Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Nancy Lublin on the Problem With Nonprofit Tech

BY Nick Judd | Friday, June 7 2013

Nancy Lublin at Personal Democracy Forum 2013. Photo: Esty Stein / Personal Democracy Forum

Two years ago Nancy Lublin's nonprofit, Do Something, got a text message from a teenage girl.

He keeps raping me, it read in part. He told me not to tell anyone. Are you there?

"He" was the girl's father.

This was a quandary for Do Something. They had created a text message program as part of a cause campaign that had nothing to do with sexual abuse or domestic violence. It dawned on them, Lublin said at Personal Democracy Forum 2013 Friday morning, that they should create a crisis text line. That way, they could help teens who decided Do Something was the place to turn with problems.

Two years later, the crisis text line will launch Aug. 1. But Lublin had a question: Why did it take so long?

The answer, in part, has to do with the way projects like this are funded. Lublin devoted her PDF talk to opening a conversation about what she sees as serious problems with the way foundations approach funding technology projects that address public policy or social services.

The fault, in part, lies with the people with money — because, Lublin said, they simply don't know how to work well with new technologies that could and maybe should help them advance their mission.

"There are lots of things that foundations are doing to hamper this new disruptive stuff," Lublin said.

One of the remarks she often heard from foundations was: "You don't fit our buckets."

"No shit," she offered in response. "It's new."

Lublin wondered if upkeep of the Ford Foundation's palatial headquarters, an impressive building near the United Nations that features an expansive atrium, was really the best use of the organization's treasure. (Ford Foundation is a PDF sponsor.)

"Do you really need to sit in that $400 million building, Ford Foundation? Are you not comfy? Most of it is not even usable space."

"One request I have today is Ford Foundation, sell the building," she continued. "Be like Blue Ridge. Move to Brooklyn, be in a loft space ... get back to your roots. I think you've gotten comfy."

Blue Ridge is a foundation that incubates several smaller companies and projects — like the nonprofit TurboVote — from a modest but well-appointed loft office space in downtown Brooklyn.

Her third critique was with foundations' request to see a business model. There are things governments do because offiicals think it's important, she said; there are things corporations do because their officers think they'll make money; and then there are things nonprofits want to do because it will fill a need.

"We matter, and we are worth funding, and that's what we're set up to do traditional foundations so please don't forget it," she said.

"This is not a pitch. Crisis text line is fine and it's launching Aug. 1. This is a request for all of us to take this conversation and put it in the open."

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More