Charity CHAMPs – get involved with microphilanthropy now!

Mayor Miller, Don Tapscott, and revolutionizing government with social media by sylvng

What do Toronto’s Mayor Miller and Don Tapscott have in common? As it turns out, both are Twitter fans. For Don Tapscott, I’m obviously not surprised. For Mayor Miller, however, I would not have guessed that he won a competition against CityTV to get more Twitter followers. Then again, I have never been one to follow politics (or politicians) very closely.

I was at the Volunteer Toronto screening of Us Now yesterday night,and I enjoyed the documentary a lot. Volunteer Toronto will be making Us Now available for download later so you should definitely watch it. In line with Don Tapscott’s ideas around how corporations and production must change with the coming net generation, the documentary takes a look at how government must also change. One could make an analogy here – democracy as it exists today is like broadcast TV (we vote every few years and in between that time politicians broadcast to us), and just as TV is now giving way to two-way interactions through the Internet, government needs to change so that people are active participants at a more fundamental level.

Needless to say, I was very happy to hear the mayor Miller announce that the City of Toronto is making some of it’s data available to the public in the fall of 2009.  The mayor mentioned that will launch later this year, and will allow Torontonians to access several facets of public data, such as TTC vehicle locations (using GPS). This is in line with the mayor’s vision of turning Toronto into a leader of modern cities; Chicago opened its data to the public a while back. Once the data is available the city could benefit from a wide range of applications developed by local citizens (I don’t know what will happen when the data reveals that the TTC can be horribly off-schedule – just my personal opinion here – but at least there won’t be any more arguments regarding exactly how reliable TTC service is and we can let the data do the talking).

As for Don Tapscott’s remarks at the event, I’ve heard him speak and read enough of his books that nothing was new for me, but it was good to hear his thoughts on Us Now; his opinion is that the movie raises more questions than it answers. At this early stage where governments are just starting to grapple with what social media means for campaigning (think Obama) and policy making, I don’t think anybody can profess to have the answers. But it’s great to know people are thinking about what the right questions are to ask.

And just why am I writing about this topic on a blog about microphilanthropy? Getting involved with government may not be viewed as charitable, but once the city data is available, who knows? Maybe somebody will use the TTC data and partner with local charities to help disabled persons move around town, or deliver meals to the elderly better. That’s my hope, anyway, in which case maybe Charity CHAMPS can support some of those efforts.

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Another arugment for microphilanthropy: social media allows us to see patterns by sylvng

A while back I wrote a post about why microphilanthropy works; small actions can be transformational, and small actions have been made mainstream through social media. Today, from Net Change Week’s website, I discovered a video of Ric Young giving a talk about social innovation. Ric is a member of Ecotrust Canada’s board of directors and President of E.Y.E, a Toronto-based agency specializing in strategies that promote social change. In the talk, Ric mentions the value of social media beyond just being a tactical tool for mobilizing social change: social media allows us to see the patterns of how people move and affect each other.

As a business intelligence freak, I couldn’t agree more. There are hundreds of theories out there on mob mentality, on how social movements start, on network effects and how people relate to each other – essentially on how change takes place. Take The Tipping Point, for example. And for once, we are in a world where all of these effects can be monitored and measured digitally, thanks to social networks. If Second Life has enabled scientists to study the spread of disesases from person to person in a way that wasn’t available before, I’m positive that social media will enable social innovators to discover so much more about what really triggers and sustains lasting social change.  The more data we have, the more we’ll be able to refine our techniques and strategies for solving some of the world’s most complex problems.

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