Imagining the first network for social good

(originally posted to the Hello World Notion)

I think we can safely say these 2 things about Gen Z:

  1. Gen Z is deeply involved with social problems – climate change; access to healthcare; economic security; equity and justice. Compared to older adults, they talk more, stress more, and do more when it comes to these issues.[1]

  2. Gen Z is very online. 89% of teens say they use social media – some combination of YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok – several times a day. 45% describe themselves as online "almost constantly."[2]

Despite this, there is no social network for social good. It's a gap that reveals the broken economic structures driving technology today.

Gen Z wants to collectivize around social good, but lacks the place to do it.

Maybe you want to object here – haven't I seen [insert feel-good story here]?

I'm not saying that social networks produce no public good. The claim is that such outcomes are byproducts of their core mechanics, which are designed to yield revenue by capturing attention.[3]

To confuse the occasional feel-good story with deliberate progress toward solving social problems is a massive failure of imagination.

A network built for creating social good would look like nothing we've seen before.

If you and I were designing a network for social good from the ground up, how would we do it? Here are a few directions that come to mind:

Be a non-profit. The bottom line of the organization should be impact, and a board of governors will hold its executives accountable for enabling social progress.

Make use of web3. As a technology infrastructure, web3 is well-suited to distribute power to the most engaged members of the network. Within a network for creating social good, web3 would recognize and reward project creators, mentors, and funders who contribute to the mission.

Incentivize deep work. The mechanics of the platform should direct creators to share thoughtful, ambitious, and evolving projects. And they should direct consumers to offer considered, positive, and helpful feedback. Vanity metrics such as number of followers, likes, or users would be immaterial.

Prioritize accessibility. Modern social networks are rarely designed for those with limited access – those with lower-end smartphones, restricted data plans, unreliable internet connections. And yet these are the people most underrepresented in conversations around doing social good.

Work in solidarity with aligned organizations. There are thousands of organizations doing good in the world. Many of these organizations have the unique advantage of being experts in a particular domain or a particular region. A network for social good would help these organizations by scaling their reach and impact. In return, the network would leverage their expertise and local relationships.[4]

Capture the best of social media. At its best, social media enables a deep sense of community and belonging (Discord). It opens up historically opaque networks (LinkedIn). It brings people together around their passions and interests (Twitter). It delivers delight and inspiration (TikTok). It teaches (YouTube). It can make someone's day, or their year (Cameo). This platform would learn from its predecessors but be unfettered by their business models. It would complement, not compete with, the presence that creators have on other platforms.

Hello World is uniquely well-positioned to become the first network for social good

OK, here's the part where I get into what we're doing at Hello World, but before I do that let me be clear: if you're working on your own network for social good, I'd love to hear about it and learn how I can support your efforts.

Now, about us: Hello World has made significant progress in its first year toward becoming a network for social good. We've partnered with 25+ opportunities looking for remarkable young talent to back. Rise, the most ambitious of these opportunities, is the anchor program of a $1 billion commitment from Eric and Wendy Schmidt.

In the process, we've invented and validated a new method for noticing, developing, and backing social good projects. Our impact so far has been broad, helping amazing young people from around the world advance their work:

  • 170+ countries represented

  • 12k+ projects created

  • 700k+ pieces of feedback given

  • $50m+ funding unlocked

The path from here is to accelerate the set of social features that help our community connect, signal talent, and support each other. This is a wide-open space, but to get a sneak peek at some of our ideas – and to contribute your own – check out my Twitter thread on peer feedback.

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