October 2008 Posts

What Humans Crave

JoAnna Schull from SYPartners sent me a link to some work by Jane McGonigal.

She pointed out (and I agree) that the following was particularly compelling:

What humans crave:

1. Satisfying work to do
2. The experience of being good at something
3. Time spent with people we like
4. The chance to be a part of something bigger.


Vote for Children. Vote for PlayPumps.

A former GlobalGiving summer intern has launched a great new children’s book initiative titled “Dream Village.” Dream Village uses a combination of picture books and an interactive web portal to educate children about important social, economic, and environmental issues. Best of all, as part of their experience on the Dream Village web portal, children choose how and where Dream Village allocates its proceeds (to which nonprofit organizations and for which causes). So with Dream Village kids learn, interact, and then catalyze real-life positive change.

One of the first books in the series will feature a popular GlobalGiving project, PlayPumps International which installs a merry-go-round water pump to provide clean, fresh water to communities in need. Told from a child’s perspective and complete with full color photographs and illustrations, the book will tell the story of Spontania, a township in Mozambique, which benefited greatly from the implementation of the PlayPump Water System.

Dream Village is a finalist on Ideablob (sponsored by Advanta), a monthly competition that awards $10,000 in seed funding to a project that receives the most votes. With that seed funding, Dream Village will be able to launch its beta site, produce its first set of books, and more importantly, secure the funding it needs for long-term sustainability. We encourage you to visit the Dream Village post, learn more about the project, and vote for Dream Village. Pass the link along…and let the dreaming begin.

Note from a GlobalGiving Donor

We send personal notes to a lot of donors, and in them we ask how they found out about GlobalGiving, what inspired them to give, etc.  We love to hear their stories.  Here is one that came through to our colleague Wylia last week…every so often a member of our community articulates what we are about so beautifully it re-inspires us:

Hi Wylia!

I thought that I would answer a few of your questions. I heard about globalgiving.com by reading White Man’s Burden. The founders and the website were featured and because I was procrastinating writing a paper for one of my masters classes, I decided to take a look at the webpage. I was really excited to see the amount of homegrown effort around the world and thought that I should donate. I have been to Argentina and was heart broken to see the young children on the streets after the collapse of the Argentine economy. I looked around saw the program for education and health services for the Argentine children and thought that could be a way to help.

I was also drawn to the program in Brazil because I have read countless stories about the favelas and how children are impacted by the violence. The particular program I picked had not received too much funding but they were not asking for much either; just enough to pay for the arts and crafts for the children. I thought even if there is a little that I can do to put a smile on a child’s face I have to do it and thought that program was perfect.

Because I am in the military I have been able to travel around the world and see some amazing things. I went to Morocco a couple years ago and fell in love with the country. I saw the water program and was amazed how many Moroccan villagers would be impacted by something we take for granted.
Lastly, my heart went out to the young mothers in Kenya who have been tossed aside by society. I loved how this program is ran by a Kenyan woman who understands the issues these women have to face. I was drawn to her cause.

Overall, I have been very fortunate to have everything that I have. I know others have not been so lucky and I just wanted to donate what I could to help those who needed it. I am looking forward to hearing updates from the programs and will likely share them with my family and friends, many who I already informed them about globalgiving. Hope you have a nice day!

Storytelling our way towards a global community

Don't you want to lose sleep writing your own novel in November?November is my favorite month because it is National Novel Writing Month and I love to write. If you are unfamiliar, NanoWriMo challenges regular people to put 1000 words a day on paper towards completing a personal novella of 30,000 words in 30 days. It’s not about quality; it’s about discipline. If you can drop two television shows from your daily routine and write, you can do it. Everyone is carrying an untold story, and most of us don’t even know we have it.

As much as I love to write, sitting down and doing it every day is a chore. Like swimming laps, the hardest part is jumping in. Most good writing sneaks in after a lot of garbage. And I am soooo happy to have an online community of other NaNos that encourage each other to keep writing. It is also a lot of fun to compare day-to-day word-counts and share our personal writing struggles. If you think you’d be into NaNoWriMo, add me as your writing buddy through my current novel page.

Social NetworksThis got me thinking about another great community. GlobalGiving acts like a sort of NaNoWriMo for development projects. You might think of us as a marketplace for giving, but we are also a set of tools for building a giving community, both on your street and around the world. Each project is the beginning of a story – an opening line of some great unwritten tale. We have our heroes (social entrepreneurs), our villians (disease, unjustice, poverty, you-name-it), and every reader is also a novelist. We buy the next volume each time we donate, but we also write the next chapter when we comment on projects, updates from the field, and tell others about a project by email, on Facebook, CouchSurfing, LinkedIn, or whatever your flavor of friend-manager happens to be.

Projects, like the developing novel, are not static items. Having written three novels myself (but published zero, sadly), I know that good drama leaps off the page when you allow yourself to run free with the setting, characters, and any other elements that might not seem “important” from the get-go. Last year my “throw-away” NaNoWriMo turned into something I really want to develop. I will be finishing my “teen angst” novel-turned-metaphysical manifesto on the nature of good and evil in November.

Writer's block never so bad when you're telling a meaningful storyA project begins with a description on the site, but it is what GlobalGivers do with this information that determines whether we write epics or footnotes in history. If we want epic results, we need improvisers and collaboration to help each project develop. There comes a point in every fledgling novel when an author’s plans slam head-first into the brick walls that confine one’s imagination. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the novel was a group project?

In philanthropy we can all become Hemingways by adding our stories to life’s narrative. And in the future, I hope more of our donors and beneficiaries will share talents, wisdom, and daily experiences around subjects that matter to the largest number of the world’s people. We might not write the great American novel today, but given the right setting, characters, and devices to overcome the villains, this community could write the first global novel tomorrow.

People need to arrive hungry

What we do here at GlobalGiving is a mix between the complex and utterly simple. Systematically finding and vetting the best projects and plugging them into a global development ideas marketplace is rather complicated. However, the mechanisms at work that encourage more of the people to donate their money to better than average projects are simple.

groceriesTry this: Fast all morning and then walk through the aisles of your local supermarket at lunchtime. Everything looks tasty, right?

Just like feasting one’s eyes on tasty treats in a supermarket is to the ravished, a tromp through GlobalGiving’s market should evoke similar excitement – towards giving. Most of the people who find our site are already looking for a way to reach others and build relationships, but the simplest part of the system is also the most difficult: People need to arrive hungry, and the only way we build an appetite for helping others is by building relationships between strangers across the globe. Few Americans travel outside North America, and most that do go to Europe. That leaves few Americans with a realistic picture of the total human condition. That 5 out of 6 humans on Earth live nothing like Americans and Europeans should concern us. Do we understand? Or are we just sitting in the back of the class, nodding our head?

PuzzleRecently, the Poverty Action Lab proposed a series of tests to see what encourages poor people to save money. In one test they asked the person to think of a savings goal (buying a goat?) and then gave a piece of a puzzle with an image of that savings goal in exchange for each deposit. This way, the person would feel like she was not giving money away, but rather trading money with the banker for a piece of what she wants.

If you don’t read and write, and all you own is what you can see and count, banking can be uncomfortable. That’s why 95% of rural Gambians (where I used to live) prefer matresses to accounts. But before you lament the plight of the illiterate non-banking farmer, keep in mind that we in America and Europe are often no better when it comes to understanding the human condition – meaning, specifically the condition what it means to live as a person for 5 out of every 6 people on Earth.

This brings me back to the simplest and most difficult piece of the GlobalGiving marketplace puzzle – how to tell the stories of these other 5 in a way that builds an appetite for a relationship. For all our Western education, our understanding of the world is the poorest of all. In many respects, we need to begin with something simple like a puzzle – a gimmick that puts an image of the more abstract goal in the front of our eyes every day.