Charity 2.0? Silicon Valley reinvents philanthropy.
Silicon Valley entrepreneurs bring a fresh eye to social problems. In some cases, their innovative solutions are changing the way charity is delivered.
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While some nonprofits are being nudged to adopt more for-profit-like approaches, other social entrepreneurs are guiding nonprofits to narrow their focus and do only what they do best, according to Beth Kanter, a nonprofit scholar and author of "The Networked Nonprofit," a 2010 book on using social media to advance philanthropy.Skip to next paragraph
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She points to one example, MomsRising.org, which advocates for family-friendly laws. "MomsRising didn't reinvent the wheels and instead just focused on what they were enthusiastic about – mobilizing people," says Ms. Kanter. Instead of operating as a traditional nonprofit, the group outsourced much of its operations, allowing it to run virtually and more nimbly.
Education is one of the hot areas getting attention from social entrepreneurs because it can benefit from technology, according to Arrillaga-Andreessen.
A free, world-class education to anyone is the promise of the Khan Academy of Mountain View, Calif. It creates free, educational math and science videos on more than 2,600 topics aimed at elementary and high school students. Salman Khan, the organization's founder, wasn't trained as a professional academic, but he argues that it's allowed him to reinvent an education model by finding new ways to engage his students in the lesson. His lessons have been viewed more than 84 million times, according to the Khan Academy.
When Danielle Strachman wanted to found a charter school in San Diego that would educate in a new way, she saw the need to start with fresh eyes at learning. She researched homeschooling and saw that when children play an active role in defining the curriculum, they learn a lot more.
"If a child likes bugs, for example, there are all sorts of ways that you can incorporate that into a lesson plan," says Ms. Strachman, who helped found the San Diego-based Innovations Academy. The school serves K-through-8 public-school students on a first-come, first-served basis and educates them with child-led projects instead of textbooks.
Now, as a Silicon Valley-based consultant, Strachman is helping empower exceptional young people to pursue technological innovation. It's that kind of innovative thinking applied to longstanding issues that makes entrepreneurial nonprofits enticing to many in Silicon Valley.
"Today's donors want to navigate the possibilities and fund the proactive rather than the reactive," says Arrillaga-Andreessen. "But if we're to solve these problems, the onus is on givers to facilitate that change."