« Technologie et Innovation Sociale » is a French initiative which aims at having more technology-based solutions available to solve major social issues. It’s a would-be incubator for hightech social enterprises. As a first step, Technologie et Innovation Sociale wants to identify those major social issues : which ones are real stakes ? which ones are to be prioritized ? which ones are the most urgent ones ? How to proceed ? If plain surveys are to be published on the Internet, then we will identify social issues for geeks and internauts, for the information haves. What about the information have-nots ? How to leverage the power of Web 2.0 technologies and have online volunteers sort, classify and prioritize those issues ? How to gain some legitimity and to preserve some representativeness ? Here are my suggestions.
Let’s launch a « social horror stories » prize and website. It’s an open and collaborative website where any user can register and publish any social horror story : « John Doe is a bank employee. He is also homeless. This week, it’s snowing and it’s -12°C at night. The homeless shelters are full and John Doe could not find any bed yesterday. It was so cold he stuffed his coat with personal papers before trying to sleep in the park. He died of hypothermia. One of the papers he was using in his coat was his last last paysheet. Read the full story « Homeless dying without bonus » in the Coldcity New Tribune Dec 10, 2009. » The more they propose such stories the higher their « storytelling » score.
The story (and any data published on the site) is published under a share-alike Creative Commons license. All content and data can be fully downloaded, copied, aggregated, analyzed, criticized and redistributed by anyone under the same license. Hence users get the guarantee that their contributions are kept from being owned and controlled by some editors for their sole interest.
The user adds any available reference in order to check the facts.
Further contributors read this story as a blog post. They tag this story with freely chosen keywords (selecting from or added to a search-as-you-type list) : « homeless, weather, death, cold, bank, shelters, urgent, revolting, astonishing, fact-checked, important, life-or-death, so-modern, poverty, … ». The more they tag, the higher their « tagging » score. Some tags are worth a higher increase in score : these are tags selected by the site editor for special purposes (« worth-donating-my-money, worth-petitioning, worth-more-attention-by-the-government, illustrative-of-a-very-common-issue, unsolvable, … »).
The story itself can be edited by any reader (wikipedia-style), and the record of subsequent changes are being kept and displayed with a click. Comments allow users to self-regulate these changes through discussion. If needed, controversial stories can be locked by a group of power-contributors and displayed as such, following a (hopefully rare) vote by commenters about the « controversiness » of editions for this stories by commenters.
The site proeminently displays a list of tags : « urgent, important, incredible, imaginary, cheesy, …« . Clicking on the « revolting » tag (or any other tag) displays an (almost-randomly-picked) pair of stories sharing this tag. The user is presented with a simple question : In your opinion, which one of these stories and the underlying social issues they illustrate is the most « revolting » one ? The user clicks their answer and is given another pair of horror storie/social issues to compare in a given dimension. The more they click such story-fights, the higher their « ranking » score. Stories are also ranked along tags according to the number of pair-fights they win.
The higher a story gets ranked on a tag, the higher the « tagging » score of the person who put this tag on the story and the higher the « storytelling » score of the authors of this story.
The site is invite-only. Each user has a single sponsor (the person who sent them the invitation). The higher a score for a person (+1), the higher the score for their sponsor (+1/2), the higher the score of the sponsor of this sponsor (+1/4), etc. This multi-level scoring gives a strong incentive for users to recruit good storytellers, good rankers, good recruiters and so on.
What can are these scores used for ? First, it’s like a game : there is a hall of fame for best taggers, best storytellers, best recruiters, best rankers, best overall user and so on. In each category and for the overall ranking, the top best gamers/users win the prize. What’s the prize ? It’s money of course !
Not usual money users can save in their bank accounts though. It’s money donated to the NGO of their choice (proabably selected in a huge pre-filtered list). There will be money donated to some NGOs. But which ones ? The winner choose.
How much money is to be donated ? There is a jauge on the home page displaying the amount of donation at stake. The initial amount may be low. But any user can donate to the game (paypal or similar micropayment systems). Corporate sponsors can bid on special category prizes (check the « Hilton Hotels prize for the most revolting homeless story »). Philanthropists money is donated to the NGOs picked by the users.
In the end what do we get ? Much fun. Better awareness and illustration of a wide variety of more or less common and revolting social issues. A huge and free (as in « free speech », not as in « free beer ») base of content and data which can be used as a rich and stimulating source of inspiration for would-be social entrepreneurs and social innovators. Some insights about the perception people have of social issues and topics. Further data analysis can nourish a democratic debate about these issues and their relative importance and prioritization by public policy makers and social innovators. The site can act as a specialized social news aggregators platform as well as an advertising platform for social innovators proposing solutions in their respective field of action (along the corresponding tag).
At the moment, my best source of inspiration for a somehow similar implementation of such ideas (beyond the wikipedia) is Stack Overflow (which is still far from implementing all aspects of this though).
In fact I first had this whole idea for Wecena, my own social venture. I think such a scheme could be used to have volunteer contributors collaboratively rank and analyze the potential social impact of nonprofit projects. This would not be a « social horror stories prize » but a « social innovation project » prize in my very case. Some sort of a collaborative alternative to Social Return On Investment (SROI) analysis. And the multilevel-scoring-coupled-with-donations scheme could be used by me in order to recruit additional IT corporations as philanthropists for the nonprofits organizations I serve. I remixed my initial idea for the purpose of stimulating the conversation at Technologie et Innovation Solidaire. I hope this can be useful.
Please tell me what you think.