In recent weeks, the nonprofit blogosphere has been abuzz with anticipation of Washington, D.C. becoming the “Social Change Valley of North America”. No, I’m not referring to the implications of a White House regime change. The moniker Change Valley comes from the high concentration within the beltway of nonprofits, foundations, and companies using technology to effect social change.
Among the many groups leveraging social media for social change in the DC area are Global Giving, EchoDitto, The Sunlight Foundation, The Case Foundation, Care2, DemocracyInAction, Razoo, AskYourLawmaker, the Genocide Intervention Network, OneWorld.net, and finally a group called Mobilize.org.
On September 18-21, between 75 and 100 representatives from the millennial generation will get together to discuss the role of money in politics. Their task is to come up with five technology projects that would reduce the influence of wealth and special interest groups in policymaking.
Each of the five projects selected through a combination of keypad voting and expert judges will receive between $3,000 and $5,000 in funding. The money is intended to kick-start the development and launch of winning projects. Thanks to funding from The Sunlight Foundation, registration for the event is free.
Projects will be evaluated based on five categories:
- Relationship to the Democracy 2.0 declaration
- Use of innovative technology and databases
- Creativity and entrepreneurialism
- Plan for sustainability
- Social impact
I have taken a special interest in the grantmaking summit model that the Democracy 2.0 forum represents. Once proven as an effective way to discuss critical social issues while focusing on actionable takeaways, then I suspect we’ll see an increasing number of these face-to-face forums wherein attendees receive funding for technology projects they would like to implement.
The possibilities for this model are endless. Inspired by the example in Washington, D.C., informal groups with access to either institutional or grassroots funding could meet up, deliberate, and make plans to implement projects of their own choosing. It’s governance without the representatives. Or in technology lingo, it’s where Meetup.com converges with micro-philanthropy.
To the extent that the Democracy 2.0 Grant Summit is successful in “changing the pattern of civic engagement,” it will keep the blogosphere buzzing about Washington, D.C. becoming the Social Change Valley of North America, despite politics as usual.
Peter Deitz is a micro-philanthropy consultant and the founder of Social Actions, a Web site that helps individuals and organizations use social media to plan, implement, and support peer-to-peer social change campaigns so that grassroots solutions to local and global problems can flourish. He also writes a blog about micro-philanthropy.