Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Redefining Charity for the 21st Century

Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are. ~Bertold Brecht

As I sat down to write on what is called “Charity Tuesday” on Twitter, I started thinking further about the word charity and wondered if it bothers others as much as it bothers me?

I wrote a blog about it recently and haven’t stopped thinking about it, particularly when everywhere around me, people and organizations are talking about their charities of choice. Now don’t get me wrong, I am excited and thrilled to see people getting excited and incorporating causes into their lives, work and other life priorities. What an amazing time!

Yet, it keeps hitting me that as with everything else going on with the web, that perhaps the way we think about giving and “charity” may begin to change as well with the times!

When the web was created, it was used as a business tool to enhance existing business practice, but for its first generation really was used in the same traditional ways of business. However, with the latest iteration of the web and social media, we are beginning to see a new wave and trend in the web, in which it is becoming its own live organism and rather than the more linear relationships and uses of the web in the more traditional ways, people are beginning to cross-interact and the web is beginning to have a life of its own.

From everything I can tell, this is a trend that will is beginning to happen with giving as philanthropy becomes more active on the social web. For decades, the concept of giving has been rooted in the philosophy of “charity.” I give to you, and with it has come somewhat of a hierarchy. However, as nonprofits begin to outpace corporations and education in using the social web (http://tinyurl.com/28syby), this linear and hierarchical dynamic will rapidly begin to change.

With these foreseeable changes, the relationship between the donor and the recipient is set to shift dramatically. Nonprofits will no longer be seen as solely doing good and will not be required purely to ask for gifts, grants and donations. Rather, they will begin to be seen as resources of information, change agents and the dynamic between giver and receiver will rapidly transform. We are already beginning to see this as the interaction between donor and recipient, with the help of the social web, becomes more interactive, co-creative and synergistic.

Do you think in this evolutionary change in dynamic between the donor and recipient, the view of “charity” and the word itself might change? Perhaps as our paradigms shift in so many ways during this new millenium, we may also see our language shift to accomodate those changes. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

You can find me on Twitter @pilarstella. Have a beautiful #charitytuesday as they say, or perhaps we might start calling it #causetuesday or otherwise - do you have any ideas on the name? Let me know!

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