SL entrepreneur Anshe Chung delivered a very interesting keynote address at the official launch of the Non-profit Commons last Tuesday. Those avatars who were at the opening had some difficulty making out Anshe’s words due to technical difficulties, so it is great to be able to review the video footage, recorded and re-mixed by Ross Chapman. Thank you, Ross!
In summary, Anshe has a fascinating vision for the role of Second Life as connecting people who would normally not be able to engage in modern life. She expressed an early fascination with those who were cut off from the world — the elderly, the handicapped, those in rural areas. And she saw the internet and later Second Life as a means for re-connecting those people with jobs, social ties, and emotional bonds that would not have been possible before.
Anshe’s larger vision for the non-profit community is that they would learn from the experiences of SL entrepreneurs and use the strengths of SL to compete on a more even playing field with corporations and governments. I think Anshe is on the right track when she talks about how non-profits need to view virtual worlds as ways to create emotional bonds and connections with their members, not just as a means to raise funds.
Hopefully someone will do a complete transcript of Anshe’s talk. Meanwhile, here are my notes from her remarks that give you a flavor of what she was talking about…
My Notes from Anshe Chung’s keynote address to the official launch of the Non-profit Commons
[Obviously, not an official transcript. Check the video for an actual quote from Anshe]
I consider the non-profit commons something important that matters.
I believe that there is a big disconnect in modern society and that networks can be used to reverse this phenomenon.
When I was child, I grew up in a well-protected environment in China. One day I became ill and had to go to the hospital. Suddently I was confronted with another world. I was alone, disconnected from the outside world.
After this experience, I wanted to know about other people who were disconnected: the handicapped, old people, people in the countryside. People cutoff from normal life and society that I had taken for granted. Many people are cut off from life and are forgotten in our fast moving, urban society. You need to be healthy, mobile, and live in a place that is connected.
China itself was cut off from the outside world when I was growing up. There was only a limited amount of translated foreign media and literature at the time. There was no internet, and no ability to travel overseas. This is why I chose English and foreign culture as my profession. I wanted to connect myself to mainstream global culture, and help connect others.
I was fascinated with the story of [name], the father of the internet in China. He was connected not only with people in China but also people all over the world. I am not very good with technology. But I tried to learn everything I could about the internet. I began to create my own online life. I used email, forums, web. But there was very little immersion or emotional bond.
With online games like World of Warcraft, people are able to cooperate, to bond, to become respected leaders of a guild. More than 500,000 people of my home country became connected to an economy as gold farmers. Quite a few of them working from internet cafes in the chinese countryside. I thought that what was happening in these online games was kind of historic.
Then I found Second Life. I realized this was a place where people could live, love, and create things of value.
Watching TV and playing Warcraft is not like life. SL comes astonishingly close. I found myself living with friends who could not be more disconnected from in real life. I saw people in hospital, with disabilities, in rural areas suddenly connected and fully participating, creating things of value, and helping others.
SL is creating truly global jobs. Anshe Chung studios is currently employing 18 people in Wuhan as just one example.
What does this have to do with non-profits? Non-profits are often about helping people who have been forgotten. Non-profits also have to fight with handicaps that make it hard for them to compete with companies and governments. Limited funds is a major handicap when global cooperation requires physical travel.
There are emerging networks that can help non-profits get on a more even footing with huge corporations. My vision is to enable non-profits to connect to their members all over the world at all levels — technical, social, emotional.
About three years ago I opened a huge shopping mall in Second Life. It became an incubator for young creators, connecting the newbies of that time to mainstream of SL economy. Many of them have grown into huge and successful brands. I hope that we can do the same for the newbies from the non-profit community: to be an incubator for non-profits to connect to each other and be successful.
I hope that the Non-profit Commons helps support a more fair, democratic, and egalitarian global society. To reduce barriers of entry and to negate some of the handicaps that many non-profits and some of their members have.