January 11, 2010

How individuals make a real difference

Beth at 6

JD LasicaOur colleague Beth Kanter, author of Beth’s Blog, turns 53 years young today. The past year has been a momentous one for Beth, who pulled up roots and moved with her family from Boston to the Bay Area, rented a house, co-authored a book, became a visiting scholar at the Packard Foundation — I don’t know, probably won a Nobel Prize when I wasn’t looking.

Beth is Exhibit A for those who believe that individuals can make a real difference. As perhaps the best-known name in nonprofit technology, Beth has been pioneering the use of social media for social good long before many people even knew what social media was.

Today, Stacey Monk, Amy Sample Ward, Christine Egger and several others have organized an online surprise birthday party for Beth — a fun and spot-on idea. Writes Amy:

In her birthday wish post, Beth announces that she’s trying to send 53 Cambodian children to school by raising $530.  Last week, Stacy Monk and I were chatting and thought that our community could help smash that goal by raising much more funds as well as awareness for the work the Sharing Foundation does in Cambodia.

I’ve already contributed to the cause (as I have the past two years). Not only has the effort blown past $530, at this hour it’s up to $2,019, which means 201 Cambodian children will benefit. (Beth’s two children, Harry and Sara, were adopted from Cambodia and are now happily ensconced in Silicon Valley.)

Please contribute at Beth’s Birthday Wish Page on Causes. (If you’d like to join the birthday brigade, sign up on this Google doc.) Continue reading

November 9, 2009

MySpace abandons Causes — what does it mean?

myspace-causesAmy Sample WardOn Thursday, administrators of Causes accounts on MySpace received a notice via email stating, “Thank you for the work you’ve done on Causes on MySpace. Due to the lack of activity on MySpace, we’ve decided to focus our efforts on the Causes Application on Facebook.” (See the full message here.) The message indicated that all Causes-related pages and content on MySpace would be taken down at the end of the week.

Causes, of course, is the application that lets individuals, groups and organizations support and raise funds for a particular cause.

Now, I blogged earlier this year about research that indicates very strongly we mirror our offline social barriers and segmentation in our online social networking platforms.  (Visit danah boyd’s website for more information and research on this topic.) Different communities have aligned and adopted different social networks, social media tools, communications platforms, etc. The tools we use often reflect the communities we are in, whether those communities are geographic, ethnic, or otherwise. Continue reading

September 3, 2009

Ethics, human rights and social activism

What are our ethical responsibilities when recording video of people under oppression?

Guest post by Sam Gregory

In June, my colleague Sameer Padania and I were part of a panel at the Open Video Conference in New York City on Human Rights, Indigenous Media and Open Video. We used the opportunity to launch what will be a continuing effort by WITNESS to engage with the human rights issues around dignity, re-victimization, consent and security raised by contemporary online video.

Above is the video we used for the WITNESS presentation at the conference.  Watch and tell us what you think — what should WITNESS (and others) be doing in this area?

My colleague Priscila Néri’s post on the footage of Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran is a thought-provoking place to start: Iran Protests: A Woman Dies on Camera — to post or not to post?

WITNESS was created over 15 years ago coming out of the Rodney King incident asking this question: What if every human rights worker had a camera in their hand? Now, nearly every citizen does have a camera — and it is participants, witnesses and perpetrators who are filming. Continue reading

August 30, 2009

UniversalGiving: Tailoring an impact just for you


Amy Sample Ward“First, we’re strictly nonprofit.” That’s how UniversalGiving begins when describing its work. What it should really say is, “We may be nonprofit, but we are not non-impact.”

Why? UniversalGiving is making great impact on communities around the world, both in the work, funds and volunteer efforts contributed to individuals and groups via their platform, but also in effectively and passionately empowering donors and volunteers to contribute. Additionally, UniversalGiving is a member of Social Actions, ensuring that their opportunities to make a difference are heard and seen in even more places around the Web.

What is UniversalGiving?

UniversalGiving is “an award-winning marketplace which allows people to volunteer and donate to top performing projects in more than 70 countries around the world.”

It’s a marketplace, really, of opportunities to take actions for social benefit in various topics you may be after. Want to donate money and leave it at that? Would you rather connect with a group or individual in need halfway around the world? Maybe you want to join forces for a longer-term project for real impact. People simply choose a country of interest (such as China or Thailand) and an area of interest (such as education or the environment) and find a list of vetted opportunities to which they can donate money or give their time. Continue reading

August 30, 2009

At the Summer of Social Good conference


Beth KanterI was honored to speak on Friday at the Summer of Social Good conference hosted by Mashable, a popular social media and technology blog and a big geek favorite. This was the culmination of the summerlong initiative to help raise money for four charities, Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam, and LIVESTRONG.

The event was hosted by the amazing Shira Lazar, who hosts Mahalo’s This Week In YouTube and is the editor-at-large for Conde Nast’s Jaunted.com travel blog from around the globe. She’s also the founder of The Society For Geek Advancement, which aims to bring together geek culture for social good.

The most dramatic moment of the conference had nothing to do with charity fund-raising.  It was the surprise marriage proposal on the stage from Mashable’s COO Adam Hirsch to Managing Editor Sharon Feder (she said yes)! (You can read more about that here). And while Pete Cashmore announced that he would be doing a charity event in September around his 24th birthday, I’m wondering what charity wedding registry Sharon and Adam will register with? (Kiva?) Continue reading

August 11, 2009

United We Serve: Become an agent of change

JD LasicaLike millions of Americans, I’ve been looking for ways in which to get more involved in worthy community efforts. The traditional ways in which you can volunteer and gave back at the community — say, working in a soup kitchen or signing up for AmeriCorps — just expanded exponentially with the recent rollout of the United We Serve initiaitive at Serve.gov. Above is a video of some recent United We Serve activities, including a visit by players from the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to the White House.

Monday I was one of 75 people to join a United We Serve conference call featuring Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (who reports to Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to the President, and Christina M. Tchen, Director of the Office of Public Liaison); Yosi Sergant (@a35mmlife on Twitter), Director of Office of Communications, National Endowment for the Arts; Michael Skolnik (@michaelskolnik on Twitter), Political Director to Russell Simmons and Editor for the politics section of GlobalGrind; Nellie Abernathy, director of the outreach program for United We Serve; and Thomas Bates from Rock the Vote, among others.

The call’s goal was to enlist grassroots organizers to spread the word about United We Serve and highlight the role that the arts community plays in documentnig stories of how arts service can be fun, engaging and youthful.

United We Serve: What it is

United We Serve - Serve.govAs Yosi Sergant put it on the call: “What the hell is national service, and how do i get kids with fancy clothes and haircuts to pay attention to it?”

The first thing to know about United We Serve is that it’s an initiative in which people in nonprofits, community organizations and government agencies — at the local, state and federal level — join together to enable and facilitate greater community service. People can get involved in two ways: By posting a service project to the Serve.gov site and engaging others who may be interested in the same issue, or by signing up for a project. Your commitment level is up you, and it’s easier than ever to find a project that matches your interests through the easy-to-use tools on Serve.gov.

We’ve already written about All for Good (a “Craigslist for service”), which lets you easily volunteer for community efforts. (See the widget in the sidebar at the right — enter your zip code to find matching volunteer opportunities in your area.)

United We Serve initially runs from June 22 through September 11, culminating in a National Day of Service and Remembrance on 9/11, but it will grow into a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans.

Wicks said the idea is to persuade people that “I can be an agent of change in my community,” and to tap into existing civic engagement efforts by cities, nonprofits, community groups and federal agencies to “create sustained relationships we can all build on.”

Key areas of focus

The United We Serve team helped bring some focus to the countless volunteer opportunities by keying in on four main areas:

  • health care (in fact, this is health week)
  • energy and the environment (eg, weatherizing homes or League of Conservation Voters or the Sierra Club)
  • education (educators are concerned with “summer reading loss,” — the dramatically decreased reading ability of students when they return to school in a few weeks)
  • community renewal

Continue reading