Invitation to Virtual World Event on Philanthropy

Filed in: Virtual Worlds

Filed by Jonathan Fanton


6.12.07 | I write to invite you to join me in the virtual world of Second Life on Friday, June 22, 2007 at 9am PST (noon EST).  With my avatar and a live audio feed, I will be joined by Second Life CEO Philip Rosedale and residents for a discussion on the role of philanthropy in virtual worlds.

The MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition. We support organizations working on human rights and international justice, conservation and sustainable development, housing, juvenile justice, and independent media.  Last year, we launched a $50 million initiative to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life.  Answers are critical to developing educational and other social institutions that can meet the needs of this and future generations.

Recently, we have been introduced to virtual worlds such as Second Life and  I believe that the importance of virtual worlds may be less about their growth as economies, and more about their capacity for collaboration and human development.  Activities in virtual worlds already are supported by MacArthur and other foundations, but we have much to discover about the right role for philanthropy itself in virtual worlds.

We are interested in learning about virtual worlds and how to operate within them.  We look to the residents to help us determine how to be helpful and are eager to share our on-going work in such areas as affordable housing, urban renewal, and human rights and international justice.

Please join me on June 22nd, when, for the first time, my avatar will step into the virtual world to host a discussion with Philip Rosedale exploring the potential of these new platforms for philanthropic activity.  It should be a wide-ranging and thought-provoking conversation, and I hope you can attend and participate.

As further details emerge they will be posted on the event information page.


second life



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Rik Panganiban (New York, NY, USA)


It is great seeing MacArthur express such interest in the potential of virtual worlds to better support collaboration and relationships across borders, cultures and sectors.  Given the vital civil society that has quickly sprung up in Second Life—from the great work of Global Kids, Tech Soup, the American Cancer Society, and less formal philanthropic and political efforts all over the grid—the time is ripe for the larger philanthropic community to explore their role in these new public spaces.

I welcome this discussion and plan on attending.

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Edward Castronova (Indiana University)


I think there’s an exciting opportunity here. If the overarching goal of philanthropy is social change, what better way to induce it than by helping society reimagine itself? A virtual world is an Other place. It contains real people who interact in ways that are dramatically affected by the design of the environment. Philanthropy can imagine a better world, then build it, then get people to experience it, live, first-hand.

The most powerful social change comes when entire communities of ordinary people realize, as one, that they can indeed live differently. Getting whole communities of people to make such a realization at the same time is extraordinarily hard. It frustrates change even when the need for change is completely obvious to everyone; no one believes that the others are ready for change, so no one changes, and therefore the pessimists are right. Philanthropy uses every tool at its command to make the case both persuasive and public - demonstrations, missions, pilot projects, campaigns. Yet none of this overcomes the social dynamic of “I’ll change when everyone else does.”

A virtual world enables whole communities to leap immediately into the envisioned future. Those communities gain cohesion that persists out into the real world. The pessimists are defeated by the abundance of public action in support of change and by the existence of a self-aware community that supports moving forward.

Philanthropy can build a virtual city on the hill, showing us what we are missing, and we can achieve.

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This is very exciting news!  I’m sure the nonprofit community in Second Life will be most interested in joining the dialog and learning!

I’m also very curious to see what your avatar will look like!

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Susan Tenby (TechSoup Community manager and organizer of Nonpro)


I am very excited to attend this event.  We will be bringing in representative avatars from the nonprofits in attendance at our weekly Friday morning SL meeting (these occur every Friday at 8:30am PST)to join us at this event. 

I am eager to hear Mac Arthur’s take on SL and its role in the future of the Web.  We devotees see it as the next social networking tool that can provide access and creativity with communities that was previously prohibitively expensive or impossible. I would love to see what your vision is for this exciting collaboration platform.

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couty sabah (Israeli govt)


I would like to share our experience with establishing VCoPs (Virtual communities of Pracrice) for social workers in my country. Many of those are designed for caseworkers dealing with children at risk

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Rik Panganiban (New York, NY, USA)


Wonderful, interesting event today. Thanks so much for putting it on, and addressing my question (the first one.)

I posted some notes, pics, and links to a short video of the event here:

I look very much forward to continuing the conversation.

MIRABAI BUSH (Center for Contemplative Mind in Society)


I’m sorry I missed it—I am v interested in the possibilities of education through Second Life.At the Center for Contemplative Mind, we have thinking for some time about introducing meditation and other contemplative practices on Second Life. In first life, we have been exploring contemplative practices to sustain and inspire young social justice activists, and we have been supporting university professors through fellowships in contemplative curriculum development. I’d love to see how effective this could be in a virtual world—many of the best-known meditation teachers in the country have expressed interest.

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affordable web hosting (affordable web hosting)


I am eager to hear Mac Arthur’s take on SL and its role in the future of the Web.  We devotees see it as the next social networking tool that can provide access and creativity with communities that was previously prohibitively expensive or impossible. I would love to see what your vision is for this exciting collaboration platform.


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