October 27, 2009

Ready to Make Social Change a Reality? Start Volunteering!

We talk about working to make social change a reality, but where does one start? First, there is the light-bulb moment. The time when one realizes today is the day, now is the time to make a difference.

The next step is often harder – getting started. Where does one begin? How do you decide which organization to work with?

I’ve developed a short list of organizations that should kick start your research into volunteer work. And if you have any other ideas, or suggestions, please add them in the comments!

HandsOn Network

If you live in New York City, you know them as New York Cares. But did you know that there are actually 250+ affiliates of the HandsOn Network across the U.S. and 11 international locations? Their structure is based on an online model. You must first attend an orientation session in person. Then, you are eligible to volunteer during the day, evenings, or on weekends for organizations serving children, animals, the environment or adult job readiness, just to name a few.

United Way

The United Way’s programs focusing on three issue areas: education, income and health. A worldwide organization, there are nearly 1,300 local United Way locations in America alone. To volunteer, one is directed to their local United Way organization through the official global website. Once on the local site, there are options for individuals and corporations looking to donate their time.


This is another online source for volunteering. The difference here is that all contact with VolunteerMatch is virtual and the site functions much like a large job-search engine, which allows you to search for volunteer opportunities in various cities and communities across the country. Once a “match” is made, VolunteerMatch leaves the scheduling and details to the non-profit organization and the volunteer.

Volunteers of America

This is a national, faith-based organization with 38 offices serving 44 states. To volunteer locally, contact the appropriate office nearest your home or work. Volunteers of America offers help for the homeless, mental health, senior citizens and veterans.

Do you have other organizations you volunteer through? Do you have other ideas on how to start volunteering? Add them to the comments!

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

October 15, 2009

How Big is Your (Carbon) Footprint?

*This post was written in collaboration with over 7,500 other blogs from 140 countries for Blog Action Day 2009.

The Pew Center for Global Climate Change is an invaluable resource for information on how society has effected the environment and how changes in the environment are affecting society. Their purpose is to

… bring [sic] together business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts to bring a new approach to a complex and often controversial issue. Our approach is based on sound science, straight talk, and a belief that we can work together to protect the climate while sustaining economic growth.

The website is organized to educate and empower both professionals and private citizens. My favorite feature is Tips on Curbing Your Personal Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.

Here are some ways you can shrink your carbon footprint, and do your part to protect the environment, without increasing your expenses

At Home:
• Lower your thermostat 2° in winter and raise it 2° in summer
• Turn off and unplug electronics like your TV, DVD and computer when not in use
• Regularly defrost your freezer
• Go paperless for your bank and credit card statements

Out & About:
• Bring along a reusable shopping bag
• Plan multiple stops during one trip instead of multiple shorter trips to save gas
• Reuse lunch containers, coffee mugs and water bottles instead of buying disposable.

For More Ideas Check out these Resources:
* No-Cost Low-Cost Tips for Saving Money & Energy from the Alliance to Save Energy
* Energy Savers Booklet from U.S. Department of Energy: Tips on Saving Energy and Money at Home (pdf)
* The Power of Green from Con Edison: Tips to Help You Go Green & Save Some Green
* Tips on Curbing Your Personal Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from The Pew Center for Global Climate Change

What do you do to reduce your own carbon footprint? Share it in the comments!

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

October 8, 2009

Potential Bright Spots for the Long-term Unemployed

The Center for America Progress released their findings for September 2009 on Tuesday. Part of a list of signs that America’s economy is still struggling was this highlight…

“The average length of unemployment in September 2009 was 26.2 weeks, the median length of unemployment was 17.3 weeks, and 35.6 % of the unemployed were out of a job for 27 weeks or more. All of these indicators are at their highest level since 1948.”

Media outlets are reporting with more and more frequency the difficulties the long-term laid off are having in securing employment. The Wall Street Journal’s online career section regularly featured an article back in June titled, “Only the Employed Need Apply”. It seems, not only are there fewer jobs available, but the unemployed are being passed over for theoretically more desirable candidates - those who are employed.

The question becomes … with so many obstacles before them … Is there any good news for the long-term unemployed? Yes, there is.

#1 Unemployment Benefits Extension Vote Pending

In late September, the House of Representatives passed a bill to extend unemployment benefits for 13 additional weeks. The bill is currently waiting for a vote in the Senate. The difficulty is that the House’s bill limits the extension to only the jobless in states with 8.5% or higher unemployment. Various Senators are reluctant to sign a bill that will not support jobless Americans in all 50 states. However, the bottom-line is that if the original version is signed, 75% of those Americans who would lose their benefits at the end of September will get a much needed reprieve.

#2 COBRA Benefits May be Extended

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that they are considering seeking an extension of the law which subsidizes COBRA health insurance premiums for involuntarily laid-off employees. Currently, the subsidy covers 65% of monthly health care premiums for up to 9 months following the employee’s involuntary separation with their employer. The possibility of this extension, coupled with the likelihood of some extension of unemployment benefits could be a welcome sign of support to those struggling without jobs.

# 3 Student Loans – Initiate your own Deferment or Forbearance Extension

Deferment and forbearance rules are maintained by each loan provider. And federally funded loans have different rules than private student loans. However, that does not mean you cannot negotiate with your loan provider to extend the terms of your deferment or forbearance if you have a financial hardship. The important point is to not default on your loans. Start early and work with your provider to discuss payment plan options. Be ready to wade through a lot of red tape – online and over the phone. Be prepared to provide documentation. But above all, be persistent.

#4 Add Your Own

There are more useful tips that I did not cover in this post, but you can add them to the comments! Share your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas in the comments and other job seekers will be grateful.

Links (learn more):

* Economic Snapshot for October 2009, Center for American Progress, 10/06/09
* Only the Employed Need Apply, WallStreetJournal.com, 06/30/09
* Jobless benefits extension hits snag in Senate, Associated Press, 10/01/09
* Several options can help if you're struggling to pay student loans, USAToday.com, 09/21/09
* Obama administration mulls extending COBRA subsidy, BusinessInsurance.com, 10/05/09

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

The Day We Committed to Social Change

On this day two years ago, Make Social Change A Reality was born. Yay, Happy Birthday to us!

Last year, we celebrated our first birthday by declaring October 8th as a day of recognition for all who make a difference. This year we'd like to invite you to share your story in creating a better world.

What have you done to make a difference in 2009?

What are your goals for change in 2010?

Why do you do what you do?

How are you going to enlist the support of others to make social change a reality in your lifetime?

We look forward to hearing from all change agents regardless of issue area. Please share your stories in the comments!

This post was written by Chanelle Carver, creator of this blog and founder of the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project.

September 23, 2009

We Will Make Change Again

There are those who want to fuss and fight
And would rather scream and shout
Than try to find some common ground
And calmly talk things out

Some people are just so hell bent
On getting their own way
That they show utter disregard
For what others have to say

It is almost common place these days
To dismiss and reject
Those that have a different view
As down right incorrect.

It seems like some are delighted
With the chaos and the craze
They spread their anger and disdain
And expect to get high praise

The President speaks to Congress
To make us all aware
Of reforms he will be making
To bring us all healthcare

But with blatant disrespect
One chooses to defy
The President of the United States
And scream at him “YOU LIE !”

Have some people lost their manners
Do they simply have no shame?
Or is it easier to look outward
To find someone to blame?

Some are just determined
To make it their game plan
To fight against the social change
That could help the common man

Social issues are a reality
that some choose not to face
But to turn a blind eye to them
Would be simply a disgrace

If we have a moral calling
To help improve the lives of others
Then how can we ignore the plight of our
Sisters and our brothers?

The time is now to make real change
We have waited long enough
There will always be resistance
Because change is often tough

But as a country we have made change before
And we will make change again
The only questions that now remain are
What cause will you join…and WHEN?

This post was written by Robert Connor, Sr. IT Manager for Giorgio Armani Corp and formerly a Computer Consultant for companies such as Anne Klein II, Donna Karan & Chanel Cosmetics. Robert is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with questions.

September 14, 2009

The Real Price of that Puppy in the Window

Taking a walk down your neighborhood block on a warm, sunny afternoon, you couldn’t resist stopping and cooing at the adorable puppies staring back at you through a pet store window. Although that golden retriever may seem happy with his wide brown eyes, he may be hiding a dark secret that the Amish, a community who appears to be so peaceful, is hiding from you.

In Lancaster County, PA, many puppy mills are currently operating under horrid and secret conditions. ABC News reports, “Rescue workers estimate 600 unlicensed facilities operate in barns and sheds. Those breeders go to great measures to avoid discovery.”
Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue, tells ABC News some of these facilities even "de-bark" their dogs. “The farmers, the Amish and the Mennonites, they pull the heads back and then they hammer sharp instruments down their throats to scar their vocal cords so they can't bark. So that way they can have 500-600 dogs in a barn and no one knows. As we said, it's an industry of secrecy."

Even more horrifying, Smith continues, “Unfortunately if a kennel breeds less than 60 dogs they can shoot them." During their lives, many female dogs are forced into terrible living conditions – spending their days in cages so they can barely walk and only kept alive to breed litter after litter. Once they no longer can, many are euthanized and some shot.

What can be done to save these helpless dogs? When you’re ready to welcome a pet into your family, ADOPT! The Humane Society reports that 3-4 million cats and dogs who need homes are euthanized each year. Due to the recent economic turmoil, shelters are overflowing with pets looking for families. By rescuing an animal, you save a life -- and keep money out of the hands of puppy mill owners whose litters are sold and end up in pet stores.

Also, let the governor of Pennsylvania know exactly how you feel! Your voice DOES make a difference! Call Governor Rendell at (717) 787-2500.

This post was written by Lauren Metz, a volunteer guest blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Lauren is a journalist that lives in New York City and has contributed to numerous publications. For the past year she has been advocating for The Animal Rescue Site, a website that provides food and care for rescued animals. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeality.com with your questions.

September 10, 2009

Keys to Increasing Graduation Rates at Community Colleges Remains Elusive

In July, President Obama announced his $12 billion investment plans for community colleges. He set the benchmark of success at an additional 5 million community college graduates within in the next 11 years – by 2020.

However, research by the Brookings Institution, noted in an Education Week article earlier this month, showed that in 2002, only 1 in 10 students who started at a community college had earned an associates degree within three years. So, how do we increase graduation rates among community college students?

Before we address that question, let’s take a step back and look at the role community colleges play in the educational system and why they are crucial to America’s success.

Community colleges were started by President Truman to increase the educational opportunities for World War II veterans. They actually represent a larger portion of the higher education system than traditional four-year colleges. 40-45% of all college undergraduates attend community colleges. They are often seen as a first step on the path to a four-year college and also educational opportunities to older adults. However, they also offer an education to underserved populations.

The open enrollment policies, coupled with low tuition, make community colleges often the only option for high need and low income students – populations largely comprised of minority students and new immigrants. The success of community colleges are intrinsically tied to the success of many underserved Americans.

So, how do we work to increase success among community college students? The experts say that there is a significant lack of research in the field. However, they do offer a number of suggestions that are being tested at various schools around the country:

• “Learning Communities” at Kingsborough Community College where 25 students take three classes together: a developmental course, a college level course and a class focused on successful study skills

• Collaborative teaching in Washington State called I-BEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training), where a basic-skills instructor is teamed with a college-level instructor or professor to teach the same class.

Community colleges offer an egalitarian education option. While I have an undergraduate degree and M.B.A. from four-year universities, I have greatly benefited from the local community college system in Pittsburgh, PA. I took courses there one summer to help defray the cost of my education. I was exposed to a learning environment at the community college with much more diversity than I saw at my four-year college, which was a valuable opportunity beyond books and instruction.

All Americans deserve access to a quality education. Community colleges serve that purpose. Future posts will be devoted to covering the new research on community colleges and the programs which are helping students to succeed as a result of the stimulus funding.

* Brookings (May 2009) “Transforming America’s Community Colleges”
* Education Week (September 2, 2009) “Community College a Research Puzzle”
* The USA Today (July 14, 2009) “Obama plans $12B boost to community colleges”

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeality.com with your questions.

September 3, 2009

Do We Matter Online: Empowering Marginalized People on the Internet

During the decade I recently spent in East Africa, I spent the majority of my time experimenting with disadvantaged communities to explore ways that participating in the Internet could influence their lives in positive ways. What I learned is that empowering the poor through the Internet is much more complex than teaching people where to click to find information. There are fundamental perception issues at play that serve to keep Africa’s engagement in the online world lower than it should be.

One widespread misperception is that enabling Africa to access information from the rest of the world is going to empower African people - as if Africa’s problems would be solved if the average semi-literate African woman could simply find, read and digest what the rest of the world has to teach her.

Fundamentally, however, empowering people means helping them believe that they matter, and that what they have to offer has value. Unfortunately, foreign information and culture pushed at Africa often reinforces local feelings of inadequacy – for empowerment to happen, it’s got to be a two way street.

Online communities can offer that kind of empowerment, but there are hurdles to global relationship building that the average African faces. Literacy and language issues top the list.

In the online world, people who write with faulty grammar and bad spelling are all too often dismissed as unworthy of our serious attention. So even with the will to engage and access to a connected computer, the average semi-literate African woman who wants to connect has challenges to overcome that the online world at large is not geared to appreciate, to accept, or to help her with.

And indeed, help – in very concrete and practical terms - is what she has been conditioned to want and expect from the world. Global charity-based development systems in Africa have taught her that the way to get ahead, especially with foreigners, is to present herself as a deserving case for charity. The most obvious reason to engage online that her conditioned mindset thus allows her to see, is to find help for immediate daily survival issues. But in truth there is very little tolerance for people we perceive to be begging online. They are routinely rebuffed, and not to be trusted.

As such, the Internet demands that the average semi-literate African woman, whom our systems have taught to present herself to the outside world as a charity case, now needs to learn to think about herself and present herself in a whole different light when she engages online. She needs to do that in a foreign language, without making too many grammar mistakes. Technology infrastructure issues aside, is it any wonder we don’t see more Africans engaged in substantive online discussions?

Founder of the Internet, Sir Tim Berners Lee, recently spoke about the web in developing countries and said

“we must enable them to create a web that they need and that they want, and they will. If they're enabled, if they're given an open Internet platform, a neutral Internet platform, they will do that. So we must not think that we will be feeding them our culture, we must realize that their culture is going to be coming back very strongly and that is going to be very exciting for the world."

When I allow myself to imagine the world’s poor majority online and actively engaged in co-creating the world we all live in, I see hope that our most challenging global issues can be solved. But for that day to come, there is work needed to adjust perceptions on both sides of the street.

We need tools and spaces that encourage people in under-connected parts of the world to start recognizing their own value and sharing the knowledge they have. We need to stop judging according to Western literacy standards and strive to seek the meaning in what people are trying to say.

The most empowering gift we can give to the world’s most marginalized people when we meet them online is to let them know that they matter – not just for what they don’t have, but for who they are – “developed” or not.

Christina Jordan is an Ashoka Fellow and the retired founder of Life in Africa – a Ugandan based initiative to help people in Africa find opportunities for self development through the Internet. Originally American, she currently lives in Belgium, where she is developing a new initiative to foster increased collaboration in the global social change sector online. You can follow her on Twitter or at her personal blog http://christinaswwworld.blogspot.com. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeality.com with your questions.

September 2, 2009

See the Change You Wish to Make in the World

** Editor’s Post **

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Many organizations, social entrepreneurs and citizens of the world share his philosophy. World Flix, a non-profit organization, displays a powerful variation of the quote on their homepage. They encourage individuals to “SEE the change you wish to MAKE in the world.” It’s a strong and encouraging message that seems to resonate with online donators.

If you haven’t heard of World Flix yet, it’s because their website just launched this August. I stumbled upon their site last week when doing some research for the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project (LnP). What struck me most about this young organization is the similar passion and drive for social change that it shares with LnP. World Flix is determined to change the world by advocating through new and traditional media. More specifically, they are bringing attention to important social issues through video clips on the Internet. Essentially, they are merging the concept of YouTube and charity, challenging the traditional model of philanthropy.

World Flix’s website highlights user-submitted video clips to bring awareness to global issues surrounding food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care. These videos empower individuals to donate to a cause of their choosing. It’s an incredibly fascinating take on raising donations and awareness for causes. The concept of e-philanthropy, I believe, is the future of charitable giving.

The great thing about e-philanthropy is that you don't have to be Bill Gates or Oprah to be a social entrepreneur or philanthropist. The founder, Laika Grant Mann, intended it to be that way. According to their website, “the mission of World Flix is to make it simple for people from any background to donate to social programs.” A nice bonus is that you will know exactly where your donation is going. For example, I just donated to the “Tibet Vision Project” and all proceeds will go towards purchasing a slit-lamp microscope for their new eye care centers in Tibet. Individuals can donate as much or as little as they want and know where they are making a difference.

I encourage you to take some time exploring World Flix and e-philanthropy. Watch some videos, too. And most importantly, spread the word.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to stay tuned. I’m excited to SEE the change that I helped MAKE happen.

World Flix: http://www.worldflix.org

This is the first of many editor's posts written by Olivia Chao, a Volunteer Online Editor with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Olivia lives in New York City and also volunteers her time at the Covenant House where she assists troubled youth and their families. For the past three years she has been working in online marketing in the book publishing industry. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeality.com with your questions.

August 31, 2009

The Farmer’s Wife

After its debut over a decade ago on PBS, David Sutherland’s documentary for Frontline, The Farmer’s Wife, remains a unique and compelling glimpse of an American family struggling to survive.

Juanita and Darrel Buschkotter are Nebraska farmers caught in a cycle of debt and never-ending work, that leaves them exhausted, on the brink of financial collapse and both dreaming of a better life for themselves and their three young daughters. The debt and lack of revenue from the farm force both Darrel and Juanita to find jobs “off the farm.” In addition to their responsibilities on the farm, Juanita cleans upper middle class homes while Darrel works on an assembly line. Not surprisingly, this leaves both husband and wife no time for relaxation, but gives them much time for reflection.

The Buschkotter’s story is all the more relatable 11 years later at a time when many Americans are caught in a financial struggle. The current U.S. unemployment rate hovers around 9.5% and presidential economic advisers warn that it could hit 10% by year’s end*. What is striking now is the fact that a decade ago, Americans could find second jobs to help put food on the table. (Sadly, for the Buschkotter’s that was a mere $11,000 to feed a family of five for a year.) Now, those jobs are few and far between.

What is most compelling about this documentary is the raw intimacy of it. The viewer is invited into some of the most private conversations between Darrel and Juanita - in bed, late a night before they turn out the lights. We get the opportunity to watch them meet with bankers to discuss their debt and see their individual reactions to each other’s day-to-day actions and decisions. It is this guileless intimacy that makes The Buschkotters immediately relatable whether you are a farmer in the Midwest or a young professional on the East Coast. There is no sensationalism in this three part documentary, instead raw honesty about love, life, family, money and poverty.

The Farmer’s Wife is available on DVD for rent or sale through the following vendors:

Blockbuster (online only)

To learn more about the documentary and the filmmaker, visit:
David Sutherland Productions

Source: *”First Time U.S. Jobless Claims Fall Again”, New York Times, August 28, 2009

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeality.com with your questions.

August 25, 2009

Addicted to Plastic

I just finished watching the 2008 documentary Addicted To Plastic by filmmaker Ian Connacher. The film documents a three-year journey that explores the environmental consequences of the irresponsible use of plastic materials. Connacher travels to 12 countries on 5 continents, including two trips to the middle of the Pacific Ocean where plastic debris accumulates. This extraordinary film details the history of plastic over the last 100 years, provides a wealth of expert interviews, and cutting-edge solutions for recycling, toxicity and biodegradability. These solutions - which include plastic made from plants – provide a new perspective about the future of plastic.

As an environmentally-savvy activist, I was aware of the negative impacts of the use of plastic materials, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem. According to the film, only 5% of plastic materials are recycled in America and the rest ends up in dumps, landfills and, very commonly, in the middle of the ocean. Yikes! All of that junk just floating around really makes one think: How did this all happen?

Most of us can’t remember a time before that popular slogan “plastics make it possible”. In post-war America, plastic materials were marketed to the public as disposable, fly by night sort of material that was meant to be thrown out. These materials were intended to make American lives easier and they certainly did, but not without consequences. It seems that we still live that way –consuming plastics and then throwing them away. If we, as a society, continue to produce, consume, and throw away plastic materials, we will eventually find ourselves living in our own filth. As we become more knowledgeable about the consequences, we’re realizing that plastics do not make it possible. As a matter of fact, plastics are taking a difficult toll on our environment.

So, how do we fix this problem? There are many eco-conscious products that can be used as a substitute to plastic materials. The film suggests using corn and soy based materials, recycled plastics, and bio-degradable plastic alternatives. It is also important to be mindful of what we consume and how we dispose of them. These environmentally-friendly materials encourage us to consider our actions and how they impact the future.

Social change requires thought and action in order to make it a reality. I encourage everyone to take a proactive part in the transformation of our shared environment. I believe that begins with developing a shared respect for each person’s space.

Have you seen Addicted To Plastic? What are your thoughts on the use of plastic products and our environment?

This post was written by Laura Scroggs who is a feminist scholar living in the mid-west. She is currently an active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with questions.

August 24, 2009

Half the Sky

How do we work to empower, rather than oppress, women and girls worldwide? The answer to that question, and its impact on addressing global poverty, is the basis of a new book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”.

Did you know …

girls between 1-5 years old in India are twice as likely to die than boys?

… women account for only 1% percent of the world’s landowners?

… that approximately 1 million children are currently in the sex trade in Asia?

Access to and emphasis on education and health care can work to change these conditions.

The Women’s Crusade” essay by the book’s authors in the Sunday New York Times Magazine told a powerful story about a Zimbabwean woman named Tererai Trent who was drawn to education at an early age. Her father would send her “indifferent” brother to school, but would not send her, the child with a thirst for knowledge. Married off at a young age, her husband also thwarted her efforts to practice her self-taught reading. But Tererai was inspired to hope by an American economic activist who brought cattle to her village. Her hope was to get an education.

Specifically, Tererai wanted a college degree, a master’s degree and a PhD. Tererai has succeeded in getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and bring her 5 children to the United States. She returns to her village after each achievement. She is currently working on her PhD dissertation on AID programs for the poor in Africa. This is what education can provide – impact on health and the economy for successive generations.

Why is this issue, some which might say is “only” a women’s issue, so important? Actually, it is a universal issue that affects national and global economies. Bill Gates made a brilliant point when responding to an audience member in Saudi Arabia who mentioned that the country’s goal was to be a Top 10 tech country by 2010. His response to the gender segregated audience, “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.”

Do you want to get involved and make social change a reality? Check out these links to learn more about the issue and how you can work to address it.

For more resources:
CARE: Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” (2009), by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

KIVA: Loans that Change Lives

White House Council on Women and Girls (source: “The Women’s Crusade” New York Times Magazine, August 17, 2009)

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

August 20, 2009

Elyse D. Moskowitz Joins LnP to Make Social Change A Reality

I must start this, my first blog entry, with an admission. I am far from an expert in adult literacy. I came across Literacy ‘n' Poverty Project on Idealist.org while searching for volunteer opportunities where I could contribute my law degree and graduate-level career counseling experience. My goal is to help adults in underserved communities through the use of my research skills and career training.

I intend to become more knowledgeable about literacy programs and resources around the country and to share this information here. To that end, I have begun researching and learning of new and existing literacy programs in our communities. One website I am exploring that I think you should check out if you have not already is the National Institute for Literacy. According to the site, its goals are to support, disseminate, and provide access to research, resources and information related to adult and youth literacy to families, educators and administrators.

With a sigh of relief and that admitted, I'll add that I am, and have long been, deeply committed to promoting literacy through education as a way to reduce poverty and address social issues. In addition, as a member of faculty and administration in graduate-level education, I have focused on developing the best practical training and career development programs and resources for adult students. My experiences have shown me invaluable insights into the development of successful adult literacy programs and resources. I have found that:

* Many successful graduate education skills programs are organized for our students through their institution or affiliated organizations. Likewise, I suspect that most successful literacy programs come to underserved communities and individuals through their own community centers, libraries, and places of worship.

* The best programs are typically led or supported by faculty, alumni and others connected to our students. I suspect that most successful literacy programs are led or endorsed by trusted members of the communities in which they are offered.

* Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many successful career development initiatives provide students with clear and specific steps for students to follow in setting objectives and reaching them. I have found that successful literacy programs must present concrete suggestions and small steps to be taken on the road to literacy, training and social change.

So, this is where I hope to make a contribution to the Literacy ‘n' Poverty Project. I hope to share resources and offer concrete suggestions that inspire people to develop, implement and follow the path to increasing literacy and social well being. I look forward to this opportunity.

This post was written by Elyse D. Moskowitz. Elyse works as a law school career development counselor and advisor in New York. She is a former practicing attorney, law school adjunct faculty member, and instructor of legal writing and practice skills. She is also a volunteer blogger with Literacy ‘n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with your questions.

August 18, 2009

Knowledge is Key

Elementary to college
Become scholars
Not just for the dollars
But for the life that follows

Blue or white collars
Or those without them
Be the one with so much knowledge
No one can doubt him
World leaders wanna know about him
Can he be the next Barack
Or can she bring her nonprofit to the top

Never stop learning
Keep yearning
The passion for knowledge is burning
Deep within everyone soul
So take hold
To what's in front of u
God has a plan for every last one of u
U just don't know it yet
So dive into the sea of information
Get soak and wet
Tell me these words don't got u open yet

Most be hoping that school will flow by
But what example will u have
For your life to go by
So many books for research and info
All u need is to listen
Grab some paper and a pencil
We even got the web for media
Along with a thesaurus, dictionary and encyclopedia

Now that I named all these sources
I'm giving u the guidelines to be bosses
No matter what it is u wanna do
Just pursue till it's through
You'll have accounted for no losses
Isn't that the best feeling to have
Try to graduate at the top of your class

This poem was written by guest blogger Allan D., a poet from Brooklyn, New York.

August 12, 2009

Teachers: The Biggest Influence on a Student's Success

According to a 2002 study conducted in Texas, “having a high quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background” (Rivkin, Hanushek and Kain, 2002).

Parents, friends, and the community impact a student’s performance, but his or her teacher is directly connected to their achievement. That is why it is imperative that we work to ensure that students in poor and underserved communities have highly qualified and motivated teachers like their counterparts in more socially-economically advantaged communities. That is what I have been working to ensure for the past year.

Many urban cities face teacher shortages every year. Schools are poorly funded and hard to staff. The students who attend these schools suffer the greatest. Alternative certification programs like the teaching fellows programs started by The New Teacher Project and Teach For America aim to fill those shortages with highly qualified and dedicated new teachers.

The NYC Teaching Fellows is the largest alternative certification program in the country, helping to serve New York City’s 1.1 million students. Started in 2000, the NYCTF helps the city’s Department of Education address the needs of hard to staff schools and hard to staff subjects – such as science, math and special education – by recruiting, selecting and training a new cohort of fellows each year.

Members of each cohort are granted a temporary teaching certificate following an intensive summer training program and contingent on the completion of a masters degree in education. It is a highly selective program, as is Teach For America. In 2009, only 9% of those who applied to NYCTF were offered admission into the program. Teach For America is currently accepting applications for their 2010 class of teachers. Their next deadline is Friday, August 21st.

The goal is not to just fill these open teaching positions, but fill them with high quality teachers. Research has illustrated the fact that teaching fellows programs are narrowing the gap in teacher qualifications when comparing high- and low-poverty schools, as studied between 2000 and 2005 (Urban Institute, 2007).

Each alternative certification program has their own selection criteria and process, but the most effective are tied back to student achievement data. Their success is dependent upon how effectively they assess the criteria by which they select their prospective teachers and how that correlates to the academic achievement of the students they serve. NYCTF is celebrating its 9th year and Teach for America is 19 years old. Success breads success.

Here are some resources to learn more about bringing high quality teachers to underserved communities, and how to get involved.

Eduwonk blog: http://www.eduwonk.org

NYC Teaching Fellows: http://www.nycteachingfellows.org

The New Teacher Project (TNTP): http://www.tntp.org

Teach For America: http://teachforamerica.org

Urban Institute: http://www.urban.org/education/index.cfm

"Work Hard. Be Nice." by Jay Mathews (2009)

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeality.com with your questions.

August 11, 2009

Go for the Discount and Participate in the Exploitation of Human Labor

Author Ellen Ruppel Shell, after spending years researching the cost of stuff, has recently published a thrilling book entitled Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Her book examines not only the impact of cost on the direct consumer — high debt, low incomes, job losses and a whole slew of other troubles — but also the price for the people that produce the goods.

This is particularly interesting to me today as her book outlines specific examples in which the exploitation of both human labor and the environment is clear. One example given in a New York Times review, explains the surge in the shrimp market from the 1970s to today. The impact on the change in shrimp farming and our subsequent shrimp consuming has triggered loads of troubles.

The article explains:

“for a while, there were some newly affluent shrimp-farmers along the coast of Thailand as traditional operations were transformed into gigantic factories with the help of international lenders and investors. Massive onslaughts of chemicals made the factories productive, but fish — like cows, pigs and chickens — do not flourish in the long run under such extreme, artificial conditions. They get sick, and their ponds become black holes of pollution and toxic waste."

Ruppel Shell writes "what followed was ruinous debt, environmental degradation, horrifying human rights abuses and violence that left millions destitute." This isn’t just shrimp. This sort of chain link is implicated in everything we buy. The actual cost for production of many items is considerably higher than what we are charged.

Who is paying the extra cost?

I agree with Ruppel Shell here that working people pay the cost. She notes that a third of the poor have jobs in retail with a historically low wage, but that is just one side. The other is the seedy underbelly of how our goods are produced. Sweatshops, while presenting a different opportunity for the poor Chinese, Mexican and Vietnamese, give the workers no chance to demand higher pay or better working conditions because the manufacturer could easily close the factory or move their operations somewhere else.

Our goods, assembled by people working for much less than fair wages, pay the price for the $4.99 tee-shirt we are taking home from Wal-Mart. This is a sad reality of our consumption and the way we look to get things produced. We are impacting others (and in particular the poor) with every item we purchase. Not only that but we haven’t even begun to talk about the impacts of this on the environment!

So, what do we do?

I think the first thing we can and should do is to understand our individual relationship with consumption. Of course, this is if we have the privilege to do so (see my post on Paying to Be Poor).

Understanding ourselves in relation to our spending and consuming is a must. Many Americans are spending away at things that are unnecessary, driving the machine for more stuff, and turning the wheel toward more exploitation. I wonder if we all became mindful of who is paying the price for the discounts, we might just be able to turn this around.

There is a great video called The Story of Stuff which I highly recommend viewing. The blurb from their website puts it best:
“The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world.”

You also can watch Ruppel Shells' one minute YouTube video or read her interview via the Environment Report.

This post was written by Laura Scroggs who is a feminist scholar living in the mid-west. She is currently an active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with questions.

August 4, 2009

Whitehouse.gov Is a Good Start…but Don’t Wait….Initiate

It has already been eight months since Barack Obama won the Presidential election. On that November evening the enormous crowd that had gathered at Grant Park in Chicago listened with anticipation to hear the victory speech of the President Elect. One of the most noteworthy lines of his speech was when he exclaimed: “Tonight, because of what we did on this day in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

This is exactly what his fervent supporters wanted to hear.

Candidate Obama had promised this many times during the campaign. He promised to bring about real change – social and economic. He promised that there would be a “new kind of government”- open and transparent. A government that would be accessible by and accountable to all the people.

Has our new President kept his campaign promises?

The answer could be a simple mouse click away by going to the official website of the White House www.whitehouse.gov. This website provides information to the public regarding legislation, open government initiatives and provides a link the Recovery.org website which enables the public to track the stimulus spending. People can also use this resource to contact the White House, learn about The Cabinet, read about upcoming tours and events and review the White House Blog.

In the Washington Post article Grading Whitehouse.gov, Round Two five people from various political and cultural backgrounds graded the site. The overall grades varied from C to A- with the average being a B.

While this may be an interesting exercise (and maybe a bit pretentious) it was also very predictable. It was no surprise that a gentleman who was an early Obama Supporter gave Whitehouse.gov the highest grade – an A- while another gentleman who worked for President Bush gave the site a C.

But this is where political bias should be set aside. We should consider it our obligation to express our thoughts to the government and implore them to implement the changes necessary to improve the country. When people utilize a site like Whitehouse.gov it sends a clear message to the government that people are engaged in the political process, eager to get learn more and are hungry for results.

But let’s not be misled. Real change doesn’t come that easily. Sending a comment or suggestion to a government website is fine but that should just be the start. We cannot sit idly by expecting change to just happen.

As President Obama stated during the campaign: “Real change doesn’t happen from the top down it happens from the bottom up”.

The people need to be as diligent as they are diverse in voicing their opinions, bringing their concerns to the forefront and taking action. Simply said: Let the government know that you’re paying attention but don’t wait….initiate.

Be the catalyst to make change happen.

The Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project (LnP) is a great example. By working to alleviate poverty and improving adult education worldwide this startup is using the “bottom up” approach to bring about real change to affect people in a positive way. By bringing together people of different backgrounds in their on-line community, LnP puts people in an environment to form a real movement for social change.

This post was written by Robert Connor, Sr. IT Manager for Giorgio Armani Corp and formerly a Computer Consultant for companies such as Anne Klein II, Donna Karan & Chanel Cosmetics. Robert is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with questions.

July 29, 2009

Equal Treatment for People and the Environment

All too often when approaching environmental issues we expect the solution to revolve around preservation of national parks and cutting back carbon emissions. However, there is another equally pressing environmental matter to attend to: Environmental Justice. This term is a blanket term that covers all kinds of equal treatment for people and the environment.

The EPA defines [Environmental Justice] as:

“the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies”.
This means that all people are able to enjoy the same level of safe access to clean air, water, soil and to be subject to the sight of parks, preserves and eco-friendly buildings. This also means that all people are equally protected against the dumping of hazardous wastes, excess pollution and toxic chemicals in their communities.

Environmental Justice is extremely important in the process to building a more eco-centered world. The tenets of Environmental Justice call for the undoing of many community practices that have allowed dumping toxic waste in impoverished neighborhoods.

These communities—mainly composed of blacks and other minorities—are targeted areas because of low land costs and cheap labor. Unfortunately, the industrial infrastructure enjoying the cheap operation is a source for pollutants and toxic waste.

A shocking 2007 study by the United Church of Christ examined toxic waste and race in the U.S. It found that communities of people of color and low socioeconomic status had a greater number of waste disposal facilities than any other community of people. In fact, it found that neighborhoods of commercial hazardous waste facilities are made up of 56% people of color.

The study ranks the top-ten states with disparities between the percentages of people of color living in host neighborhoods and those living in non-host neighborhoods. They are (including percentages of people of color in host neighborhoods versus non-host areas):
  • Michigan (66% vs. 19%)
  • Nevada (79% vs. 33%)
  • Kentucky (51% vs. 10%)
  • Illinois (68% vs. 31%)
  • Alabama (66% vs. 31%)
  • Tennessee (54% vs. 20%)
  • Washington (53% vs. 20%)
  • Kansas (47% vs. 16%)
  • Arkansas (52% vs. 21%)
  • California (81% vs. 51%)
  • Ultimately, Environmental Justice and the legislation that promotes it seek to amend old patterns of racism and classism to enable all people to share a clean and healthy world. The issue is about quality of human life. The treatment and continuation of environmental injustice makes a strong statement about the value of the lives of people in those communities. By dumping toxic chemicals (often unregulated) and building waste disposal facilities in poor and in communities of people of color, it sends the message that the people living there are not deserving of clean air or water.

    However, there are environmental watchdog organizations looking to reverse the harm caused to these communities and to promote widespread Environmental Justice. Here are just a few great resources for getting involved.
    Center for Diversity & The Environment - http://www.environmentaldiversity.org/

    Corp Watch - http://www.corpwatch.org/

    Environmental Working Group - http://www.ewg.org/
    You can even check your community's Environmental Justice score!

    What is your community’s score? Where you shocked or proud?

    This post was written by Laura Scroggs who is a feminist scholar living in the mid-west. She is currently an active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with your questions.

    July 22, 2009

    Paying To Be Poor

    In a recent article Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown examines the cost of being poor. Brown states in the first few lines: “The poorer you are, the more things cost”. The cost, of course, comes in the form of money, time, convenience, and energy level. Brown points out that many of America’s poor are stuck with an unfair bill when it comes to the essentials like food, transportation, and housing.

    Photo courtesy of This Fffire

    The cost differences paid by the poor at their local corner store compared to a grocery store are likely to be huge. However, for many people without the time and transportation to get to big box stores, the $2.00 savings on a loaf of bread is hardly worth the hassle. The prices in these corner markets are, according to the article, almost always higher because their cost of doing business has a high overhead cost.

    Tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, and getting to work become a juggle of both time and money and often leave the poor with a higher bill than middle class folks. The poor must sacrifice their time, which could be spent with their families or working to attain the basic goods and services to sustain and improve their lives. Sadly, the options available to the poor, like shopping at the corner store or paying to have checks cashed at a payday loan service, are often the ones that require more money that is simply not available.

    Brown’s article offers an interesting exposé of the economics of poverty and the means by which structures and institutions are placed specifically to keep poverty intact. We can expand this knowledge of the economics of poverty to understand the farther reaching effects of sustaining poverty. Not only is the cost of bread more expensive but also the cost of education is greatly increased. Transportation to and from school might not be an option for some students or perhaps the neighborhood is too dangerous to walk through. The cost of community colleges and technical schooling can not be afforded when their already limited funds is going toward paying more for basic goods and services.

    The result is uneducated people with less earning power in the workforce. Hence, the cycle of poverty and paying to be poor continues.

    The article is a bit short when it comes to solutions to these issues. This is where I believe community and national organizations like Literacy 'n' Poverty Project and C.A.R.E have the opportunity to come in and make change. These groups have the tools needed to combat injustices and dismantle the systems responsible for charging the poor for their poverty.

    By eliminating the injustices enacted on the poor that often cause monetary detriment, we are able to push forward programs promoting education, literacy and achievement among the poor. We must act together to change the status of poverty in America and strive to offer all of our citizens a fair chance to succeed.

    I'd like to start an open thread and ask all of you, what organizations do you feel offer concrete solutions to end poverty?

    This post was written by Laura Scroggs who is a feminist scholar living in the mid-west. She is currently an active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with your questions.

    July 20, 2009

    Envision the Change

    Social change is a must
    Not just for humankind
    But it can stem from just one human mind.
    With one thought we will find we can do right
    But imagine if we all join thoughts and unite.

    There's no limit to the change we can bring
    Enough to make the whole world sing in such harmony
    That we don't have to worry bout the next man harming me
    What a sight we can see
    But how can this be?

    My thought would be through philanthropy
    So our children could inherit a world of humanity
    That thought moves me fondly
    Let's follow in the words of Mahatma Gandhi
    And BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE in the world.
    Those words he lived and imparted before he died
    To show that change must come from inside.

    Don't hide behind the blinds in your mind
    Reach down in your heart and you'll find that
    Social change is a beautiful thing
    Imagine the change it will bring.

    From a world of poverty and stress
    To one of literacy wealth and success.
    Just taking the time to show I care
    As a people...we have to start acting on our ideas.

    There is nothing that I fear...because to me
    Change is imminent...But we have to want to benefit.
    These thoughts in my head are profound
    In ideas I can drown...
    How could I not make a sound?

    With words I paint a picture like an artist.
    In fact, I'm dedicated to tryna work the hardest.

    Barack showed me that change will come regardless.
    I take strides to open up doors.
    I change the world by enforcing the laws...And in this I take pride.
    This is not the time to shrink back...how could u even think that?

    If it wasn't for change
    Where would we be as a people...
    Think back...

    So let's put our best foot forward
    Whether its blogging or raising funds
    Let's not stop till its done...

    Empowerment and social change to the world has just begun.

    This guest post was written by Allan D., a poet from Brooklyn, New York.

    July 14, 2009

    10 Ways to Support Charity Through Social Media

    This post is a collaboration between Mashable's Summer of Social Good charitable fundraiser and Max Gladwell's "10 Ways" series. The post is being simultaneously published across more than 100 blogs.


    Social media is about connecting people and providing the tools necessary to have a conversation. That global conversation is an extremely powerful platform for spreading information and awareness about social causes and issues. That's one of the reasons charities can benefit so greatly from being active on social media channels. But you can also do a lot to help your favorite charity or causes you are passionate about through social media.

    Below is a list of 10 ways you can use social media to show your support for issues that are important to you. If you can think of any other ways to help charities via social web tools, please add them in the comments. If you'd like to retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.

    1. Write a Blog Post

    Blogging is one of the easiest ways you can help a charity or cause you feel passionate about. Almost everyone has an outlet for blogging these days -- whether that means a site running WordPress, an account at LiveJournal, or a blog on MySpace or Facebook. By writing about issues you're passionate about, you're helping to spread awareness among your social circle. Because your friends or readers already trust you, what you say is influential.

    Recently, a group of green bloggers banded together to raise individual $1 donations from their readers. The beneficiaries included Sustainable Harvest, Kiva, Healthy Child, Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, and Water for People. The blog-driven campaign included voting to determine how the funds would be distributed between the charities. You can read about the results here.

    You should also consider taking part in Blog Action Day, a once a year event in which thousands of blogs pledge to write at least one post about a specific social cause (last year it was fighting poverty). Blog Action Day will be on October 15 this year.

    Make Social Change A Reality welcomes guest bloggers and volunteers to our team. Send us an email if you'd like to SHARE your VOICE and SPEAK OUT for change!

    2. Share Stories with Friends


    Another way to spread awareness among your social graph is to share links to blog posts and news articles via sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, and even through email. Your network of friends is likely interested in what you have to say, so you have influence wherever you've gathered a social network.

    You'll be doing charities you support a great service when you share links to their campaigns, or to articles about causes you care about.

    3. Follow Charities on Social Networks

    In addition to sharing links to articles about issues you come across, you should also follow charities you support on the social networks where they are active. By increasing the size of their social graph, you're increasing the size of their reach. When your charities tweet or post information about a campaign or a cause, statistics or a link to a good article, consider retweeting that post on Twitter, liking it on Facebook, or blogging about it.

    Following charities on social media sites is a great way to keep in the loop and get updates, and it's a great way to help the charity increase its reach by spreading information to your friends and followers.

    You can follow Literacy 'n' Poverty Project, the nonprofit behind this blog (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LnP on Ning).

    You can also follow the Summer of Social Good Charities:
    Oxfam America (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube)
    The Humane Society (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr)
    LIVESTRONG (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr)
    WWF (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr)

    4. Support Causes on Awareness Hubs


    Another way you can show your support for the charities you care about is to rally around them on awareness hubs like Change.org, Care2, or the Facebook Causes application. These are social networks or applications specifically built with non-profits in mind. They offer special tools and opportunities for charities to spread awareness of issues, take action, and raise money.

    It's important to follow and support organizations on these sites because they're another point of access for you to gather information about a charity or cause, and because by supporting your charity you'll be increasing their overall reach. The more people they have following them and receiving their updates, the greater the chance that information they put out will spread virally.

    5. Find Volunteer Opportunities

    Using social media online can help connect you with volunteer opportunities offline, and according to web analytics firm Compete, traffic to volunteering sites is actually up sharply in 2009. Two of the biggest sites for locating volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch, which has almost 60,000 opportunities listed, and Idealist.org, which also lists paying jobs in the non-profit sector, in addition to maintaining databases of both volunteer jobs and willing volunteers.

    For those who are interested in helping out when volunteers are urgently needed in crisis situations, check out HelpInDisaster.org, a site which helps register and educate those who want to help during disasters so that local resources are not tied up directing the calls of eager volunteers. Teenagers, meanwhile, should check out DoSomething.org, a site targeted at young adults seeking volunteer opportunities in their communities.

    And if you are looking for volunteer opportunities with our organization, just head on over to the website and find out how you can get involved!

    6. Embed a Widget on Your Site

    Many charities offer embeddable widgets or badges that you can use on your social networking profiles or blogs to show your support. These badges generally serve one of two purposes (or both). They raise awareness of an issue and offer up a link or links to additional information. And very often they are used to raise money.

    Mashable's Summer of Social Good campaign, for example, has a widget that does both. The embeddable widget, which was custom built using Sprout (the creators of ChipIn), can both collect funds and offer information about the four charities the campaign supports.

    7. Organize a Tweetup

    You can use online social media tools to organize offline events, which are a great way to gather together like-minded people to raise awareness, raise money, or just discuss an issue that's important to you. Getting people together offline to learn about an important issue can really kick start the conversation and make supporting the cause seem more real.

    Be sure to check out Mashable's guide to organizing a tweetup to make sure yours goes off without a hitch, or check to see if there are any tweetups in your area to attend that are already organized.

    8. Express Yourself Using Video

    As mentioned, blog posts are great, but a picture really says a thousand words. The web has become a lot more visual in recent years and there are now a large number of social tools to help you express yourself using video. When you record a video plea or call to action about your issue or charity, you can make your message sound more authentic and real. You can use sites like 12seconds.tv, Vimeo, and YouTube to easily record and spread your video message.

    Last week, the Summer of Social Good campaign encouraged people to use video to show support for charity. The #12forGood campaign challenged people to submit a 12 second video of themselves doing something for the Summer of Social Good. That could be anything, from singing a song to reciting a poem to just dancing around like a maniac -- the idea was to use the power of video to spread awareness about the campaign and the charities it supports.

    If you're more into watching videos than recording them, Givzy.com enables you to raise funds for charities like Unicef and St. Jude's Children's Hospital by sharing viral videos by e-mail.

    9. Sign or Start a Petition


    There aren't many more powerful ways to support a cause than to sign your name to a petition. Petitions spread awareness and, when successfully carried out, can demonstrate massive support for an issue. By making petitions viral, the social web has arguably made them even more powerful tools for social change. There are a large number of petition creation and hosting web sites out there. One of the biggest is The Petition Site, which is operated by the social awareness network Care2, or PetitionOnline.com, which has collected more than 79 million signatures over the years.

    Petitions are extremely powerful, because they can strike a chord, spread virally, and serve as a visual demonstration of the support that an issue has gathered. Social media fans will want to check out a fairly new option for creating and spreading petitions: Twitition, an application that allows people to create, spread, and sign petitions via Twitter.

    10. Organize an Online Event

    Social media is a great way to organize offline, but you can also use online tools to organize effective online events. That can mean free form fund raising drives, like the Twitter-and-blog-powered campaign to raise money for a crisis center in Illinois last month that took in over $130,000 in just two weeks. Or it could mean an organized "tweet-a-thon" like the ones run by the 12for12k group, which aims to raise $12,000 each month for a different charity.

    In March, 12for12k ran a 12-hour tweet-a-thon, in which any donation of at least $12 over a 12 hour period gained the person donating an entry into a drawing for prizes like an iPod Touch or a Nintendo Wii Fit. Last month, 12for12k took a different approach to an online event by holding a more ambitious 24-hour live video-a-thon, which included video interviews, music and sketch comedy performances, call-ins, and drawings for a large number of prizes given out to anyone who donated $12 or more.

    Bonus: Think Outside the Box

    blamedrewscancerSocial media provides almost limitless opportunity for being creative. You can think outside the box to come up with all sorts of innovative ways to raise money or awareness for a charity or cause. When Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer, for example, he created Blame Drew's Cancer, a campaign that encourages people to blow off steam by blaming his cancer for bad things in their lives using the Twitter hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. Over 16,000 things have been blamed on Drew's cancer, and he intends to find sponsors to turn those tweets into donations to LIVESTRONG once he beats the disease.

    Or check out Nathan Winters, who is biking across the United States and documenting the entire trip using social media tools, in order to raise money and awareness for The Nature Conservancy.

    The number of innovative things you can do using social media to support a charity or spread information about an issue is nearly endless. Can you think of any others? Please share them in the comments.

    Special thanks to VPS.net

    vpsnet logoA special thanks to VPS.net, who are donating $100 to the Summer of Social Good for every signup they receive this week.

    Sign up at VPS.net and use the coupon code "SOSG"to receive 3 Months of FREE hosting on top of your purchased term. VPS.net honors a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee so there's no risk.

    About the "10 Ways" Series

    The "10 Ways" Series was originated by Max Gladwell. This is the second simultaneous blog post in the series. The first ran on more than 80 blogs, including Mashable. Among other things, it is a social media experiment and the exploration of a new content distribution model. You can follow Max Gladwell on Twitter.

    This content was originally written by Mashable's Josh Catone.

    June 22, 2009

    Good News for Change and Cause Related Bloggers

    Earlier this month, Beth Kanter, Shannon Whitley and Geoff Livingston launched the List of Change - a ranking of the top English-language change and cause-related blogs in the world.

    Here's a recap on why they believe the List of Change could benefit the [nonprofit] sector:

    1) It will provide a single point of aggregation for change blogs, allowing new and old readers alike to discover new blogs.

    2) Change and cause bloggers can use the list to promote themselves to new readers. They can also use the list to benchmark their own performance against their peers.

    3) We realize that some people see rankings as competitive or subjective, and don’t want to participate. The List of Change is an opt in ranking where change bloggers have to submit their URL to become part of the ranking. Only those who truly want to participate will, thus keeping a spirit of fellowship among the listed.

    4) At SXSW Panel on Social Media ROI for Nonprofits - KD Paine was asked a question about metrics for blogs. KD said that she couldn’t answer that because you’d need to have some industry or nonprofit benchmark. And, if one does not exist - trade that information with your colleagues. The list helps facilitate the exchange of benchmarks. So, it isn’t about the score or the number - it gives an industry number and way to begin thinking about to improve our effort.
    You can see the full post on Livingston's blog here.

    The List of Change includes some of my personal favorites like Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog, Nathaniel Whittemore's Social Entrepreneurship blog at Change.org, Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog, The Edge, and Social Earth. I highly encourage you to check them out. You will undoubtedly find some useful information for your own blog, nonprofit, volunteer engagement...all things related to change!

    You can view the complete list here. And as requested by the makers of the List of Change, feel free to submit your own change or cause-related blog. Together, WE CAN make social change a reality!

    Happy (Change) Blogging! :)

    June 5, 2009

    Educational Investment, Part III: Navigating a Sea of College Debt


    I am in debt. In retrospect, my undergraduate career seems in part a veritable mission to accumulate debt. Since graduating I’ve stressed about debt, worked a couple of undesirable second jobs to repay debt, and I’ve even been known to defer debt, allowing it to simply growl beneath the bed from the back of my mind. I have nightmares where bill collectors show up at my back door with pitchforks - the only consolation being that so many of my peers are in the exact same situation.

    This country is teeming with twenty and thirty-somethings struggling to manage educational debt, with a long string of people in their late-teens and early-twenties prepared to join us.

    According to the Project on Student Debt, a nonprofit devoted to the issue, the portion of graduates in debt jumped from less than half in 1993 to over two-thirds in 2004. Factoring in inflation, debt levels for graduates rose 58% in that decade. The average public university graduate now finds him or herself owing over $17,000 in college debt. Students today can’t work while paying their way through college like their parents, either. Tuition and fees at public universities grew a whopping 40% between 2001 and 2006, and most students today are paying almost 200% of what their parents paid.**

    However, President Obama’s budget for 2010 offers some rays of hope for reversing these trends:

    Revitalizing Pell Grants
    While Pell Grants have seen slight increases since 2006, rising tuition costs have softened the impact of these grants. The average Pell Grant that used to cover almost two-thirds of tuition cost now covers only one-third. The President’s budget offers to increase Pell Grants by $700 to $5,550 as well as promises to make the program mandatory as opposed to discretionary, so that all low-income families are ensured aid.

    Making Perkins Loans Easy
    The budget plan seeks to simplify the Perkins Loan Program, freeing up resources to increase the amount of money students are eligible to receive. Furthermore, proposed changes would discourage institutions from raising tuition or reducing grant aid.

    American Opportunity Tax Credit
    As part of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, college students are eligible for up to $2500 that can be put towards tuition, books, and other fees. The proposed budget for 2010 would make this credit permanent.

    The budget also includes support for state efforts that improve college enrollment and completion, as well as a general commitment to streamlining the FAFSA application process, making it easier to understand.

    And while none of this will do anything for my pocketbook, it does sound like things might be easier for my baby sister. Throughout this very blog, on the news, and from the political pulpit we hear that education is linked to healthier and happier lifestyles. Just think about how much you would learn, and what kind of knowledge you would seek, if given complete freedom to choose. Now, is the current price tag on that education worth it?

    For more info on Default: the Student Loan Documentary, visit the website!

    The Project on Student Debt's Factsheet is available in pdf format at the website.

    This post was written by Allison Tritt, who lives in Wisconsin and blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments or email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions.