September 10, 2009

10 new ways to take social actions

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The Extraordinaries
Nathan Freitas, Jacob Colker and Ben Rigby of the Extraordinaries at NetSquared 2009.

JD LasicaThe Bay Area-based Extraordinaires are among the social causes highlighted in the current issue of Time magazine in an article titled New Ways to Make a Difference.

Time identified three new trends in doing good:

Put your time to work

1The Extraordinaries: The organization is helping to pioneer “micro-volunteering.” As co-founder Jacob Colker told us last week at Net Tuesday, only 26 percent of Americans volunteer — at all — in a given year. That’s partly because we lead super-busy lives. gives us a way to contribute bits and pieces of our spare time to do something worthy, from helping to add tags to museum archives to snapping water going to waste in San Diego. Got an iPhone? Look for an app called The Extraordinaries., due to launch this fall, “encourages you to dream big — end poverty! cure cancer! — and then helps come up with small, specific ways you can help achieve progress in those areas.” promotes random acts of kindness. First, print a card at the Kindred site, then “do something nice for a stranger, like sharing an umbrella or helping carry luggage, and hand that person the card. The recipient can go online and note where the act of kindness took place and then pass the card along. It’s like Pay It Forward, with mapping features,” Time writes., a new aggregation site of volunteer opportunities that we wrote about three months ago, draws listings not only from traditional volunteer sites but also from Craigslist and Meetup. It also lets you share those opportunities with friends on social networks.

Put your money to work

5eBay’s is one of our favorite sites. Buy a fair-trade scarf or the work of an African artisan on the site, which vets every product to ensure that it’s eco-friendly and was produced in a worker-friendly environment. has been one of the breakout success stories of the Web 2.0 social good space, and not just because our own Sloane Berrent is winding up a three-month stint as a Kiva fellow in the Philippines. (Here’s her wrapup piece.) Kiva lets you provide a micro-loan (typically $25) to an entrepreneur in the developing world, and then lets you track the recipient’s progress online. Now there are specialized sites like, which provides micro-loans in rural China. (Wokai is Mandarin for “I start.”) is advancing socially and environmentally responsible investing. Find out how to shift your dollars to match your values. More than 1 in 9 dollars in the U.S. stock market is now invested in socially responsible funds.

Put your friends to work

8Carrotmob, from Virgance, is an ad hoc organization that organizes “reverse boycotts” to reward businesses that are making socially responsible decisions. A massive shop-in, held every month or two (including one on Thursday night in San Francisco), entices the owners to use a portion of the revenues to get greener., which we’ll be profiling here soon, lets you earmark an online contribution to fund public-school teachers’ requests for classroom materials. is spreading a form of reciprocal community service, including everything from day care to tutoring. Time Banking is a social change movement in 22 countries and six continents that weaves community one hour at a time.

And Time adds: “Join a neighborhood volunteer group like Brooklyn’s In Our Backyard and Washington’s CarbonfreeDC, which help groups of friends partner on projects — like planting gardens and teaching people how to green their homes — and have some fun along the way.”


25 responsibility pioneers (Time)

JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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