Friday, December 22, 2006

Oh Dear God, sometimes Blogger is the most irritating tool!

But enough about blogger... onto KMart's pro-violence against women t-shirts.

A few good places to read about it...

K Stands for Kreepy at Walley Whateley's blog...

And a best yet --

Hardy Girls, who has joined forced with Boys to Men, is asking KMart to take responsibility and pull the t-shirts from the shelves. Visit their web site and learn how you can help.

A few folks out there think that the brood of women who are pissed about the shirts should get a sense of humor. And then there are those of who have to deal with 50% of homocide cases being victims of domestic violence and don't think we need to chuckle.

Get involved at Hardy Girls. This isn't just a Maine issue.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Okay, okay, I wax my eyebrows...

Because otherwise, they would take over my face -- and I'll be honest with you, when they are neat and trimmed I do feel more confident. I have to get them waxed every 3-4 weeks, and I pluck incessantly in between to keep that look.

Why do I think you care?

Because I think its part of the conversation about what it means to be a feminist.

I've long thought that it was my father who was the ultimate feminist in the family. This might be shocking, given it was my mother who took me to my first pro-choice rally when I was 9 (and to her credit, she did a brilliant job explaining the posters depicting clothing hangers).

But in addition to being a feminist, my father is also a naturalist -- the thicker the leg hair the better -- and I think I've long thought the two concepts synonymous.

I also believe that I'm not alone in that thinking. A feminist would be comfortable in her own skin. A feminist would never pluck. A feminist would never shave. A feminist would be comfortable with her grays. I never really thought there was more to the definition, and it never occurred to me to even attempt to tease more out of the conversation.

But that is exactly where I find myself today. Last week, I moved to Maine to join the Maine Women's Fund as its new Executive Director. I've long admired and funded the broader women's' funding movement -- as it fits with my own theory of change -- that individuals need to take responsibility for themselves and their communities thoughtfully and strategically. Women bring their own unique perspective, decision making process, and priorities to social change; and they are known for investing in themselves, their families, their communities, and their businesses when given the resources to do so. Supporters of the women's funding movement believe that investing in women's fund provide the widest possible leverage, or ripple effect, per dollar.

To provide strategic thinking, perspective, and leadership to this movement, and to do so in Maine, proved to be an unparalleled opportunity. I've also joined the Fund at an opportune time. We've got a sound track record behind us -- $1.4 million invested in over 250 grassroots organizations across Maine. We've got a broad base of citizen, corporate, and partner support helping us change the behaviors and policies that affect women and girls. Most excitingly, the projects we've supported have been designed by the women and girls themselves.

That is not say that we still don't have major challenges ahead of us:

Women in Maine are far from financially secure. The work place is increasingly unable to cover a share of the increasing costs of health care, leaving women increasingly vulnerable. Women still earn $.73 for each dollar earned by men. Over 70% of families living below the poverty line in Maine are headed by women. 50% of homicides in Maine are cases of domestic violence. Girls are trapped realizing the limitations of poverty rather than empowered to envision the impossible -- college, professional training, and beyond.

With these barriers surrounding the women and girls of Maine, they can not be active participants in the development of their communities, and that ripple effect of social change is never even activated.

So here I am -- excited and ready to start that activation. And I think that happens by realizing the feminist within to broaden the base of support required to change behaviors, and transmit the change we want to see and the nurture. But we can't do that if most people feel excluded by 'feminism' (which btw, i've often heard referred to as the 'f-word.')

So my dear community, help me in this process. Tell me what feminism means to you and whether or not you feel part of this tribe.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Help! I'm Locked out of Lux 1500!

For control-focused individuals (freaks is such a nasty word) change can indeed be traumatic. Especially a change as drastic as a new home, new job, and new state in 3 days. There are new patterns to set; new routines to formulate. When it is all new, everything takes more time. And when it doesn’t come easily… well, one can feel like a bit of a dolt.

Take for instance my lighting problem. Scott, George, and I managed to find and rent a house on Saturday -- a cozy little place in Yarmouth with a working fireplace and enough space to handle our many boxes of books. We moved in Sunday afternoon and managed to get to the grocery store before it got dark (which happens early up north). About that time, we realized (a) there is no overhead lightening in the house, and (b) we didn’t pack any lamps. We lighted up the fireplace and lit the many candles and settled in for a romantic evening. It wasn’t so romantic, come Monday, with just George and I. Yet, with new responsibilities and a new town, I’ve yet to find time to go buy lamps (or a shower curtain for that matter). However, I did manage to find some AA batteries and pull my headlamp out of my camping gear – enough light to suit me just fine until the weekend.

My story about the Lux 1500 started out about the same way. The Lux 1500 is one of these fancy dancy thermostat regulators that will automatically turn the heat up at 6 am when you’re waking up, turn it down around 8 am when you leave the house, turn it back up around 7 pm when you get back, so on and so forth. Very eco-friendly. Love it.

Only, on Monday night I managed to “lock” the Lux 1500; the result was that I was unable to increase/decrease the temperature in the house. Lucky for me, it was stuck at 50 degrees, rather than 30 or a 100. However, when it’s down in the single digits here in Maine, 50 degrees still stinks. I spent much of Tuesday emailing back and forth with my landlord – trying to determine what I had done, whether or not it was actually broken, and how to fix it. By that evening, I didn’t have a solution. George was bit pissy as time went by and the house didn’t heat up, nipping at me as if to say: “I bet there is heat in DC” and “what have you done to us!” Megan brought dinner over the house and we realized things were getting bad when we could see our breath as we huddled over our pasta.

When Scott called later that night, he had the good sense to know that if he told me stand in front of the thermostat and do what I had already done, I might scream. However, he did offer to google the thermostat name and brand – which is how we discovered that enough people had locked themselves out of their Lux 1500 that “Help! I'm locked out of Lux 1500!” actually registers as the 2nd most relevant topic under the brand.

God bless Google.

So, while I’m making my way in this strange land, it is nice to know that my ineptitude isn’t always ineptitude. Sometimes only google can save you.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Things I Carry

A neighboring highschool had this tradition -- departing seniors wrote essays, describing the things
they carry with them as they leave school; the things gleaned from that phase in their lives that shape them as human beings. Its an allusion to the great book/essay from Tim O'Brien. I was thinking about that today. I have less than a few hours left in my official capacity at GlobalGiving. What do I carry?

Love and admiration
for the most amazing brilliant crazy stimulating fun people anyone can be blessed to call friends and colleagues.

Confidence in world-changing product that I and those amazing colleauges of mine have been building. There is still much to do, but we should
take stock of what has already been done and the social change we have enabled.

A taste of what it means to unleash people's potential to maximize innovation and deliver results.

It sounds so mundane, but GlobalGiving and its people are very very special.

My wish to all of you is that you continue to be so.

I look forward to my new role in the GlobalGiving Community, that of a project leader.

So no goodbye quite yet. Just a ciao, for now.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ears of empathy?

A few weeks back, I went on a serious rant about abusing public resources in the name of learning. The sting still burns, and I've been trying to put my finger on why. A few things are coming together together:
Social change is truly inefficient if each participant in the process must "live" the experience before they "get it." That is to say, we are lost if we can not be empathetic enough to participate in the change process until we've experienced the worst of the human condition individually. It is hard for me to believe that in today's global society, burgeoning with digital media tools, that a direct experience is the only way to establish empathy. I realize that the following are not mainstream -- but, if we're truly listening -- shouldn't they do the trick?
Global Voices -- bringing voices the south into mainstream journalism
KarmaTube -- Inspiring the world one video at a time (in beta)
Rhythmic Uprising -- using podcasts to report on social change in Brazil
These are just a few that move me.
I guess these only work if we are listening, so I question if we are. I have often been at mutli-cultural events, where the diversity of the room is heralded, but the dialogue remains polite and restrained. I wonder if the diversity sentiment itself lacks integrity, e.g. we get excited about diversity, but never really open ourselves up to listen to the diverse perspectives that would lend itself to empathy. Helen LaKelley Hunt writes:
"What is it like to be a welfare mom? A lesbian wanting to raise a child? An incarcerated mother? A woman of wealth struggling with guilt? A man doing the best he can to keep his family together, who is accused of being domineering? In our efforts to prescribe solutions for world problems, do we take the time to ask questions like these and then to quietly listen to the answers?"
Yasmina questioned whether I would be equally mifffed if Keely had been an investigative journalist. Had she been EXPOSING a problem, I would certainly be in a different position. However, the problems with the welfare system have been exposed -- google "problems with welfare" and you'll get the immensity of this exposure. Keely had the opportunity to discuss life with a few welfare recipients. Did she not believe their stories? Or was she not listening?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yasmina Zaidman in the NY Times

Good article in the Times about Acumen Fund and its approach to social change through investments.

My good friend adds some depth to the article as well:

"But often local entrepreneurs do feel tension between business and philanthropy, said Yasmina Zaidman, who manages water projects for Acumen. They are caught because nonprofits tell them to “stop making money off the poor” while business executives say, “If you want to make money, get serious, stop messing around in the rural areas,” Ms. Zaidman added. “They haven’t been supported or acknowledged.”

This is a critical issue in our social entreprise community (and I think the spokesperson is pretty brilliant too).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Elect the "Un-Woman"

Today in the Washington Post, Benjamin Wallace-Wells asks: Is America to racist for Barack? Too Sexist for Hillary? He lays out a series of provacative questions:

Is one characteristic -- race or gender -- more socially crippling than the other?

Is electing its first female president not pioneering enough for America? Worldwide, there have already been 35 female world leaders... (if only there was a formatting technqiue to underscore sarcasm...)

Because Barak is post-racial, does he have the advantage?


Here, he argues that Barak's "exotic background" makes him a "new kind of human," one that does not carry the political baggage, moral authority, and experience of that defining era in US history known has the civil rights movement. And that this might make Americans more comfortable with a black candidate.

There is also 'post-gender' candidates, but Hillary doesn't fit the bill. Being a woman is indeed part of her identity as a politician -- a decision she has consciously made. Additionally, the public's eye is clouded with images of Hillary the Wounded Wife, Hillary the First Lady, Hillary the Lesbian, Hillary the Bra-Burning Feminist. Oh, and Hillary the Senator who has saved her state's bases, reclaimed jobs, and got immediate compensation for the famililies of 9/11 victims.

If being a post-gender candidate is the way to take the White House, and Hillary is too much woman for us, thats OK (again, where is my sarcasm formatting tool???), because:

"Fredrick Harris, a political scientist at the University of Rochester, sees a post-gender future out there, and its name is Condoleeza Rice. The secretary of state he notes, 'is unmarried, has no children, is completely dedicated to her job, for pleasure she plays the piano and works and that is about it'."

Condoleeza has definitely not made being a woman part of her political identity. She is Bush's right hand man and stands for nothing other than his agenda.

For those of us advocating for a women in the White House, do we care (politics aside) if its the "female president," or the "post-gender" president good enough?

If the latter is good enough, perhaps we're just advocating for the sake of precident. That is, we need a female president in order to get America past that proof of concept phase, i.e. the national realization that a female president won't blow up the country with a bad case of PMS.

The other side of the argument is that a woman in power will inherently bring different good outcomes. Female leadership is critical because it brings with it a female framework to problem solving and resolving differences, human and economic development, and national protection.

Case in point: When Muhammed Yunus created the Grameen Bank making small loans to woman, his goal was not to create more women owned businesses for the sake of equality. He gave the loans to women because revenue generating women are likely to (1) use profits to shelter, feed, and educate their children (ending cycles of poverty), and (2) reinvest in the business. Men would be more likely to (1) default on their loans, and (2) spend profits on hooch. The decision was a strategic one for leveraging the most social benefits from the investments. Thats not to say that microloans aren't available to men, they are indeed. However, the vast majority are still aimed at engaging women.

The women's funding movement shares a similar philosophy -- that providing resources and opportunity to women is a strategic approach for realizing the best outcomes for communities and individual families.

The logic then is that giving a woman the power and voice of the presidency should be also be a strategic approach. My problem then is with the focus on the "post-gender" candidate -- that candidate who, like the "post-racial" candidate holds none of the perspective and sensitivity that might contribute to great leadership.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Interconnected World

My world view is one based on the interconnectedness of people and issues. The interconnectedness of issues was understood at a young age when my parents brought Jacob, a young African man from apartheid South Africa to live with us. I knew nothing of apartheid at that time, but I knew I loved Jacob -- he was a talented dancer who would spend the evenings after dinner teaching my sister and I the art of Soweto dance. One night, there was news coverage of an anti-apartheid riot in Soweto and I saw coffins the size of children. I understood immediately that Jacob would return to Soweto and that his fate could be like that of those dead children. My world immediately got smaller and I understood that the personal is political.

The interconnectedness of people I only absorbed later, and surprisingly it came from activism in my church. Surprising now only because Scott and I are not active in any church. We've intended to be once we settled down in a community; years have passed and we haven't felt settled, so we remain outside of the religious communities. But in high school, I served on the Board of Christian Education, I taught Sunday School, I was a member of the Youth Council for the state of Connecticut, and I was an active member of the youth group that pioneered service trips to such 'remote' locations as West Virginia and Kentucky.

It was through my work on the Youth Council that I also grabbed the opportunity to work in an orphanage in Puerto Rico when I was 16. During one Sunday service, about a month before I left for Puerto Rico, our Minister called me to the pulpit and announced to the congregation what I was doing. It was embarrassing, of course, though not because I was 16 and in front of the congregation; it was embarrassing because I didn't want the service work to be 'called out' as anything special. But the congregation was impressed and showed its support through an outpouring of checks to offset the travel costs, travel wisdom for a girl who had not been out of the continental US, and their overall love and support.

I'm not sure I can adequately express how I processed that love and support, other than to say that suddenly faith and religion felt very tangible to me. I could feel the spirit of the congregation around me, supporting me, and I believed in it as something that gave strength and faith. I understood the interconnectedness of people as profound.

I've continued to realize that interconnectedness in my professional life which gives new meaning and rewards everyday. I haven't dwelled on its religious context until recently. I am reading Helen LaKelly Hunt's Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance. Helen is trying to mend the rift between secular and non-secular feminism. The book illustrates how feminists throughout history have used their faith to realize their feminist agenda, rather than feeling ostracized from it. (It is a good read for those interested).

In the Letter to the Reader, Helen lays out her core message:

"We are meant to live in unity. We are meant to be interdependent. We are meant to be responsible for each other."

I think reading those words took my breath away. Helen had so acutely captured my own belief system. A little known fact is that I have toyed this year with pursuing an advanced degree in theology. It felt intuitively right, but as a nonchurch goer, it felt hard to justify or explain. What was I searching for in theology? What did I feel I could offer in public service? With no answers, my interest wained on the back burner. Reading Helen's words, I was thrilled and my interest in faith and spiritualism was rekindled.

At a far deeper personal level, those words took on new meaning this week. Scott and I have been nurturing another little secret. While embracing the excitement of new jobs and a move back to New England, we also discovered we were going to have a baby. It was overwhelming at first, but with a little time, we fully embraced the expansion of the Stefanski clan. At two months and with a little trepidation, we began telling family members and close friends.

But as quickly has it had happened, it was over. I had a miscarriage this week. Apparently, one in three pregnancies results in a miscarriage, and logically, we can understand that this is nature's way of saying it wasn't meant to be. We get that, but it didn't make it any less painful for us.

With the diagnosis, we've begun the process of telling our families and friends -- those who we had told we were pregnant and those we hadn't. Many of the women in my life have also experienced a miscarriage and are sharing their experiences. At a time, when I am unsure how it happens, feeling guilty that it was something I did, their stories solace me; others are just regaling us with love; and others are simply making me laugh (a good feeling when your days are filled with spontaneous crying). While their outpouring of support did not make the sadness go away, it is helping us process it.

I feel our interconnectedness and it gives me strength.

I share this because modern wisdom inhibits women from sharing news of their pregnancies until they are safely passed the first trimester. Keeping the workplace issues aside, I do know just how hard it is to make those 'follow-up' calls when things go wrong. It does, however, give people the the information they need to rally around you, to care for you, and to love you when, at least for a while, everything else seems a little bleak.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bill O'Reilly (Fox media mogul and anti-choice -- I'm not linking to him out of complete disdain) referenced on national television that he has seen and reviewed patient records from 2 clinics (clinics that among other services provide abortions) in Kansas. The clinics claim that the records were recently released to Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. The clinics are charging Kline with sharing these records with O'Reilly.
One of the clinics in question has already been a victim of violence -- the clinic was bombed in 1985 and the primary doctor was shot in 1992.
The leak of this information makes the patients and doctors vulernable to harm and violates privacy. I will not get into the irony of the (religious) right's platform -- it is full of inconsistencies. I will leave it at this -- it is disgusting and dangerous and I hope American's use their vote tomorrow to do something about it.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Northern Bound

Hats off to Dana, for suspecting a mystery. One month without blog updates, sporadically out of the office, and being uncharacteristically silent about the whole thing. (Hats off to Dana for also probably being the only one in the universe who frequents this blog!)

So the truth is now out:

Scott and I (and of course George) are moving to Maine!

I am joining the Maine Women's Fund as their new Executive Director. I will talk more about the fund later, as well as my thoughts on leaving GlobalGiving.

I'm going to focus here on the move to Maine. It has been said, and those who have said it will remain anonymous, that my interest in moving to Maine is huge shock. Hmmm.... then I guess I must share a few little known facts:

- Moving to Maine was subject of Scott's and my first date
- I knew I had hooked Scott when he told me he had started pricing kayaks
- "Blogs I am reading" section contains two links: BlogHer and From Away
- I have vacationed on Chebeague Island (yes, in Maine) forever
- Scott and I got engaged on Chebeague Island (going back to that first date conversation)
- My best friend Megan lives in Monmouth Maine
- My testimonies about struggling with a sense of place and disdain for Washington life were captured here and here
- I want to live in a place where I can raise chickens and George wants to live in a place where she can herd sheep
- I intend for my next race to be a kayak regalla
- My profile states that one of these days Scott and I intend to live a Dog's life style. OK. not a direct Maine reference, this is a quote from Pam Houston (Cowboys are my weaknesses) who says about owning a dog -- they force you to live the kind of live you actually will enjoy living. for us, that Dog's life style is in Maine.

For anyone else for whom this is a shock, I hope that this will provide a little context.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Olympians raise $120,000. Whew hoo!

Proof in the pudding about making an ask. The GlobalGiving Olympics put out the challenge to all project leaders -- ask your network to participate. Those who get the most participation (measured in absolute dollars donated) will win a prize.

Roughly 15 organizations participated -- raising $120,000 in 3 weeks. Two organizations accounted for over $90,000. This is an impressive nonprofit campaign. We saw very creative mobilization techniques:

Ray Umashankar and the ASSET India team were true Olympians during the competition, employing a variety of fundraising strategies that helped them earn first place. From emailing all ASSET supporters to contacting corporations and major donors and even driving around Tucson to pick up checks personally, Ray promoted his project and the Olympics opportunity nonstop. ASSET India was featured in a variety of newspapers and publications targeting the Indian diaspora community, such as this article on Yahoo India. When asked to share a tip for successful fundraising, Ray emphasized persistence and said, "The real reason for success is in the follow up, not in the e-mail message."
Inderjit Khurana, her son Anoop, and her organization Ruchika have been members of the GlobalGiving community for four years, and they put these years of experience into practice to earn second place in the Olympics. Ruchika had an anonymous donor offer to match all contributions to the Helpline project, and they sent an email to all Ruchika supporters encouraging them to take advantage of the matching opportunity and help Ruchika's project win the Olympics. Inderjit and Anoop also posted progress reports on the Helpline project and their previous project, "Train Platform Schools for Children in India," offering an update on Ruchika and encouraging donors to give again for the Olympics program. You can see their progress report here.

Competitions at GlobalGiving, like the Olympics, are run with more than volume mobilization in mind. We are ultimately testing the potential of social networks. The Olympics and the GlobalGiving Open test the scope and reach of the project leader's networks. The goal is to inform how these networks can be used to (1) identify good organizations for the community; (2) assess the reputation of hundreds of organizations around the world quickly and efficiently; (3) mobilize supply side economics.

What are we learning?

1. There is a power law in participation and mobilization. Two organizations were accountable for 2/3 the volume.
2. There is an optimal use of incentives. The potential of earning $75,000 mobilized $120,000 and got 15 organizations engaged. At the GPF (also an experiment) the potential of 15 organizations splitting $100,000 mobilized 200 organizations. Matching funds for one organization or campaign results in little mobilization on behalf of the organizations, but is a large incentive for donors.
3. The network is not just something to be activated; successful mobilization depends on the network being aware of the opportunity and mobilizing the organization to do something.

How will we intend to utilize this? Not sure yet. But we'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Don't Forget to Ask

The last decade has seen the rise of new financing tools for social entrepreneurs, and related, new ways for donors to give. Paul Newman's Supermarket Fundraising. Acumen's Investment Portfolio Model. Ashoka's stipend for up start Fellows. The GlobaFund for... women, children, human rights, environment -- the mutual funds of philanthropy. And of course, my personal favorite, the Global markets.

The markets aside, because they fundamentally allow personal choice, most of these models are attractive because they focus on the leveraged impact of each philanthropic dollar. Invest in health by investing in innovation. Invest dollars into financially sustainable models because your dollar with go farther. And, if you believe that each of these will contribute to the growth of a new financial service sector for nonprofits, as a donor you can buy into the value of building this infrastructure, along with making a social investment. The cost for the donor, of course, is personal choice and a personal connection.

The social sector, or the potential beneficiaries of this infrastructure, are embracing it. Many believe that the infrastrcuture itself is a cure-all to our resource needs. And to be sure, the infrastructure does address many of the ineffciencies -- capital going to the best sources and information flows that enable dynamic feedback loops (you know, the stuff of good markets).

However, for the time being, over 80% of the sector's resources are still going to come from individuals -- or put another way, individuals are still going to give directly to organizations, accounting for 80% the country's philanthropy. And to capture these resources, even with our fancy new infrastructure, we're still going to need to ask. This is the part of fundraising that makes nonprofits hate fundraising.

Asking people to part with their dollars. Most people find it embarassing. Others are afraid of the rejection.

Someone told me long ago that people want to give and if you ask, you're doing them a favor, you're making it easy for them to give. Having had to do a lot of fundraising in my short career, I've embraced that principle and, while it hasn't made me fearless, I've not not enjoyed the ask.

So this brings me to the GlobalGiving Olympics. A new competition we're running at GlobalGiving. Often, project leaders post projects; then, sit back and wait for their $1million check. GlobalGiving is building a market by finding ways to attract and retain a qualified donor base. But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of the tool.

- a project specific unit ensures donors where their funds are going
- project leaders are holding themselves accountable for specific activities and outputs
- any one donation is aggregated with others to increase the likelihood of project success
- costs of due diligence spread across multiple donations, utilized beyond just one transaction

The GlobalGiving project should be a tool as much for the project leader to use in 'making the ask' as it is for potential donors to make a contribution.

The GlobalGiving Olympics is designed to give 'asking' a competitive -- competitive like road races, competitive like Iron Chef. Competitive fun.

My hope is that the fun-factor could fun-damentally change the project leaders behaviors, get them seeing their own success.

My goal would be that they raise at least $75K amongst themselves.

We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

From Tribeca to Tanzania

Wow. I'm actually a little shell-shocked having read this post, being a huge fan of both Keely's work, the Acumen Fund, and SocialEdge.

In short, on assignment for the Acumen Fund, Keely assumed the fake identity of a poor, pregnant, abused, single-mom; she went to New York Human Resource Administration in an attempt to procure social services (and was unsuccessful because she could not produce her fake social security card because she had left it behind as she 'escaped' her fake abusive boyfriend's house). After wasting an administrator's time to actually get this prognosis, she then went to a medical clinic to apply for a fake abortion. Unable to assist her, the medical clinic directed her to Planned Parenthood Federation who could not help her either. Not because her pregnancy was FAKE, but because she needed $500 of real dollars, which her fake identity did not possess.

Oh my.

Acumen's goal was to help Keely understand her clients -- the Poor.

Being in a position to understand your clients' perspective is not only noble, its critical for designing appropriate/relevant products and services. People learn to understand in many different ways and often experiential is the most effective.

There are, however, so many non-disruptive, ethical methods for gaining this experience. There are good immersion programs out there:

- Living with your constituency
- Managing for a day with the purchasing power of your constituency
- traveling without resources

Experiences like these help you learn desperation and helplessness. However, we must gain this perspective without abusing public resources, under false pretenses.

While Acumen's approach was creative for sure, it lacked the ethical fiber that I expect in any organization that understands the power of the social entrepreneur in social change. Social entrepreneurs are able to develop a broad base of support that is ultimately critical for changing behaviors at the individual level. To do this, they must be truly worthy of our trust; they must have the public's confidence.

Escapades such as Keely's is not worthy of our confidence or support.

It is disheartening and discouraging.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Feminism and Communism -- collaborative filtering gone wrong!

For no other reason that it hadn't really occurred to me, I had never read anything by Virginia Woolf until last month when I picked up a copy of a Room of One's Own. Ordered directly from Amazon, with copies of Three Guineas and Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

A Room of One's Own is an essay written from a series of lectures that Virginia Woolf gave, discussing the future of women in fiction.

Her directive is straight forward, and very much common sense (or so I thought):

Individual wealth and assets are critical for anyone individual to establish a public voice. Poor people don't regularly write books. Women, now and then, are/were less likely to have this kind of financial security. And if we want the hear women's voices, get them to the table creating and documenting their belief and histories, then the focus needs to be on wealth creation. Specifically, Woolf says a woman needs "A Room of her Own" -- not a room given to her from her neighbor, her government, or any other source. She needs to own it. It needs to be hers. This is tied into the premise of the book.

I think this is a pretty straight forward market-oriented philosophy. So you can imagine my surprise when I logged into Amazon to see my new recommendations, and based off my purchase of A Room of One's Own, Amazon is recommending:

My first thought is that Amazon is supporting one of the oldest stereotypes of all time. But of course, Amazon's recommendations are based off of collaborative filtering -- which means that of the 200+ people who bought the Communist Manifesto, also bought A Room of One's Own (or vice-versa). So based off this phenomena, Amazon thought their recommendation made sense.

Crazy stuff, huh?

Anyone think I missed Ms. Woolf's point? Is there a hidden agenda that my world view isn't open to receiving?

Or is this a case in which the wisdom of crowds doesn't actually produce the 'right' results?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

One of my favorite conversations asks whether individuals acting alone, in their own interests, will create a stronger social fabric than individuals, or governments, acting out of welfare or charity.

Sort of a Wisdom of the Crowds/Libertarian Mashup.

Hungary has a tax law called the "1% law" (written by a fantastic woman I met during the expansion of CBI in CEE). This law allows ordinary citizens to direct 1% of their income any place they like -- health care, social security, nonprofits. While the US tax system does allow individuals to direct a portion of their income to charity, and incentivizes us doing so by decreasing our taxable income based on donations, it never the less limits the end destination to those organizations classified as nonprofit organizations -- 501(c) 3 classified by the US government.

The Omidyar Network and Google are suggesting that this severely curtails people's opportunities to do good. Isn't ebay contributing to our social fabric by building trust and unleasing people's potential? Aren't green energies just as good for the economy and production as they are for the environment? Increasingly, for profits are showing the power to create tremendous good and, if ordinary citizens, wanted to support those efforts the way we support nonprofits, with the incentives to boot, shouldn't we be able?

So what about a system that enables us to direct a portion of our income where ever we, as individuals, see fit? Lets imagine we don't have a welfare state and it was with this system that we needed to fund the social systems we deemed relevant. The assumption is that we would each operate in our own self interest. I, for example would investing in health care, my own retirement, and education. I'm sure a number of other people of my income and age bracket would do the same. Others would invest in programs to accommodate child care and nutrition programs.

Would the spread of these interests result in each initiative getting the support it needs? By sheer buying power, my friends point out, the top of the pyramid would have more to invest than the bottom. So a system where all votes were equal vs. straight taxable income allocation might in fact enable people to cover their own needs.

If you could see where others were investing would this create more efficient allocation of each dollar? Would it decrease or increase the free rider problem? This type of market would inevitably be more efficient, and probably enable the cream of service providers to rise. Largely better than the government's existing system for determining which intiatives get the pork.

Would there still be some need for government protection? How about in defense -- an area that would most likely languish far from the top of immediate direct and personal needs? Would individuals americans be comfortable with a military power not unlike the Polish in WWII?

Its food for thought.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Adding Richard Branson to my heroes list

An Inconvenient Truth made me cry and left me overwelmed with the magnitude of the problem. Richard Branson's commitment of $3b to fight climate change -- profits from his Virgin Brand -- gives me confidence. Hopefully his commitment won't be left alone in the universe like Ted Turner's failed attempt to dramatically increase funding for the United Nations.

While I recognized that a massive behavioral change is necessary to truly mitigate climate change, cheaper and more accessible technologies will make those behavior changes easy.

A Big Whew HOO.

Also on my list of constructive climate warriors...

PlanetReBoot has organized a scavenger hunt that will take participants around Seattle on foot, bicycle, and maybe kayak (love that!!!) The scavenger hunt will raise funds for carbon offsets.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On Ramp (on speed)

At GlobalGiving, we're committed to helping social entrepreneurs become the best 'sellers' (selling their projects to donors who are buyers) that they can be. We assess donors needs, translating them into strategies, tools, and other resorces for social entrepreneurs. Riffing off eBay, we call this "On Ramp" services.

Yesterday, working on a concept like digital post cards (which I think has awesome story telling capabilities), I came across the mobile365 (didn't exactly come across it -- my mobile guru husband directly pointed me that as a helpful technology for the project).

The cool factor was this. Mobile365 (and probably there are other like technologies/services) could give our team the capability to distribute information, images and resources out to the field via mobile phone. Mobile 365 offers templates into which data and resources can be appropriately formatted for mobile and funds and enables the mass distribution. Collecting feedback/images from the field via mobile phones is viewed as relatively radical -- but also appropriate given the broad and wide reach of cell phones in developing countries, limited bandwidth, etc.

But using the same technology to push out our on ramp services and reach our clients? LOVE THAT... it is, in effect, on ramp on SPEED.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Will finding my place make me a better runner?

I've never been a very good runner, but I've been a dedicated one. I've never really improved my time (despite hill work), I've never focused on my diet, and I've never thought much about lactic acid. I try to run 5-6 days a week, and each year I train for and run several races -- which will always include a few 10Ks, a half marathon, and a 10-miler (my favorite distance). In 2004, I even ran the Marine Corps Marathon (despite getting a stilletto heal through a tendon in my foot only months before -- I love mentioning that one :)

George is my best coach -- alerting me every morning when its time to go out. Dogs are precious that way. And I look forward to getting out each morning as much for her as for me.

Lately however, running is not fun. In fact, its outright stressful. It started with a manic boxer who lunged at us (from within a gate), leaving us both rattled. Next came a dog who, having squeezed himself under a fence and into the cemetary, darted so quickly towards us and into George's face that I barely had to time to assess what type of risk he was. The other day, random passerby's (actual humans) yelled at us to get off the "f*&king" path. And finally the straw, coming across a stray rottweiler who was on George in a matter of seconds.

The humans aside, because lately I can just find no excuse for them, the dogs were probably all harmless (if they hadn't been I doubt George would still be in one piece). But with each experience, I curb by path, my initiative, and my enthusiasm for what would otherwise be a very focused relaxing part of my day. I still run, but now it needs to be planned -- taking time out to head down to the mall and do a 6 mile loop there. Getting up super early to hit the Rock Creek Park trails. Finding places that are 'safer' (mentally) than my own neighborhood, places where I'm more anonymous than others. There are random dogs in these spaces too; and, well, more bodies have been found in these places than in my neighborhood.

What is this about? I believe its rooted in needing a 'sense of place.' I've always struggled with that, and increasingly for the last 5 years. Feeling like a fish out water in all but my professional career. Knowing that DC does not make my heart sing. And what if it did? What do I expect when I find my place? Calm. An urgency to embrace each morning. Clarity. Less distraction.

Ultimately, I antiicpate being better at each thing I do -- including running.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ethical fiber is a trait of leading social enntrepreneurs that perhaps I value more than others. Why? Because our world is full of false leaders who fill us with distrust, who don't inspire hope, who beat down the possibilities of positive change. As warm and fuzzy as this is, we're lost without it. And believe it or not, it wasn't Bush invoking the memory of 9/11 to mobilize suport for the war in Iraq that makes me blog about this (though... I'm not sure if my point could be any more clear.)

My thinking was actually inspired by a recent call from Gretchen Steidle Wallace, a former colleague and founder of Global Grassroots, reminding me of the truly incredible people out there. Gretchen and I got to know each other while at Ashoka; she was helping Bill develop his new baby, Social Enrepreneur Associates, and I was running CBI. There was a nice synergy between the two programs leading us to occassionaly talk collaboration, but more importantly, Gretchen immediately proved to be accessible, warm and very smart. Very attractive traits in a human being.

We both left Ashoka at the same time -- me to GlobalGiving; Gretchen to her own entrepreneurial self. She moved to New Hampshire, where her and her husband, a boat builder, could imagine building a life. I don't know if Gretchen was deterred from starting her own intiative or being isolated -- the prospect certainly scares me -- at the very least her outward persona seemed to embrace it. Gretchen's focus then was take her experience in social investing and apply it to the most marginalized communities.

When I next heard from Gretchen, it was in the context of her brother, Brian. Brian had recently returned from Darfur, Sudan, where he had served as a peace keeper for the African Union. Brian had become a one man witness to the human tragedy facing the Darfur people and was bringing his photos and his stories home with him to help us remember that after the Rwandan genocide -- we had sworn "never again." (apparently we forgot) Gretchen had joined forces with him -- getting media attention and mobilizing support necessary to make a movmenet.

Gretchen returned to Africa with Brian a few months later. It being too unsafe to return to Sudan, the two went to Chad, visiting the camps where hundreds of thousands of displaced people had settled in as home.

Its both simple and difficult to imagine Gretchen in a IDP camp. She has an impenetrable elegance to her that belongs in pearls and pumps. She also has a warmth and empathy rooted so deeply that I can only imagine it leads her into, and makes her at home in, the dark heart of human suffering.

I spoke to Gretchen last Friday morning. I envisioned her enjoying a cup of coffee while breathing in a view of the White Mountains (not sure if she actually has a view or if its just my imagination). She had just finished a manuscript of her brother's memoir's that she had co-authored. She's also finished an application for a movie deal. In a few weeks, she leaves for Rwanda -- where she is implementing a series of trainings focused on bringing social investing tool to the most marginalized -- women who were victims of the genocide, now living with HIV/AIDS, struggling to care for themselves and their children. Gretchen is experimenting with a series of -- training, investments, loans -- to help these women escape a circle of poverty.

I'm half tempted to go with her. If only to be a witness to her determination.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I feel the beginning of fall reading come over me. This summer was more productive then I imagined it would be -- if only because while I do love reading there are days when all my mind can muster is people magazine. This summer however I read some fantastic books:

- History of Love.... a beautiful beautiful story
- The Last Days of Dogtown .... Anita Diamont is a faboulous story teller
- Joy Comes in the Morning ... Great plot, if the only the author had not tried to be melodramatic and foreboding in the last chatpter
- A Room of One's Own ... finally got around to it .. i'll write more about that later...

This reading has ultimately rekindled my romance with good books. And since I look forward to fall reading (historically, other great "fall read books" include: Soldier of the Great War, Anna Karina, Jude the Obscure...), I've set out a course for the next 12 weeks.

1. Return of the Native -- I love Thomas Harding and I can't get around that. He constantly 'outwits' his readers, which is a talent I respect and long for in an author. This is also my contribution to the 'ghoulish' reading campaign. Return of the Native is also one of Scott's favorite books and his recs have yet to fail me.

2. Three Guinees -- Continuing with getting to to know Virginia Woolf

3. Long Tail -- Three times a charm on long tail theories. It was a topic discussion at the Markets meeing. Mari blogged about it recently. And the other night at dinner, one of our best friends recommended this book. So, I will listen to the universe.

I'd like to add three more books to list -- but I need to find some information first. Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

(Stay with me here for a quick story about George. .. It has a point)

While sunning herself on the porch last week, my dog, george barked at passing stranger and his unleashed pitbull. His response left me a bit rattled: "Shut-up , or I'll kick you in the f*&king face."

OK. So my exuberantly friendly 35 lb dog barked at you. Is that call for threatening to kick her face in?

My neighborhood isn't exactly Pleaseantville, but its a pretty sound middleclass neighborhood -- so for the most part, one should expect random acts of kindness rather than malicious-dog threatening. My point however is not about my neighborhood, as I see and hear this open hostility increasingly more every day.

Esther Dyson
blogged the other day about the impact of transparency (through the digital world) on individual ethics. She mused that the rawness we enjoy on the Web has permeated our offline lives -- the result being we all feel much more comfortable being honest and confrontational with one another.

I'm not sure if I agree with the cause and effect, but I do feel our world is increasingly emboldended to leave behind "frank," and become generally comfortable with hostile.

Not only do I feel that this can't lead to anything good, I'm confident it moves society away from the Ghandian principles of respect that are critical to a society that manages the play of power peacefully. And what then?

So I'm left pondering whether the new found freedoms we herald in our digital world -- greater transparency, better information, and democratic access, can actually erode the very conditions that allow society to manage transparency, information, and democracy....