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Archive for the ‘non-profits’ Category

What an incredible feeling it was to open the Changemakers Festival at HUB Sydney on Friday night. Looking around at the smiling, supportive faces, and knowing that similar near-simultaneous openings were happening in five other cities around Australia, I felt slightly overwhelmed by joy, pride, gratitude and relief. We did it! What started as an outlandish proposal a year ago had turned into reality thanks to the work of an entirely part-time team of four which I am so honoured to have been part of.

This is the first national Changemakers Festival but there was an event of the same name held in Sydney last April, organised by the Australian Social Innovation Exchange (ASIX) led by the late, great, Steve Lawrence. It was one weekend in Sydney and while the idea and language behind it were very powerful the format and late organisation meant it wasn’t all it could be.
This Changemakers Festival version 1 was held the weekend after I got back into Australia after four years living in the US and, exhausted from packing up our house in San Francisco and the trip home, and semi-marooned on the Northern Beaches staying with K’s family, I didn’t actually make it to the event. But the concept caught my attention and I felt immediately there was so much more that could be done with it.

That April weekend as the event was taking place in Redfern I actually said to K “I’m going to run that and take it national next year.” I’m only rarely given to grand pronouncements of intent like this, and they usually don’t work out. But here I am. I had a great opportunity in September/October last year to consult with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) after they had taken over management of ASIX following Steve’s passing. I held forums in Sydney and Melbourne and interviewed 20 leading social innovators in Australia to better understand the value proposition of a community of practice around social innovation and what those involved in that community were looking for. Amongst the various recommendations I put forward I suggested that the Changemakers Festival should be re-launched as a national, open-source festival. Early this year TACSI asked me if I would be interested in making that happen.

And here we are. 154 events taking place in every state and territory, with 14 online events and opening night parties in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Alice Springs.

I’m especially proud of Sydney for how the community here has embraced this invitation. NSW has 48 events, more than any other state, with Sydney having more than any other city and HUB Sydney, with 12, hosting more events than any other venue. This is as it should be really, given Sydney is the biggest city, but the social innovation community here as long been seen as less dynamic and connected than elsewhere, so it’s very satisfying to show how far we’ve come over the past few years (most of which I spent overseas of course, so I take no credit!).

Thank you to everyone who turned out for all the Opening Night events, and I hope you’ve been enjoying the first weekend of the festival! Things really kick into gear next week with an inspiring array of gatherings, discussions, conferences and concerts.

Most of all thank you to the organisers of all the great events which make up the Changemakers Festival. Without you there would be no festival, and nothing for us to have launched on Friday. It’s been so inspiring to watch so many people and organisations respond to the invitation to be part of creating something bigger than any of us, something which reflects the diversity and energy of our community and tells the story of the Australia we are creating together. I am truly humbled by your generosity, hard work and passion.

I’m planning to attend the following events over the coming week:
Monday: Yoga for Change in the morning and the Deloitte Social Innovation Pitch event in the evening, Sydney
Tuesday: #4Good Brekky at Cafe Paramouunt in Surry Hills early, Green Drinks at HUB Sydney.
Wednesday: I’m on the panel for the Google+ Hangout “Financing Social Impact” along with a whos who of social financing, 1-2pm, then speaking at the FWD Conference in the afternoon following by Deloitte Social Innovation Pitch event, Melbourne
Thursday: Attending Progress Conference and hosting Crowdfunding for Changemakers at Ross House, 12.30-2, Melbourne
Friday: Progress, Melbourne
Saturday: I’m at Mentor at the Unleashed Summit at the Sydney Opera House
Sunday: The Unleashed Awards at the Sydney Opera House followed by Changemakers Connect, the festival closing night party at Button Bar, hosted by StartSomeGood and Think|Act|Change.

Phew! What an awesome few days!

I hope to see you at once of these events and that you find these next eight days inspiring, engaging and informative, that you meet some amazing new people, get exposed to some new stories and have the chance to share your own.

YOU are the Changemakers Festival.

Thank you.

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In the US alone, $14.6B is spent annually on Mother’s Day for “stuff” that could just never say what’s in our hearts. What if instead, we all just unleashed that love on the world? How would it impact our world if we stopped using stuff as a surrogate for love? What if we invested that love to make the world a better place for Mamas & children everywhere?

I got this provocative question from an amazing changemaker I have been fortunate to meet while in the US, Stacey Monk, founder of Epic Change. Epic Change support a select group of grassroots changemakers and social entrepreneurs around the world, starting with Mama Lucy, who founded a school in her village in Tanzania.

Epic Change is using social media and the power of love this Mother’s Day to fuel a campaign that both honours Mama’s around the world and raises funds to support the work of Mama Lucy and another three grassroots change agents in Tanzania, Afghanistan and Nepal. To Mama With Love invites people to create “heartspaces” to honour their Mum’s, the mother of their children, other mother’s they admire.

It’s a pleasure to be able to express my eternal gratitude for all that my Mum has done for me, and for our whole family, and this is a particularly appropriate and gratifying way to do it. My mother has always been a changemaker, a peace activist and pioneering broadcaster, CEO of arts organizations and now chair of a progressive think-tank.

I know she would admire the vision, commitment and work of the five (including Stacey) Mama’s being recognized and supported by To Mama With Love.

Thank you Mum, for everything. All my love, always.

Here is a screenshot of my heartspace:


You can create a heartspace to honour your (or someone elses) Mama at www.ToMamaWithLove.org and both share love and create change this Mother’s Day.

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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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Cartoon by Rob Cot­tingham

Over the past couple of weeks two interesting and inter-related controversies have sprung up which reveal in stark terms Apple’s lack of support for non-profits and values as a corporate citizen.

Beth Kanter, the nonprofit web guru, started drawing attention a couple of weeks ago to the iPhone’s lack of support for donation apps.The essense of the issue is that apps cannot process donations natively. The best they can do is link to a charities website for people to make donations. This is clearly a more complicated process and we know that every addition step required to make a donation loses a significant proportion of your potential donors.

Apple’s apparent reason for the ban (another example of Apple’s restrictive approach to the universe of apps that runs on their devices) is the difficulty involved in verifying genuine charities. Jake Shapiro pointed out back in June that ‘the excuse that “Apple doesn’t want to be held responsible for ensuring that the charitable funds make it to the final destination” is a cop-out. Google Grants has tackled this already, and organizations like TechSoup and Guidestar do a sophisticated job of authenticating nonprofits and charities worldwide. Apple, of all companies, can’t credibly say it’s not up to the technical and logistical challenge.’

Following the earthquake in Haiti Apple itself requested donations through an iPhone app, raising hopes of a change of policy which has not been forthcoming. Earlier this year Paypal introduced the option to make a charitable donation through their iPhone app, with verification handled by an outside company MissionFish. Two months later they were forced by Apple to shut it down.  One possible issue may be that Apple takes 30% of revenue from the app store, an proportion way beyond what is considered acceptable for donation processing.

This is all pretty annoying in its own right, and you should certainly support the petition currently being run on Care2 asking Apple to rescind this policy, but just how galling it is was brought home to me by another news item last week.

A group of parents are crying foul after being hit with unexpected bills from their children playing games on the iPhone and iPad. The games, such as Smurf Village, are clearly designed for kids, allow you to skip over the hardest stages of the game by purchasing, for real money, in-game items such as Smurfberries. It is even possible to purchase a whopping $59.99 worth of Smurfberries in just two clicks. Other kids games sells virtual items for up to $100. One reason for this is that you only need to log into your iTunes account every 15 minutes to make purchases. So if a parent buys this game then immediately hands the device to their child  there’s a window in which new purchases can be made without any need to re-enter account information. However several parents are reporting that they carefully waited for the required amount of time before allowing their child to play and still ended up with a nasty surprise when they saw their bill.

So on the one hand we have a situation where it’s impermissible to make an in-application donation to a nonprofit organization doing good in the world, while on the other it’s so easy to spend money inside an application that it’s literally child’s play. There’s no possible justification for this hypocrisy, and continues a trend of Apple disregarding the nonprofit sector. When I approach Apple for sponsorship when running Vibewire about five years ago I was told that Apple had a corporate policy of not supporting nonprofits or making any donations. Their job was the maximize profits, and shareholders could decide how to disburse those profits. So perfect right-wing corporatism in other words. And, indeed, they have been named one of America’s least philanthropic companies.

To me this issue shows without any doubt Apple’s true corporate culture. To the extent that they have involved themselves with nonprofits or made positive moves like decreasing the environmental impact of their devices, this can only be seen as cause marketing, something they felt they needed to do for their brand and sales, not something driven by a belief that business has any role beyond profit maximisation.

They sure do make pretty things though.

Sign the petition asking Apple to allow donations within their apps.

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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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“Community Manager” is the job title of the moment but beyond those with this written on their business cards the truth is that anyone doing social media work on behalf of an organization is doing community management work. You are the face of the organization, front-of-house, the link between internal organization and external community, at least online.

So then, what sort of link are you?

I think there are two basic profiles for a community manager: the bridge and the wall. One represents an open stance, the other a defensive posture. Initially both can appear the same, can project the same enthusiasm, share the same great links, ask the same questions.

The differences are profound however and emerges slowly but surely over time, as the community becomes aware of just how real this engagement is. Or it emerges very quickly, in the face of a crisis. In either case your organizations openness and accessibility will ultimately characterize what sort of a community manager you are.

Characteristics of the ‘Bridge’ Community Manager:

  • You are an open channel of communications between community and organization
  • The views and interests of the online community are genuinely taken into consideration in organizational decision-making
  • You are considered senior within your organization, with the trust of the executive
  • You consider your first job to be representing the community within the organization
  • You share interests with and consider yourself a part of the community
  • You acknowledge your mistakes quickly and openly
  • When you ask questions, the answers matter, and responses are fed back
  • You think of your community as collaborators

Characteristics of the ‘Wall’ Community Manager:

  • You are considered a junior role, without internal influence
  • You consider your first job to be representing the organization to the community
  • You have little in common with your community, they are “they”, not “you”
  • You ask questions, but the answers don’t go anywhere
  • Mistakes are downplayed or denied
  • You think of your community as donors

If your organization is employing you to be a wall, and many, if not most, organizations feel most comfortable starting here, then your job should be to help evolve your role into that of a bridge, and in so doing transform your organization for the better.

What do you think? Do those lists look familiar?

Photo by Jay Cables of a Banksy piece, used under a Creative Commons license.

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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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