Are written grant proposals a thing of the past? As I consider the rapid raise and ubiquitous influence of internet video, it seems possible.
Social innovation accelerators such as TED (‘Ideas Worth Spreading’), the Unreasonable Institute (‘The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man [and woman].’) and, most recently, Common Pitch (created by advertising genius Alex Bogusky, ‘Ad Man of the Decade’ according to Ad Week magazine) are all focused on helping inventors, scholars, activists and entrepreneurs hone more compelling short oral presentations – then recording them for rapid, wide-scale online distribution.
This doesn’t mean that these innovators haven’t first written a proposal or script. Most likely they have. But they are then also coached on content and technique and they repeatedly practise their oral presentation, which can reach far more people quickly – enabling a rapid feedback loop from a larger crowd of interested donors. This rapid prototyping facilitates faster scaling and wider impact.
Don’t think that these oral presentations are necessarily oversimplified or too shallow to be useful to grantmakers. Take, for example, my recent favorite TED Talk by Santa Fe Institute physicist Geoffrey West – who was featured in an interview in Alliance in the June 2010 special issue on ‘scaling social impact’. In this 17-minute video the understated and badly dressed West provides a breathtaking interdisciplinary analysis of the universal properties of scale in biology and physics to derive surprisingly meaningful insight for the resilience of some of the most significant human organizations – cities and corporations.
Efficient and effective donors seeking to find innovative early-stage or mid-stage practitioners can harness the burgeoning YouTube world of new ideas by simply scouring the growing collections of free videos produced for this purpose. Subscribers to leading periodicals are also getting acquainted with journalists and authors in new ways, as The Economist, Stanford Social Innovation Review and even iTunes University feature audio and video podcasts as companions to published articles.
Of course, the information in video presentations can and must be corroborated with the written literature – especially for historical reference, since neither Isaac Newton, Khalil Gibran nor Florence Nightingale are known to have made a short YouTube video for patrons to consider.
Central to mastering online learning for philanthropy is the emerging technology for semantic search, and search engines capable of coding non-text audio and video for relevant information.
What do you think – is video capable of replacing written information for grantmakers and social investors?
Chet Tchozewski is founder and a board member of Global Greengrants Fund