So I came across this site, Poverty’s Demise, through one of those friend-of-a-friend things. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all day, because I can’t decide whether it’s an insanely brilliant idea or a completely patronizing, obnoxious one.
Here’s the argument for brilliant: I would totally do a “virtual adoption” and mentoring for one or more kids online. Hell, I already do, and it’s not nearly this easy! The notion of directly linking the donations to retail stores is also pretty smart, as it reduces a lot of the overhead that aid organizations have to deal with. Assuming all the logistics can be dealt with semi-invisibly, it could be a good deal for both the recipients and the participating stores.
On the other hand … well, I can’t put my finger nearly as well on what’s bothering me about this idea. There’s definitely something weird about how complex the interface for recipients is; it presumes not just that they have Internet access, which they can probably get at the library, but that they’re willing to spend time managing their presence in this virtual social system. There’s also something weird about the notion of spinning your profile to make yourself more attractive as a charity recipient. If you’re in need of help, you should get it, no matter how clever you are at writing yourself up to look good. But even that isn’t quite what’s bugging me. Maybe it’s that something about this feels very 1998, in the “technology will solve all our social problems” way? Or the weirdly starry-eyed Spike Lee example of how the site should work?
If you, loyal readers (’cause you’ve got to be pretty loyal if you’re still reading me), would take a look at the site, I’d be curious what you think. Maybe you can put your finger on what’s weirding me out here.