Monday, January 15, 2007

FLOW - The Role of Business in Building a Better World

I see a lot of tech conferences going on out here in the Valley. Many of them are just ego conventions, but none seem to be addressing what's been on my mind for the last year or two - how to take this internet/Web2.0 thing and apply it to affect social change. Commerce and profit and helping well-to-do white kids and India-born entrepreneurs get rich/richer is wonderful for some people, I'm sure, but what about stuff that really matters to the rest of us - like having a meaningful say in what our government does to us?

How have the internet and Web2.0 technologies helped us to improve our lives with respect to affecting society? Have we been able to use to organize with other like-minded folks and have we been able to achieve results, like starting a recycling program in our communities? Does collaborative software/content like Wikipedia help us get to the truth about our government's actions, thus making us better aware and ultimately more discerning citizens? And does it matter that we're more discerning now? Do social networks have any effect on society other than helping advertisers to push their products? Is blogging an effective tool for checking the corporate media? Do sites like Digg/Reddit really make a difference in types of information we consume? Will they ever go mainstream enough to make a critical impact on society? What tools and technologies have helped us to build open source software better, and what is the affect on society, if any? Does the rapid growth of other virtual reality-type social networking tools like Second Life further isolate us from one another, or is there an upside? Where do Kiva and GlobalGiving fit in?

Some project called FLOW just popped up on SquidList. It talks about 'using business to better the world', but with a $40 'donation', I can't imagine this ego-fest will be any different than most of the others that occur in the Bay Area. But at least in name it seems to suggest a willingness to consider life beyond dollar bills for Mercedes' sake, and that's a step in the right direction.

1 comment:

Vin Khael said...

Hello Shmooth,

I believe the questions that you are asking are absolutely key to the building a better world for us all. The internet is a very powerful tool if used the right way, but unfortunately, it has been driven mostly by money. But where money paved the way is now opportunity to use existing business models and find ways to make the internet a more useful tool for social change.

Let me tell you about UniversalGiving ( UniversalGiving is a non-profit, web-based organization that helps people give to and volunteer with the international causes they care about most. Visitors search by focus or geographic area to find projects that achieve real results around the world. Unlike GlobalGiving, 100% of the donations go directly to the project of one’s choice. GlobalGiving takes a 10% cut on every donation. Also, UniversalGiving ensures that all organizations are identified by high-quality international interest groups and experts.

As you can tell, this service is completely motivated by an outward approach to the helping of others. The site has a multitude of opportunities depending on an individual’s interest from specific world regions to poverty and the environment. UniversalGiving is really set up to provide people like you and me with the chance to make a strategic impact in the world.

As a fellow writer, I have the same concerns as you. It is really great that you take the time to delve into these important topics and ask the questions that mainstream media are unprepared or unable to consider. With dedicated writers like you and programs such as UniversalGiving, there is hope that that the internet is actually promoting the positive social change that we share as pertinent for the future of humanity.