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Wanted: Development Ideas for Online Social Activism

By Tom Watson on July 10, 20083 Comments

The industrious team over at Social Actions – that would be founder Peter Deitz and new arrival Joe Solomon – has created a wiki to collect ideas around what applications, mash-ups, and tools to build using the Social Actions API, which aggregates giving and volunteering opportunities from 19 different online activism platforms, including Kiva, DonorsChoose, ChangingthePresent, and Change.org.

The team, which recently won some vital seed funding, plans to incubate a handful of apps over the next couple of months – and they’re actively seeking ideas and suggestions, so jump on over. Social Actions has grown rapidly in six months, and I believe the effort may well be a harbinger of the next big development in the CauseWired space; the API and the startup’s vision is entirely open and collaborative, in my view, and an and  welcome addition to the sector. Here’s a handful of the possibilities posted thus far:

  • WordPress Module – “Possibly Related Social Actions”
  • Firefox Extension – Replace Ads with Social Actions
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Made Easy
  • Social Actions Maps
  • Craigslist.org integration
  • Create a hook for Convio user profiles

That last one was mine; I think using a connector to a leading provider of high-end software to the nonprofit sector may be a winner for the various platforms. What are your ideas?

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3 Comments »

  • [...] CauseWired… Wanted: Development Ideas for Online Social Activism by Tom Watson, talks about a new wiki that collects ideas on around what applications, mash-ups, [...]

  • Lauren Romero says:

    This idea comes with monetization, so take note!

    As popular as cause-related marketing seems to be getting, I suspect that its popularity could be sowing the seeds for suspicion or burnout among consumers.
    Brands need a way to better understand and measure the relevance of their cause-related engagements, programs — or better yet — life commitments.
    Consumers need a one-stop shop for determining
    a) Exactly how their patronage of the brand, and in what exact amounts, ends up delivered to serve the claimed cause beneficiary (i.e., the “life-path” of the cause portion of their purchase);
    b) The duration and extent of the brand’s commitment to said cause;
    c) The program participants’ CSR “umbrella”, and the degree to which observers of various stripes consider the company’s efforts authentic and consistent with its own long-term corporate interests.
    …Especially in these ever-more-challenging economic times.
    The solution is an application that on the consumer side serves as a “transparency shopping portal”.
    Consumers would opt-in as members of a community, share a “cause profile” of the things that matter so much to them as individuals that they wish to vote with their dollars about them. Once the database includes their cause profile, they can shop in whichever category is of interest on a given day — from books to shoes to insurance to home theater systems or cars — and the system would return a list of products or brands that are somehow supporting causes they care about. Beyond that, live links in this list would take them to third party information (in important addition to the companies’ own) that would make transparent the workings of each program, other CSR activities of the participant companies, and so forth.

    In addition, being a community, consumers could connect with each other about their interest causes, rate the programs in both quantitative and qualitative ways, and so forth. So far, many components of this idea exist.

    But wait.
    Not-so-behind-the-scenes, this nonprofit monster transparency database engine would develop analyses and reports for the brands, would develop ROI metrics (remember we could connect shopping to cause, especially by providing incentives for consumers to report actual purchases after the fact) for cause-related programs, and would in every way possible serve as a research resource to help all business stakeholders better understand the effectiveness and credibility of their relationships and campaigns. This research capability would not be free, of course, and consumer members would understand up front that they are helping to inform the corporate and nonprofit worlds about what works and what doesn’t. They could opt-in to consumer panels and specific studies commissioned by clients, the incentives for which would be proven donations (with tax information receipts) to whichever cause the consumer designates. Participate in research to help save the world, and also shop your conscience! Be a microphilanthropist just by living your life and shopping with care!
    How cool.

  • Lauren Romero says:

    I flitted lightly over a critical component of my idea that also has yet to be developed: this “third party transparency database” thing. I am refering to transparency of the inner workings of cause branding programs, a potentially touchy subject for programs that are not so effective in their service dimension.

    This is something that Google’s or some other foundation might get behind. It’s a matter of technology and research resources, but also one of companies and their cause partners being willing and able to open their programs to scrutiny. They need to be able to both walk the talk, and walk the distance when it comes to their professed cause.

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