Just picked up this link
via Paul Miller
page. Started me thinking about intangible value - the favours, knowledge, prestige and whatever that goes to feed a network's operations. It's indispensable, but totally unquantifiable.
What it started me thinking about was a conversation with Paul and another Paul, of the company recently renamed Owikis
. We were talking about business startups and sweat equity
. Paul remarked that he's done masses of work for different enterprises for sweat equity, but didn't want to do that for ****owikis
because there was no guarantee that anything would ever come of it.
So we've got people who work for free for a startup, in the faith that they'll be rewarded. Contrast this motivation with that of charity volunteers, church workers, well-wishers and the like, all of whom contribute to the intangible value of a civil society organisation. The former is a downpayment, the latter might be said to be 'paying it forward' (a forepayment?).
The mode of thought in which people do civil society work is subtly different to that in which people conduct business. This is a distinction largely ignored by NGOs (such as the one I'm about to leave) determined to apply 'customer service' models to their operations. Even if there is money involved, the motivation is different. That's why teachers put up with such rubbish pay - the emotional movement is outwards, toward the bigger picture, rather than inward, toward personal benefit. And again, there are times when the two are very difficult to distinguish. For instance, what of the people who've been helping Paul with ****owikis? Paul's remarked to me on several occasions how unique a challenge it is working with entirely voluntary and mostly anonymous collaborators.
A sweat equity model of contribution beyond the call of duty is simply not applicable to civil society organisations. But if not this model, then which one? Who is researching the drivers for idealism?
Paul's experiences in collaborations wiki-style sit right on the interface between economic benefit (individuals setting themselves up as wiki editors) and altruism, or people just doing things because they can. For example, "Uncle G" wrote the transwiki bot that started it all off, but won't answer Paul's emails. Would ther be any value in exploring how and why wiki collaborations working across the business/civil society interface work, and how this can be managed, as an avenue of exploration for alternative models for NGO operations to the cost/benefit business one? Or am I being fanciful?