Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Solutionary Women: Mary Brune

As I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago, I've started writing a weekly feature over at Blogher called Solutionary Women. I thought I'd share this week's interview with Mary Brune, co-founder of MOMS (Making Our Milk Safe). Mary is a professional writer and mom to her daughter, Olivia.

"MOMS was founded by four nursing mothers to address the threat of toxic chemicals in human breast milk. MOMS is a grassroots movement of pregnant women, nursing mothers, and other caregivers who are concerned about the threat that environmental contaminants pose to our unborn and nursing children. Our goal is to identify and eliminate sources of toxic chemicals that make their way into our bodies and into our breast milk."

Mary was kind enough to let me e-interview her for this post. You can check out Mary's new blog at Conscious Mama.


Describe the work you do for MOMS.

Basically, everything: researching and writing grants, planning campaigns,
tracking relevant legislation, designing materials and writing web content.
MOMS has a very limited budget, so it's more cost-effective to do what we
can internally (among the founders or with volunteers), rather than hire
outside contractors. I get to design campaign postcards and then lick the
stamps, too.

What do you enjoy the most about your work with MOMS?

I really enjoy making connections with other activists and moms in the
community. I've been moved by the response we've gotten for our work so far.
Even though mothers are a pretty busy group of folks, they still make the
time to get involved in advocacy work and I find that really inspiring.

What are the biggest challenges in your work with MOMS?

All of the exciting elements in building an organization from the ground up
can also make it a terrifying experience. The uncertainty of whether we'll
get a grant we've applied for, or if we'll be able to get 25 moms out in
support of a piece of important legislation can be nerve-wracking.

There are inherent difficulties in mobilizing a constituency of mothers:
there are nap times to work around, colossal diaper changes, and tantrums to
avoid. Since the founders of MOMS are all mothers too, we understand the
need to make it as easy as possible for interested moms to get involved. We
try to make our events and rallies very baby-friendly with spots for nursing
& changing, snacks for babies, and places to play. I'm sure our first direct
action will involve chalk for drawing on the sidewalk and animal crackers.
Organic ones, of course.

What keeps you motivated and energized to do this work?

My daughter, Olivia. Honestly, it's an outrage to read stories in the paper
about lead-tainted lunchboxes, rocket fuel in lettuce, or arsenic in our
playgrounds. I'm so inspired by the fantastic work being done by groups like
the Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, and others.

As a nursing mother, I find it unbelievable that there are toxic chemicals
in my breast milk. Even so, I know that breast milk is superior to any other
choice. But will that always be true, if chemicals are allowed to remain
unchecked and unregulated in our marketplace? I'm motivated to make sure
that Olivia and all children of the next generation continue to enjoy the
benefits provided by mother's milk.

What tips, resource and advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the kind of work you are doing, or just wanted to make a difference in women and children's health issues?

When MOMS was just getting started, I spent a lot of time looking around to
find out what efforts were already underway to see if there were
opportunities for collaboration with groups already working on environmental
health issues. I came across the Collaborative on Health and Environment
and Partnership for Children's Health and Environment (PCHE), both of which offer searchable databases on their websites so folks can look up the issues they care about, like pesticide use in schools; for example, and connect with groups or individuals organizing efforts in their areas.


If you know a Solutionary Woman who works at a nonprofit or NGO, please email me at britt at brittbravo dot com with their name, organization and contact info.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mom Knows Best: Network Neutrality

When your mother leaves you a message, in the same tone that she leaves you a message to remember to buy sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, that you might want to keep your eye on legislation challenging network neutrality and to go to and, you know it's serious.

So for those of you whose mother did not call you this morning, here's the scoop. As Alexandra Samuels wrote today:

Network neutrality means that no matter who you pay for Internet service -- whether it's a phone, cable, or other telco -- no matter which web sites you access, and no matter what content you're looking for, your Internet service provider (ISP) will treat that content the same.

and as Talking Points Memo wrote yesterday:

the change could make it much harder to access TPM or any source of news or entertainment that isn't owned by some big corporation or, more likely, have the inside track with one of the phone companies. If you're cool with AT&T deciding the sources of use you can access then you probably won't mind. But if you like making those decisions yourself, you may want to speak up.

And what could that mean on a day-to-day level?'s email campaign suggests:

Google users -- Another search engine could pay AT&T to guarantee that it opens faster than Google on your computer.

iPod listeners -- Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that paid for the privilege.

Work-at-home parents -- Connecting to your office could take longer if you don't purchase your carrier's preferred applications. Sending family photos and videos could slow to a crawl.

Retirees -- Web pages you always use for online banking, access to health care information, planning a trip or communicating with friends and family could fall victim to Verizon's pay-for-speed schemes.

Bloggers -- Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips -- silencing citizen journalists and amplifying the mainstream media.

Online activists -- Political organizing could be slowed by the handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay a fee to join the "fast lane."

Small businesses -- When AT&T favors their own services, you won't be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, and Internet phone calls.

Innovators with the "next big idea" -- Startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web.

So what should you do? Well, and Save the Internet have petitions going, and you should give your Congressperson a ring, especially if they are a member of the House Commerce Committee. Save the Internet has a nifty map up that tracks votes on network neutrality by House Energy & Commerce Committee members and provides a phone number for each Commerce Committee Representative.

You know I'm signing a petition and calling my Congressperson; otherwise, what am I going to tell my mother?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Stanford Social Entrepreneurship Challenge

I had coffee last week with Caroline Bernadi, one of the co-founders of an interesting site called Here's how it works. Online shoppers click on a nonprofit registered with Freepledge that they want to support, they shop at their fav online store (i.e. Amazon, eBay, Orbitz), Freepledge gets a referral fee from the online store (i.e. Amazon's referral fee is 4% of the sale), Freepledge gives the nonprofit the referral fee. Pretty cool, huh?

Freepledge is a finalist in the Stanford Social Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Here are some of the winners from last year's competition and their descriptions of their projects.

1st place: Coal Cleaners
CoalCleaners is developing a process to remove sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury pollutants from coal-fired power plant exhaust by turning these pollutant liabilities into marketable by-products of hydrogen, sulfuric acid and nitric acid. Our technology sets the precedent for "greening" coal, and accelerates a more efficient and environmentally responsible coal future. Our technology makes coal plants the front line of hydrogen production for the evolving hydrogen economy.

2nd place: UV AquaStar
Worldwide, 1.6 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Our for-profit social venture will bring breakthrough low-cost water purification technology to the developing world, starting in India. We plan to introduce the UV AquaStar--the world's lowest cost UV water filter­to the 30 million lower middle-class Indian households in urban slums and village.

3rd place: FluencyLab, Inc
FluencyLab, Inc is a social venture that has the potential to become the world's leading provider of stuttering treatment solutions. FluencyLab's proprietary technologies allow clinicians to effectively treat and evaluate stuttering. Our principle product is a computer-based system that uses biofeedback principles to train patients who stutter to achieve speech fluency. There is no commercial product on the market or treatment report in stuttering literature that has comparable results.
It's too bad that ABC's American Inventor isn't America's Social Entrepreneur. Interestingly though, one of the finalists (yes, I did watch the last two episodes) was a man named Mark Martinez who invented a one-man, one-scoop sandbag shovel to be used in disaster relief and the winner was Erik Thompson, who designed a "Receiver's Training Pole" that he uses to train young football players in low income neighborhoods to improve their skills and get athletic scholarships to college.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Paul Rusesabagina & Bloggers for Darfur

Yesterday I went to see Paul Rusesabagina speak, the man who inspired the movie, Hotel Rwanda. He was promoting his memoir, An Ordinary Man.

The most touching part of the program was when some students from a local middle school came up and presented him with a check for $1,325 for the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation that they raised by selling sweatshirts with their school name on the front, Piedmont Middle School, and "Be an Upstander. It's the Key" on the back. It was great to see young people idolizing a human rights hero.

Then they gave him a sweatshirt, which cracked me up.

The event was hosted by the World Affairs Council. It isn't up yet at this writing, but you should be able to hear an audio recording of the session once it is posted, here.

The talk was also sponsored by Facing History, Facing Ourselves, Human Rights Watch, the Museum of African Diaspora, Marines' Memorial Association, Bay Area Darfur Coalition, Amnesty International and Stacey's Independent Bookstore.

People from the Bay Area Darfur Coalition were handing out info. about events happening on April 30th to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur. Where I wish I could be is at the Rally to Stop Genocide in Washington DC.

For people who aren't near a city where there is an event, two bloggers, Jill and Marilyn, have started Bloggers for Darfur: A Global Online Community Calling for Action to Stop the Genocide in Darfur .

Here are some of the things they suggest that you can do to get involved virtually:

Email networks to ask why genocide doesn't get the news coverage it deserves.
Send a Million Voices for Darfur e-card to Bush.
• Watch this movie from Physicians for Human Rights.
• Post a photo of a candle on your blog or web site with a link to Bloggers for Darfur, and to their Flickr Group.
• Post a Bloggers for Darfur badge on your blog.
• Add yourself to the Bloggers for Darfur Frappr map.
• Join the Bloggers for Darfur Yahoo Group.

Obviously, putting a badge on your site is not going to end genocide in Darfur, or anywhere else, but I think it can raise awareness, which may motivate people to contact their government leaders and ask them to take action.

Here is a link to 10 actions that the Genocide Intervention Network suggests you can take to stop the genocide in Darfur, and links to some other sites listed on the Bloggers for Darfur site:

Hope for Darfur
Save Darfur
A Million Voices for Darfur
Be a Witness

image via Amazon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Free Student Activism Training

Oh to be 18-24 again! Got an email today advertising a free one-week training for student activists put on by Greenpeace and Seventh Generation called Change It 2006.

The Program includes:
Speakers: A range of inspiring keynotes and panelists speaking about their experiences on the front lines of global change
Strategy: An intensive campaign simulation program that will train you in campus organizing, campaign strategy, and corporate campaigning
Media: Learn how to use media to amplify your impact: Press conferences, Writing News Releases, Pitching Reporters
Skills: Get the best trainings out there in basic organizing techniques: Running Meetings, Developing Leaders, Running a Successful Group, Recruiting
Action: Winning bold victories requires bold action: Direct Action, Lobbying, Event Planning
Anti-oppression: In any great struggle, it is essential to know the underlying conditions: Overcoming Class and Racial Barriers in Organizing
Hands-on Experience: No activist gathering is complete without action: An Actual Press Event

And they pay for travel, room and board, in addition to the training.

If you know any young people who might benefit from this program, tell them to get on it, the deadline is April 30th.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Raising Money and Having Fun

Corey Pudhorodsky from the 501c3cast sent me a great New York Times article called Having a Blast for a Good Cause. The article profiles groups who are appealing to donors, particularly young ones, with events that are fun AND raise money such as the Society for Mature Adults Seeking to Help Entertain and Donate who raise money with social events like Amazing Race Scavenger Hunts, Rec Room Olympics and the Idiotarod (pictured above).

The Iditarod is a famous long-distance race in which big burly yapping dogs tow a sled and driver across Alaska. The Idiotarod is kind of the same thing, but no sled and no dogs. Instead of a sled, teams pull a shopping cart (or carriage for you Southerners). And instead of dogs, it’s people pulling the cart.
The article also mentions Mustaches for Kids (where men get donations from friends for growing mustaches between Thanksgiving and Christmas), and Dodge for a Cause (a dodgeball tournament to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Union Broadcasting Foundation).

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to raise money with cupcakes!

Image via drierp

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Big Vision Podcast 3: An Interview with Back to Earth

I've got some fun interviews lined up this month and should have a podcast up every other week for the foreseeable future.

This week's podcast is an interview with the founders of Back to Earth, Eric Fenster and Ari Derfel. Back to Earth is an organic catering and outdoor adventure company, and yes, they did cater our wedding.

You can learn about Back to Earth, and hear their advice about how to start your own socially responsible business by either clicking here, or hitting the play button on the Gcast player in the sidebar of this blog.

Big thanks to my hubs for editing it for me!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Solutionary Women

I've started a new weekly feature on Blogher this week called Solutionary Women where I write short profiles of women leaders and visionaries who work for nonprofits and NGOs. If you have women you would like to suggest that I profile/interview, please email me at britt at brittbravo dot com with their name, organization and contact info. Thanks!

Monday, April 10, 2006

My New Favorite Song: Dear Mr. President

I'd never listened to a Pink song before until fellow Blogher editor, Miriam Verburg, posted about her hilarious video, "Stupid Girls" where she parodies young celebrities like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen Twins.

Very funny.

But today I downloaded a song from the iTunes Music Store from Pink's new album, I'm Not Dead, called "Dear Mr. President", that she sings with the Indigo Girls.

I can't stop listening to it.

Here are the lyrics from

Dear Mr. President
Come take a walk with me.
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me.
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why?

Dear Mr. President
Were you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
How can you say
No child is left behind?
We're not dumb and we're not blind.
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pay the road to hell.

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away?
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say.
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way.
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away.
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box.
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work.
You don't know nothing 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work

How do you sleep at night?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Dear Mr. President
You'd never take a walk with me
Would you?

Photo from

Sunday, April 09, 2006

7 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Podcasts

My March post, 10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs, seems to have been helpful to folks (it even got translated into spanish by a blogger in Spain, so I thought I'd share my list, originally posted on NetSquared, of 7 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Podcasts.

1. A leader at your nonprofit or NGO talks about what is going on in the organization and in your field. This is great if your founder, or director, is a strong and inspiring speaker. Example: Senator Barack Obama's podcast.

2. Short, informational pieces about one issue combining voiceover by a narrator/host and interviews with the people you serve. Example: UNICEF's podcast, "Pakistan's Earthquake: A fifteen-year-old tells her story." UNICEF Radio correspondent, Blue Chevigny, provides narration and information about the earthquake in Pakistan combined with on the ground testimony by a young woman who lived through it.

3. Weekly updates about what is going on in your organization followed by interviews with experts in your field. Example: This Week in NetSquared News. Each week we give brief updates about what's new at NetSquared followed by interviews with nonprofit and social web innovators.

4. Have your constituents create the podcast. Example: UNICEF Digital Diaries: Berenice's Story from Ghana, Part I. A young woman in Ghana was giving recording equipment to document her daily life in this 6-part series.

5. Be creative! Example: the Nature Conservancy produces a podcast called Nature Stories, that is all about people's connection to nature. Check out the one called "Just Another Fish Story" about a whale that washes up on the beach of a small town in Maine.

6. Use recordings from presentations. Example: the Bioneers have turned the presentations and speeches from their conference into a podcast.

7. Turn your radio show into a podcast. Example: Mother Jones Radio. If your organization already produces a radio show, make sure listeners can also subscribe to it as a podcast.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Meatrix II

Big thanks to Joan Braun from PolicyLink for sending me info. on the second Meatrix movie, Meatrix II: Revolting. I'd heard about it when the first Meatrix movie came out, but had never watched it.

It's great. Moopheus, Chickity and Leo. Hee Hee

It would be a bit scary for little kids. Yes, I know they watch much scarier movies these days, but this is coming from someone who had to walk out of Watership Down when I was 7 or 8 'cause I was freaked out by the bloody bunnies (now, that was a great birthday, party!). I do think that both movies would be great to show pre-teens/adolescents, and of course, adults.

Image of Moopheus, Chickity and Leo from the Meatrix's Cafe Press Store.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Do * Good Blankets

I had a blanket when I was little, did you? Mine was soft and yellow with a yellow satin edging, and I believed that whenever I sat under it, I was invisible.

In the past month or so I've heard about two lovely projects, Project Linus and Project Sweet Dreams.

I heard about Project Linus through an episode of the 501(c)3cast. Project Linus coordinates volunteers to sew, knit and quilt handmade blankets for seriously ill and traumatized children. You can find a chapter near you here.

Project Sweet Dreams is a community based Roots and Shoots campaign organized by a friend of mine, Debra Rosenman, to raise awareness about biomedical lab chimps. The campaign is organizing schools in the Santa Fe area to donate 600 blankets to the Save the Chimps (STC) sanctuary in Alamogordo, New Mexico. In the wild, chimps make a new bed each night, so the sanctuary needs lots of clean blankets to make the chimps feel at home. You can get more information about Project Sweet Dreams by calling (505) 466-0007.

image via