I met Julius Huijnk of Helpalot online and we decided to meet and exchange in Utrecht. Since we had both done our online homework, I could explain him the concepts, and he knew where I worked, so we could get to the point very rapidly. (which was useful since I had missed my train..)
When we did a scenario planning with IICD on the changing future of development cooperation, the influence on the internet on establishing direct linkages north-north, north-south and south-south surfaced as one topic. We also thought humanitarian aid will play a bigger role in future and saw rapidly changing alliances as well as changing power blocks.
Helpalot is a nice example of a new initiative to create a site which aims to linking people around their interest in charity through the internet. The idea is to leverage the power of social networking tools like hyves for 'charities' (goede doelen in Dutch). Its mission is to "Help individuals and organisations to find a charity that fits them, by making objective and subjective information on charities accessible and transparent. By strengthening social contacts and stimulate feedback, Helpalot aims to increase the trust people have in charities and stimulate charitable activities. "
You can see a one minutes introduction of the concept by clicking on the video:
There are existing sites with information on Dutch charities like goede doelen, alle goede doelen, helphelpen and geef gratis. On an international level there is for instance the charitynavigator. There is the initiative of Nabuur, linking villages to expertise and assistance. None of them works from the principle of leveraging online social networking though. It does make opinions very visible in a rapid way, and has the potential to change power relations and give the individual donors more influence. So I'm curious to see how this is going to work. It seems most beneficial for small organisations and volunteers. Given the number of times I'm asked if I know a place where a volunteer can work I'd definitely say this has potential, but provided it attracks a sufficient number of organisations and people... If you are interested you can sign up at the site of helpalot
On the way back I thought about the fact that this is new for me, to think from the 'charity' or 'donor' side. As I've mostly been a direct advisor in the south working with local organisations. I started thinking: Suppose we would use this idea to link civil society organisations in the south to talk about donor agencies and partners in the north? Wouldn't that have the potential for a real power shift?