September 29, 2009

YouthNoise: Helping young people network a cause

YouthNoise: Helping youths collaborate on causes from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaI‘ve long admired the folks behind YouthNoise, the global social network for social good developed for and by young people around the world. Based in San Francisco, YouthNoise offers a community dedicated to creating lasting positive change around the world, with the resources to build campaigns, amplify projects and kick off grassroots movements. The site offers a wide variety of tools, Web and mobile technologies and peer support that let members turn ideas into action in areas ranging from health to human rights, from education and the environment to poverty.

Think of it as a for young people, but with a somewhat deeper set of collaboration tools.

Above is an 8-minute interview with Ginger Thomson, who recently stepped down as CEO to take on an advisory role to cement a partnership between LinkTV and YouthNoise, among other things. Ginger has long been a leading figure in empowering Generation Y with the Web 2.0 and social media tools to advance social causes.

With traditional volunteer organizations constrained these days, Thomson says, the tendency of young people to take a do-it-yourself approach to volunteerism may prove especially fruitful, with youths diving in and raising money for the causes they believe in. “This is the DIY Generation,” she says, and young people today have become more entrepreneuria. While traditional volunteerism among Gen Y may have declined, many young people are creating projects around causes that they feel passionate about — with the help of YouthNoise and other sites.

“Alongside the DIY element they also want to bring their friends in, so that everybody’s doing things together,” Ginger says. The YouthNoise site contains social networking capabilities, fundraising tools and access to resources. See the site’s Toolkit Hall of Fame and its Raise It and Donate It Toolkit. 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 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

August 17, 2009

Crowdsourcing for social good

JD LasicaAn ad hoc group of Bay Area folks who explore how new technology is driving social change, organized by Sundeep Ahuja, is holding its fifth event on Thursday. (I wrote about awareness2action’s first event almost exactly one year ago.)

Here are the details:

Event: Crowdsourcing for Social Good

Hosts: SocialEarth, Hub Bay Area and Chronicle Books

Topic: Wikipedia leverages millions of people to build a living encyclopedia. NASA Clickworkers uses hundreds of thousands of people to map craters on Mars. What else can the “crowd” do for social good — and for you?

• Leila Chirayath Janah, Founder, SamaSource
• Jacob Colker, Founder, The Extraordinaries
• Jon Bischke, Founder, eduFire
• Robert Chatwani, Head of Global Citizenship, eBay (Moderator)

When: Thursday, Aug. 20, 7-9:30 pm

Where: Chronicle Books, 680 Second St., 4th Floor, San Francisco

Admission: $10 donation suggested at the door

Bonus: Each attendee will receive a free copy of “Change the World for Ten Bucks”


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 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 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

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

August 5, 2009

Charity 2.0: How to address scaling and cause fatigue?

Photo by Seerjith

Beth KanterCNET’s Caroline McCarthy published an article called “Crowded Roads Ahead for Charity 2.0” based on an interview with Toby Daniels of Think Social and Scott Harrison of charity:water reflecting on how the landscape has changed for fundraising on social networks. (Disclaimer:  I am on an advisory group for Think Social and I’m a huge fan of Scott Harrison, Twestival, and charity:water)

There’s great fodder for discussion from the ideas in the article.

Toby Daniels and Scott Harrison raised important questions about whether the approach used for Twestival back in Feburary 2009 — described as part fundraiser, party publicity blitz — is sustainable given the dramatic growth of Twitter and other social media outlets like Facebook. The article points out that many, many more organizations and individuals are using social networks to spread the word about their fundraising efforts and solicit donations from friends and this could lead to cause fatigue (as was discussed a few months ago on Social Edge).

As the Web is flooded with more and more charity initiatives, both large, well-established ones and new nonprofits created specifically with harnessing social media in mind, problems can arise. At best, donations could be spread too thin, rendering many organizations less effective.

Of more concern is the fact that the influx of charities and nonprofits to platforms like Facebook and Twitter could result in noise, congestion, and outright apathy. Spreading awareness of a good cause grows difficult when that good cause starts to seem like spam. If one tweet after another is seeking donations, people might just get fed up.

Continue reading