Two years ago, the nonprofit technology sector came together to support an open-source project called A Mashup of 29+ Social Action Platforms – Social Actions (see video below). Through the support of the NetSquared community and related grants and prizes, my team and I were able to attract sufficient funding to give life to a vision I had been promoting for close to a year.
That vision, in a nutshell, is a world formed by acts of generosity, empathy, and creativity, made possible through the creative use of technology and greater collaboration among online platforms serving the nonprofit sector. Specifically, the mission of Social Actions has been to aggregate calls-to-action from a collection of innovative websites, and to make the dataset as a whole available to any third party developer to embed opportunities to make a difference in the websites, social networks, and mobile phones that millions of people use every day.
The journey over the last two years has been remarkable. Social Actions has grown from 14 platform partners at the time of the N2Y3 Mashup Challenge to over 60 partners today. The project has been celebrated, replicated, and most importantly, made use of by countless change-makers who want to get involved in the causes they care about, and understand how Social Actions can help them do just that.
Our greatest challenge over the last two years has had nothing to do with the mechanics of aggregating actions or advocating for open standards in the nonprofit sector (although both can be difficult). My team and I have struggled with attracting adequate funding to sustain our work and with building a viable organization around the collection of programs that make up Social Actions.
Earlier this year, we initiated a community-led effort to develop an integrated funding strategy that would permit Social Actions to fulfill its potential. With the help of community members and longtime supporters, we identified a number of creative ways to support Social Actions’ work. The process of envisioning Social Actions as a fully funded independent organization forced us to reflect on the shifting context around Social Actions’ mission and vision.
We were left with this question: “Does the nonprofit technology sector really need an additional intermediary organization, particularly if the online giving marketplaces and those who fund them are increasingly adopting the language of collaboration and becoming more tech-savvy?” Our answer is, “definitely not.” The various ways in which Social Actions' programs can be funded and made financially sustainable would function just as well within an existing intermediary as in support of a stand-alone organization.
The evolving context in which we are pursuing our work combined with the challenges mentioned above has altered the way Christine and I see Social Actions reaching its potential. Over the next several months, we have decided to invite the individuals, organizations, and foundations that have supported Social Actions to work together in an effort to find a long-term and well-resourced home for the programs we have created together.
Our goal in this transition process is to find an organization or group of organizations that can assume full ownership and responsibility for Social Actions, modifying the individual programs where necessary but keeping the original vision and mission intact. Christine and I have prepared two documents that are designed to streamline the process of finding a new home for Social Actions. Please consider yourself a full partner in co-creating these documents with us. They have been made available with full edit privileges enabled by default for anyone who would like to contribute to the conversation. Social Actions Transition - Providing additional context for this desire to find a new home as well as criteria for the organization or group of organizations that have an interest in adopting Social Actions. Social Actions Partners and Assets - Providing a comprehensive list of the organizations we consider our partners and the programs we have developed.
Thank you for taking the time to review these documents, sharing your questions and feedback, and helping us ensure that the future of taking action online and offline is easy, organized, and powered by open source software and values.
Flashback to March 2008
Below is the video of my presentation at the NYC New Tech Meetup in March 2008, in which I describe Social Actions and its mission to help people find and share opportunities to make a difference.
A note on my plans for the future
Earlier this year, I would have happily moved with Social Actions into the organization, or group of organizations, where ownership and responsibility for it ends up residing. I have, however, become increasingly open to the idea of taking on new challenges and embarking on new forms of professional development. I have also developed an appetite to focus more of my attention north of the U.S. / Canadian border. A project like Social Actions, which is global, cannot satisfy the desire I currently have to focus my attention on Canada.
For these reasons, plus a hunch that the world of finance is about to become very interesting and very social, I have accepted a fulltime position based in Toronto working in the field of social finance. My responsibilities in the new position will ramp up over the next several weeks. I look forward to sharing details about my new role in the coming days via my personal account on Twitter.
Please know that I plan to stay actively involved in Social Actions as long as I am welcome to do so, and particularly during the period of transition that we are now entering. I will miss interacting on a daily basis with the people and organizations I have befriended over the last several years. I will also miss the sometimes quixotic challenge of making it easier for people to take action anywhere and everywhere.
In a networked nonprofit world, however, I am reassured knowing that staying connected with the community is only an @reply, DM or #hashtag away.