People — including organizations — respond to incentives.
But rarely do we create incentives for doing good. Rather, we tend to create disincentives — legal liability, bad press, boycotts, etc. — for doing bad things. We see this reflected in everyday life. When running for political office, candidates will mention their successes, sure, but the discourse focuses on the failures of their opponents. (Quickly: name one positive thing John Kerry or Sarah Palin did.) Google’s informal motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” sums up the incredibly low bar of expectations from corporations while simultaneously focusing on the negative stuff they don’t do, rather than their actual philanthropic work. And with oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, a boycott of BP makes emotional sense — but why hasn’t there been a concerted effort to patronize, as a society, the oil companies which are doing the most work (and investing the most resources) into cleaner-burning fuel alternatives? Do you even know which company that would be? I don’t, but I feel like I should.
We rightly place disincentives on doing evil. But we rarely celebrate the good work done in this world. Maybe it’s just too much work and not worth our time. Maybe it needs to be easier.
I’ve been thinking about this problem for about a week, after synthesizing a lot what I learned from Internet Week NYC events. I concluded that we need to make a concerted effort to celebrate the good in this world, and that Twitter makes that easy, so I registered @CelebrateGood and followed some causes. (I am not sure yet what I want to do with @CelebrateGood yet — I haven’t even found a good icon! — but it probably won’t focus on non-profits. I’ll outline my basic thinking in another post.)
Apparently, I’m not alone in seeing this opportunity. This week, serial entrepreneur Jeff Pulver announced his new project, JustCoz.org. JustCoz uses Twitter to make it easy to celebrate some of the good work which is being done in this world — and it’s fantastic.
Pulver, the founder of the 140 Characters Conference, is super-invested in the disruptive effects of Twitter and real-time engagement, so it should surprise no one that JustCoz leverages tweets — or rather, non-tweets. Realizing that you can only share good news — retweet it, basically — when you are actually looking at Twitter, Pulver and company saw an opportunity: what if supporters of causes could automatically retweet the tweets of the causes they support? If Doctors Without Borders makes a big announcement while you are on a trans-Atlantic flight, JustCoz will spread it to your followers for you. Automatically.
Noting that personally passed-along tweets are more likely to spread (note the asterisk), JustCoz believes that if we donate our tweets — actually, our idle Twitter time — we, collectively, can spread good rapidly and to orders of magnitude more people. Whether this works, who knows; hopefully, it will. But the important story here is that people — Pulver and his team — are taking pro-active steps to leverage social media to celebrate the good in this world. I hope more people join that mission.