The Web of Trust

This past week I was asked by a friend: “How’s it going with the ability to verify the authenticity of the charitable organizations, their admin to donation ratio’s etc? Obviously serious concerns for potential donors or am I missing something…?”

The answer: Yes, authenticity of projects is a serious concern.

Our solution: The “Web of Trust”.

betterplace welcomes not only projects from registered NGO’s, but also grassroots projects. These are projects that are not affiliated to a registered organisation, but are uploaded on betterplace by individuals from all over the world who have a specific need, or represents the needs of someone that they know.

Each project on betterplace is surrounded and supported by a network. The more feedback, comment and activity a project receives, the more likely people will trust its authenticity.

The Web of Trust is best explained through an example:

Simon, a middle-aged Mozambican lives and works as a gardener in Johannesburg. He has worked for the same family for many years. Each year he travels home with food, possessions and money to support his family and educate his children. His employer, the “Project Responsible” uploads his story as a project on betterplace, and sends out an email to all his friends asking for their support. Immediatly friends respond, not only because of their personal friendship to the employer, but because they have met Simon, and some register as an “Advocate” for the project – vouching for its authenticity. A few months later, another family friend is traveling by car up to Maputo, and promises to transport some goods to Simon’s family, and meets the children. He returns and registers as a “Visitor” of this grassroots project on betterplace.

And so the web of trust spreads and grows, gathering support and momentum.

We believe that the connection between people – the users of betterplace – is the best credibility filter that any project can go through. Thereby establishing a new quality methodology for evaluating grassroots projects.

Paul Resnick coined the term SocioTechnical Capital in a paper called “Beyond Bowling Together: SocioTechnical Capital”, and speaks of the importance of building social capital with social resources such as Trust, thereby making it easier for people to work and play together.

His views support the theory behind the betterplace Web of Trust: “A network of people who have developed communication patterns and trust can accomplish much more than a bunch of strangers, even if the two sets of people have similar human, physical, and financial capital available. The productive capacity can be used to benefit individuals, the network as a whole, or society at large.”

For those who feel more comfortable with formal structures – they also have the choice of donating to projects that are run by registered NGO’s on betterplace. And furthermore, if you as a user do not trust the authenticity of a project, we encourage you to flag it to our attention, and in the future, with more advanced technology, we will be able to pick up “patterns” of fraud for example in the repetition of text etc.

People believe their friends before any form of advertising or marketing campaigns. It is this core human quality of trust that we depend on to make a better place!

P.S from Joana: Today I saw a very relevant post on Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing blog on Trust is a triangle – why and how to get it


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