Jul
23
2010

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News from the Case Foundation and what people are talking about this week in the world of giving, tech and everything in between.

Inaugural Social Innovation Fund grantees selected Yesterday, the Corporation for National and Community Service announced the first round of grantees for the Social Innovation Fund, which, as reported by Justmeans, will "help distribute some $123 million in public and private dollars to catalyze social innovation." Firstly, we congratulate all 11 organizations that were selected, including our partners at Venture Philanthropy Partners, which received $4 million in a two-year grant to create a network of effective nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C. area that will team up to address the education and employment needs of low-income and vulnerable youth aged 14-24. As reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, "Patrick Corvington, the Corporation for National and Community Service’s chief executive, says the winners were chosen because of their 'proven track record to source innovation.'" The NonProfit Times shares a bit more insight into how the fund will work:

Awards will be made annually and eligible to receive for programs up to five years but are not expected to be a sustained source of funding. Rather, the SIF is intended to be venture funding of sorts and once an organization gets funding to prove its model, the hope is that it can show other funders to be more aggressive with them for future dollars.

In an analysis of the Fund's selection, Nathaniel Whittemore of the Social Entrepreneurship blog expresses some disappointment in what he perceives to be a focus on the "what works" versus innovation. He notes:

I tend to think that the relative smallness of the amount of resources being deployed lend themselves well to this being the "sandbox space" where the government could support really experimental efforts that could go nowhere, but could also have the disruptive potential that just couldn't be enacted through a government structure that is designed fundamentally to be incremental.

On the other hand, Sean Stannard-Stockton of Tactical Philanthropy shares that he's "thrilled" with the grantee selection, noting that "In many ways, the results read like my personal wish list for how I thought they should approach their decision." Nicole Wallace of the Chronicle of Philanthropy has a good roundup of the commentary that has appeared thus far around the Fund's announcement.

Facebook surpasses 500 million users Facebook made a splash this week with its announcement that it has now surpassed 500 million users (interestingly enough, roughly 70% of those users are outside of the US, showing the kind of impact the social network has had for a global audience). Not surprisingly, the milestone made national and international news, and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg granted a rare interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, which also generated its own set of chatter. Of course, the news coverage on this story is far too extensive to share in one weekly news roundup, but I thought I'd share a few of the highlights. This CNET News article points out that the milestone was not really a surprise, with Caroline McCarthy noting, "everyone was aware that this was imminent. Facebook had already announced that it would be launching an application called 'Facebook Stories' to commemorate the experiences and connections that people have created and shared on Facebook's network." This video from BBC News shares the story of the company's global impact, and the Economist has a fascinating article that shares a sentiment that Facebook is starting to look (and act) like a sovereign state..

One of the interesting side stories to the 500 million user mark for Facebook was the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, which ranked Facebook in the bottom five percent of companies surveyed. As Inc.com reported, this ranking put Facebook along with "much-loathed airlines and cable companies (and below even the IRS's e-file service)." An article from the E-Commerce Times shares a bit more insight into what the survey found as to why users aren't satisfied with Facebook.

Debate around online contests heats back up The sometimes heated discussion about online contests for philanthropy bubbled back up this week when new media guru Chris Brogan wrote a post titled "The Problem with Social Only Nonprofit Campaigns." In the post, Chris laments the numerous appeals he's received asking him to throw his support behind various causes in the Chase Community Giving campaign, but spreads his criticism to the larger proliferation of online competitions:

The problems with using social channels heavily for things like vote-raising events like this is that it floods one’s channel with that kind of promotion. That’s problem 1... The secondary problem is that if you’re someone with a larger following, you have to manage how many of these competitions you’re going to promote, because one begets another begets misgivings about which charities one supports and which charities one doesn’t.

Another critical article appeared this week on Huffington Post; this one from Kelly Kleiman of Nonprofiteer.net who shares her belief that the Chase Community Giving campaign is "...called 'crowd-source philanthropy,' but it's not philanthropy at all: it's 'crowd-manipulation marketing.'" Nonprofit consultant Barbara Talisman shares her response to Chris Brogan's post, and Rebecca Leaman at the Wild Apricot blog has a great recap of the various conversations.

Blog network shut down over terror concerns An interesting story took place in the tech world this week after Blogetery.com, a platform hosting more than 70,000 blogs was shut down, as the BBC reported, after "a 'link to terrorist material' and an al-Qaeda 'hit list' was posted to the site." The sudden shutdown came as a surprise to the platform's users, who lost all of their information in the shutdown with no advance warning. There was quite a bit of speculation that the shutdown had been forced by the FBI or another government agency. However, this CNN.com article notes that according to the platform's internet service provider, BurstNet, the decision to shut down Blogetery was "...very much the company's own. It was not ordered to do so, but the request for information from the FBI triggered a federal law that allows internet service providers to voluntarily disclose information in some circumstances and take action against sites they host." Greg Sandoval, who writes the Media Maverick blog for CNET News and has been covering the evolution of this story, is reporting this morning that bloggers will in fact get their information back.

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