Sunday, July 01, 2007

collections vs collectives

The concept of charity often rattles its collection tin irritatingly while I'm trying to do other things. That rattle is an alarm bell (See what I did there?) - a warning - that charities are dangerously behind in terms of utilising the accumulative energy of the connected world. If anything, charity remains very introverted.

When it comes to charity, people tend to get muddled between their own needs and the aims of the charity they support. I won't start philosophising about whether true altruism is a myth, but I will share two examples of charitable solutions (that I witnessed within five minutes today) to make a point.

This morning I left my house to get some lunch from Tesco. As it happened, I had just been browsing the apps on Facebook and had come across the Causes application. This application is designed simply to feed off the Facebook community - and the energy and connections in it - to act as a conduit for activism. It seems pretty basic and I'm sure there are better ones being developed, but it is potentially a very efficient way (results pending) to not only raise money but to educate and create discussion about different causes.

Three minutes later I was walking into Tesco where an elderly woman was collecting money for Macmillan Cancer Support. She looked grumpy. She shook her tin. She probably sat there all day.


This woman represents the old world. Compared to the potential of charitable Facebook applications, her effort is not even comparable. But I couldn't possibly walk over and tell her that. She is there because she wanted to do something.

The whole world needs to change. Attitudes need to change. And social values need a bit of a kicking too. Charities are losing out - for many reasons - but a key reason was personified in the doorway of Tesco. The intentions of that woman are worthy, but misplaced. We all want to do something. So rather than stay in silos, each 'doing our bit', we are in need of simple solutions that harness this collective desire.
As more and more disparity is broadcast to us, it's tempting to think we have to try harder, but Facebook apps show us that there are simple solutions out there - built by one person and more powerful than a thousand street collectors.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Means and methods are connected. The lady probably does not belong to a social networking site and probably doesn't use any sort of internet technology.

Therefore she is simply targeting people similar to herself. Its a traditional way of collecting money to people who are used to giving that way.

How do you explain the proliferation of Chuggers on our streets. It must be an efficient way of raising money - that old fashioned face to face contact.

cpea

8:48 am  
Blogger Andy said...

Thanks Anonymous (Chris).

I'm not sure my point came across. The lady in question probably doesn't throw sheep or chest bump her friends on Facebook. She belongs to a different generation and social networks will probably never be the way to get to her or her peers.

It is our generation which charities need to connect to now and the collection tin isn't the way to do it.

But just to be really clear, I'm not dicounting the value of her contribution and am certainly not challenging her intentions.

My commentary is more of a cultural observation about the old and new ways of doing things - pros and cons. And I don't the answers.

I disagree that street chuggers are efficient. I once collected on the street for a charity. In eight hours I made about five pounds. I measure efficiency by time spent compared to cash raised and I'm certain that by harnessing the energy of online communities is 'potentially' vastly more efficient.

Also, I think face to face contact - in regard to chuggers - is rarely meaningful, as a lot of them are paid to do it and/or are frustrated and use the same guilt-tactics that we see elsewhere.
The missing ingredient is education. And I think street collectors do not have the best environment or audience mindset for that process.

It's always difficult to come across completely dispassionately writing posts like this. I hope my thoughts are seen as an observation of new opportunity and not mere finger-wagging.

Andy

12:38 pm  

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