I pledge thee my troth

Had two of those 'Duh!' moments today. What my friend John Caswell describes as 'flashes of the blindingly obvious'. Ba...

November 25, 2004

Had two of those ‘Duh!’ moments today. What my friend John Caswell describes as ‘flashes of the blindingly obvious’.


I’ve been struggling to conceptualise something called PledgeBank.

PledgeBank is a rough-hewn concept developed within the extended community at MySociety. The idea is simple. Overcome community inertia via the mechanism of virtual peer pressure.

What is it?

PledgeBank will gather pledges of active support for communitarian projects suggested by community members: ‘I will mow the village green once a month, if you will too’. ‘I will give money to this cause if the project achieves 1,000 equal backers’. You get the idea.

Once individual pledges hit a pre-agreed tipping point, all pledges are activated.

It’s a trust-network. A goodwill aggregation engine. It’s….oh…so many things. It’s certainly a big idea. I loved it from the first time I heard it.

This basic advance-commitment/tipping-point principle could be applied to a million purposes, including innovation-funding, holiday booking, publishing, whatever. But the PledgeBank concept will be exclusively targeting social projects.

I’ve been a good, well good-natured thorn in the side of the MySociety project since its inception, but I’ve been struggling to find a really good mental model for this idea in order to be able to ‘get the idea across’, but also to build a sustainable ‘business’ model.

‘Duh moment one occurs when I am alerted to ChangeThis by Scandinavian cool-meister Hans-Olaf Otterlei.

I cannot believe I hadn’t seen this. ChangeThis has declared a manifesto to propogate manifestoes.

It wants to create rational global debate around big ideas. But the mechanic is very interesting. You submit a proposal to write a manifesto. Internet surfers then vote for your idea (no ‘against’ option is avilable), and on the basis of that feedback you draft your 1-5,000 word manifesto.

I believe the manifesto is then formatted a to a standard template (I havenl;t submitted one yet), and then downloaded and/or commented on and propagated. [It’s sexier than I’m describing, by the way. Tom Peters is there; Godin is accredited with the original idea; Gladwell has written a wonderfully contentious, ‘built-to-last’-ish debunk of the ‘myth of talent’ there, etc etc. Suffice to say, the ‘stars’ are aligned for its success]. The only danger is see if of ethical and social dryness. It’s a little…er…business-centric at present.

However, interestingly for the PB debate, ‘ChangeThis’ is a commuity of communities, united around a common concern for rational debate, a belief in the power of ideas, and probably a hefty dose of narcisism. I’m deconstructing (and digressing here).

At one level it’s just an online magazine, published in rather over-lengthy celebrity-authored chapters, with an indulgent editor and a small but interactive readership.

BUT, and it’s a huge BUT, by making content user-friendly to bloggers, and by building in some really nice interactivity, it promises to propagate at an exponential rate. It will be interesting to watch.

PledgeBank could learn from its ‘net alignment, as well as its very pragmatic approach to cultivating celebrities. The ability to debate and propagate, as well as vote, is helpful too.

Ker-ching! I see a scalable, campaignable model.

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