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Archive for the ‘social change’ Category

It is two years since Hildy Gottleib’s The Pollyanna Principles came out but I’ve only come to read it  over the past few weeks. I regret not reading it sooner, so clearly does it articulate my frustrations, aspirations and beliefs about the social change sector.

Hildy clearly articulates the potential of what she calls Community Benefit Organizations (like Ashoka she believes that you should not, cannot, define a sector by what it isn’t but rather by what it is). The limitations of our thinking come through in this narrow conception of ourselves – that we are not for profit, first and foremost, rather than being for something – just as it does in the technocratic malaise so many community benefit organizations find themselves in. Too often the leaders and especially the boards of the organizations that serve us are caught up in a problems-focused, and have lost track of the true change they are striving, or could be striving, to bring about.

This is not simply an issue for community benefit organizations of course but for all of us. It is too easy to dismiss the notion of actually solving the problems, overcoming the challenges, which confront us. Instead we settle for incremental goals – “increase service delivery by 5% in the next calendar year” – rather than aiming our sights resolutely on what matters most, our vision for the future we want for our communities.

As the name suggests The Pollyanna Principles is a set of principles to assist community benefit organizations to create the future they seek for their communities. They are seemingly conceptual but as Hildy shows they are actually a deeply practical, powerfully simple and clear-headed approach to creating the real changes we need.

The principals are:

Principle #1:We accomplish what we hold ourselves accountable for.

Principle #2: Each and every one of us is creating the future every day, whether we do so consciously or not.

Principle #3: Everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent, whether we acknowledge that or not.

Principle #4: “Being the change we want to see” means walking the talk of our values.

Principle #5: Strength builds upon our strengths, not our weaknesses.

Principle #6: Individuals will go where systems lead them.

Reading The Pollyanna Principals has made me pause and reflect on my successes and failures (sorry, learning experiences), on when I felt most inspired and the brick walls run into (crashed through) along the way. There is much wisdom here I wish I had been exposed to ten years ago. For anyone interested in change, and especially those in positions of authority in the organizations we need to perform at their best in service to community, this is an essential book. I know the issues Hildy raises and the approaches she proposes will continue to resonate in my mind for a long time.

In other words this has given me the best gifts a book can give: lots to think about, and hope for the future.

To celebrate the second anniversary you can buy The Pollyanna Principles at a discount right now. You can also read the first four chapters online.

Principle #1:We accomplish what we hold ourselves accountable for. 

Principle #2: Each and every one of us is creating the future every day, whether we do so consciously or not.

Principle #3: Everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent, whether we acknowledge that or not.

Principle #4: “Being the change we want to see” means walking the talk of our values.

Principle #5: Strength builds upon our strengths, not our weaknesses.

Principle #6: Individuals will go where systems lead them.

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This is a guest post I wrote for the Case Foundation blog and was published on the day of the StartSomeGood launch (in their offices):

Clay Shirky is fond of saying that when it comes to online communications “more is different.” Similarly, when it comes to philanthropy, less is different.

The last half-decade has given rise to many incredibly exciting advances in the area of online giving and community building. Causes has allowed us to give to organizations right from inside Facebook. Razoo, First Giving, Citizen Effect and the like made it possible to create personal fundraising campaigns for causes we care about. Kiva made microfinance something we could all participate in, and Global Giving connects us to development projects around the world.

These platforms, along with similar trends in political giving most famously leveraged by the Obama for President campaign, have created an explosion of a new type of philanthropy: mircro-philanthropy. But we will never fully realize the transformational potential of both the new technologies and behaviors behind micro-philanthropy if it continues to be locked up in walled gardens with only American 501c3 organizations given access.

My colleagues and I at StartSomeGood.com are changing this dynamic. We believe that the “nonprofit sector” is less important than the “social good sector”, that great world-changing ideas can come from anywhere and that socially-minded for-profits can be as effective at bringing about change as traditional non-profits.

We know that important work is being done by unincorporated groups and social change freeagents. We want to break down the silos that say only a specific type of incorporated institution in one country on earth is given access to sophisticated online fundraising tools. We want to dispel the myth that tax-deductability is an important driver of giving behavior because, truth be told, below a certain threshold it simply isn’t.

What are important drivers of giving behavior? Great stories, inspiring visions for a better world, a personal connection to an issue and relationships with people affected or involved are just some of the elements we know inspire people to contribute to a social good initiative. These elements are powerful, irrespective of tax status. More important, by far, are the ideas, inspiration and credibility of the entrepreneur doing the asking.

There is no shortage of challenges confronting our communities and our world, but within each obstacle lies an opportunity. An opportunity to rise up to meet those challenges head on, fostering new changemakers and more resilient communities in the process. We do not have an ideas shortage. Rather, we face an implementation shortage, caused in part by the walls we have built around the fundraising process – defining too narrowly where these opportunities should originate and why people would choose to support them. These walls have led to less change, less opportunity and less difference.

StartSomeGood.com is breaking down these walls, and I hope you will join us.

Photo by JMC Photos on flickr, made available on a creative commons license.

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It’s amazing to me how different starting a social change initiative is now to what I went through starting Vibewire ten years ago. There now exists the most incredible infrastructure for anyone with an idea to communicate it and find others who share your interests, to build a team of contributors from anywhere on earth and inspire people with your vision and story. It’s so easy to share your voice through blogs and microblogs. If writing is not your thing video is cheaper and more accessible than ever. Social networks make it so much easier to maintain and engage with your friends, contacts and acquaintances, to share your new idea and seek feedback and support. A growing diversity of options allows you to fundraise around your idea in a variety of ways: not only those options which have traditionally existed for registered charities but various online competitions and new crowdfunding options for all sorts of different projects.

If you’re a social entrepreneur StartSomeGood , of which I am a co-founder, exists to help you turn your ideas into action and impact. If you have a social change idea you’re ready to start working on, or you’ve done a pilot you and want to expand, or have a great idea for a new product or service, then we want to hear from you! StartSomeGood is now accepting applications to be featured on our platform when it goes live in late February.

StartSomeGood is a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding platform for social good projects. Campaigns can be run by pro-profit, nonprofit, associations and unincorporated groups. In other word, your legal status doesn’t matter; your vision and drive does.

To qualify to be featured on StartSomeGood your initiative must:

•    be social-impact focused;

•    be creating social impact through your actual operations (ie. We want to support implementers, not simply fundraising programs passing funds on);

•    have a specific project which will be funded by your StartSomeGood campaign (launching a business/organization counts as a project);

•    have a compelling pitch, watchable-video and decent marketing plan.

You can apply now at www.StartSomeGood.com/apply. StartSomeGood.com will go live before the end of the month and we would love to have you be part of it!

The world is full of entrenched problems that need new thinking, of causes that need new champions. Creating the change we need will take all of us, contributing in myriad ways. Some as the entrepreneurs; some as supporters and advocates and storytellers. There has never been a time with more ways to make a difference than the moment we live in. There has never been a better time to tell your story, share your idea and start some good.

What is the future you wish to create?

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A few months ago a friend from DC, Alex Budak, called me about a social enterprise he was starting called StartSomeGood. The idea, simply put, was to create a crowdfunding (or peerfunding) platform for social change initiatives. He wanted to know if I wanted to be involved in an advisory capacity, helping him design the communications and outreach strategy for the company. I was happy to agree, both because I’m always up for helping a friend and because the idea itself was compelling. While the crowdfunding model has been proved by sites such as Kickstarter and FundBreak these sites are exclusively for creative projects. There is a clear opportunity and a need to provide this service to the social sector.

Over the past few months I’ve been working with Alex to refine the vision and product. Over this time I have felt myself get more and more drawn in, and more and more excited about the potential of the project. We have refined our model to make it more distinct and, we think, better adapted for the sector we seek to serve. We realized that success would require more than just advice; Alex needed a collaborator equally-committed to the success of the enterprise. And so I’m really excited to announce that I’m joining as a full co-founder with Alex, and that we should be launching our site next month.

Why launch StartSomeGood.com?

There are so many people with ideas for how they want to make a difference in the world, yet they lack the resources that they need to get started.  StartSomeGood connects budding social entrepreneurs with the financial and intellectual capital that they need — all in a fun, engaging and community-driven way.  Our site taps into the power of the crowd, allowing social entrepreneurs to ask for small amounts of money from lots of different people – rather than hope for one lump sum.  This crowdfunding model is becoming increasingly well-established, especially in the arts, and we believe it is perfect for supporting the launch and development of social change organizations.

Over the past 10 years an incredible online fundraising infrastructure has been created for social change organizations. Organizations can fundraise through Facebook and Twitter, supporters can establish their own fundraisers on platforms like Razoo, Global Giving can help you support projects in the developing world from the comfort of home. But almost all the infrastructure that exists has been created exclusively for use by only one type of organization: tax-deductible nonprofits. And we all know that there are many ways to make a difference other than simply establishing a new charity.

In all the commentary about the Kickstarter the most overlooked aspect of their success is the fact that they allowed fundraising by unincorporated groups. The two sectors where a huge amount of value is created by unincorporated groups are the creative industries and the social change movement. StartSomeGood will allow any type of group, unincorporated, nonprofit and for profit to find supporters and raise funds for social good projects. Having been part of many grassroots initiatives I know how much good gets created by small teams, formed for discrete projects. We hope to help more people make a difference in their community.

Ultimately our goal is to contribute to creating a world where every person has access to the financial, intellectual and relational capital they need to become changemakers, where every person can create the future they wish to inhabit.

How is StartSomeGood different from other crowdfunding sites?

StartSomeGood has several critical differentiators from existing crowdfunding platforms:

  • We focus on social change organizations. The biggest existing crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter in the US and FundBreak in Australia, are exclusive to creative projects. We want to provide this same functionality to social entrepreneurs working to address poverty, crime, climate change and more.
  • Blended-risk fundraising model. Kickstarter and FundBreak both use the all-or-nothing fundraising model. This makes perfect sense of creative projects, many of which have specific fundraising tipping points (enough money to print the book, finish the film, go on tour, etc). IndieGoGo allows you to keep whatever you raise, regardless of how you did against your stated goal. StartSomeGood will have a blended model, whereby an initial amount is all-or-nothing, depending on the specific tipping point of that project/organization, but there is also a best-case goal beyond that, which they can keep any funds raised towards. This allows the individual entrepreneur to set their own level of risk/reward, as it should be.
  • StartSomeGood is based around both organizations and projects. Social change organizations can maintain permanent profiles fueled by dynamic feeds, aggregating and building their community of supporters across multiple fundraising campaigns.
  • The StartSomeGood platform will allow for not only financial contributions but other forms of probono support needed by social entrepreneurs.

Get Involved:

Do you think this sounds exciting? Do you want to help? Great!

Support our fundraiser on IndieGoGo – we are currently fundraising on another crowdfunding platform, IndieGoGo, and would love your support. You get half of your contribution back in the form of a voucher to pay forward to a social good organization on our site when it goes live. So you’ll not only be supporting the launch of our new social enterprise but another beyond that! The remaining funds will support our outreach and promotion around the launch (including competitions to give away more vouchers, most of it will ultimately flow directly to the enterprises launching on our site), hosting costs, etc. This modest amount of start-up funding is important to allowing us to launch effectively, and having pre-committed funds ready to support new enterprises is critical to building early momentum when we launch.  Please contribute.

Help us find great ventures – task 1 for us is to find inspiring initiatives to help launch. We have several really exciting groups lined up for the launch but are looking for more. If you know of a great social change initiative looking to launch in the next six months please put them in touch.

Become a StartSomeGood Mobilizer – we are recruiting a team of Mobilizers to help get the word out, people who are passionate about social change and innovation, enjoy meeting new people and talking up new things. I am so thrilled with the caliber of people who have agreed to get involved, thank you friends! But there are gaps in our network so if this sounds like you or someone you know I’d love to hear from you, especially if you are in Perth, Adelaide, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh.

Stay in the loop – if you would like to be the first to know when the site goes live please sign up for our newsletter at www.StartSomeGood.com.

I’m very excited to be commencing on this journey. I think there’s a real opportunity to create something sustainable of real value, and to learn a lot along the way. I look forward to your support and collaboration and to starting some good in 2011!

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Both Thanksgiving and Christmas are good times for taking stock and thinking about the things we have to be grateful for. For me this means thinking about my global tribe and how lucky I am to have you all in my life. Thinking about this made me realize, once more, how important travel has always been for me, for the relationships I’ve gained and the experience of other cultures and the global perspective that grows from this.

I sincerely wish everyone could have the opportunity to travel and, in the absence of that, I support anything that opens up a window on the world and gets people thinking more globally.

At this time of year I know everyone gets hit with endless requests for support and, yes, I’m putting one out also. I wrote previously about my involvement with Razoo.com’s zooGooder council and how impressed I’ve been with Global Lives Project since coming across them after moving to San Francisco. Over the coming week the members of the zooGooder council are having a friendly competition to see who can raise the most funds and attract the most donors for their favourite nonprofit. Naturally I’ve chosen Global Lives Project.

Here’s my video explaining why:

(Aside: My first video blog! Kinda scary! What do you think?)

Razoo have generously made available a $2000 prize pool for the person who brings in the most donors and with your help I’d love to be competitive in win! this category. Every donation, however modest, counts as a point towards this prize. In addition I’m also a fundraiser for Global Lives Project’s own group fundraising challenge this month. As part of the launch of this new service Razoo will match the first $200 I raise. What’s more Global Lives Project has a matching grant of up to $30,000 if raised before the end of the year.

Follow all of that? This means any money you donate could be matched up to THREE TIMES! That’s a pretty good return on your investment.

More to the point, whatever money we raise will support Global Lives Project to expand their activities next year – holding new exhibitions and developing educational materials for use by school groups. These videos undoubtedly have artistic merit but it’s this educational element I’m most excited about as I think facilitated contact with this content could really get people thinking in new ways, more globally and empathically. In other words, sharing with those who might not have the chance to travel some of the most important benefits we get from the travel experience.

As little as $10 counts towards the most donors challenge and would mean so much to both Global Lives Project and me. If I can raise $1,000 this week I will be stoked, and we will know we’ve made a real difference to this small but important organization.

But I know not everyone has even $10 to spare so there are other ways you can help as well:

•    Tell your friends! Use the share buttons at the bottom of this post to share the link on Twitter, Facebook ,etc.
•    Share your story! All this week I’ll be sharing things travel has given me using the hashtag #travelteaches. Join in! Share your own #travelteaches insight on Twitter and, space permitting, link to http://bit.ly/trvlteach where I’ll be collecting the responses.

Of course, please donate if you can:

I can’t wait to hear your stories! Thank you for your support.

More on Global Lives Project:

Artist’s statement from GLP’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Exhibit:

Framed by the arc of the day and conveyed through the intimacy of video, we have slowly and faithfully captured 24 continuous hours in the lives of 10 people from around the world. They are screened here in their own right, but also in relation to one another.

There is no narrative other than that which is found in the composition of everyday life, no overt interpretations other than that which you may bring to it.

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It Gets Better is a grassroots campaign in America launched by sex columnist Dan Savage in response to a horrific spate of teenagers killing themselves after being victimized for being (or being perceived to be) gay. There were 5 suicides in September alone. After another one of these tragedies Savage wrote in his column that he wished “I could have talked to that kid for 5 minutes and been able to tell them it gets better.”

In that same column, on September 15, he announced he was setting up a YouTube channel for those who were bullied but survived to tell their story, to tell those going through hard times that it gets better. Since then the channel has had more than 1.8 million views and 21,000 subscribers, making it the fastest-growing channel on YouTube right now.

Here’s Dan’s original video with his husband Terry:

On MSNBC last week I saw Joel Burns, a member of the Fort Worth Council in Texas, share his story, a story he told us he had never told anyone before, in a speech before the council. It’s a speech unlike many you will ever hear from a politician. It’s raw, personal and courageous and had me in tears.

It Gets Better is another inspiring example of the possibilities of social media to aggregate individual actions, share otherwise-unheard stories and to connect us across borders, classes and generations. This campaign wasn’t cooked up in a strategy session and launched with fanfare by a national gay rights organization. It wasn’t backed with millions of dollars in funding. It didn’t even require its own website. It was one person’s idea, a single video uploaded online, and an invitation to participate.

Now, yes, this particular person had a mainstream media platform from which to promote his idea, but without the enabling environment of the internet he would simply have expressed his sadness and, presumably, moved on. Thousands of readers would have nodded in agreement but then what? Now, instead of just an expression of grief there was a call to action, an invitation to participate in something, and a simple, humble, personal video to get things started, and show how it could be done.

As Dan said in his column:

“Gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

“Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.”

He’s right. Thanks to social media, we can.

Six weeks later the videos continue to roll in and the conversation around the issue continues. Employees at Google and Facebook have contributed videos, as have Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, American Idol’s Adam Lambert and Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto. Videos have come in from Muslims and Mormons, gays and straights, teenagers, parents and grandparents. And hundreds of thousands of teenagers have found out that whatever their situation they are not alone, that others went through difficult times and survived and that they need to stick around and give their lives a chance.

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San Francisco is a place full of energy, overrun by people with big dreams working hard to make amazing things happen. One person who fits this description that I was lucky enough to meet upon moving to San Francisco is David Harris, the founder and Executive Director of the Global Lives Project. He has spent the past five years driving this art/social change/education hybrid project, coordinating 500 volunteers who together have completed shoots in ten countries and staged numerous exhibitions. As he explained the project to me I was inspired by its vision, intrigued by its potential scope and very impressed by the way it had been executed. I knew I wanted to help.

Global Lives Project aims to “collaboratively build a video library of human life experience that reshapes how we as both producers and viewers conceive of cultures, nations and people outside of our own communities.”

Global Lives is a series of 10 (so far) 24-hour continuous shoots of the lives of ten diverse people from ten countries around the world. The content is moving in its simple humanity, showing how despite our geographic and cultural differences we have so much more in common, we are one people.

Global Lives Project has mounted exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and elsewhere, allowing people to wander from room-to-room catching glimpses of these diverse lives. Sometimes they all begin together, at the same time in each day. Sometimes they are played according to their time zones, so 5pm in San Francisco is 8am in China and so on.

Here’s David’s Artist Statement from their Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Exhibit:

Framed by the arc of the day and conveyed through the intimacy of video, we have slowly and faithfully captured 24 continuous hours in the lives of 10 people from around the world. They are screened here in their own right, but also in relation to one another.

There is no narrative other than that which is found in the composition of everyday life, no overt interpretations other than that which you may bring to it.

I’ve seen longer reels of film than that featured in the video above but I can fully appreciate how much more impactful this footage can be when situated alongside each other, when people can wander in and out, getting a window into another person’s world. Their opening night event and exhibition at Yerba Buena got rave reviews:

It’s the immediacy of this live viewing, the context of the ten films played alongside each other, that I believe would give the most powerful sense of looking through a window into the world of another. I would love to experience this, would love to see Global Lives Project being able to mount more events and exhibitions and organize new shoots to continue to build their library of human experiences. When I needed to choose a nonprofit to fundraise on behalf of as part of Razoo‘s ‘zooGooders Council, I immediately thought of Global Lives Project.

Between now and the end of the year I’d love to be able to make a contribution to the expansion of GLP’s activities next year, supporting them to hold new exhibitions, develop educations programs around their content and grow the library itself. My main motivation in supporting GLP is to help get this great content before more people.

Please consider supporting my fundraiser. My fundraising widget is here. Every bit makes a difference. Anything that gives people a window into the lives of another, that increases our understanding and empathy of other lives, helps create a more peaceful, more just world.

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