An avatar, to me, is someone that I wish I were but I don’t have the time to be. So I’m going to help that person.  I’m going to work with him.  I’m going to partner with him in something. I might come to their class at a university.  I might help hire some students.  I might refer them to some potential funding resources if they’re trying to do some research. 

One of the great examples of this is  They match the needs of teachers and schools to donors who are willing to fund those needs.  They’re outsourcing.  And so you can have a project that says "I need six flutes for my band class and it’s going to cost me a thousand dollars." They put it up online. So they get people who say, “Oh, I’ll pay two hundred dollars for that.”  And they’ll get five people that put up two hundred dollars and then they’ll buy the flutes. 

What they found is they have much increased response rates in people that return if they focus on the teacher and the story of the teacher rather than the project.  The teacher becomes the avatar.  The teacher is the individual who I can associate with, who I want to track over time and who I will connect to.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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