Archive for International

GlobalGiving Founder on Haiti: ‘When You’re Poor, Everything Becomes Harder to Recover From’

As the incredible depth of devastation in Haiti became apparent yesterday, the response online grew rapidly. Haiti and various related topics trended all day on Twitter,blogs and websites were filled with links to nonprofits working in Haiti, and ubiquitous calls for cell phone text-to-give campaigns flooded the RSS streams. Like others, I turned to an online-based organization whose work I know and whose promise to get aid to those in need quickly – and effectively – I trusted.

GlobalGiving has been a marketplace for charitable projects since 1997 and has a history of supporting programs on health, poverty, agriculture and the environment in Haiti – and the site swung into action yesterday, working with key on-the-ground partners to rush medical supplies and emergency aid to the stricken nation. As the GlobalGiving team raced to direct resources to Haiti, I spoke briefly with Mari Kuraishi, the co-founder and president.

What’s GlobalGiving’s perspective on what Haiti faces during these terrible days?

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and in 2009 ranked 149th out of 182 countries according to the UN’s human development report. That’s to say that one in five Haitian children is underweight for their age and GDP per capita is $1,155—2.5% of US GDP per capita ($45,592). This is a country that is least able to recover from a natural disaster like a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. On the one hand that seems obvious. When you’re poor, everything becomes harder to recover from, because you just don’t have any slack in the system.

What do you think philanthropy’s role will be?

We don’t know the scale of the losses yet in Haiti. While it’s impossible to compare, the cost of the 1995 Kobe earthquake (a 7.3 earthquake) has been estimated at $100b in property and infrastructure damage. Human losses in Japan were 6,400 killed and 15,000 injured. The cost of recovery in Kobe? As of 2006, $3b in insurance losses, and $9b in long-term private finance to rebuild.

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CauseWired Canadian

Later this week, I’m headed for Toronto to give the luncheon plenary at the AFP’s local Fundraising Day conference there. So in true crowd-sourcing style, I started pinging the network just a bit in order to hit reload on my knowledge of ‘CauseWired’ Canada – and the network responded with some great resources that has me totally jazzed about the action north of the border. Sometimes it’s great to put a request out there in the interest of continuing education in the sector … and the strong desire to be well-informed about my hosts!

Not everything will make it into the 30 minutes I have to speak (plus a follow-up seminar for experienced fundraisers later in the day) but I wanted to share my notes with readers here, so as not to let any of the great projects and resources go to waste. All links recommended.

The Easter-time Orange Day organized by the United Gospel Mission of Vancouver hoped to raise $12,000 to feed and care for people in Metro Vancouver – but hit a total of $23,069.59. This gorgeous campaign blended a simple premise – get outdoors, buy an orange for someone in need (only 32 cents!), and get active in the community. Great photos, a Twitter feed, blogs, video and regular updates organized around the #orangeday tag with a reachable goal – and a really simple ask – made it go. And you just know that the Orange Day social media effort will pay long-term dividends for the UGM beyond the money raised this year. [Thanks to Joe Solomon for this one.]

A related effort unfolded on Twitter in the form of the TweetupHeatup campaign after a homeless woman’s body was found burning in a makeshift shelter built around a shopping cart, a victim of the long winter just past. Almost overnight, the tweets got folks into the streets with blankets, hot soup, and just the basic offer to help a neighbor – and bring attention to a serious issue.

Another winter/holiday effort was the widely-heralded HohoTO campaign, which used Twitter and other social media to unite Toronto’s sizable tech community and raise money for the The Daily Bread Food Bank. The site seems to be down now, but you can read about it at Adele McAlear’s excellent blog, check out the Twitter page, or watch the video. The effort raised $25,000 and more than a ton of food. [H/T to Stacey Monk.]

Not surprisingly, the great team at Social Actions sent me a buncha links – since it’s one of the great Canadian social start-ups ever! And three of the Social Actions’ aggregated platforms – CanadaHelps, GiveMeaning, and PincGiving hail from Canada. [Thx Peter Deitz.] Many of the social entrepreneurs who tend to gravitate to efforts like Social Actions will be attending Net Change next month in Toronto, “a week-long event designed to explore how social technology can bolster social change. Presented by the Social Innovation Generation team at MaRS (SiG@MaRS), Net Change Week will tap into the potential that exists when new methods of communicating, organizing and mobilizing are brought to bear on chronic social issues. ” One of the leading sponsors is the aforementioned CanadaHelps, which has facilitated more than $85 million in donations to Canada’s 83,000 charities since 2000. [Gracias, Christine Egger.]

TakingITGlobal is a wonderful social venture aimed at getting “youth everywhere actively engaged and connected in shaping a more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable world.” That’s a heck of a goal, but the Toronto-based organization has signed up 245,552 members in 261 countries at 1,154 schools in less than a decade – tremendous social impact. I’m also taking a look at BettertheWorld, a browser-based campaign to shift online ad revenues to the charity of your choice. [H/T to Romina Oliverio.]

More stuff to take a look at in the next few days: Global Agents for Change, Save Our Net (Canadian net neutrality), One Million Acts of Change, ChangeCamp, WarChild, and Urbantastic.

Obviously, these are just a small sampling of what’s going on in Canada – I’m hoping to hear more in Toronto on Thursday.

Guest Post: Hillary Clinton on Social Media and Causes

Okay, so it’s not formally a guest post per se – but we think this section of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech to gradautes of Barnard College yesterday touches as much of a ‘CauseWired’ chord as any talk by a major political figure of late:

Some months ago here in New York, I had the privilege of meeting a young girl from Yemen. Her name is Nujood Ali. When she was nine years old, her family offered her into marriage with a much older man who turned out to be violent and abusive. At ten years old, desperate to escape her circumstances, she left her home and made her way to the local courthouse where she sat against a wall all day long until she was finally noticed, thankfully, by a woman lawyer named Shada Nasser, who asked this little girl what she was doing there. And the little girl said she came to get a divorce. And thanks to this lawyer, she did.

Now in another time, the story of her individual courage and her equally brave lawyer would not have been covered in the news even in her own country. But now, it is beamed worldwide by satellites, shared on blogs, posted on Twitter, celebrated in gatherings. Today, women are finding their voices, and those voices are being heard far beyond their own narrow circumstances. And here’s what each of you can do. You can visit the website of a nonprofit called Kiva, K-i-v-a, and send a microloan to an entrepreneur like Blanca, who wants to expand her small grocery store in Peru. You can send children’s books to a library in Namibia by purchasing items off an wish list. You can sit in your dorm room, or soon your new apartment, and use the web to plant trees across Africa through Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt movement.

And with these social networking tools that you use every day to tell people you’ve gone to get a latte or you’re going to be running late, you can unite your friends through Facebook to fight human trafficking or child marriage, like the two recent college graduates in Colombia – the country – who organized 14 million people into the largest anti-terrorism demonstration in history, doing as much damage to the FARC terrorist network in a few weeks than had been done in years of military action. (Applause.)

And you can organize through Twitter, like the undergraduates at Northwestern who launched a global fast to bring attention to Iran’s imprisonment of an American journalist. And we have two young women journalists right now in prison in North Korea, and you can get busy on the internet and let the North Koreans know that we find that absolutely unacceptable. (Applause.)

These new tools are available for everyone. They are democratizing diplomacy. So over the next year, we will be creating Virtual Student Foreign Service Internships to partner American students with our embassies abroad to conduct digital diplomacy. And you can learn more about this initiative on the State Department website.

Hat tip to the always interesting Nancy Scola at the fab for the quote; as Nancy says, Secretary Clinton does indeed speak with the ardor of a recent convert.

Tweeting the Pandemic

The very word “pandemic” can sow panic, activating dystopian nightmares of mob rule and societal breakdown keyed to cultural memories of movies like Outbreak and 28 Days. As the swine flu epidemic kills scores of people in Mexico and leaps borders and oceans in this modern transcontinental age with alarming ease, it’s tempting to bite down hard on the urge for news and an emotional response short of mass hysteria.

And while Twitter and social networks can satisfy the hunger for information with amazing speed, it’ll be interesting to see what role they play in either feeding or tamping down societal panic. In other words, will Twitter and Facebook and all the other forms of sharing links (and fear) assist our global society in dealing with a kind of virality none of us wants to see expanded.

In the early stages of what threatens to be a major worldwide health challenge, the flow of information from my “follows” at Twitter beats any other amalgamation tool. The death toll postings, news of new outbreaks, and government warnings and policies hit my own Twitter stream faster than they do my email inbox, and from a much wider variety of sources. The #swineflu hashtag is a seriously central spigot for information – it took my, for instance, to a Google map created by “niman,” described as a biomedical researcher from Pittsburgh, which seems to be the most complete, up-to-date graphical tracker of the outbreak I can find.

But the #swineflu hashtag is also a virtual spinal tap into the core of societal fear over the kind of pandemic we’ve always been warned about – the one without a cure that jumps species and borders and threatens civil society. Spend some time the hashtag on the pandemic (of course it’s number one) and you’ll peer into that fearful “group soul” – or rather, the fearful group soul of early adopters and techno geeks. Some try to undersell the danger, with playful (hopeful?) references to “hangnails” and government over-reaction and having a good excuse to skip work. But I also sense in some of the joking a rather wishful urge for gallows humor, as if a few good tweets can make it all go away. “More people are currently sick from eating bad alfalfa sprouts than from the #swineflu,” is one such tweet. And yet the WHO and the White House and the EU aren’t freaked out about alfalfa sprouts.

Yet others are far more serious, and the near-instant access to statistics and information about the epidemic clearly forces what is already a well-informed crowd to pay attention to seriously dark news. Here’s one such tweet: “up to 149 deaths in mexico city from #swineflu. That’s .09% fatality. But geez. Its going up so fast! Last nite was .05% fatality.”

One aspect of this pandemic-related information flow is crystal clear – in times of crisis, people turn to their governments for guidance and assistance. The US government’s PandemicFlu site is cited in hundreds of Twitter posts, blog posts, and Facebook feeds and clearly, some wired civil servants are working overtime to keep the official view as up to date as possible.

Clearly, we don’t yet know how bad this pandemic will be – and pandemic it is, with news of cases in Scotland and Spain to go along with Mexico, the U.S and Canada – but I for one find some comfort in a personalized flow of information that didn’t exist a few years ago. After the disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the San Diego wildfires (among others) it became clear that online networks would carry more of the societal weight during times of crisis, that they hold the potential for drawing citizens together to help. This is a new kind of crisis an along with the health warnings and news, we’ll be following the performance of social media in providing information … and in calming fear.

UPDATE: Via Andy Carvin, here’s Wikia’s flu wiki, by Jimmy Wales.

UPDATE II: The Google map has real accuracy problems, and wasn’t created by the Google team. I posted on it @techPresident.

Making the (Video) Case for Support

Here’s a great example of CauseWired story-telling online: the Global Network on Neglected Tropical Diseases launched the End the Neglect 2020 Campaign to raise public awareness and support from corporations, foundations, and individuals to control and eliminate some of the most devastating and deadly NTDs by 2020. The new campaign features a consumer-driven microsite that educates users about the impact NTDs can have on children and communities and illustrates the incredible difference that even a 50 cent donation can make. The Just Fifty Cents Initiative is designed to give individuals the chance to make an impact on the worlds poorest people by simply converting the change in their pockets- nickels, dimes, quarter- into meaningful change in the hardest hit regions.

Tanzania Twitterwall: Now That’s Donor Involvement!


Originally uploaded by Epic Change

Brilliant job by the folks at Epic Change in following up on their successful Tweetsgiving fundraising campaign to build a school classroom in Tanzania via Twitter. The Tweetsgiving team raised over $11,000 in just 48 hours from 336 contributors – and Epic Change found a great way to say “thanks” and keep donors interested in the cause. When the classroom was painted, students from the school in Arusha put the Twitter handles of all the donors on the wall – and then uploaded the pics to Flickr. And yeah, there I am. Kind of gives new meaning to the term Twitter “follower,” as I’ll be following the progress of this school. An authentic donor connection in the CauseWired world.

Patient Philanthropy in Northern Ireland

The recent news out of Northern Ireland, although momentarily obscured by the March 17 celebrations, signals such a profound change in attitudes there that it made me stop and think. A number of years, all right decades, ago, I first got involved in philanthropy because of the terrible conditions in Northern Ireland. “The Troubles,” and various eruptions of inter-religious and political conflict had caught children in the cross-fire, figuratively and literally. Children trapped in gritty neighborhoods, walled off from their counterparts of a different religion, had few safe places to play, and grew up with no opportunity to encounter other faces, different viewpoints.

Many Americans, with wonderful intentions, began to bring children from Northern Ireland to live with their families for summer holidays. Their hope was that the guests would begin to understand a more open outlook, and at least enjoy a brief respite from the violence and hatred that pervaded their lives. Elsewhere, in Irish-American communities, funds were raised for the care of children in the North, and for the welfare of families whose husbands and fathers were imprisoned or killed in the conflict – which took thousands of lives and inflicted pain on countless others.

The problem with these collections, though, was that some of them were simply vehicles to raise money for guns – literally perpetuating the problem, not the solution. And even the well-intentioned holidays for children had a downside: often the child returned home to resentment from siblings or playmates. And the conditions from which they’d had a brief respite hadn’t changed. Yet these children bore the burden of expectations that they’d be individual ambassadors for peace, all on their own.

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