You are the future of city building

If you’re selected to speak at TED, it’s because you’re changing the world. Katherine Fulton, President of the Monitor Institute, whose mission is to “help innovative leaders develop and achieve sustainable solutions to significant social and environmental problems,”, presented “You are the future of philanthropy”, but it could just as well have been titled, “You are the future of city building”.

This is a moment in history when the average person has more power that at any time. She further states that rather than closed, small, slow, fragmented and short(-term thinking), we’re going open (source), big (open call), fast (less bureaucracy), connected and long.

She talks about the five categories that are defining the emerging generation of contribution and participation in making a difference:

1. Mass collaboration – e.g. Wikipedia. “We have lived in this world where little things are done for love and big things for money. Now we have Wikipedia… Suddenly big things can be done for love,” Clay Shirky. Aka collaborative crowdsourcing, and what this site is all about.
2. Online philanthropy marketplaces – e.g. Kiva; for-profit: eBay, Amazon. It allows people to contribute a little to those who need a little, which collectively adds to a lot.
3. Aggregated funding – e.g. Acumen Fund. We now have the tools and collective intelligence to form ‘micro funds’, such as an investment fund for a specific neighborhood, or local businesses in that neighborhood. Other examples include New Profit, New Schools Venture Fund, Venture Philanthropy Partners, Global Fund for Women.
4. Innovation competitions – e.g. The most prevalent form of crowdsourcing, with a focus on technological and scientific solutions (ie ‘clock’ problems) that focus on the organization’s mission rather than an isolated problem. This can be used to identify which sites, what kinds of uses and what kinds of events a neighborhood should prioritize, and what the Bubbly app was created for.
5. Social investing – e.g. xigi.net, “a community of the emerging capital market that invests private debt and equity in enterprises that create good for people and the planet.” Just as the capital markets are shifting to where you can invest in ‘green’, they are also evolving from the ’19 conventional suburban types’ (i.e. strip malls, subdivisions) to sustainable, walkable urban.

As Katherine says, “We’re not thinking our way into a new way of acting, we’re acting our way into a new way of thinking.”

However, this is all the more powerful if it’s fun! Imagine this kind of collaborative energy coupled with a creative fun factor, as you can see below how VW thought to make people take the stairs more often. They’re using innovative competitions to solve other social problems