So in the discussion today at the Skoll Forum between Peter Wheeler, Mohammed Yunus, Ron Grzywinski and Celso Grecco about developing a social stock exchange -- Peter drew attention to a possible emerging schism about whether a social stock exchange needed to be as much like the regular stock exchange as possible, or whether it's a different culture, different context, a different beast etc. And in light of Peter raising us (GlobalGiving) as a potential social stock exchange, I've been pressed to reflect where we fall on this issue -- and I think we fall somewhere in between. Mohammed is clearly in the camp that if you go to a fish market looking for oranges, you're bound to be disappointed, and I have a great deal of sympathy for that point. I do think the reasons why people are moved to give v. the reasons why people are moved to invest are different. As to why I think we fall in between, I don't believe we need to "invent" a brand new model to serve the social stock exchange. I do believe that the eBay model comes really really close. The idea that people carry out commerce within the context of a community would have sounded crazy as a pitch before eBay, but it draws on a rather deep insight about why people purchase things like collectables (as opposed to, say, groceries or toiletries). To the extent that eBay was based on the collectables market, I think it draws on people's desire to express their identity and declare their allegiance and community among likeminded people. And I think the same is possibly true of philanthropy.
I had a personal insight about this when I was listening to the presentation two days ago about MDLF and realized how moved I was to buy one of their investment notes because I wanted to actually declare my allegiance and solidarity with their cause. I rarely feel that way about my stock or mutual fund purchases. And I actually wanted to find out who else felt that way. I could do that on eBay. And I'd like to be able to do that on GlobalGiving.