Philanthropic Hacker vs Legacy Institutions
Jonah Halper recently came across the article by Sean Parker discussing the phenomenon of tech moguls who are making millions and at the same time are trying to make the world a better place. Sean explains:
“So while philanthropists like to talk about impact, they seldom have the tools to measure it. This has led to a world in which the primary currency of exchange is recognition and reputation, not effectiveness. These incentives lead most philanthropists to favor “safe” gifts to well-established institutions, resulting in a never-ending competition to name buildings at major universities, medical centers, performing arts centers and other such public places….”
Hackers have shown themselves to be less interested in this conventional form of philanthropy. Instead, they want to know that they are having an impact that can be measured and felt. This is where the hackers’ ability to spot problem that are solvable gives them a decisive advantage. It’s easy to find problems—we see them everywhere we look—but it is something else entirely to find “hackable” problems. Those are the ones that have viable solutions.”
Sean Parker is touching on a very important issue but is oversimplifying the contrast between legacy charities and start up organizations that are a reflection of the tech industry and it’s players.
Are there organizations that lack transparent? Yes. Are there organizations that are not making a big enough dent in the problem? Sure. But it isn’t fair or accurate to paint traditional organizations with such broad strokes.
The truth is we are trying to compare to very different approaches to the same challenges that often mirror the difference between a “business owner” and an “entrepreneur”.
Melanie Spring wrote in Entrepreneur.com what she estimates as the difference between these two definitions:
Small-business owners have a great idea.
Entrepreneurs have big ideas.
Small-business owners hold steady.
Entrepreneurs love risk.
Small-business owners think about the things they need to finish this week.
Entrepreneurs are thinking ahead six months.
Small-businesses owners are sentimental with their businesses.
Entrepreneurs focus on scaling.
As you can see, not every company is cut from the same cloth. Both business owners and entrepreneurs can be viable and make a difference – but both can be doing great work.
Those in tech industries who adopt the hacker culture need to understand that the philanthropy world is also equally disparate and equally important. And most importantly, both models can learn from each other – how to reduce risk but how to scale, and how to have a big or great idea and consider both short term and long-term goals.