I spent this afternoon at a fascinating gathering in San Francisco: Lunch for Social Action Platforms. Hosted by Peter Deitz of Montreal (see my recent interview with him here) and hosted by TechSoup, 33 people got together on two days’ notice to discuss how to work together to make it easy for people to find and act on social causes that they support.
Or, as Deitz put it, how do we make it easy for bloggers and website operators to support the philanthropic Web and enable "micro-philanthropic opportunities"?
Without getting too techie: APIs (application programming interfaces) are making this easier. The goal, said Deitz, is to create "one cloud of action where anyone can tap into and find high-impact actions on causes they care about."
Simply put, today you can visit the Social Actions Lab and create a widget that allows people to take action through your blog. Even with a limited set of microformats (five or six datapoints), anyone can republish excerpts from an article and include a widget with a call to action — letting people not just report on an issue but enlist others to do something about it.
This is potentially very big.
When the next natural disaster hits, we may be able to see which charitable organization online donors are sending their money to. We’ll be able to see how many people contributed, how much they gave, which organizations are raising the most funds, and so on.
"We’re talking about a new format that encourages the spread of actionable opportunities in a way we’ve never experienced," Deitz said. "We’ve been talking about open standards for philanthropic opportunities for a while now, but this is the first time we actually have one."
I’ll be thinking about how to support the philanthropic Web, in my work with Ourmedia and as an individual, in the coming days and weeks. It’s exciting that this is no longer pie in the sky — it’s here, right now.
Postscript: I interviewed Ben Rattray, founder of Change.org, at the session and will try to post our talk soon.