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Open Sesame

Courtesy of Philanthropy 2137, this short (two-letter-focused) post from last Friday:

It just occurred to me. The last decade was defined by the prefix “e” — ePhilanthropy, eDiplomany, eCommerce.

The next decade will be similarly defined by the prefix “o” for Open — oGov, oData, oPhilanthropy.

As they say on Sesame Street, this past decade was brought to you by the letter “E.” Will the next indeed be brought to us by the letter “O”? And moreover, what do these single-letter prefixes even imply? I always see that lower-case vowel as an indication of means and medium. In other words, “ePhilanthropy” is philanthropy brought to you by means of the Internet, giving that takes place and is shaped by its digital nature — and by its accessibility.

But given such a definition, what could oPhilanthropy mean? “Electronic” modes and media are simple enough to understand; but does the same logic apply to “Open?” I’m not sure that it does. While the “electronic world” is a means to wider and more constant communication, can we have an “open world” that is a means to certain end? Or is the idea of openness just that — an idea, rather than a method or medium? An idea that remains too broad to be understood as a means to a certain end.

Rather, I would argue that openness is the end. Openness is the new goal, the new ideal. We have always aimed for openness through electronic media and communication. e-Philanthropy and e-Services, after all, are ways to achieve transparency, accessibility, and thus openness. Perhaps “e”-everything has bred and facilitated this focus on “o” in the first place. Through “e” we have been working towards “o.” Perhaps we are realizing, more and more, how essential “o” will be.

In sum, “o” will definitely be a watch-letter (and “open” a watchword) in the coming decade. But it may not become our prefix of choice. Instead, I would predict that a handful of other prefixes will spring into existence to further the possibility and goal of an “o” society. Maybe “s” for “shared” or “social” — think “s-Philanthropy” or “s-Public Services?” Or try “c” for “community” or “l” for “local.” Maybe our universe needs a few consonants.

What are your prefix picks?

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