Sunday, September 4, 2011

Media Lab "Members" instead of "Sponsors"

One of the most important things I’m focusing on is the Media Lab’s relationship with our sponsors. Having worked with sponsors, and having fundraised for a variety of organizations, I believe the best relationships are those that are not purely transactional. When the relationship is based primarily on financial support, this sometimes causes strange power relationships and limits the field of exploration. Rather, I like working closely with funders/sponsors/members on a shared mission–exchanging ideas, coming up with new ideas, and building things together.

I want to get away from the idea that a sponsor is paying money for someone else to be smart, interesting, or productive. I believe that we really need to build a community–a kind of "tribe." To better convey this, from now on I'm going to start calling the companies that support the Media Lab "members" instead of "sponsors." Membership will not primarily be about financial support, but rather about the wisdom, inspiration, and reach these member companies can offer. It will also be about how they can enhance our ability to pursue our vision and impact the world. We will look for members who wish to join our community as active participants and contributors.

As part of pushing the Media Lab to be more of a platform than a container, the other thing that the Lab can do is help our members work with each other to create and participate in ecosystems of services, products, ideas, culture, and policies. I think it's essential in today's environment to think about ourselves more as a network, and I believe "members" helps convey this.

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