Leveraging Facebook Social Graph for OLPC


There is no doubt the web is a powerful tool. And when this emerging social element is added it only creates more connectivity, virality and overall engagement with those who use it. This modern web is all about people, this is why we call it a "social web." Without people connecting, collaborating and engaging with one another the modern web wouldn't exist.

Now, more than ever internet users have the ability to reach and engage with a near limitless and worldwide audience. What better than to use this tool to make a positive difference in the loves of those less fortunate? How are some using this connected social tool? - To market stuff.

I'm not interested in corporate brands such as Dell, Coca-Cola and Starbucks taking advantage of new media outlets to benefit their gobs of monthly revenue (though I think they should). What I am interested in is how YOU and I can use these tools to change the world.

I am inspired to the point of goose bumps whenever I see organizations like Invisible Children making airtime on Oprah, or the Toms Shoes AT&T television commercial, or see that Charity:Water used Twitter to raise over $250,000 in the US to build water wells in Africa. That's AMAZING!

Facebook employees have this joke; "If it happened online and your friends didn't see it... then it didn't happen." I absolutely love this mindset because here's one of the most powerful social platforms in the world promoting more openness and more connectedness for us to leverage how we please. So what?

Here's a simple concept that's been evolving over the past couple months: Create A Facebook Connect Powered Micro-Payment strategy to promote OLPC, generate awareness and ultimately raise funds to deliver more educational tools to children around the world. It works like this:

  1. Build a social cause platform that's directly connected with Facebook.
    1. Users Authenticate their accounts with Facebook (no traditional registrations)
    2. Users carry their online identity with them
    3. Interactions on this platform are automatically published back to Facebook (or Twitter etc.) *"interactions" can range from a simple shout-out to an actual donation to OLPC.
  2. To scale we target the college demographic and create a competitive environment (e.g the campus to raise the most money will win a free concert or XYZ etc.)
  3. 100% proceeds go to the cause
  4. Start small. Keep it Simple. Learn what's working. Repeat.

There are over 18m college students in the United States. If every college student gave $1 we could give 90K laptops, if every student gave $5 we could give 450K laptops. That's powerful. One example of how to leverage the Facebook Social Graph: The published story about my donation could look like this...

Next time my any of my 300 Facebook connections logs in they will see this story in their news feed which will hopefully inspire them to follow my lead and donate, or at least click through and check it out. Imagine the possibilities...

Thanks for taking the time to read this humble concept and feel free to contact me or reply to this post with any thoughts and feedback. The great thing about this project is it is not in any way vanity project. The more people involved and contributing the bigger and better it will become.

This is Michael Sprague's Micro-Payment Strategy Presentation

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OLPC has been prominent in Facebook - they have one of the few "Charity Gifts" (part of the Causes application) - http://apps.facebook.com/causes/gifts/12
(admittedly, with a $200 price tag when the other gifts were $10-$36); and their Cause (including "gift" purchases) has raised over $10k.

I'm not sure I see the benefit in building a separate social platform to continue this, as the Causes framework in Facebook will already track your donations, recruits, and also works in MySpace. Granted, there's a 4.75% fee taken out, but it's pretty difficult to avoid that (credit card processing fees, etc.)- 4.75 is actually pretty low.

The real disconnect though is the lack of ownership and ability to direct how the money would get spent (where the OLPCs go, or even just interaction with the recipients?)

...unless someone sets up a non-profit OLPC project implementation organization and raises enough for a GiveMany program? (which is absent from laptop.org)

Michael, this is a great idea for mobilizing people's desire to help. It also encourages smaller projects under the OLPC umbrella to reach out directly to their supporters and invite them to help the project as a whole in their name.

And as you note, it's much more fun to have a specific project you care about show up in your daily feed / on your wall. Jon, to your point, as long as Duke U is able to stay in touch with the people who donated on their behalf, this system could certainly help them connect with their supporters.

My main caveat is that explicitly earmarking funds, rather than tagging funds by the donating group and using that as input to future decisions, is tricky and costly. This would be much easier to get underway by focusing on groups that want to organize a school or community fundraiser for OLPC, and having their friends contribute to 'the Duke University OLPC fundraiser' rather than the ' " " project'.


Wake up and smell the coffee!

Philadelphia has the largest number of Colleges and Universities located within its metropolitan area of any part of the USA. As a part of the local OLPC XO users group, we see none of these students at our meetings. Don't count on students to give money away when they won't even show up locally to see the XO in operation!

Thank you everyone who read and contributed their comments and thoughts about this concept.

There is a TON to of knowledge to share and learn from others involved in this space, whether it be OLPC or other causes. My main passion here is creating innovative ways to use social media technology for social change.

@Jon: There's not doubt that the Causes application has done great things and still working hard to continue their work -- my main argument with their platform is that it's an "application" and apps withing FB or other social networks have become very spammy and lost their ability to capture users attention with notification. There is much more interaction when user activity is organically posted in the stream vs an inbox of some sort.

Your point about where the funds go is very crucial and something I haven't spent enough time thinking about. It feels like 100% transparency is the answer; similar to what Obama's web team is trying to accomplish with tracking the stimulus spending.

@SJ: There are so many groups and organizations within college campuses filled with passionate students looking to make a change. If they could all use the same platform to rally together around their specific OLPC cause (Rwanda, Ethiopia, other etc.)they could accomplish some great things on their own.

Are you Local? I just relocated to the Boston area and looking to get plugged in here.

@Greg: I love Coffee! Although I can't speak of the college demographic in Philadelphia I can say as someone who's spent the past 6 years around college campuses on the west coast -- that I've never seen more young students eager to make a change in this world.

Yes, I'm in Cambridge. You'd be welcome at our next support-gang meeting this Sunday at 4pm... contact holt@laptop.org for details. and I agree - there's a real upswing in college engagement, perhaps the most for a couple of decades. Greg -- want any help reaching out to Philly-area student groups? I believe we had OLPCorps submissions from local students posted on the wiki. Time and enthusiasm are every bit as valuable as money, especially until we've better-saturated our demographic ("people who want to improve world education" :)