SXSW is less than a week away and as I sit here at my desk in Paris I’ve hardly even begun to think about which parties to RSVP for, much less which panels to attend. With the added pressure of actually being a presenter at this year’s festival, I’m lucky to have the folks at Beaconfire keeping my co-panelists and I on our toes as we finalize preparation for what I believe will be a significant and meaty discussion contributing to the already exceptional Greater Good line-up at Interactive this year.
For those of you just joining via crosspost-trackback-twitterific magic, I’m Skylar Woodward, designer of the Kiva API and protagonist of the Kiva Developer community. When we started Kiva just over 5 years ago it was little more than a highly-customized, handwritten blog with some PayPal buttons attached. Though there were some audacious ambitions of transforming the microfinance industry, no one could have guessed we’d be accused of leading an online revolution of fundraising at large.
In our panel at SXSW we’re taking on this allegation as we discuss “Will Kiva Kill your Non-Profit?” and cornering the chief culprit of this phenominon under the sobriquet (pardon my French) of “Donations 2.0.” What is it exactly? To me, it is the decentralization of charity driven by a cultural movement to operate in, and through the influence of, community. People see technology, most notably manifest through infinite treasure troves of data and online social connections, as able inform, empower, and monitor the application of their personal resources, thus focusing their impact to the truly good in time where the the same proliferation of information has nurtured a new age of skepticism.
But if this how one defines the new philanthropy, is Kiva truly a relevant example? I think, yes, but not in the way most might think; as Kiva has scaled to hundreds of thousands of loans, the classic Kiva interface arguably does more to centralize than de-monopolize donor channels. What then is the role of large charities and NGOs when a single tweet by Conan O’Brien can relieve economic hardship for a young couple’s in small town Michigan? Knowing our role, what changes should we make and what tech must be employed such that we can serve it? Does every cause benefit from our new model?
Even after a few months of pondering these questions, we as a panel don’t have any bullet-point answers to give you. That, in particular, is why we’re stoked to fully ignite the discussion with you on March 16 in Austin. For those of you who are instead attending Web Video Thunderdome, I’ll see you on the dance floor.