Awesome Summit 2012 - Lightning Talks
Rahul Bhargava creates playful websites, explanatory data visualizations, award-winning educational museum exhibits, and interactive robots. He has led workshops on a number of topics across three continents, leading to a special interest in finding ways to build technologies and experiences that meet the disparate needs of varying communities and cultures. Rahul is currently working on a variety of technologies to support community building and civic engagement.
Awesome Summit 2012 - Lightning Talks
Live notes from the "Lightning Talks" session at the Awesome Summit, by Rahul Bhargava, Ethan Zuckerman, Matt Stempeck and Willow Brugh.
Christina introduces a session of lightning talks. She sent out an invitation for people doing awesome things to join us here at the Summit today. Each will get about 5 minutes to talk about their ideas:
Nathaniel James is a trustee of the Seattle Awesome Foundation. He notes that there are lots of community giving projects in the Seattle area. Social justice fund northwest, giving projects, service girls and others. However, none talking to each other. Young people want to give charitable dollars together. This is happening all over the country with the rise of crowd-funding. Nathaniel will be visiting eight cities in the US to meet giving circles and crowd-funding entrepreneurs. He is collecting video footage and text about these different projects. The driving questions include: what's the contribution to the economy? What are people's motivations? What gets people to do this beyond $50 to your favorite nonprofit? He is happy to video you if you're involved in the space of new giving. What's tying together crowd-funding and social giving is tying together fiscal and social capital. In crowd-funding, you turn social capital into fiscal capital. In giving circles, you have fiscal capital and you need to build social capital to give effectively. Even though $1k a month isn't a ton of money, it's building enormous stores of social capital.
Rei from GoodMaker
Good Magazine is a group of people who really give a damn. They care about doing good. Not just in a niche nonprofit way, but in a broad, friendly and inclusive way. Good is a website and a magazine, producing events to help activate people. Good Maker is a platform for people to connect with organizations and the public. They see it as an opposite of kickstarter, which has ideas and looks for money. Good Maker works with foundations and nonprofits, seeking good ideas. They've worked with Tedx, AshokaU, USAID, skippshare, clif bar, sustainable brands, purina one, and others. They have given out $70k in awards. 100,000 people have participated by submitting or voting. They have had 60 challenges, partnering with 30 brands or nonprofits. Good Maker can challenge the community to submit ideas and give grants out. Organizations create a challenge. For instance, how would you convince MIT students to recycle more? how do you create more awesomeness in the world? People submit stories, business plans, video, etc. The winner gets a grant to activate an idea.
Rei shares a challenge with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - access to vaccines in the developing world. They had some students who'd created SMS vaccine alert tool. With Good Maker support they are implementing in Kurnool, India. More than 500 parents are receiving alerts.
Today they are launching a challenge with the Awesome foundation to make food more awesome (in conjunction with the Awesome Food chapter). The winner will win a tour of the Food Network, and lunch with an Awesome Foundation trustee.
Deanna Zandt - The One4One Project
Deanna is a media technologist and author, based in Brooklyn. She runs Prospect Tech, and is now contributing to NPR (with Baratunde Thurston) talking about social media advice. Deanna works with advocacy groups and nonprofits on using tech to accomplish their missions. Deanna mentions that there are a lot of community funds in the northeast (bread and roses in Philadelphia, and more). She talks about Change not Charity. This is has how the world has worked for her, wanting to help others do the same thing, become better than what they were. This can be problematic. Charity is important in emergencies, but charity in the long run has a lot of baggage attached to it. Change asks us to think about the structure, how is it not working for everyone, how can we hack it and rebuild it so more people can benefit from the abundance we have in the world. This is dependent on reputation, not referral, and is increasingly true for philanthropy. At the beginning of her career, she didn't see any sustainable funding. You have all these relationships with funders, cultivate those, then get off your feet. And that's with the low cost of social good. With the internet, we're all connected to each other
Deanna reminds us of homophily - the tendency to pick from peer networks where people are already like us. We need creative ways to battle this tendency - if you have the same DNA mixing around the gene pool, the species mutates in ugly ways. If you get enough outside input the species evolves in healthy ways. There isa danger of projecting the biases we have from offline onto online spaces. Deanna is a fan of The Tyranny of Structurelessness paper by Jo Freeman. It reminds us that when we eliminate explicit structure, implicit structures take over. The way we understand the world is based on our past socialization, and we bring this even to "structureless" communities. How do we hack this apart?
One4One did some work off the list of 100 most influential people in the digital world (published on Newsweek). 7 of the 100 were women, fewer were people of color. They want to name people who didn't look like them to come along with them - get outside of the bubbles of homophily and recognize that race, gender, class and sexuality do matter in the world of ideas. What are the blinders we're carrying into the world and how do we remove them? Sara Millstein, Andrew Rasej are talking about bias as a bug to be corrected - we're coders, we fix bugs. How do we design new philanthropy for equity?
Elizabeth Woodson, Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
They are a center for scholars and civic institutions to connect, teaching classes on philanthropy and tech. They work with the Aspen Institute. A new project, Impact Careers Initiative looks at taking careers that are socially impactful in nonprofit organizations, socially responsible companies. They are trying to find pathways that are easier to follow, like the finance industry or other spaces.
Ken Freedman WFMU
Ken Freedman, station manager of WFMU, an independent public radio station based in the New York area. Of course, the station's geography is less and less important: twice as many people now listen online than via FM. They specialize in broadcasting unlistenable noise, esoterica, and comedy, and have, for years, taken pride in not taking any money from "the man." They finally had to take money from Corporation from Public Broadcasting, but reassured the station's staff that The Man is whoever you want it to be.
Ken is a lifelong user of public media, and concerned about public broadcast funding. There are periodic political efforts to zero out federal funding for public broadcasting, seems to be an effort year in and out. Public broadcasting may need to think about getting out from under the axe. A house subcommittee asked public radio to look for alternative sources of funding - the conclusion was that there are no feasible alternatives. If Center for Public Broadcasting funding from congress is eliminated, 20-40% of public broadcast stations will be taken off the air. When these threats to funding happen, an army comes to the rescue - an army of puppets. Big Bird and Elmo have both appeared on the floor of congress. They think there are licensing opportunities for children 2-6 years old, toys, games and clothing. 2-8 year olds represent vast majority of daytime watching for public media, in the evenings it's a majority over 65 years old. This suggests branded toys and cardiac arrest solutions... so let's move to the future.
Kickstarter has taken the public media pledge drive and brought it to the rest of the world... and now public radio is the only group not using it. Public media sees kickstarter et al as a threat, and have to answer why they're not acting like Amanda Palmer. Will Amanda's success be sustainable? Will the audience support year round arts? There are lots of possible support for independent producers - 99% invisible. Thus far, independent producers have had to prostrate themselves towards the CPB gravy train. The model for public radio stations has been walled gardens - but actually, they're walled garden tunnels, because they're going somewhere, but they're universes unto themselves.
WFMU serves as a paradigm shift for radio. Ken is working on a content management system for public radio, one that different makers and publishers can share. It can allows audience to travel between different stations. The only model he's seen here in the past is SourceFabric, funded by George Soros's Open Society Foundation. That is a mission-related investment - a two tiered system where the content is open source, funded charitably, but as red hat is a commercial company built on Linux, a commercial entity that supports that system via implementation, etc. They support the folks who are having trouble implementing that software. Will take us back to puppets - open source puppets. Similar to Wordpress - lots of companies providing service to it. Ken wants to free us from failed fundraising ideas.
Christina notes that we need more animated GIFs in presentations (like Ken used).
This talk might happen later. They are writing a book about misfit economies, did a funding thing on kickstarter. The aim of the book and the documentary it is to document black and grey markets as ours starts to Hindenburg. These lessons might become vital to currently stable economies.
Jennifer Hollett is with SuperPACApp, cofounder Dan Siegel is also here. They believe in awesomeness and have made an app for that. The first prototype was created at the MIT Media Lab in social TV class. Jennifer has a master's in public administration. She working as broadcast journalist, but wanted to move into democracy and what that means. Dan was focused on digital, mostly focused on the connection between money and politics. They were interested in how to take the social tv class and connect it to politics. Right now we have unlimited political cash coming from anonymous people, with the goal to destroy political opponents. There are 679 PACs to date, and they have raised close to $300 million dollars - they ave spent just under that total. A recent cover of campaigns and elections magazine asked the question of if we can run out of airtime? An Ohio station has already sold out of all their ad space for the 6pm evening news.
To use SuperPacApp you hold up your smartphone to a political ad playing on TV. The app is non-partisan. It uses audio fingerprinting (from TuneSat) to bring up more information on the ad you're seeing. Who they support, who they oppose, money raised, spent, etc. You can rate the ad. They are on track to be in app stores by August, just in time for the political conventions. THey went from small class project, to final project, to a business.
John Bracken, Knight Foundation - @jsb
John Bracken of the Knight Foundation is introduced as "the funder ex machina". Knight is one of the summit funders, and he assures us that his presentation is not just a word from the sponsor. For better or worse, the Knight Foundation can look like the antithesis of Awesome. The foundation has given almost $1.8 billion dollars between 1950 and today, and while foundations are often known for being inflexible and rooted, the foundation is trying to be flatter and effective in more than bursts.
Bracken asks us to think of the challenge as analogous to "Brewster's Millions", which most of us remember as a bad 80s film. Actually, it hails back to a best-selling book from 1904, and has been made into a film at least 10 times. The plot features a normal guy who gets a call from a long-lost uncle, who offers him an insane amount of money... assuming he can get rid of the money within a year. The plot remains the same, whether it's a Bollywood remake or an episode of Punky Brewster. The drama comes from the fact that the new person playing the game has to be opaque about his giving, which tears him up inside. That's the polar opposite of the Awesome Foundation, which strives to be as transparent as possible, letting the community add value to the process. And Knight is changing this way, trying to be more transparent with projects like the News Challenge, which relies in part on the community for input about how the Foundation should be giving.
Knight is announcing five new grants at the Awesome Foundation conference:
- theli.st, led by Rachel Sklar, is bringing more women into the journalism community, featuring their work and bringing more women to key conferences and events
- Source Map, a project launched by Leo Bonnani at the Center for Civic Media, is helping the school district of Concord, MA document the flow of food from farm to table
- The SuperPAC ap, also a Media Lab project, was born in Henry Holtzman's Social Television class. It allows people to find out who's behind the SuperPAC ads they're seeing on television.
- Truth Tellers from the Washington Post enables realtime fact-checking through a shared, aggregated database
- Wired magazine is offering a Wordpress plugin that allows readers to make corrections and comments on stories, or offer to translate them into other languages.
These projects are coming out of Knight's new Prototype fund
Knight's new Enterprise fund. The fund is designed to gather cool ideas, test them quickly and iteratively, and then share the lessons learned. The goal is to break out of Brewster's Millions and ensure the learning Knight engages in is widely shared and disseminated.
Christina returns to end the session. She reminds everyone that there seems to be a strategy emerging to funding these projects
Camp in this room long enough, and someone will call you to stage and give you money.