Craig Newmark, the founder of Craiglist.org, is by his own admission the Customer-Service-Agent-in-Chief of Craigslist. I’ve admired this guy for a long time and for all the reasons we all admire him, but I simply swooned with admiration when he posted his service manifesto on Change This back 2005 and eloquently laid out his philosophy of service and community.
He has begun to lay out a plan for creating a Craigslist for Service, and you can read the full article over at Huffington Post--it’s a good read. There’s actually a good deal of discussion of this idea, but coming from the original Craig, maybe we’ll get some good traction here.
No surprise that he’s thinking big, inclusive thoughts about what Obama has called a Craigslist for Service. Craig supposes Obama might be using craigslist as a metaphor for something that doesn’t exist yet, but he’s all over the idea because it makes such perfect sense. He’s thinking of channels into and out of this proposed center of service activity:
Here are four possible aspects of “a craigslist for service.”
1. If you have the time and inclination to get out, you might volunteer for an existing service organization, probably a recognized for-profit. There are sites which make this relatively easy, the most effective of which is VolunteerMatch.org.
2. You might have some cash you’d like to pool with others to get something done. Sites which make that happen include DonorsChoose.org, funding classroom projects, or Kiva.org, which provides micro-finance loans to small businesspeople.
3. You might have the time for traditional civic engagement, where you participate in local governance. For example, you might join the PTA, or just attend local city council or board of education meetings, or join the board of a small non-profit. That’s traditional grass-roots democracy, an important American tradition.
4. Online, you might get involved in the new grass-roots democracy, where you get increasingly smart about some aspect of national governance.
I’d recommend taking a look at change.gov, specifically the discussion of healthcare. It’s a great first step towards real networked, grassroots democracy.
Check out SunlightFoundation.com, which fosters sites which provides checks and balances on government. The Sunlight sites are about government transparency, like how money is used, and abused in government. I’d like people to get smart about some specific area, keep an eye on that, and report… problems.
Also, if you’re a technology fan, check out peertopatent.org, an existing program where you can help patent examiners check out new inventions.
5. To make this really happen, people need to declare themselves publicly, to commitment to some form of service, and follow through. This is like the pledge system of the Clinton Global Initiative, or pledgebank.com, or thepoint.com. We’ll need something which scales to the tens of millions, which also plugs into the social networking tools people actually use.
(Yes, that was five.)
Is there a cabinet post for Service? There should be.