Online Grants for Social Change

Yesterday I saw the Front Line (PBS) documentary that covered Kiva whose approach to economic development is to use a website to match first world individuals as lenders with third world entrepreneurs who need micro-credit (aka small loans, ex. $500).

It would be far better if we could match first world donors with third world social change organizations. So people would donate the money instead of loaning it (note: this might be a downside to participation as Kiva was claiming a zero default rate at the time of the Frontline documentary, so the people lending money weren't actually donating it). Also it'd be for social change, so a lot more rewarding than having someone running a successful fruit stand.

The key to having it work is that a relatively small amount of money goes a long way, and you build a relationship between the donor and the grant recipient through the internet that makes email and exchanges of picture (and even video might be possible) relatively easy. This relationship could lead to other forms of solidarity and help educate first worlders about conditions in other countries.

The other critical part is that you need one or more partner grassroots organizations on the ground in countries who would be able to recommend/judge which organizations should apply for the money. I think Kiva was able to succeed by working with existing micro-credit organizations, they simply put content online to match lenders to people requesting loans. Grassroots social change organizations do exist in the third world who'd make great coalition partners. Where it gets tricky is that there might be political differences, so you'd be choosing which political tendancies to be supporting. On the other hand, some countries have relatively unified lefts - so you wouldn't be getting into a massive quagmire, and sometimes grassroots organizations are less susceptible to overly political debates as they concentrate more on pragmatism and getting things done for their members and community.

Hmm, you could also match first world donors with first world social change organizations. That would be worthwhile too. Ideally people would be doing this without the internet, and building relations with an organization in their community - however for people of privilege this often isn't happening so having a website might help.

This could be merged with the Campus Activism / Activism Network project - as most of the groups are small and could use funding. Though I won't make it a high priority unless people encourage me to do it as getting groups to participate in it would be a full-time job.