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April 03, 2007

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Oh god, here it goes, and forgive me for hiding behind the shield of anonymity...but talk is cheap. Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful for the increased blogging and the good conversation that it produces. But what does that have to do about changing philanthropy? Is anything being done to measure the bloggers' collective reach? Are the leaders of foundations, including trustees, paying attention? Or are all of us just enjoying this banter among ourselves? How do we move the blogging conversations into the mainstream of philanthropy? I don't know. Do you?

Scruggs

Big things don't change until there's a crisis too awful to ignore. Then the people at the top look for something that everyone else has heard of and that has been popularized into something easy to understand. Then they profusely thank most of the progenitors of that something, and kindly but firmly kick them to the curb, after which they pick some ninny who has the progenitor "look and feel" and make him the Face Of Change™. So we might as well enjoy ourselves and toss out ideas -- in the hopes that one of them is so good that the progress from brilliance to banality and bathos takes a bit longer than usual.

Albert, I hereby award you the Golden Seive.

Albert Ruesga

Thanks, J. Alva. I'll wear it proudly. Your analysis has the piercing clarity of Truth. I'll call it the Nickel Slots Theory. In this view of the world, you eventually lose everything, it just takes longer and nobody brings you any free drinks.

>forgive me for hiding behind the shield of anonymity ... but talk is cheap

And yet we meet here.

Mr. or Ms. Anonymous: If J. Arthur Thomson is right in saying that "the most powerful factors in the world are clear ideas in the minds of energetic men of good will," then it's arguable we're well served by blogs and any other communications media that facilitate deliberation and the exchange of powerful ideas. Trustees and CEOs aren't required to visit cyberspace: I won't claim any efficacy for this blog, but my colleagues' ideas will reach them soon enough.

How do I know this? I know this because I myself have been affected by these ideas; and because I've been in their thrall, I've changed my thinking and my behavior in a great many ways, and I have evidence that I in turn have inflected the thinking and behavior of others.

I'm less skeptical about the ability of blogs to introduce and propagate memes than I am about their effectiveness in creating communities of shared understanding, along the lines of what Sally writes in her recent post.

Sean Stannard-Stockton

You're right that aggregating our ideas is not so important as connecting them. Think of the ways that political memes are picked up and debated by people throughout the country. I think the key is for us to continue to engage in dialog, instead of each of us standing on our soapbox and spouting our own ideas.

The Giving Carnival seems to have caught on, the next step is for it to become a bi-weekly debate, not just a bi-weekly round up of what each blogger wrote.

Any ideas for how to transform the Carnival into a true debate and not just disconnected statements?

Scruggs

Albert, the Nickle Slots Theory assumes people won't fiddle with ways to re-rig the machine, even as they're stuffing it with nickels. I'm not a hopeful person at all. But I know a lot of tinkerers and I've seen them pull fast ones.

Mark Petersen

Hey Albert... Thanks for giving me a link, but I thought at least you would link me to 'younger voices'!! Or Canadian voices?

Let's all be a little patient with this. We all know impact takes time. As a new philanthroblogger I'm amazed by the feedback who is out there reading, learning, changing.

Being transparent doesn't come with one vulnerable posting (or even months of them), but is cultivated over time; then trust is built and things can change.

I'm grateful for this community I'm only now entering. Thanks for giving me a voice everyone.

Albert Ruesga

Let’s never lose the original aggregating function of the Giving Carnivals. I know it helps me enormously to see how different people—some with clearly defined agendas, others not—approach the same question.

Your idea of a debate-style riff on the form is a good one. Here are three ideas:

1. The many on one option Instead of proposing a topic or topic questions, why not suggest that we all comment on or respond to some blog post that stakes out a clear position? I’d want to do this only with the permission and participation of the original blogger, perhaps even giving him/her first crack at laying bare the weaknesses in his/her position.

2. The bucket brigade Although it would take longer to produce the final product, find N bloggers willing to “bucket brigade” a given topic. Each has a strict word limit. Blogger number one starts off and hands off to blogger number two who must respond directly to what blogger number one has written (i.e., no disconnected soap-boxing); etcetera. When the piece is finished, give it to one of the participants to publish on his or her site. Rotate who gets to publish it.

3. The hidden treasures option A lot of light and some great heat is generated in the comments sections. Phil Cubeta has mastered the art of drawing this very interesting material into the main body of a blog post. I wish there were some widget that could enable us to more easily feature the best of these exchanges.

And, by the bye, why not widen the circle by inviting a guest moderator to comment on the debate and sum up?

Wow...just this exchange of messages and ideas is proof positive that blogging works. Hip, hip, hooray.

Gerry

At least comments usually have their own permalinks these days, but the fact is that posts are privileged over comments. It's a tools problem that is hard to address across a diverse field of software (blogs, wikis, portals). Pulling great comments to create posts has all sorts of advantages, not the least giving source material on a slow day, and Phil does it very well. That's quite a group of excellent creative suggestions, and in the spirit of: Try stuff and see what happens, if it works, do it again.

In my view, an essential element of turning talk into action is meeting face to face. Gift Hub was launched as part of the on-line footprint of an Open Space gathering that Phil sponsored in 2004. About 30-40 of us gathered in Chicago with the purpose "Opening Space for Giving to Flourish". The actions that have flowed out of conversations that started at that gathering would be impossible to catalog.

One thing we have learned is how easy it is to create an Open Space gathering. I've participated in helping create these gatherings in several more communities since then. I propose that this gathering blog community self-organize the follow on gathering to the one Phil sponsored in 2004. All you need is a time, a place, a purpose and a small group of people to make it happen.

With that gathering, Phil was the only convener with any real contacts in philanthropy, the rest of us were random bloggers (and other malcontents). In the next one you have a gathering horde of bloggers, each of whom anchors a larger network of largely un-networked donors and their advisers to invite. Get the people talking, then get them together and the action will follow. Trust the process.

Phil

Include/Exclude. Open space stands for the proposition that all are invited to invite all and so on ad infinitum, and that in the end, "the right people show up." "Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen" is the conclusion drawn at the end. Those of us who attended the Open Space for Giving are still trying to figure out what happened.

Gerry

Another open space principle is "it's over when it's over", and it has seemed to many of us that it never did end. It is still going on. This conversation is a part of it. The conference officially wrapped up around noon on Sunday, and Debbie and I had to rush off to a family event. Many others just moved on to a place for lunch and continued talking. Small sub-groups were continuing to meet and talk on Monday and Tuesday.

I'm particularly excited for Phil that the idea that prompted him to start this conversation is now becoming reality. The gathering that Phil and Tracy are convening this month is the culmination of a lot of hard work, and I'm pretty sure it really got started with this event. When you watch something like this grow from just an idea being kicked around, to concrete steps to revolutionize the processes of philanthropy, you start to realize just what is possible if we just take the chance and start a conversation that leads can lead to action.

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