Crowdsourced Philanthropy and Stakeholder Management

13 luglio 2010

“Back” from virtual conference (I’d say one of the best of this kind I’ve ever attended) I’m totally satisfied and also a bit sad for not having had the time to deepen every single topic…

Actually I’m going to watch again every panel and every slide (stored in the system for 90 days from the last 30th of June) to examine better some parts I could have missed…to write about them maybe at a later time.

But you cannot wait till the knowledge comes, this is a blog, life goes forth, so I want to point out at least what in my opinion could be relevant for everyone interested in this blog’s topic.

Let me first step back to the platform (here the video tutorial) I used to attend the conference.
Once logged in (I warmly recommend you to fill the form and try to obtain the access) you can enter the three main areas (buildings) where to even download some papers and PDFs or (just during the event) chat with participants and speakers.
I have to say that the experience was very stimulating.

In this post I want to focus my attention on one topic only, if you want to have an idea of the event in general you can read this post .


I think that what really deserves a couple of words is the first keynote theme: the Crowdsourced Philanthropy.
Yes, it seems that this blog is hosting this word for the first time in a positive way.

Nancy Lublin, CEO and Chief Old Person of DoSomething.org, in the keynote (video) said that you have Crowdsourced Philanthropywhen you outsource your philanthropic decision making“, pretty obvious. Another definition could be: Crowdsourced Philanthropy enables “the crowd” to decide to whom organizations and companies grant money. Everything happens online by voting.
We are at a crossroads: at one side we have the philanthropy, something impossible to quote when you’re about to defend your efforts in terms of CSR, because it’s just something up to you, nothing related to any strategy; and on the other, people who engage in that to improve their world.

But why this kind of philanthropy should be different?

I think because this is just the first step, because at every level people interact with the whole system of sensemaking, and perpectives in this way are fascinating. Stakeholder Management and Stakeholder Engagement are quite buzzwords in the CSR world, but  outsourcing the philanthropy to the crowd  means that lots of stakeholder clusters start a conversation among them, and between them and the firm. Besides, the firm itself could experiment new accountability options, via social media for instance, and try to cope with the complexity and stakeholder’s trade-offs. A company could even have the opportunity to better understand where some stakeholders want her to move.
But, as for Crowdsourced Philanthropy, this understanding, or the “big picture”, is missing…
Instead, the aim that a responsible firm has to reach is: sketching out the borders of  its ecosystem, in a collaborative way, and trying to be accountable to everyone who can help it to build its world…
Anyway is not that easy.

Who wins?
Nancy, during her speech, asked this rhetorical question to take a closer look at disadvantages.
“Winners” in this game are:
  • estabilished organizations
  • charities with tribes (a group of very loyal followers: military organizations, schools)
  • celebrity partners with tribes

and risks (for a company) are:

  • losing the target market
  • “fund something you don’t really like or that just doesn’t make any sense with your target market” (Nancy) because sometimes tribes fund what’s interesting to them
  • contests are difficult (they require time and scrutiny)
  • no guarantees that money will be spent on causes (in some cases)
  • not every person who has voted or who has joined your group is a real activist
  • “you have no idea who you might be funding when you walk into one of this platform” (Nancy)
  • you can listen to other risks in this video

One of the initiatives Nancy referred to while talking about Crowdsourced Philanthropy was the Pepsi Refresh Project.
I decided to choose this one for the post because it is a completely open project, as Nancy said Pepsi is “not making qualitative decision about who [she’s talking about charities] is eligible and who isn’t“. Therefore is so close to the reasoning I’m doing here. In my opinion the big picture can be built starting from something really open and not regulated.

Clearly, this project is perfect for a drink firm.
The video, as you can see, ends with “so could a soda really help make the world a better place?” and then “with your help we think so“. Well, you can drink Pepsi wherever you want, and it becomes part of whoever’s life, it’s easy for it to find a consistency among whatever cause people bear. It’s just something a guy who drink Pepsi cares about.

  1. But what would happen when and if this idea will be applied to the everyday stakeholder relations?
  2. And how could be possible to built a big picture by setting aside the “ground noise”? (tribes for instance)
  3. And what about the business to business sector?

What do you think about this?

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