All for Good

Last week The Chronicle of Philanthropy called and asked me whatever happened to All for Good.

It’s a good question and one that I’ve noticed has been getting some more attention recently.

Mark Bernstein, the new President of All for Good, at Fast Company CoExist with his reflections on the lessons to be learned from the project.

Given the interest and our direct experience, I thought I’d join the conversation and offer my own perspective on All for Good.

First a little background. All for Good was initially conceived as “Project Footprint” in 2009 by then President-Elect Obama’s transition team. The idea, amplified by the excitement of an electoral victory, was to advance the campaign’s service and volunteering agenda and replace former President Bush’s USAFreedomCorp.gov, by building what was billed as a revolutionary new

Over the next few months, with the encouragement of Sonal Shah (a former deputy at Google.org and, until recently, head of the Administration’s new Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation) and leadership from fellow Presidential Transition Team member Jonathan Greenblatt, the project was rebranded AllforGood.org — as a grassroots coalition of nonprofit, government and corporate leaders inspired by the President’s call to service.

By summer of 2009 the group had used its connections to persuade some talented folks from Google and the Craigslist Foundation to get involved. The new team deftly worked around the early critique that All for Good was an unnecessary reinvention of Network for Good, the nonprofit service that had been President Bush’s database of choice. All for Good was able to deflect the criticism with a vision that emphasized the use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to liberate volunteer data from the well meaning, but unsophisticated, stewardship of the existing players in the space like Idealist.org, Truist, 1-800volunteer.org and VolunteerMatch.

The promise was that in developing new API technologies, All for Good would eliminate information barriers and usher in a new era of explosive growth and civic participation.

But to get there, the All for Good team would need not just the support and cooperation of the existing players in the space, they also would need the rights to republish, reproduce and relicense the work of those partners.

And they got it. In a political triumph (spiced with some good old-fashioned peer pressure), All for Good managed to persuade even the most reluctant among us that their political might and technological genius would push the volunteering world past a transformative tipping point.

Of course, things didn’t work out exactly as planned.

At launch the technology was buggy, the traffic was disappointing and All for Good didn’t have the staff or resources to respond. And the explosive growth never came. At its peak, All for Good accounted for about only 2.5% of VolunteerMatch’s overall daily network traffic.

In an effort to defend its vision, All for Good championed the adoption of its APIs to all comers, including VC and private-equity backed for-profit companies who were intent on turning this great new source of free data into bigger fees. Obviously, this was not always consistent with the values or interests of its partners, and when in November of 2010 a 3rd party for-profit was found to be using the open-source feed for its own commercial gain, VolunteerMatch formally withdrew from the collaboration.

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Q&A

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Where are all the good guys

Try clubs and organizations, sometimes at school it's the quiet ones that end up being nice. Have an open mind.


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