June 14, 2009

All for Good: A Craigslist for service

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allforgoodJD LasicaOn Friday I was one of 66 folks who participated in a conference call around the launch of All for Good.

It was fascinating to watch the disparate elements that came together through a single powerful idea: President Obama’s call for Americans to volunteer — for us to give back to our communities — through “a Craigslist for service” and similar efforts. The result is All for Good, a comprehensive Web presence intended to help people across the country find volunteer opportunities.

Here at Socialbrite we love silo-busting initiatives that harness the collective power of seemingly odd bedfellows — social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, political reformers, open source developers and citizen media types — to achieve a social goal.

Among those on the call were Jonathan Greenblatt, a member of the Obama transition team (note: the White House has no official role in the All for Good project); John Lyman, an associate at Google.org (who spoke at NetSquared last year about how social benefit organizations are using Google Apps to collaborate); Peter Deitz of SocialActions, who has been working with his team for more than a year to network nonprofits’ social actions together under a single interface; and representatives from cause organizations big and small (mostly small): FirstGiving, DonorsChoose, Better the World, the Extraordinaries, Network for Social Responsibility, Points of Light Foundation, Causecast, Care2, NGOPost and many others. Craigslist Foundation has been involved in this as well but I didn’t see them in the chat room.

At its simplest level, All for Good is an open source database of causes and opportunities that make a difference in people’s lives. It’s a way to gather up thousands of volunteer actions across the social-good ecosystem and put them in one place so that people can volunteer at the community level.

“If we can give more Americans the opportunity to serve in meaningful ways, then it’ll be worth it,” Greenblatt said.

A tool, not another website

As I understand this, All for Good represents the overarching collaborative project, which organizations can plug into to bring greater visibility to community volunteerism. (I haven’t seen any fact sheets so forgive me if my impressions are slightly off base.) One large spoke in that wheel is the Social Actions platform that Peter Deitz and his team have been working on for more than a year, bridging wide-ranging cause efforts so that volunteers in a city like Atlanta or Des Moines can see local opportunities for service. Participating organizations can showcase social actions on their sites, through a widget or on mobile devices. (The organizers weren’t out to create another destination web site but rather a tool that other sites can use.)

The All for Good site says this:

Are you looking for ways to give back to your community? All for Good makes it simple to find and share volunteer activities with friends and family.

Inspired by the call of President Obama to engage more Americans in service, a group of individuals from the technology, marketing and public sectors came together to build an open source application currently managed by Google that allows you to find and share volunteer activities. All for Good lets you browse activities and find events based on your location or interests. The site is in the process of being transferred to a new non-profit organization, Our Good Works, that was formed by some of the people who initiated the project and who support the product’s growth.

Socialbrite is looking forward to working with other supporting organizations to advance this worthy initiative. We hope you’ll support All for Good as well, perhaps by request their source code or by contacting them about developing apps.

The site is already operational, so check it out. Christine Egger will soon post a transcript of the call.

Update:

My takeaway: All for Good strikes me as potentially as significant an undertaking as the Peace Corps was in the 1960s. The digital generation will be peering at their broadband-connected mobile devices to decide which volunteer opportunities to participate in. As a society, we’re now much more likely to zip in and out of projects rather than focus on just one charitable cause for months on end.

I would do one thing differently than what I see on the site today, however: Emphasize connections between people (volunteers) rather than focus exclusvely on the volunteer projects. Bring All for Good into the age of Web 2.0 social networking.

Christine sends along the transcript of the call. (Thanks, Christine!)

And I just came across a brief backgrounder that Social Actions circulated in advance of the call, to provide additional context:

The All for Good platform, formerly known as the Footprint Initiative, comes out of discussions between White House staff, President Obama’s transition team, Google staff, and Craigslist Foundation staff.

All for Good is an open source aggregation of service opportunities and will serve as the back end of several high profile volunteering websites, including Serve.gov. From our discussions with the creators of All for Good, we understand that they intend to expand into other forms of social action, including donations.

Related

• The Chronicle of Philanthropy has this coverage: An Obama-Inspired Volunteer-Recruitment Web Site Will Soon Debut (MSNBC republished it here).JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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  • Same comment as for Jim, even more surprised given that you referenced the article (and you presumably read the criticism). D.

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  • JD, thank you for participating in and drawing attention to Friday's discussion. We'll be posting a transcript shortly on http://my.socialactions.com. A clarification — Social Actions is not currently feeding content into All for Good, but would be happy to.

    Christine Egger
    Social Actions

  • JD Lasica

    Sure. I've been trying to find other blog entries or articles about the context and background and haven't been able to, so it's hard to write a contextual blog post with no context. :~)

    Delia, don't know who Jim is and don't know what criticism you're talking about.

  • JD,

    sorry about the delay and sorry I didn’t make it clear; the comment-by-Delia hyperlink links to the relevant entry on my blog

    the “Jim” I referred to is Jim Fruchterman, who interviewed Craig Newmark regarding AllforGood

    the criticism — which I feel both of you should have addressed — is in the article you linked at the end of your entry : An Obama-Inspired Volunteer-Recruitment Web Site Will Soon Debut

    AllforGood has been criticized for “duplicating efforts charities already had under way, and putting significant pressure on groups to participate to help carry out Obama’s agenda”. (4th paragraph)

    Social Actions, for instance, already had an open source initiative similar to that of AllforGood, according to Peter Deitz, Social Actions’ founder . (5th paragraph)

    Delia

  • JD Lasica

    I'll defer to Peter on that one and, since Peter and Christine were co-leaders of the call, it sounded to me like they were cool with the outcome.

  • it seems to me that Christine is just trying to adapt to the situation — make the best of what transpired — but actually being “cool with the outcome” would contradict what Peter said; more details: “Very powerful actors have entered the nonprofit ecosystem and created something that already existed, that is blooming, is growing, and has to accommodate a new reality,” (Peter Deitz, 5th paragraph, same article you linked)

    Delia

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