General Posts

Urban Agriculture Challenge: Communities Helping Themselves (With Delicious Results!)

Originally posted on Pulling for the Underdog on the Huffington Post

GlobalGiving nurtures bottom-up, community-based solutions to pressing social problems. We believe in the power of small over large, local over centrally planned and grassroots over top-down. This is why we jumped at the chance to partner with Bonterra Vineyards and Growing Power to support urban agriculture.

Urban farms help low-income communities access fresh food, generate employment, enhance food security, and improve quality of life. Rather than relying on fast food chains or large supermarkets, urban residents with access to a local farm can eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown right in their communities.

I grew up in Kentucky. It’s a great state. But parts of Louisville have been labeled “food deserts” due to the lack of accessibility to fresh food. Through its urban farms, Breaking New Grounds not only brings fresh produce to these underserved neighborhoods, but also provides agricultural training to local residents, and creates new, environmentally-friendly jobs.

In Denver, while fresh food is available in summer, winter months often mean relying on food grown and processed thousands of miles away. Feed Denver catalyzes urban farms that can be operated year-round, giving urban dwellers access to high-quality food from January through December.

Until October 7, these urban agriculture programs — and several others — are participating in an online fundraising challenge on GlobalGiving, with the chance to win up to $20,000 in contributions provided by Bonterra Vineyards.

To further highlight the power of communities working towards a common goal, the Bonterra-Growing Power-GlobalGiving challenge features a collective group incentive. If each participant raises at least $2,000 from 25 or more unique donors, all will receive a $1,100 bonus from Bonterra Vineyards. As on a community farm, each participant’s individual effort will contribute to the larger good. I like the taste of that!

More Than Me on giving the gift of education through GlobalGiving.

The More Than Me Foundation provides scholarships to girls in Liberia who would not otherwise be able to go to school.

This photo captures what More Than Me’s work means to those girls. It was also the Grand Prize and Africa region winner of GlobalGiving’s first Facebook photo contest. It appeared captioned as shown.

Last month, More Than Me’s founders, Katie Meyler and Stephanie Hood, stopped by a GlobalGiving staff meeting to talk about their work and give staff a glimpse of how GlobalGiving is serving its project partners well and where we can improve.

We were also curious about the strategy they used to win the photo contest. As part of efforts to strengthen the capacity of the non-profits we work with, we like to constantly be learning about best practices we can relay on to others competing in challenges in the future.

I have to admit, theirs was quite unexpected.

Stephanie and Katie explained that they were consistently in the running for first place, but that it was a tight race due to a highly competitive photo of a very cute little turtle.

So, on the final day of the challenge, they took their campaign to the streets. Or, to the circle, to be exact. Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.

It wasn’t necessarily a pre-conceived plan. As Katie sat in the circle furiously emailing friends and family to ask them to vote for the photo, she found that people were curious about her efforts.

When she explained what she was doing and why, people started to, quite literally, line up to vote.

“I had this line at my laptop through Dupont Circle,” Katie explained to the staff.

And that, she thinks, is how they won.

At first, Katie and Stephanie weren’t sure they should tell us that. They wondered if it was fair.

Sure it is. Whether online or off, the spirit of GlobalGiving and these types of competitions is to foster awareness of and participation in making the world a better place through local efforts that address the direct needs of the people being served.

As you’ll see in the video below, raising awareness that leads to action is just what Katie and Stephanie are doing through More Than Me, and their story reveals how GlobalGiving can be a powerful part of that work.

People may not have come to Dupont Circle that day for an education in girls’ education, but if they went away a bit more curious about or committed to it, then the photo challenge–and Katie and Stephanie–had done their jobs.

Thanks, Katie and Stephanie, for sharing your story about how a global marketplace of concerned citizens helps you do more than any of us could do alone.

Lisa Kays is GlobalGiving’s Acting Communications Director.

Gaming for change: Not a job for just one superhero.

Going to school doesn’t always produce innovative, smart young leaders. Video games do.


The Urgent EVOKE project emerged from discussions between the World Bank and universities in Africa that revealed widespread demand from the universities to find avenues to encourage their students to think creatively and focus on local development challenges.

Here’s the twist.

They decided to take the learning out of the classroom. They did away with the textbooks. And the traditional teaching format.

They created EVOKE.

As the World Bank explains, EVOKE follows the exploits of a mysterious network of Africa’s best problem-solvers. Each week, players learn more about this network from a graphic novel. Players form innovation networks and brainstorm solutions to real-world development challenges that are released to them as weekly missions. They perform tasks to address these challenges and seek feedback for these ideas and actions.

Food security. Renewable energy. Clean water. Empowering women.

These are just a few of the challenges that the first round of 19,324 Evoke contenders from 150 countries worked on for 10 weeks. They wrote about 355 blog posts every day during the 10 week competition, and posted videos and photos inviting comments, discussion and feed back.

When the first season of the EVOKE game closed on May 19, 2010, the top players were invited to realize their EVOKATIONS by participating in the EVOKE Challenge on GlobalGiving to raise funds and build a community of donors and investors.

Some of the projects include developing a gaming software to help those without access to formal education learn how to manage money, creating an affordable “solar mill” to generate power in East Africa, treating autism in remote parts of the world through an online community, creating energy with rainwater runoff in Liberia, and turning a “squatter camp” into an “Eco-village.”

Game on.

This type of Challenge is unprecedented at GlobalGiving, a marketplace that typically hosts projects already being implemented. With the EVOKE Challenge, we get to the core of our mission: pushing boundaries, fostering innovation and collaboration, and granting access to a marketplace for ideas in their inception—untested, unproven, unknown.

So, during the EVOKE Challenge, which runs from today until August 31, EVOKE players’ ideas will raise funds, individually and together, to make their ideas a reality.

Some will win and get implemented. Some will not. You, as part of the marketplace, will decide.

To be successful, entrepreneurs–like all social entrepreneurs–will have to build a community of support, communicate the value of their idea, and create dialogue so that diverse perspectives, including those of the people they’re working to help, are included.

Therefore, the first incentive invites collaborative action. Fifteen projects must raise $30 from 5 donors and receive 1 project comment. Once 15 projects have met these goals, each of them will be rewarded $100.

If 15 don’t manage to do it, no one gets anything.

But that won’t happen. The participants are already rallying around each other to figure out ways to collaborate and support each other.

Their ability to work together will release a cascade of collective and individual incentives. You can see them here.

With this EVOKE Challenge, a new generation of inspired, well-networked social entrepreneurs will emerge and take a shot at realizing their solutions to the challenges of their communities.

No generation has been under such compelling pressure to change the way we live and work as much as the current generation. The deep flaws in established economic and social structures have been revealed in unprecedented events and circumstances capturing the attention of people everywhere.

We have to try something new. We have to try to make new things work. And we have to do it together, as a community.

Because the world needs more than one superhero.

Manmeet Mehta is a Program Officer at GlobalGiving.

The democratization of aid.

This piece on Mari and the inspiration for GlobalGiving is great. It explains accurately and concisely the rationale Mari and I had when contemplating leaving the World Bank to start GlobalGiving.

The article explains, “But Kuraishi had spent years working to change the world with a top-down approach and saw its shortcomings as clearly as its strengths. The idea of top-down is that if you can effect change in governments and economies, then you’ll naturally reduce poverty and improve lives. And while that approach works, Kuraishi decided there was also room for a bottom-up approach—especially in countries with weak or corrupt governments. ”

Indeed, when we left, that was the idea–an alternative model that would grant access to funding and markets to people and communities that were otherwise left out, whether because their government was too corrupt or they weren’t established enough to acquire high-level grants with big institutions like the World Bank or USAID.

That was and is our vision. But, as the article documents, our vision is also expanding with our success.

Tara Swords writes in the article, “Eight years later, the organization has raised US$29 million for grassroots charity projects in more than 100 countries. Perhaps Kuraishi’s former World Bank colleagues should reconsider.”

I won’t lie. I smile every time I wrap my mind around the extent of our growth and success (2,800 projects now funded, in fact). And you might wonder what thoughts cross my mind when I read thoughts like “Perhaps Kuraishi’s former World Bank colleagues should reconsider.”

What runs through my mind is hope.

Because our success indicates that this model is working, and will continue to work.

But what makes me even more hopeful is that as I realize the effectiveness, potential, and power of our model–now tested for eight years–I’m increasingly aware of the possibility that GlobalGiving will not only serve as an add-on to traditional aid structures, but actually can serve as a model on which to base their work.

My hope is grounded in reality.

The World Bank’s Urgent Evoke project, for example, is a brilliant concept that puts development entrepreneurship into the hands of, well, anyone.  And next month, they’ll be working with us to launch the funding component where the best, brightest ideas will have a shot at the GlobalGiving marketplace.

But the impetus and the seed money for this huge undertaking came from the World Bank.

This initiative is new, innovative, and smart. Not your standard World Bank funding fodder. I commend them for this type of open-access initiative.

I also admire their documentation of best practices and lessons learned, including what hasn’t worked. That’s brave and serves as powerful learning for the entire development community–exactly how it should work.

There are other hopeful signs out there of a shift in aid–that’s it’s moving, albeit slowly, to recognize that the true potential for change lies within the people and communities who are affected by the world’s problems, and not necessarily the people who write the most effective grant proposals.

So, when I hear others comment on our success, I’m hopeful. We no longer want to just be the guys who left the World Bank. We want to be part of a larger community of people dedicated to the democratization of the aid process. And it’s happening!

Dennis Whittle is Co-Founder and CEO of GlobalGiving.

The business of business is increasingly philanthropy.

Ideas about the role of corporations in society have changed a lot in the past few years. Twenty years ago, many corporate executives believed that “the business of business is business,” and that social issues had no place in corporate management.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts rarely went beyond an occasional employee volunteer day or a glossy report.

Today, the outlook is entirely different. Realizing that corporate responsibility matters to customers, employees, and investors, forward-thinking business leaders are making social and environmental sustainability a priority.

From improving energy efficiency to raising labor standards for overseas workers, companies are making corporate citizenship an integral part of their business strategy.

The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE), a new GlobalGiving partner, advises and trains companies on sustainability and CSR. Registration is now open for CSE’s September workshop, a unique course designed to teach practical, implementable CSR techniques.

GlobalGiving’s corporate clients are at the forefront of new trends in corporate philanthropy. With our help, Dell has refined its philanthropic strategy, ensuring that its corporate giving reflects its vision and goals.

Nike has used our platform to facilitate employee giving, helping employees donate to organizations meaningful to them.

Pepsi and Neutrogena are incorporating philanthropy into marketing campaigns, linking their products to high-impact social projects around the world.

At the CSE workshop, GlobalGiving will share learnings and best practices with the next generation of CSR professionals. Participants will learn about cause marketing campaigns, trends in corporate philanthropy, sustainability reporting, and more.

Participants will leave the workshop with skills and competencies necessary to incorporate sustainability into business plans, benefiting not only their companies and investors, but also their local and global communities.

The GlobalGiving community (that’s you!) qualifies for a 15% discount when registering. Use the discount code “GlobalGiving.”

More information.

Donna Callejon is GlobalGiving’s Chief Business Officer.