We created Aidpage so that people come together to help each other. We believe that web enabled “peer-to-peer” mutual micro-helping will meet needs not readily met by government, nonprofits, or business.
Aidpage is a response to two related problems affecting millions of people in the US and globally – (1) erosion of traditional support networks, and (2) institutionalized aid growing increasingly complex, conditional, selective, and competitive.
Erosion of traditional support networks
Today’s global markets by all definitions do not exactly “care” about individual livelihoods. People generally accept this as a fact of life, try to prepare accordingly, and do not expect “help” from the markets. People try to develop high levels of competitiveness, autonomy, mobility, and capability to change. This, however, accelerates the disintegration of traditional social environments built on cooperation, mutual dependencies, locality, and predictability – like extended family, neighborhoods, childhood friends, etc.
The erosion of these traditional environments has two aspects – (1) the psychological loss of informal, unconditional “giving and taking”, and (2) the practical loss of a historically well established support layer for people “in need.”
We design Aidpage as the “people aid people” platform – based on the following principles:
- person-to-person giving is a basic human need
- empathy and compassion need no incentives nor conditions
- everybody always “gives” and “takes”
- immediacy and informality work better than “process”
- people are “wired” for trust.
Institutionalized aid growing increasingly complex, conditional, selective, and competitive
Institutionalized aid (government and nonprofit) in the US is a huge system driven by over a trillion in tax and donation dollars annually. The distribution system is so complicated and vast that it is rather opaque to traditional processes of public scrutiny. Episodic media interest – notably after big disasters – “let’s see how the money will be spent” – is only scratching the surface of the problems. Despite recent well intended efforts, nonprofit organizations still largely operate as purely private organizations that do not feel enough pressure or need to be transparent to the public. The knowledge about the bysantine mechanics of the aid system is embodied in fully blown professional occupations like fundraising, program development, grant making, grant administration, grant writing, grant consulting, etc.
Most people turning to government aid are already having trouble coping with competitive markets. They are indeed looking for unconditional assistance. Why? First, because they have the psychological need for unconditional assistance (see above). And second, because they intuitively know something that many politicians seem to have trouble grasping. It is the simple fact that the government does not own anything and that all government money has been collected from the people with the idea to be administered back in the form of government assistance. True, there are the big “entitlement” programs like Medicare and Social Security. But also true is that many other vital areas of government support are strictly conditional, competition-based, selective, restrictive, outcome based, and policy driven – such as student aid, medical expenses assistance, small business assistance, housing and home repair assistance, etc. Average Jane and Joe have to “inquire”, “apply”, “prove”, “qualify”, “compete”, “perform”, and “report” – to get the aid that is funded by their own tax money. If only they knew how to do all this.
Nonprofit aid has even more openly discriminatory distribution policies – tolerated on the assumption that the money is “private”. But let’s see how “private” is it. Annually, the nonprofit sector gets about $250 billion in tax incentivized private donations ($210 billion of them from individuals)… and about $390 billion from government grants and contracts – pure taxpayers’ money that is (see data source).
Access to institutionalized aid is acutely problematic for the intended beneficiaries. Naturally, there is an unending public interest in the “who, how, how much, and why” of the distribution processes and outcomes. And there is an unending frustration with the complexity, lack of transparency, selectiveness, and competitiveness of a system whose main purpose is to help people.
Information on these processes is publicly available – residing in thousands of different sources and formats. However, the information is one sided – it is only produced by institutions and naturally reflects “institutional” points of view and bureaucratic “defending of turf.” The other main participants and de facto “owners” of the system – the aid beneficiaries – do not have any outlets, formats, or platforms they could use to publicly speak out, discuss, and reflect on these processes. Money wise – the system is a full circle from the public up and then from the institutions down. But information wise – it works one way only… whenever it works… to the extent it works.
We design Aidpage as a bottom up conversational media:
- aggregating large bodies of information offered by participating publishers
- easy self-publishing (blog-like but non-geek)
- audience participation on each page – commenting, adding of links, system-wide communication
- system-wide findability – search, tagging
- public space, mutual visibility, transparency.