Our bid to quickly, directly and efficiently address the challenges of our time
Life, for all its exciting technologies and trappings, is a local event. Wherever your mind might go, your body can only be in one place at one time. The basic needs of life and most of its fundamental challenges are local, at least for the great majority of the world who face local challenges daily. Poor access to clean water and food, limited access to shelter, little opportunity for education, constant proximity to violence and dysfunctional social relationships, to mention a few examples.
On top of these, we have our more global challenges such as climate change, species extinction, ocean acidification… You know, the kind of things the more affluent part of the world can afford to worry about. To make things worse, this affluence all too often dependent on the previously mentioned local issues. We are all connected, and our actions spread out like circles on the water, touching people far away without us knowing.
The good news is just because this is how things used to work doesn’t mean this is how things must work in the future. We can do a lot better. There are hundreds of thousands, probably many millions of local projects out there that could have a huge impact, but most are struggling due to a lack of resources. Resources that are out there, in the pockets of people and organisations that would be more than happy to contribute if there was an easy, clear and reliable way to do so. Which is what Making Circles is all about.
Making Circles matches those who have the time and energy to create meaningful, sustainable and lasting change in their local communities but lack the other crucial resources with those who have the resources and willingness to support these changes but lack the time and the knowledge. A dating app for effective altruists, if you please.
The process is very simple. You join the platform, create a profile, and select whichever SDGs are most important to you, and you’ll immediately be matched with local projects across the globe that are focussed on these goals.
If you are a company, you can simply set up an account and have your employees, or perhaps even your customers, do the legwork for you. Allocate a portion of the funds you have set aside for CSR activities, and let the wisdom of your network decide which projects to fund.
All projects are vetted by the Make Circles network to make sure they reach their short-term targets and are monitored over time for long-term effects. This means they can become part of your annual report. Or perhaps even a part of your daily communication and brand identity.
Well, duh. Obviously for the world and all its inhabitants. This is one of those win-win-win kind of situations. You, me and the world. But in this paragraph we are speaking more directly to the users of the Make Circles app.
There are three types of users, the Project Owners, the Change Funders and the System Supporters.
A Project Owner is a person or organisation running a project on the ground and taking responsibility that it delivers on its promise within budget. In order to be a project owner you'll need to verify your identity and you'll need a bank account to receive donations. You don't actually need more than this, but some experience and some rudimentary skills will come in handy or it is unlikely that anyone will want to fund your next endeavour. But this is entirely between you and your Change Funders, of course.
A Change Funder is anyone who creates a profile and sets up an account on Make Circles with the intent of financially supporting a project somewhere on the globe. You can be entirely anonymous or entirely public about this, that is entirely up to you. Whatever you do, we are grateful for your contribution. Though probably not as grateful as the direct recipients will be. Who you are of course more than welcome to communicate directly with and get follow ups from. And you can of course be as anonymous as you like here also.
A System Supporter is most likely an organisation or corporation that supports the infrastructure of Making Circles through a monthly contribution and allows us to keep operations flowing smoothly. These systemic supporters are especially important as they will fund the development and the maintenance of the platform, both by financial contribution or by hosting servers, providing developers, admin support and more more. This means that Change Funders will be able to allocate resources to projects without any charge at all, except a hopefully nominal transaction fee. At least that is the plan.
It should also be noted that the Social Systems Foundation is not-for-profit and that any funds not needed to cover operational costs will be returned to the ecosystem in order to fund projects that are close to their budget targets.
As far as the app is concerned, it will function much like any other app used for searching, establishing contact and making payments, with a few extra social functions mixed in.
You will be able to create a profile and present yourself, you will be able to send messages and receive updates on any project you follow, you'll be able to search for projects using various metrics or simply let the app match you with projects that are aligned with your goals and within your funding means. The app will be map based, so all projects will be easy and intuitive to navigate. You'll be able to zoom in on any project on the globe and if it resonated with you, you can reach out to the Project Owner or simply allocate funds to the project with the click of a button. The funds will be kept in escrow by the foundation until the budget is completely matched, at which point we will release the funds and the project can commence.
If you are a Project Owner, the app will function slightly differently. In order to post a project that is eligible for funding, there will be a few hoops to leap through, such as identity verification etc. There will also be a step-by-step process that leads you through the the path towards an official project, including clearly defined goals, timelines and other information and materials to share on your projects page.
If you are a Systems Supporter will have tools to monitor the overall finances and flows within the ecosystem, as well as a designated page on the map where you can show not only which projects you support in a very practical way, as well as their accumulated results, but also speak to your companies CSR work more in general.
We have a whole bag full of ideas and novel functions we want to explore down the line, but let's make sure we have the basics down first!
As you will have gathered we already have a Minimal Viable Product in the Circles Project which we will be using as the back-end for this particular app. If you are a developer or designer, we'd invite you to help us continue developing this open-source platform. If you are a developer with more specific experience related to Make Circles, such as an app developer, we are of course more than happy to focus directly on this.
We are also looking for eligible projects, and eligible Project Owners for our growing database. We might be a way off from the launch date still, but being on the app when it does launch is not going to hurt your chances to get funding! Also, the more project owners we get to know, the better the app will cater to your needs.
And just like everyone else and their dog, we are looking for funding. Not that we don't have any funding today, but the more funding, the sooner we can complete all the tasks of the roadmap and actually launch!
If you are a fundraiser, if you know a fundraiser, if you want to help spread the word, if you know a business that might be aligned with our mission, if you have anything you'd like to contribute to make this happen faster, please don't hesitate to get in touch!
And if you are a business that might want to become one of our most valued System Supporters, then by all means, drop us a line! There are quite a few more perks with Making Circles than the ones alluded to here. But that is a pitch for a separate occasion.
Without putting too many exact dates on the table, we have a pretty clear course plotted out.
Our first port of call is launching the Circles MVP. Here we will be able to test the basic functionality and make sure the platform is sufficiently stable.
Our next stop is the Connectathon in March, where we will run a proof-of-concept trial with the attendees. We aim to have 100 local projects on the map at this time. If you are keen to have your project be one of these, let us know, and we'll invite you to speak at one of our regular meetings.
With the experiences of this port call, we will begin woking on the front end design in earnest. Make sure things look as professional as they are and flow as smoothly as possible.
Our next stop will be an operational web app that we will run for a trial period to make sure things are as smooth as we intend them to be.
From here we will integrate the transaction system. We have an experienced partner who is earmarked for this mission, but we do not yet have an international banking partner selected, so if you happen to be a bank with a CSR mindset and this is of interest to you, now would be an opportune time to reach out.
From here we'll convert our architecture into an actual app that people can download onto their phone or tablet. Once projects are in place and transactions are secured, we'll have our hard launch and the real adventure can begin!
Are you as excited as we are about Making Circles? Then don't hesitate, jump right in!
We are always keen to explore new ideas and potential opportunities to create together.