Today, I have the privilege of announcing to the Social Actions community that the pioneering open source project we have been working on for the last 3.5 years has found itself a well-resourced and mission-aligned home.
Early this morning, GuideStar unlocked the “Taking Social Actions to the Next Level” badge. Christine Egger and I are confident that GuideStar will wear this badge with honor and can rise to the challenge of embedding Social Actions’ mission and vision into the work their staff undertake everyday.
GuideStar is respected in the nonprofit technology sector as a leader in data aggregation and distribution. Before APIs were all the rage, their organization was developing and using APIs to distribute philanthropic data from about 1.5 million nonprofits across many websites. GuideStar’s mission, to “revolutionize philanthropy,” resonates deeply with Social Actions’ vision of “a world formed by acts of generosity, empathy, and creativity.”
But it was not on previous ground-breaking work and a mission statement alone that this decision was made.
Through a rigorous process lasting over nine months and involving many non-technical acronyms (think RFP instead of XML, and LOI instead of API), the team at GuideStar, led by Bob Ottenhoff, Debra Snider, and Jim Dobrzeniecki, convinced Christine Egger, myself, and a small team of respected volunteer advisors that their organization has the technical skills, financial resources, commitment to open source, and the vision required to Take Social Actions to the Next Level.
In this news, there’s a huge amount for our community of partners, developers, and changemakers to get excited about. For starters, the Social Actions API will benefit from the ongoing support of a team of seasoned software engineers. Feature enhancements that we previously described as “possible with sufficient resources” will be developed, tested, and deployed more rapidly and integrated seamlessly into GuideStar’s existing toolset, resulting in a robust platform capable of leading many more people to meaningful and high-impact action on the causes they care about.
Access to software engineers is only part of the story. Dedicated support for partnership development and engagement will lead to the collection of more rich data on the actions in our system and to a far broader distribution for the dataset as a whole.
Christine Egger and I designed the transition process and selection criteria to help us identify an organization that was mission-aligned; well-resourced; capable of taking Social Actions’ programs to scale; and also committed to keeping intact those qualities that make Social Actions so unique, notably:
Over the last 9 months, we talked with more than a dozen organizations that voiced an interest in taking on these responsibilities. Through an open call for Letters of Interest, the number of potential new homes for Social Actions was reduced to three, all of which were eminently capable of stewarding Social Actions and whose support and involvement going forward will be important.
We then invited the three organizations that submitted Letters of Interest to prepare more detailed proposals on how they would go about Taking Social Actions to the Next Level. We received two such proposals, and followed up with in-person meetings with both organizations.
When the time came to make a final decision, GuideStar had demonstrated beyond a doubt that they are up for the task at hand, and then some. Christine and I are thrilled to enter this next chapter in Social Actions’ history, and look forward to working closely with GuideStar’s team as long as our support is welcome and needed.
Congratulations GuideStar! And congratulations to the many supporters and friends of Social Actions who have waited patiently for this news to be shared.
Today, the future of taking action online and offline is as bright as it has ever been. On a personal note, it feels pretty awesome to be able to write that sentence and to know that this “first of its kind” project I helped create 3.5 years ago is going places. I cannot imagine a better way to have spent my time, and look forward to celebrating this news and providing more details as the integration gets underway in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, Christine and I look forward to spending the next several days in Washington DC with members of the newly expanded GuideStar team and many of you at NTEN’s 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference.
Christine and I would like to thank our small team of respected volunteer advisors who have assisted greatly in the selection process, including Lucy Bernholz, Gavin Clabaugh, Allen Gunn (Gunner), Jacob Harold, Eric Johnson, Amy Sample Ward, and Sean Stannard-Stockton. Their perspective, feedback, and openness to exploring in 1-on-1 conversations what Social Actions’ future could look like in various scenarios has been hugely appreciated.
We would also like to give a very special shout-out to two individuals in particular, without whom Social Actions’ transition would not have been completed so smoothly and with such professionalism. Celine Takatsuno helped develop the transition methodology and coached Christine and I along the way with a rare combination of patience, compassion, and business acumen. We have also received exceptional legal counsel, invaluable assistance that will continue as we reach the legal finish line later this month. Celine and our counsel, on an entirely pro bono basis, have performed a small miracle on behalf of those who believe in Social Actions.
And then there’s Christine Egger, whose generosity, empathy, and creativity are boundless, and bound to continue spreading good all around. Thank you Christine for your friendship, mentoring, and unfailing commitment to this work.