Note: This is a cross posting. The original post was written for the Communications Network and can be found here.
Last week I attended the 2010 Personal Democracy Forum. The event, which is held every year in New York City, is one of the leading conferences dedicated to exploring technology’s impact on politics, government, and society. Individual presentations, conversations, and panel discussions focus on different ways technology is (or should be) opening government, electoral politics -- and even the nonprofit world -- to provide more opportunities for citizen participation.
Because it's such a new term, Philanthropy 2.0 may not be that well understood (yet) by many in the philanthropic community, so this panel provided a great opportunity to begin introducing it to a wider audience. For those who haven’t heard of this before, I’ll run down some of the basics. In its simplest terms, Philanthropy 2.0 refers to the “democratization of philanthropy,” including providing opportunities for individuals to participate in decisions about how foundations allocate resources. The term also underscores a belief in and commitment to increased transparency and a desire for greater partnerships among foundations themselves and the organizations in which they invest.
After the panel, it hit me: Philanthropy 2.0 is all about communication. Whether it's how foundations can be more open with the public, or with the organizations they support, communication is key to doing those things well. It also became obvious to me that you cannot have Philanthropy 2.0 unless your communications are clear, effective, and honest. Thus, as foundation communicators, we have a central role to play in ensuring the Philanthropy 2.0 becomes the norm in our organizations. We can also play an important role helping implement new communications technologies that make it easier for foundations to operate more openly and to invite more people to participate in their work. And while we might find it easy to use these tools, we have to be sensitive that some of our non-communications colleagues may need a little more time to get used to them and figure out how they can best apply them to their work.
None of this is will be accomplished fast or easily. As one audience member asked during the question and answer session: "How do established foundations see Philanthropy 2.0, and how likely are they to begin adopting this new way of thinking and acting?" The ultimate answer to that question depends to some degree on what we, as communicators, do to help keep the spotlight on the benefits of working in these new ways and encouraging more discussion about this topic within our organizations.
I'm ready for Philanthropy 2.0. How about you?