SL Relay for Life. On Friday, February 8, from 8:30-9:30AM PST, there will be presentation and discussion on "Best Practices for Non-profits in Second Life." Based on a report prepared by Global Kids organizer Rik Panganiban, the program will explore what are some of the lessons that non-profits have learned from their first forays into the virtual world.
More information here.
I presented on a panel today for the California Association of Nonprofits "Building Stronger Nonprofits" Conference that is taking place in Los Angeles about nonprofits and second life. The panel was done both in the real world and in second life - so I didn't increase my carbon footprint by flying in from the East Coast.
Two virtual representations of Guantanamo Bay prison (gitmo) have launched this week, one with the specific goal of encouraging the U.S. government to close the real prison and the other to encourage public discourse. Both projects are engaging examples of virtual advocacy, with one creating a virtual representation of the detention center in the virtual world Second Life and the other, a flash-based web site that has a video game quality to it.
Tearitdown.org, from by Amnesty International USA, is billed as an online movement to tear down the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Visitors to Web site can eliminate one pixel from a photo of Guantánamo by signing a pledge protesting the U.S. government’s detention center. This project is part of AIUSA’s America I Believe In campaign that seeks to restore America’s leadership on human rights and end abuses in the war on terror. All 500,000 petitions will be delivered in person to the president, encouraging the U.S. government to close the real prison.
The site departs from the typical online advocacy tactic of getting people to sign a online petition with some compelling messaging and forwarding it via email to friends. After you sign the petition, the online pledge rips a pixel from a photograph depicting hooded and handcuffed prisoners at the detention site. The pixel is replaced with your name and is left behind. Indeed, after I signed the petition,a pointer to the pixel with name on it. I saw there mesmerized watching the animation and reading the other names of the petition signers (not all 47,000 of them, though) and was offered a badge to put on my social networking profile or blog.
The Web site includes case studies, other actions and information about upcoming protest concerts happening around the country in the next six months.
Earlier in the week, USC Institute for Media Literacy and the Seton Hall School of Law launched a "Virtual Guantanamo" to focus on public policy issues surrounding the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. The first in a series of monthly discussions about various political, legal and ethical questions surrounding the detention center, the program on Monday focused on constitutional questions relevant to Guantanamo. The mixed-reality discussion took place in real life at Seton Hall and in the virtual world, Second Life. Blogger Rik Riel writes about his harrowing experience as a virtual prisoner there.
Second Life kiva.org volunteer: Julles Boucher
Kiva.org, a micro-finance organization, has funded nearly 17,0000 loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries and last week crossed the $11 million rank. Kiva.org has already had a very big year, funding about $9 million worth of loans so far, and having been featured in the mainstream media including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Oprah and on ABC News. With the assistance of dedicated volunteers, Kiva also maintains a presence on different social networking sites and has recently established a presence on Second Life through the Techsoup Nonprofits Commons Project.
I discovered this when I clicked on Skeeboo Tammas's profile while chatting with him in Second Life. His profile said.
Do good at Kiva.org! For $25, you can help fund a small loan to someone in need in a developing country. Kiva is not a charity. You get repaid and e-mail updates as the business succeeds! From there you can withdraw your funds or lend it back out. You can also donate Lindens to one of our Fundraisers, or drop it into the donation box at our virtual office here on Second Life. Click on the Picks tab above to teleport there! For more information about this amazing social lending network, visit Kiva.org
That's only one method they use to help educate Second Life users about Kiva's work.
Skeeboo Tammas (or Joe Alamo in real life), a volunteer who also runs KivaFriends.org, Kiva's MySpace page, their Change.org profile and created the kiva.org browser bar. that the staff does not have time to manage.
Julles Boucher or (Julia Bailey, PhD) serves as kiva.org's Second Life Coordinator on a volunteer basis. She entered Second Life because of her relationship with kiva.org, but has purchased land and operates a shop called Garb the World. She is scientist in real life and a self-described philanthropist who has invested $5,000 plus in kiva.org. She is interested in technology and is an owner of an Internet-based business.
I sat down with to learn more about their efforts on Kiva's behalf in the virtual world.
What is kiva.org doing in SL?
Expanding marketing and awareness. We had an office a while back that someone donated but it disappeared, so we got a booth at 1st Life Aid, a few other places and we are just starting to set up a presence with the Nonprofit Commons Project. We think it is a good idea to be located with other nonprofits.
Why do you think Second Life is important for nonprofits - particularly fundraising?
Second Life is a good way to disseminate information. There is a large audience and it has been very helpful for other volunteers to work on kiva.org projects in here. For example, one morning I worked from my home in California with Joe in NY and a volunteer in Belgium in setting up an information booth. We also had help from the preson who runs the booth and who is in South Africa. It's exciting to meet other people in world who care about kiva.org and work together.
What are your goals for having a presence in SL with an office?
Exposing the Kiva organization to new people in this interesting digital world and raising money to fund loans. The strategy is kind of loose at the moment for us as we feel our way around this world. We've set up a booth and got 15 loans (at $25 each), but donations really started pouring in when wwe got the first Life Aid booth. Mostly we're attending events and doing virtual guerrilla marketing. There is another group that has raised $300 USD for Kikiva on Second Life and we also work with them.
Given your experience with managing kiva.org's presence in other social networking sites like myspace, how do virtual worlds compare in terms of the ROI?
Second Life is 3-D and very interesting in things can be done in terms of virtual marketing. It can go beyond a standard web page and we're taking advantage of that. I think it's been very good. Kiva has had it's biggest year ever and our digital marketing has had a big role in that. Maybe not as big as Oprah, but still ...
What advice would you give to nonprofits just starting off in second life?
Start a team to figure things out, invite your volunteers/donors to help and empower them as the Official Second Life volunteer, look for gamers who are already familiar with these virtual worlds. Attend lots of meetings and talk to people and ask questions and get help. There are lots of people in Second Life who want to help and there are many users here hanging out who would love to volunteer for a non-profit.
Photo by Peacemaker
According to Wikipedia, a griefer is
"a slang term used to describe a player in an multiplayer video game who plays the game simply to cause grief to other players through harassment. Griefing could be considered a malignant form of emergent gameplay."
Griefing can be a problem in Second Life, although it does not happen at every location all the time. For example, at the BlogHer in Second Life panels and social events no problems were report as indicated by this report by VintFalken and the Information Literacy Weblog. Even the high profile plenary session by Elizabeth Edwards was not griefed.
Griefing can turn a virtual event into an unpleasant experience. According to the Second Life Insider blog:
Depending on the environment, there may be a wide variety of specific behaviours (kill-stealing, blocking, training, player-killing, team-killing etc). They don't enjoy Second Life the way you or I enjoy Second Life. They enjoy it when they make you sad, or unhappy, or frustrated. Especially when you show it. Face it – it's easier to destroy than to create – and it requires comparatively little effort or talent.
I first heard the term over a year ago when I first started exploring Second Life and we implemented the first TechSoup Nonprofits in Second Life Mixed Reality Event. "What about griefers?" someone asked at the planning meeting. While everyone was a little nervous about the potential for deviants to show up at the event and to be destructive, no one did. At the Nonprofit Commons recent launch party last month, there were concerns about griefers, particularly because of the experience of the honored guest.
But yesterday, the griefers arrived. My initial thought was that the nonprofit presence is getting large and influential enough to attract griefers. The Nonprofit Commons was one of several dozen sims attacked with mutant ninja turtle posters. Susan Tenby, on the Second Life and Nonprofits Blog, reports what it is like to be in the middle of it all:
The griefing made it dizzying and unpleasant to be in the NPC sim, but I was still able to talk to avatars. I got bumped around a bit, but it was a little like trying to have a conversation in a hailstorm or a typhoon. The rain though, in this case was hundreds of little square teenage mutant ninja turtle posters. There was also a deafening scream,but I just muted my computer.
Susan Tenby wonders whether the attack was from someone trying to get into a group called 'The goons," an elite group of griefers who only accept members after proving themselves for at least three months. The act of griefing becomes a sort of fraternity hazing activity. Perhaps matching the age profile of griefers, although there is debate whether or not all griefers are 19 year olds.
Griefers are the virtual world equivalent of trolls, cyberbullies, and hackers. As the Annalee Newitz notes in a post on the She's Such A Geek! blog reaction to the Kathy Sierra incident last winter,
"As somebody who has also been stalked by griefers ... I can understand why Sierra is disturbed. If it were me, I would be angry rather than afraid. But fear and anger are two faces of the same thing. They’re what we feel when we’re helpless to change something huge, like intrenched sexism, in the communities and industries we call home."
Like troll behavior and cyberbullying, griefing attacks can't be entirely prevented. There are ways to minimize the risk as this Businessweek article recommends, but as Susan Tenby notes in her blog post, "It does also give me pause to think about how vulnerable SL is to hacks, though."
I'm in Chicago in spirit. Just found the detailed post of links for the SLCC Nonprofit and Education tracks. It's here. Enjoy!
This is from a live blog post by Peter Brantly of O'Reilly Radar from a conference hosted by the Hewlett Foundation on Friday. They are discussing options for virtual world platforms for education and standards. The options:
Possible evaluation criteria for virtual worlds ...
Functionality: graphics quality; APIs for simulation;
interface tools; authoring tools; links to 2D web; chat/voice
capabilities; support for multiple instances; ADA issues.
Performance: expansion, reliability, stability, scalability.
Compatibility: support for multiple platforms; import/export of standard CAD files; APIs for widely used physics and other engines; firewall co-existence.
Security: trust mgmt; identity mgmt; security against hacks; protection against theft; protection against malicious users.
Installed based: # of actual users; number, quality and diversity of objects free or for sale; size of developer community; level of adoption by academic, corporate, government users.
Example virtual worlds: Second Life; Active Worlds; Entropia; Olive
Example engines: Multiverse, Croquet, Delta3D
That's from tonight's opening launch party of the Nonprofits Commons in Second Life, TechSoup's project in Second Life. Ruby Sinreich did an excellent job of live blogging. More about the project here. I am bringing a couple of Second Life t-shirts to Cambodia, thanks to Jeska Linden. Her package included a CD of the Second Life client and hopefully we'll get a chance to log onto Second Life and show what the cutting edge looks like. It will be interesting to see the reaction.
San Francisco Meets the Metaverse: 32 Nonprofits and their supporters will host a grand opening celebration Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 5:30 p.m. PT/SLT, in their new locations at the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life.
Generously donated by the world’s first virtual millionaire, Anshe Chung, this nonprofits-only space, managed by TechSoup, creates and houses a community of nonprofits in the online virtual world of Second Life. This community of practice is entirely volunteer-run and hosts organizations from across the globe. To date, they have created a community blog and a resource-rich wiki, and have held mixed-reality events, workshops, and regular weekly town hall meetings.
The Gala event will be a mixed-reality launch party, complete with networking, a panel of speakers (featuring Susan Tenby of TechSoup and Jeska Dzwigalski of Linden Lab in the live-event, and Anshe Chung in Second Life). Audio and video content will be streamed live between the two worlds.
Press release with details here.
If you want to attend the "real life" event in San Francisco, you better hurry and RSVP, space is limited and there are only a few spots left.
The Metaverse Roadmap is a collaborative document describing present trends towards future three-dimensional digital environments. Randall Moss from American Cancer Society is a contributor. Full pdf report here.
Via Stephen Downes
What happens when the 3D web begins to interact with our usual ways of interacting with the world and each other? This report describes in detail the possible scenarios, from augmented reality to mirror worlds, lifelogging, political change and the transparent society. Lots of detail, illustrations and examples. Very comprehensive.
Lots to digest.
Back in December after Clay Shirky's piece on Second Life, Stan who writes the PacificRim Exchange Blog took out his "I'm Sticking With DOS" buttons from the attic to make some points -- maybe something about keeping an eye on the future horizon.
Allan Benamer has written a post called Why Project Agape's Cause Is Better Than Second Life. I think the title should have been more aptly "Why Project Agape's Cause Is Better ROI for Fundraising Than Second Life in 2007!" Nicole Wallace's frames the post with these questions:
What do you think? Is Second Life a passing fad, or is it something savvy nonprofit groups should be watching and participating in?
Now this should set the stage for an interesting debate!
Ruby Sinreich notes in the comments, it isn't an either/or:
"It’s not like we have to choose either/or! Second Life is great for enabling rich learning experiences, creative expression, and complex interpersonal interactions."
Susan Tenby writes in the comments about the special qualities of Second Life:
There are few places where the security issues and the individual time of a member are rendered less significant. The boundaries of SL allow you to have access to many whom you wouldn’t be able to meet with in the real world (for example,business executives, celebrities and those in remote locations). It also allows you to create experiences that the two-dimensional web would never be able to produce (for example, walking through a human heart or experiencing schizophrenia as if you were the schizophrenic.) As soon as we have web directly enabled on Second Life (or whatever other virtual world takes it place), you will be able to have a seamless experience between your satellite office and your web documents.
My feeling is that although we’re still in the early phases of virtual worlds, we shouldn't ignore it or label is a passing fad. As such not all nonprofits organizations should be investing heavily in resources to implement a fund raising campaign in Second Life. As Allan points out, there is a steeper learning curve and will require more resources to go to scale than say a Facebook profile.
But, what about education programs? What about the networking opportunities?
If I were a development person, I’d certainly want to get on avatar and get the chance to chat with Mr. Fanton directly about the foundation’s funding interests, find out what they learning about virtual worlds and philanthropy. If my nonprofit's programs were geared for young people, I'd want to learn from first hand experience what opportunities virtual worlds present for my organization and its programs. Exploring a tool with a low risk experiment to see if it is the right fit is not a waste of resources. Having knee jerk reactions – whether to immediately reject or immediately jump in with full scale implementation – is.There's an interesting article over at the MacArthur Foundation Spotlight highlighting some recent virtual worlds research.
In a strange coincidence, I received an email from Jackie Marsh, a UK-based researcher looking at social media and early childhood, telling me about her blog, Digital Beginnings. (We discovered each other via a post I wrote called "Mommy, what's a blog?" which was my attempt to explain blogging to my pre-K aged son, Harry.) GenWe, today's kids, are a glimpse into the future. And, it isn't just social networking sites they're using, today's young people are exploring and using virtual worlds. So, are virtual worlds a fad or is it showing us what is to come.
Photo UgoTrade Blog
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 s, 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.
The Second Thoughts blog, in a post called "We Need A New Kind of Philanthropy" outlines ten ways a new kind of philanthropy could get started with the combination of social media and virtuality in worlds and games.
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:
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.
Meanwhile over in the teen grid of Second Life, there was a listening party where teen were gathered to listen to the event and invited to send questions. Here's part of the report:
John near the end was faced with the tricky question of, if he had to chose 3 issues with priority over others, which would he chose for SL. He talked about Iraq, and said it was important, but there is enough media coverage of it all ready, and he feels nothing could be done in the short term. He said he would more focus on the "death and destruction" in northern Uganda and Eastern Congo.
Once again a small amount of the teens were messing around, this time singing "my milkshake brings my nan to the yard", but ironically they were all surprised at how soon it ended, and were begging for more.
Over at the Global Kids Blog, Barry Joseph reports that:
One teen quote in particular, from, Anthony Pomeray, summed up the effect the event had on many who participated: "After hearing the conversation Philip had today, I just feel like I want to be part of something to help mankind."
Here's an update on the round up of coverage:
MacArthur President, Jonathan Fanton's Avatar
The MacArthur Foundation hosted a Virtual World Event on Philanthropy today in Second Life. Jonathan Fanton, MacArthur Foundation President, said, "we think virtual worlds will grow and become integrated into our daily lives." He said the MacArthur Foundation hopes to make investments to help nonprofits and civil society organizations address serious issues. They hope to reach out to residents and spark conversations about philanthropic work and to give advice and assistance to residents who want to advance charitable causes.
Here's a round up of coverage:
Some great coverage for Netsquared in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and on the blog
A Netsquared community members is seeking advice about the possibility of a prison computer recycling center in Japan.
A report from the ISummit
Internet Campaigns Strategy and Tools
Ethan Zuckerman's article in TechSoup on Mobile Phones and Social Activism.
e.politics shares a list of Drupal/Joomla Development Shops for Campaigns and Nonprofits. Want to suggest others? Add 'em in the comments.
Oh no, IT Director 2.0. Some good deployment strategy points though.
The Bamboo Project has some tips on how to go web2.0 for less than $60 bucks.
Wild Apricot offers some pointers about organizational blogging.
The Spare Change blog reflects on the outcomes of the HHS Flu Blog
Some tips on promoting your nonprofit using scrapblog as a scrapblog post.
Designing for Civil Society blog writes about how Facebook is re-inventing membership organisations.
The Theory of YouTube Class: ObamaGirl and the Web2.0 Aesthetic
A good discussion thread about google tools for nonprofits over at oneworld
From the NTEN Affinity Groups, a summary of advice and observations about Webinar and Online Conference tools.
Quantum Shift is Web.TV channel covering social change issues and civil society.
A request for a ning or php volunteer from this nonprofit. This is the first blog request for a volunteer that I've seen.
Web Conferencing on the cheap with free tools!
New (to me) Blogs
Welcome Louise Brown to the Blogosphere!
Keep on Smiling!
Check out the LOLNPTECH.ORG blog. Today's photo is pretty funny.
The NpTech Tag started as an experimental community tagging project in 2005. A loosely coupled group of nonprofit techies and social change activists decided to use the tag "NpTech" to identify web resources that would create an ongoing stream of information to promote and educate those working in nonprofit technology. Many individuals tag hundreds of resources each week. Through TechSoup's Netsquared project, blogger Beth Kanter, was commissioned to write a weekly summary.
I just came from an historic and ground breaking event. I don't know if I'm still shaking from the excitement or the hour long multi-tasking frenzy of listening to a live audio feed, seeing a blog.tv stream, reading a chat history, answering ims, and taking notes!
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation hosted its first discussion in Second Life to explore the role that philanthropy might play in virtual worlds. For context, see the event announcement and today's New York Times article. Jonathan Fanton, above next to my Second Life avatar, engaged in a discussion with Philip Rosedale (Linden) of Linden labs about the role of civil society in virtual worlds and answered questions from the more than 200 avatars that packed the space. (although there was a little bit lag, there was not a major crash and the audio feed was perfect - kudos! to the USC folks)
MacArthur hopes to gain insight into how virtual worlds are used by young people, to introduce the foundation to an audience that may have little exposure to institutional philanthropy and to take part in and stimulate discussions about the real-world issues that it seeks to address.
Here's a quick summary of my notes:
In Fanton's welcome, he noted that it is easy to get caught up in the novelty and hype of virtual worlds, but whatever the complexities, "we think they will grow and become integrated into our daily lives." He said that MacArthur hopes to make investments to help nonprofits and civil society organizations address serious issues. They hope to reach out to residents and spark conversations about philanthropic work and to give advice and assistance to residents who want to advance charitable causes.
The discussion started with Fanton and Linden asking questions of each other.
Fanton: "Our first instinct was to create an island and a replica of our office building in Chicago and announce ourselves. We got advice not to do that. We're trying a year of conversation about how to enter the culture in Second Life and the role of philanthropy. What's your advice?"
Linden: Second Life is a world being built by the people in it. Faster than real world. A place where individuals are empowered to use relationships and tools to build the world. What I'm seeing - companies and organizations that come in and are successful are those that are able to contribute something to the world itself. Something to make the virtual world better and empowering the community in a unique way.
Fanton: That's what we are about in the physical world. Foundations don't do it directly but via nonprofits. If you think about what a foundation has to offer, money for sure, we're also good at convening people. We're good at connecting and giving advice. I can imagine a counseling service for young people who are interested in internships. We could make the introduction. We hope that when we enter Second life we can connect and empower.
Fanton: I've been reading recently about newspapers and articles that aren't entirely positive. Can you talk about security and pornography issues?
Linden: You mentioned pornography. Open spaces like the Internet are always going to be about empowerment and you need to have tolerance. I don't see a way of fixing and I don't want to fix it. We as the stewards of this new medium, we should not control people's choices. Second Life can be the aggregate of public good - we'll give people the tools what they want to see or not see but not control what people see.
There were some excellent questions from the audience of over 200 gathered in the space.
Here's a few:
Question: What role do you see MacArthur in building credible information?
Fanton: MacArthur is a knowledge network. We know who is doing the best research. We have to do due diligence in grant making, so we know who to trust. We are a resource bank for people in Second Life who want to know where to get credible information.
Linden: Second Life is building systems for reputation and trust and can go beyond what you can do in the Real World.
Question: What charitable organizations have been successful in Second Life?
Linden gives the example of American Cancer Society.
Closing by Fanton was inspirational:
As MacArthur begins is journey into Second Life, we begin with some assumptions. We assume that people in Second Life are people who care about others and who are open to most communicating across boundaries - both cultural and geographic. People in Second Life have optimism about what can happen and feel a strong desire to come together and work. We hope that together to make the virtual and physical worlds better. MacArthur believes that people who care and have the right information will do the right thing. We have a role to play to work with those of you in Second Life to figure appropriate policy and approaches. How can MacArthur harness the idealism that exists in Second Life?
Rik Riel asked an excellent question and I'm quoting from his notes:
I got to ask Mr Fanton the following question: With a few exceptions, the philanthropic world has not been very good about incorporating Web 2.0 tech into their giving practices. What hope do you have that virtual worlds will be reacted to any differently?
He somewhat dodged the answer, saying that MacArthur wanted to learn how to work with virtual worlds, to convene people and to bring virtual projects into making real world change.
Following the event, I summarized the reflections and analysis in this post: Platforms for Good: Empowering Individuals
Here's an update on the round up of coverage:
There are almost 200 hundred avatars here and it's twenty minutes before the event! Check out the article on the New York Times!
Lucy Bernholz has been thinking deeply about virtual worlds and philanthropy over the past few months. (see her post about the virtual philanthropy simulator) She shares some thoughts about what she thinks may happen after June 22, 2007 when The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation becomes the first foundation to leave behind the limitations of physical space and fly into virtual worlds.
Nobody asked me, but here are some things I hope we see as the Foundation and its partners at USC role out in this experiment:
- Inclusive decision-making by avatars;
- Avatars with time-limited decision making power (so they have to switch roles);
- Resource support that aligns with, and remains true until, the identified goals of the work are achieved;
- Allocation decisions and offerings that can rise above a lot of noise in order to attract attention; offer inherent value; be flexible enough to adapt to unfiltered ideas and criticism; and fun and engaging, regardless of how serious they also are, to maintain the interests of avatars who can not only ‘vote with their feet,’ these folks can simply fly away.
- It would also be a great way to test out the virtual philanthropy simulator ideas I wrote about earlier; or
- Even a place to bring together Google and SalesForce to create a virtual social-enterprise AppExchange, as I pondered here. (It would be called SecondGoogForce. Or maybe GoogForceLife...)
Why do this virtually? Well, experimentation is easier, cheaper, and (perhaps) more telling in these environments. Some things just work differently (remember the money trees....) And perhaps, good new things learned In World will be brought out, to the real world and real world problems.
What would failure look like for the Foundation? I can’t speak for them. However, I'd guess that part of the experiment is to learn about how virtual worlds shift discourse and decision making. To see which functions communities ‘assign’ to their voluntary sector and which to a ‘public role,’ if they get to build from scratch. It will also be interesting to see how resource allocation works in a land of virtual real estate. What about property ownership – for real and intellectual and design property? Are virtual worlds viable, even perhaps necessary, platforms for first world nonprofits and fundraisers? Or are they a passing fancy?
Rik Riel has been both a nonprofit applying for funds, a funder, and has spent a lot of time inworld. Naturally, he has some thoughts on this:
Non-profits struggle with how to apply for funds in a way that is meeting the criteria of the funder without compromising on their basic mission. Often they have difficulty, in an uncertain environment, promising specific and verifiable results in a short period of time. Meanwhile, funders seek to invest their resources among a wide range of projects that hopefully will lead to larger systemic changes. They want their funding to go towards work that is likely to result in deliverable products that fulfill the funder's mission in concrete ways. And the funder usually doesn't want to be stuck with the bill forever, hoping that the non-profit has a longer term, sustainable support model.
Hypothetically, web2.0 technologies and social networking applications can play a role in mitigating these misunderstandings and increasing knowledge of the other sector's perspective. But that hasn't really happened, partly due to the wide open nature of the web and sensitive nature of these concerns. What might be more helpful would be to create a safer, moderated space for funders, non-profits, and engaged citizens to talk honestly about their concerns, priorities, and plans, and then let new conversations, relationships and projects bloom out of that more organically. Something like the NetSquared open call for projects that happened last month, but mapped to a virtual world.
More thoughts from Rik Riel here
MacArthur Foundation President Jonathan Fanton
On June 22nd at 9:00 AM PST, Jonathan's avatar along with Second Life CEO Philip Rosedale will lead a discussion with residents on the role of philanthropy in virtual worlds.
I believe that the importance of virtual worlds may be less about their growth as economies, and more about their capacity for collaboration and human development. Activities in virtual worlds already are supported by MacArthur and other foundations, but we have much to discover about the right role for philanthropy itself in virtual worlds.
We are interested in learning about virtual worlds and how to operate within them. We look to the residents to help us determine how to be helpful and are eager to share our on-going work in such areas as affordable housing, urban renewal, and human rights and international justice.
The details are here. There will be a live audio feed.
It will be interesting to see if Fanton's avatar looks just like him or something different.
Photo Source: MacArthur Foundation Spotlight Blog
More about the event from Rik Riel
My suggestion is that ‘expertise’ embodied in a single person is a quasi myth, and the suggested route is to “be” in your own constructed network that provides distributed expertise.
Global Kids, a nonprofit that worked virtually with a group of youth in Teen Second Life last summer on their chosen issue of child sex trafficking, shares its best practices for nonprofits who want to work in Second Life. These include general tips (e.g., document your virtual work through photos/video to show other programs and funders who may not be in SL), tips for bringing a youth development model into Teen SL (e.g., create as many opportunities as possible for teens to express themselves through building things and designing avatars), and tips for workshop design and facilitation in SL (e.g., use real world content when addressing real world issues).
Bonus link: Global Kids Guide To Presenting in Second Life
From Fight Hunger's Flickr Stream. More photos of real life and virtual world event here.
I'm moderating a panel at the Games for Change Conference on Virtual Activism in June. So, doing a bit of background blogging.
Susanne Thornqvst of Fight Hunger shared a report on the Walk the World Event on May 13th. Rik Riel has blogged it over the Second Life and Nonprofits Site. Here's the highlights
Number of people attending: More than 380
Funds raised during the 24 hours event:
Explanation click-to-feed: We had 155 clicks, meaning that our sponsors will provide a meal at school to 155 children, for a cost of 0.19 USD/child/day.
I did a follow up interview with Susanne to find out what they learned.
1. What took place in Second Life for Walk the World on Sunday?
On 13 May hundreds of thousands of people all over the world joined in an effort to raise awareness about child hunger and funds to WFP's School Feeding Programme. This year we wanted to find new ways of spreading the word, and decided to also use Second Life. We had two walking paths on the island Dragon Moon for people to walk and we had live entertainment for 24 hours to cover all the time zones and reflect the events that were going on all over the world at the same time. Almost 400 avatars showed up and we raised over 1000 US dollars.
2. What were the benefits to adding a Second Life component to the established event?
By adding the Second Life component we were able to reach people we would never have reached with our traditional events. Especially in the US and Europe were you have so many fundraising events, activities and walks for various causes it is difficult to gather and enthusiasm people to join, but in Second Life these activities are rather new and therefore people are eager to help and contribute.
3. What was your strategy for promoting the Second Life component?
We mainly promoted the event within the Second Life community but also in various real world blogs. We also got some advertising for the Second Life walk thanks to being mentioned as a new approach in various newspaper articles covering the real world walks. (Beth's note: Rik Riel has some tips about promoting virtual events)
4. Did anything surprise you about the Second Life event component?
What surprised us the most was the friendly atmosphere and all people wanting to help us with our goal of ending child hunger, especially Ariel Finsbury, Nyna Slate and Demian Caldera who worked very hard to make the event a success. We also had about 20 musicians who played live for us during the event, even though many of them live in the US were they the same day were celebrating mothers day.
5. Based on your experience, what advice would you give to others doing an inworld fundraising event?
We were completely new to Second Life, and we could never have done it without the help of our wonderful volunteers. So my biggest advice is to gather a group of dedicated volunteers that knows about Second Life and they can give you advice on what would work or not in Second Life. It also helps to be open minded to new technology approaches and using your imagination.
6. Do you think based on your experience and the results, you'll continue to have a Second Life Component?
Yes we will definitely look into having more activities in Second Life! Our list of ideas just keeps growing! We would like as many people as possible to join in and Fight Hunger in the world, and Second Life is excellent for community building and reaching a new audience.