Campaigns like Kiva and Detroit Water Project sound good in theory, but when they're orchestrated from afar, they can inhibit real change.

"When I first heard about Detroit Water Project (DWP), I was intrigued. And excited. I had lived in Michigan for two and a half years and it was a fellow Grand Rapidian who alerted me to the project. Donors looking to lend a hand to cash-strapped Detroiters could pay for their outstanding water bills; it is a type of philanthropy that allows people to see how their money directly helps, regardless of how little they give. It reminded me of Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee, where with even just a $5—no, $2—contribution, you could relieve many times that amount of debt for Americans who have fallen into default. I was soon surprised to learn that neither of DWP’s cofounders, Tiffani Bell and Kristy Tillman, live in Detroit. Bell is a Code for America fellow based in San Francisco, and Tillman is the design director for a Boston startup that will launch in October. They have no volunteers on the ground. To community organizers, this is a counterintuitive way to start a grassroots project." -- Denise Cheng,