September 10, 2009

10 new ways to take social actions

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. Continue reading

August 21, 2009

Harnessing the crowd for social good

Crowdsourcing event

From left, Jon Bischke of eduFire, Leila Chirayath Janah of SamaSource, Jacob Colker of The Extraordinaries and Robert Chatwani, Head of Global Citizenship, eBay.

JD LasicaLast night was another one of those eye-popping events where large numbers of people turn out for an event to discuss how new technologies can be used to advance social change. In this case, about 120 people turned out for Crowdsourcing for social good, sponsored by SocialEarth, and Hub Bay Area and hosted by Chronicle Books and organized by Sundeep Ahuja.

The gathering triggered a dozen ideas for future blog posts on Socialbrite, and since I don’t have time today to research all of the sites and initiatives mentioned, I’ll pass along some of the best nuggets:

• I met Leila Janah of Samasource (“computer-based work for women, youth and refugees living in poverty)” at last fall’s Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp when her nonprofit was just getting launched. Here’s our earlier interview: Samasource enables socially responsible outsourcing. The goal, she said last night, is to offer “dignified computer-based work to the most marginalized communities in world.” At the moment, Samasource has brought in $210,000 in payments from project leaders to 517 people in six countries, many of whom had been making than $125 a year. (Become a fan of Samasource on Facebook. The event raised $380 for the nonprofit.)

Jon Bischke, founder of eduFire, talked about his start-up — an open education platform that is pioneering live video education. On the year-old site, more than 5,000 people have signed up to become instructors and 30,000 people take lessons in a wide array of subjects. Based in San Francisco, eduFire has three full-time employees and several part-timers. (Become a fan on Facebook.) See an earlier video interview of Jon produced by

• Fun factoid from Bischke: “It took 100 million hours to build Wikipedia, and that’s the same amount of time that Americans spend watching TV in a typical week.”

• I invited Jacob Colker, co-founder of The Extraordinaries, to join me in speaking at Net Tuesday on Sept. 8, and Jacob once again dazzled the audience with accounts of how crowdsourcing can be used for positive social change in your spare time. “The Extraordinaries are here to make it ridiculously easy for you to do social good,” he said. You can translate documents, or identify figures in a painting, or help with science and medical problems, among many other options. (Become a fan on Facebook.) Continue reading

April 12, 2009

Buy on eBay to help your favorite cause

eBay Giving Works from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAt the first Awareness2Action gathering in San Francisco in August 2008 I heard about eBay’s Giving Works program, which has raised $150 million for charitable causes on eBay over its first five years. These folks rock!

I swung down to eBay headquarters in San Jose a few weeks later and chatted with Kristin Cunningham, the program’s general manager. The video explains how you can help nonprofits through your purchases on eBay (and how nonprofits can help themselves).

Continue reading