George McCully, the founder of the Catalogue for Philanthropy and author of Philanthropy Reconsidered, is a great favorite of mine. It was a great pleasure to hear him speak yesterday at the Cambridge Forum about his latest visionary project, the Massachusetts Philanthropic Directory.
During the Q&A section of the program, I had an opportunity to ask him about whether he would be willing to explore the idea of a common login and a virtual shopping cart, for users of multiple online tools who want to save information about nonprofits and philanthropies in order to put together projects that require information, expertise, capacity, and assets from more than one organization.
George replied very graciously that other people with online tools were welcome to use his taxonomy of philanthropy and to set up reciprocal linking with the Massachusetts Philanthropic Directory. I blurted out, “we’re beyond links, baby!” If this is a rather intemperate and uppity response to a visionary who is developing disruptive technology, it is ever so much more so when said visionary is a dignified, professorial, silver-haired gentleman in a bow tie.
My response was definitely a collaboration fail, but I hope that my several years of ardent partisanship on behalf of George’s taxonomy, book, and latest project will have a mitigating effect. (That, and the fact that I had already invited him to give a 90 minute full-screen demo of the Massachusetts Philanthropic Directory at the January session of the Ethos Roundtable.) I need to explain to George in a more detailed way about what I mean by a common login, and about the potential for knitting many different online tools for nonprofit and philanthropic professionals into a seamless experience of searching and finding information and resources.
At this point, I don’t see a clear path for knitting Nonprofit Management Resources together with the Massachusetts Philanthropic Directory, but I have an intuition that it will emerge. (More immediately, I can see all sorts of merits in mashing up George’s brain child with Good2gether, Social Actions, the Massachusetts Nonprofit Database, Idealist, and Great Nonprofits.) But my immediate task is not to work out single-handedly the technical steps to convergence or the value proposition for users. It’s to make the case for mash-ups – in a reasonable, respectful way – to people like George.
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