Archive for May, 2012

 

Stopping a crisis before it starts

Posted by Alison Carlman on May 30th, 2012

By Shonali Banerjee and Mattie Ressler

Right around this time last year, you might have heard about the famine in the “Horn of Africa.” The Horn of Africa comprises much of northeastern Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. In 2011, incredibly poor rainfall in the Horn and neighboring Kenya and Tanzania lead to small harvests that didn’t produce enough food for the local people. These climate conditions, combined with some man-made political and economic factors, drove the region into famine. The United Nations declares a famine when 20 percent of households face extreme difficulty in finding enough to eat, over 30 percent of people experience acute malnutrition (a life-threatening state), and two nutrition-related deaths occur per day per 100,000 people.

Last year, thousands of GlobalGivers contributed nearly $600,000 to GlobalGiving partner organizations in response to the Horn of Africa famine. People like you provided food, clean water, emergency supplies, and medical services. We have no doubt that your contributions saved countless lives, for which mothers, fathers, and children will be forever grateful. Read our Horn of Africa fund updates for photos and updates about  how those donations were used.

Unfortunately, as we head into the summer months in the northern hemisphere again this year, we’re hearing about struggles in the Sahel.  The Sahel encompasses sections of many countries bordering the famous Sahara desert, stretching like a belt across the widest part of Africa.  Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Senegal are all part of the Sahel–a brutally hot, drought-prone region.

This spring, the Sahel received insufficient rainfall: meaning that there is not enough water to sustain crops, livestock, and people. Although the Sahel often struggles with food insecurity, this year’s circumstances are far worse. Combined with other man-made factors, the Sahel has entered the early stages of what could be a terrible famine.  Sahel droughts endanger over 15 million people throughout various nations. That’s about three times more people than were impacted by the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.  Many humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Association are sounding the alarm about the dangerous circumstances that are already beginning, due to the recent coup d’état in Mali and soaring global food prices.

UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake recently reached out to the international community at large, saying, “we are appealing, all of us, for an end to global indifference we have found so far.  I know there is a certain fatigue… but by acting vigorously and properly now, we can head off future crises.”

We here at GlobalGiving wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Lake and UNICEF’s belief that proactive measures are often better than reactive responses; prevention truly is better than a cure. For example, preparing water sources for 80,000 Ethiopians before a famine costs $900,000 and prevents death and suffering, but trucking water across the desert for 5 months costs $3 million, more than three times as much.

GlobalGiving partners with numerous organizations working to prevent disaster-like humanitarian conditions in the Sahel:

Famines are not high-profile emergencies like recent tsunamis, earthquakes or floods. The widespread concern with this type of humanitarian crisis is that it takes time to develop into a full-blown disaster, meaning that many fail to recognize the severity of the situation until thousands of lives are lost.

We’ve created a Sahel Relief Fund in order to provide support now before the situation becomes a full-blown disaster. It’s our hope that we, as the GlobalGiving community, will respond with our heads now to prevent suffering, rather than waiting for gut-wrenching images to move our hearts only after such suffering has taken place.

Thank you for being such a thoughtful, caring, and generous community. We are so grateful.

 

celebrating 10 lessons learned over 10 years – love at first click

Posted by Kevin Conroy on May 16th, 2012

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each will speak candidly about their experience at GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. Mari wrote our inaugural blog post in February, and this month, our Director of User Experience and Product Development, Kevin Conroytalks about his learning while working at GlobalGiving…

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A little over five years ago I was working for a large, multinational consulting firm. I had a good job with a steady paycheck and incredible view from my 38th floor office. However, I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like I could be doing so much more with my skills. My wife suggested that I look for a nonprofit job.

I scoffed at her idea. The nonprofit world? I loved the idea of doing good, but didn’t think that my programming abilities would be of much use in the nonprofit world. You can’t code a new water well in Africa. Fixing bugs doesn’t help a poor child in India go to school. And planning a software project timeline certainly doesn’t address underlying societal and economic issues that created these conditions in the first place.

Despite these rational objections, my wife wouldn’t take no for an answer. She walked me to the computer and looked over my shoulder as I went to Idealist.org, typed “programming” into the box and skeptically clicked “search”.

The first result was for some nonprofit in Washington D.C. called the GlobalGiving Foundation. I clicked on the website and after about 30 seconds of browsing I turned to my wife and said: “This website is horrible. I have to work here.”

It was love at first click.

Kevin Conroy, Director of User Experience and Product Development

I could see from the website that GlobalGiving was doing amazing, innovative things to help small, grassroots nonprofits around the world. But they needed help. The outdated website used at the time needed to be better, faster, stronger. It needed to highlight  the incredible work that the grassroots projects were doing. It needed to let people easily search for a cause that the cared about. It needed to tell the heartwarming updates of change and deep social impact that was being made. And it needed to have a way for the people benefiting from the projects to have a voice and tell their stories.

I applied and when I went to the interview I was thrilled to discover that everyone at GlobalGiving already shared this vision. They saw GlobalGiving as more than just a website – it’s a platform for creating, discovering, and learning about social change. They wanted it to become a place for donors to find incredible projects and for people in communities anywhere in the world to join together to address the problems that they’re facing without waiting for the government to step in.

Needless to say, I accepted the job offer.

Five years later I’m pleased to say that with the help of my incredible co-workers we’ve fixed all of the problems on the site that I saw on that first click and have improved it in ways that I didn’t think were possible then. We’ve gone from helping a few hundred nonprofits at the time to helping more than 5,000 grassroots projects in 140+ countries.

My code may not build a well, but it can help the communities in Africa that need clean water get the funds that they need to build one. Fixing bugs won’t send a child to school, but it makes sure that tens of thousands of people can support projects that do. My project plans don’t even attempt to address the underlying, systemic problems of poverty, but we have planned and built tools that let people tell us the stories of the problems facing their communities, and from that, people have been able to create new programs and projects that address some of these underlying problems.

For me, the most important thing that I’ve learned these last five years isn’t stored in a source control tool, a binary executable, or even a database. It’s in the passion of my coworkers, our project partners, and our donors. No one is content to settle for the status quo. We are all passionate about improving our website, our projects, our organizations, and ultimately the world. No matter how much room for improvement we still have, it’s our ‘never settle’ attitude that created ‘love at first click’ for me, and is the most important thing that I’ve learned.

-Kevin Conroy

PS: If you’re a programmer looking for a way to make a bigger impact in the world with your skills, check out the nonprofit world. There’s a lot more going on than you’d think. If you’re interested, drop me a line. And if you’re interested in other opportunities, here are some amazing jobs from our friends at DonorsChoose and Kiva, plus many more on Idealist.org.