Posted by: Nathaniel | July 25, 2008

Even if you build it, they might not come: GlobalGiving goes green

Continuing the conversation that’s been evolving for the last few days, the New York Times today reported that GlobalGiving was launching a new “Green” portal, populated by 25 projects from the main GlobalGiving site that have clear environmental impact and have been vetted for factors such as “how well it helps reduce harmful emissions, plus how it stacks up in areas such as providing sustainable, positive economic growth, aiding the culture and environment of a community, educating future generations on green techniques, and more.”

From the article, it seems like a big part of their motivation was recognizing that, with increased consumer awareness of climate and environmental issues (and they way their purchasing decisions can impact the issue), there’s an opportunity to demonstrate to people how their (micro) philanthropy can help as well.

I think its great. Changing consumption habbits (particularly of fossil fuels), changing emissions and regulatory policies, and figuring out how to answer China, India, and other emerging economies’ clear need for fuel to drive economic growth and development seem to me to be the big meta-priorities we all need to be engaged in discussing.

But the impacts of and solutions to environmental degradation are local as well as global. Smart, environmentally-sustainable appropriate technologies can not only improve local ecosystems, they can improve local economies by reducing the cost of fuel and reusing products that might otherwise be considered waste.

Groups like the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group are doing tremendous work in this area, largely by connecting with and adding value to the inputs and talents of communities who are already on the ground. Providing opportunities to easily and confidently support this type of work is a great thing.

But I think GG faces a big challenge as well. This new effort again brings up the question of the difference between platforms for giving and reasons for giving. Even with a compelling need, good, vetted projects, and a user-friendly interface, it might not be enough for people to pull out their wallets. Even if you built it, they might not come.

Given GG’s experience with this work and the strategies such as user-driven contests I’ve seen them participate in and (with our Project Challenge competition) help them develop, I think its highly likely that this platform comes with a donor engagement plan. I hope it works – we need a clearer connection between environmental degredation and impact on human life, in philanthropy and beyond.

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