Monday, October 29, 2007

Rocket Dog Rescue: Dog Saves Woman, Woman Saves Dog

We're thinking about getting a dog, or a cat, or both. I can't decide. In my surfing around for adoption opportunities, I came across the incredible story of Pali Boucher, the founder of Rocket Dog Rescue in San Francisco.

C.J. Hayden of How to Become a Hero tells part of Pali's story in her post, The Call to Heroism in the Howl of a Dog.
"Boucher was the child of a homeless, drug-addicted mother who died when she was ten. After a short time in a foster home, she ended up on the street herself. For many years, she was in and out of jail, became addicted to drugs, and contracted HIV. But she always loved animals. As a child, she took care of pigeons, feral cats, and junkyard dogs. As a homeless adult, she visited animal shelters to spend time with the dogs there.

At the SPCA, Boucher fell in love with Leadbelly, a hound who no one wanted to adopt because he howled all the time. Learning that Leadbelly was in danger of being euthanized, she scrounged up some money, faked an address, and adopted him. After almost losing her beloved hound when she went back to jail, she checked herself into a detox program. 'It was the first time in my life I realized that I wasn't just affecting myself by going out and getting loaded, that I was directly responsible for the pain of somebody else,' Boucher recalls."
Grace of What if No One is Watching saw Pali and Rocket Dog Rescue profiled on Animal Planet in early 2006 and tells more of Pali's story in her post, Meet My New Hero, Pali Boucher:
"Then Leadbelly died, and Rocket Dog Rescue was born. Pali doesn't just rescue any dogs, but dogs that are on their last chance. She specifically chooses dogs that are old, or sick, or have other issues that are keeping them from being easily adoptable, and she often swoops in in their last hours and saves them from being put down by city and county shelters. Judging from the both the show and the rescue's website, Pali has quite a network, but she also fosters up to a dozen dogs at a time at her house, and it was clear in the program that she is tireless in the work she's doing. The show said that she'd placed about 700 dogs in the five years since she founded Rocket Dog Rescue, and that is an amazing number, particularly given the type of dogs she takes in. And though Pali's active time may be limited (she's HIV-positive), she also has big plans for the future, including an urban sanctuary dog shelter in San Francisco."
In 2001, Pali received a Points of Light award for outstanding volunteerism. In 2006 she and Rocket Dog Rescue volunteer, Laura Beck, were named local heroes by the American Red Cross Bay Area and received their Animal Rescue Award.

Rocket Dog Rescue is a 501(c)(3) that you can support with a donation of time or money. According to their donation page:
  • $10 donation will buy chew toys, treats and bones which on a rainy afternoon can make a dog's day.
  • $25 donation will pay for a microchip to help a lost dog make his way back home.
  • $50 donation will cover a dog’s adoption fee, saving that animal’s life.
  • $100 donation will cover the cost to spay/neuter a dog and help alleviate overcrowded shelters or puppy vaccinations.
  • $200 - $500 donation will pay for the cost of dental work or other necessary care to give an elderly dog a pain free future.
  • $500 -$1,000 donation will help pay for major surgery for a dog that has suffered severe trauma. Rocket Dog Rescue believes that these dogs, who are traditionally considered poor candidates for adoptions, deserve a chance as well.
If you are local to the Bay Area, they have an ad up on Craigslist right now that they are looking for volunteers, including Foster Home Parents and a Foster Home Coordinator. You can sign up by using their Volunteer Sign Up Form.

You can also support them by buying a copy of the book Tails of Devotion: A Look at the Bond Between People and Their Pets by Emily Scott Pottruck (Foreword by Amy Tan). All of the book's proceeds go to animal welfare nonprofits, including Rocket Dog Rescue.

Image Credit: Screenshot on October 29, 2007 from Rocket Dog Rescue of dogs available for adoption.






Friday, October 26, 2007

A Meaningful Book Meme

I was invited by Matt of the Empathy blog to participate in a Book Meme earlier this month and am just getting around to it:

Total number of books I own:

About 350. Wow. I never counted my books before.

Last book I read:

Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton.



I'm almost done with a review copy of We Make Change by Kristin Layng Szakos and Joe Szakos, which you'll be hearing more about later.



Last book I bought:

What is the What by Dave Eggers, for a friend's birthday. I'm hoping I can borrow it after she is done (:

5 Meaningful Books

It doesn't define what it means by meaningful so, the 5 most meaningful books for me this year so far, in the order I read them are:

A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl




Not On Our Watch by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast




Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert





Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher




Women Who Light the Dark by Paola Gianturco




5 People to Tag

I created a Favorite Do Good Book List in 2005 and 2006. I think I'll tag some of the bloggers who commented on those lists:

Bumblebee Sweet Potato
Gayle Roberts at Fundraising for Nonprofits
Marmalade.ca
California Fever
Present Tensed


All book cover images taken from Powells.com.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Path to Survival: Relocalization, Water Conservation and Heirloom Preservation

Thanks to a referral from fellow BlogHer, Tara Hunt, I had the opportunity to fill in for a panelist at the Bioneers Conference yesterday--an annual meeting of environmental and social justice activists. For me, the highlight of the day was hearing Winona LaDuke's talk, "Seeds the Creator Gave Us."

LaDuke is a Native American activist and environmentalist who received the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1988, was named Woman of the Year in 1998 by Ms. Magazine, and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame earlier this month. She is the Founding Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project.

LaDuke talked mainly about about her fight to save wild rice in the Northern Minnesota Lakes region from genetic engineering. As she wrote in her article, Ricekeepers, for Orion Magazine:
"An estimated 90 percent of the world’s biodiversity lies within the territories of indigenous peoples, whether the Amazon, the Indian subcontinent, or the North Woods. A new form of colonialism, known as biocolonialism, is reaching deep into the heart of these communities."
What stayed with me the most from her speech was her closing, when she listed 3 things we need to do, "to make a path we can survive on in this Millennium."

1. We need to re-localize food production so we aren't dependent on oil for food to get from farm to table.

As One Shade Greener writes in Relocalize with the Post Carbon Institute,
"As oil continues to become less affordable and less available, our lifestyles will probably require some tweaking: fewer car trips, living closer to work, consuming more local products and services. In effect, we will localize our lives and economies."
The Post Carbon Institute has set up The Relocalization Network as a resource for "post carbon groups" to relocalize their communities.

2. Fight for water.

In response to yesterday's New York Times article, The Future is Drying Up, Lisa Moore, writes on the Environmental Defense Blog,
"So what can we do? Water conservation is an absolute must. Some water managers believe that with the right choices, we could meet most municipal, agricultural, and ecological water needs with the dwindling supply. But conservation has to go hand-in-hand with a concerted effort to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change."
Treehugger has a list of 11 ways you can save water excerpted from 50 Ways to Save the Ocean by David Helvarg.

3. Restore "heritage" or "heirloom" varieties of vegetables.

Carey Greenburg-Berger writes, in Vegetables Were Healthier Fifty Years Ago,
"The heirloom tomatoes in your garden may not just be tastier than commercially grown vegetables, but healthier too, according to a study from the American College of Nutrition. The study looked for 13 nutrients in 43 crops grown from 1950 to 1999 and discovered that the vegetables enjoyed by our grandparents were significantly more nutritious than the veggies found on supermarket shelves today."
Places like Seed Savers Exchange and Native Seeds are two nonprofits helping to preserve these important, and yummy vegetables.

The presence of indigenous people was strong at the Bioneers this year, including the International Council of 13 Grandmothers. Whether you believe in science or the wisdom of native peoples, both are saying that how we produce and consume food and water has to change.

Photo of Heirloom Tomatoes by me.






Saturday, October 20, 2007

Four Steps to Ease You Into Social Web Activism

"If you just need bodies at a rally, names on a petition or donations in your coffers, mobilizing through traditional means will work great. But if you need an active, educated and effective movement, organizing through social webs has the potential to create much more lasting change."
--Ivan Boothe, Organizing Rather Than Mobilizing: Using Social Networks for Constituency Building
I'm filling in for a panelist on Sunday at the Bioneers Conference for the session, Alternet Presents: Social Media Activism/Web 2.0 Networking for Change. I thought I'd share some of my notes with you.

I think a lot of activists know that there are all kinds of social web tools available to them, but they aren't sure how to find them, or use them, and are intimidated by the technology.

Here are four steps to ease you into using the social web for social change. Take 'em one at a time.

1. CONSUME: Writers read, artists go to galleries, reporters watch the news. You need to start by checking out the content that is already being created by citizen journalists and activists about the issues you care about on blogs, podcasts and online video/vlogs. Even if you never go beyond this step, at least you'll have a list of new media to send event announcements to.

Blogs
You can find blogs by searching on Google Blog Search and Technorati. Here are some links to lists of green blogs to get you started:

Environmental Blog Round Up by Blogger Buzz
The Top 35 Environmental Blogs by Read/Write Web
Environmental Blogs by Philanthropy 2173
Environmental Blogs in the Nonprofit Blog Exchange by Nonprofit Blog Exchange

Podcasts
The best place to find podcasts is the Podcast section of the iTunes Music Store. Other podcast directories to check out are Yahoo! Podcasts, PodcastDirectory.com, Odeo, Podcast Alley, Podcast.net, and Podcast Pickle.

Online videos/vlogs
Online videos or vlogs can searched for in the iTunes Music Store as well as on YouTube, blip.tv, DoGooderTV, QuantumShift.tv and OurMedia. Be sure to search for your favorite nonprofits' names, especially on YouTube, you may be surprised to find that they have a channel.

2. JOIN: Join a social network, or two, or three! Facebook isn't just for college students anymore. You might be surprised how many nonprofits and individuals are using Facebook groups to organize. Soha El-Borno has a good Beginner's Guide to Facebook for Nonprofits on the Wild Apricot Blog that will get you started.

Some other do-good social networks you might want to try out are: Care2, Change.org, Flickr (photos), Future5000 (youth), Meetup (events), Just Cause, myBLOC.net (young people of color), Razoo, TakingITGlobal (youth), Upcoming (events) and WiserEarth.

3. PARTICIPATE: "Web 2.0" is also called the "social web" because, well, it's social! It's all about connecting and participating.

Start out small by leaving comments on your favorite blogs.

Take part in campaigns that already exist. On September 28th you could have uploaded a photo of yourself wearing a red shirt to Flickr to show your solidarity with the monks in Burma as part of Red Shirt Day for Burma/Birma/ Myanmar. You can still add your own red photo to the Burma Free - Birmania Libera Flickr pool. Check out the photo "comments" on this Free Burma photo.

Personal Democracy Forum's blog, techPresident, launched something this week called 10 Questions where you can post a video question to the presidential candidates. Users will choose the 10 best questions. The candidates will watch the questions, and then answer them with their own videos. (If you don't know how to post a video on the Internet, Freevlog can show you how).

4. CREATE Now that you've consumed, joined and participated, you're ready to create your own citizen media (like you consumed in Step 1) and/or your own campaign like:

Green LA Girl's Starbuck's Challenge.
Beth Kanter's fundraisers using ChipIn and Facebook to send a Cambodian orphan to college.
• Alex Bookbinder's Support the Monks Protest in Burma Facebook group (It was started in September and as of this writing has 426,505 members!)

You can also create a free or low cost web site for your campaign or small organization with a blog, like Drilling Santa Fe and Urban Sprouts did.

If you aren't sure how to do something, Google it! That's how I started my blog, by Googling, 'How to start a blog"

There are also a lot of nonprofit technology resources out there where you can find more information like:

NetSquared
TechSoup
NTEN
Idealware
Aspiration
NPower
Beth's Blog
Wild Apricot Blog

Four More Tips . . .

1. Don't be afraid of the tech.
2. Don't feel like you have to use these tools, email is still very powerful!
3. Ask for help.
4. Have fun!






Flickr Photo Credit: Free Burma by Luis Yax

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Beijing 2008 Olympics Potential Catalyst for Human Rights

The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing is providing leverage for Tibetan, Darfurian, Burmese and Chinese human rights campaigns:

The International Campaign for Tibet created the Race for Tibet. According to their site:
"The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded Beijing the 2008 Olympic Games in 2001, disregarding international criticism of China's human rights record. Both the IOC and the Chinese have argued that the Games will "improve human rights in China" and therefore Tibet. However, as we approach the Games, human rights violations remain systematic and widespread, and China has implemented new restrictions on the media and freedom of information. We believe China and the IOC should be held accountable to the promises they made during Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympics."
The Race for Tibet is asking supporters to sign a petition to Jacques Rogge, the IOC President, to hold Beijing to the standards of the Olympic Truce:
"- raise awareness and encourage political leaders to act in favour of peace;
- mobilise youth for the promotion of the Olympic ideals;
- establish contacts between communities in conflict;
- offer humanitarian support in countries at war"
Olympic Dream for Darfur's mission is to urge China to, "use its leverage to persuade the Sudanese government to consent immediately to a civilian protection force in Darfur." They've organized an international Olympic Torch Relay which began on August 9 in Chad, near the Darfur border, and will finish in China in January. Here is the route for the relay so far:

Olympic Dream for Darfur is asking supporters to write to the Olympic Corporate Sponsors, to Steven Speilberg (who signed on to be the 2008 Olympics' Artistic Director), and to the International Olympic Committee.

Lisa of ENOUGH writes in, Tell Companies Sponosoring the Chinese Olympics that Darfur is Not 'Business is Usual', "we believe that the more voices that are raised, the more hope there is for peace in Darfur. The Olympics belong to all of us, and in the face of genocide, anyone in a position of influence must try to act."


The US Campaign for Burma is asking for a boycott of the Games:

"China is paralyzing UN Security Council action on Burma. They are the main economic, military, and political supporters of the military junta. For fifteen years China has refused to press its closest ally to allow its people human rights, and used its veto power to block the UN Security Council from acting. As a result, the UN is making the same mistakes it made on Darfur and Rwanda. We are calling on people of conscience throughout the world to boycott the 2008 Chinese Olympics."

Claire of Free Aung San Suu Kyi! points out that the Olympics' start date, August 8, 2008, is the, "the 20th anniversary of the massacre of peaceful democracy activists in Burma."

Reporters Without Borders is asking China to do nine things before the Games start:

"1. Release all journalists and Internet users detained in China for exercising their right to information.

2. Abolish forever the restrictive articles in the Foreign Correspondents Guide that limit the media’s freedom of movement and work.

3. Disband the Publicity Department (the former Propaganda Department), which exercises daily control over content in the Chinese press.

4. End the jamming of foreign radio stations.

5. End the blocking of thousands of news and information websites based abroad.

6. Suspend the '11 Commandments of the Internet,' which lead to content censorship and self-censorship on websites.

7. End the blacklisting of journalists and human rights activists, which prevents them from visiting China.

8. Lift the ban on Chinese media using foreign news agency video footage and news reports without permission.

9. Legalize independent organisations of journalists and human rights activists."

Human Rights Watch has more information about human rights issues in China and links to other human rights organizations and campaigns like Olympic Watch and PlayFair2008. HRW is encouraging bloggers to use their blogs as a, "bully pulpit to stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, uphold basic freedoms, protect people from inhumane treatment in wartime, and campaign to bring offenders to justice."

Amnesty International has created a press kit for reporters covering the Olympics.

Requests for change are coming from within China as well.

According to the Students for Free Tibet International's blog, the Chinese government arrested a Chinese activist,
Yang Chunlin, who had collected 10,000 signatures for a petition entitled, “We want human rights, not the Olympics.”







Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Notes from Google Earth Outreach at Net Tuesday

Last week, at NetSquared's San Francisco Net Tuesday Meetup, Steve Miller, Product Manager, Google Earth Outreach spoke to a room of 50+ social changemakers and web innovators about how nonprofits can use Google Earth Outreach for their work.

He began the talk by telling the story of the first time Google Earth was used for awareness raising by Rebecca Moore, Program Manager, Google Earth Outreach. Two years ago, Rebecca presented a logging flyover at a Neighbors Against Responsible Logging (NAIL) meeting. In the NAIL case study on the Google Earth Outreach site, she describes the experience:

"At the packed-to-overflowing community meeting in September, 2005, I first presented this KML to about 300 residents. When I flew in from outer space to the Santa Cruz Mountains, and then turned on the long, red swath representing the logging zone, there was a gasp from the audience. We then flew virtually up the Los Gatos Creek canyon:

  • past their homes and their children's schools
  • along our steep and narrow mountain roads that would be burdened with a dozen/day 90,000 lb. logging trucks navigating more than 30 blind curves where children walk to school
  • past active landslide areas on the slopes alongside the creek that SJWC proposed to log (along the San Andreas Fault)
  • over the proposed helicopter landing pads near homes and the daycare center
  • along the currently pristine and beautiful creek to its headwaters.

I also flew to the actual locations and photographs of old-growth redwoods which could be cut. Then I used the Ruler tool in Google Earth to measure the distance from the logging zone to the preschool and daycare center: ~200 yards.

The flyover electrified the room. Suddenly everyone began to call out issues, questions, concerns that were now apparent in the plan.
You can view the Google Earth KML file Steve used for his presentation here:
http://earth.outreach.googlepages.com/geo.kml

For those of you who are asking, like I was, what the heck is a KML file? KML (Keyhole Markup Language), it is just a type of file format, like a PDF is a file format.

You'll need to install Google Earth (it's free) to view the file, and it is best viewed in the newest version of Google Earth (4.2). Videos in the balloons will only work on Windows.

Steve talked about how Google Earth can make the world a smaller place and add faces and places to statistics, like the USHMM's Crisis in Darfur layer does (pictured above).

It can also, map how the world changes through time and space like the animated layer created by Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature magazine, to show the spread of reported cases of avian flu in animals and people. You can watch it on the KML file above, or on YouTube: Declan Butler's Avian Flu Outbreaks in Google Earth

You can also watch polar bears on the move with the World Wildlife Fund's Polar Bear Tracker.

Steve also highlighted the work of Appalacian Voices' End Mountaintop Removal layer. The projects' organizers reflected on the impact of using Google Earth for their campaign in their Google Earth Outreach Case Study:

"In the ten days following release of the Appalachian Mountaintop Removal KML in Google Earth, more than 13,000 people from every US state and more than 30 countries signed this online petition to stop the dumping of mountaintop mining waste into waterways. Not only has this endeavor brought additional regional and national media attention to the issue (with stories in hundreds of newspapers nationwide), but the traffic on iLoveMountains.org and the number of people joining the movement to stop mountaintop removal has been boosted to a new level.

Just as important, this project's partnership of a half-dozen less-than-tech-savvy grassroots organizations from across Appalachia has created a new and much stronger framework for cooperation of local and regional organizations on the national stage. We are already working together to create additional projects to release on the Google Earth platform, and our ability to share information and resources with each other has expanded tremendously.

Finally, he went over some of the tutorials on the Google Earth Outreach site like:

Creating KML From a Spreadsheet
Adding Time as a Fourth Dimension

You can lean more about Google Earth Outreach in the TechSoup article, Reach Out with Google Earth Outreach, read more case studies on the Google Earth Outreach site, and check out another write up about the event (with lots of images) by Lorni Li of Green 2.0 Marketing.

Full disclosure: I am NetSquared's Community Builder.






Friday, October 12, 2007

Using Film to Change the World: An Interview with Shalini Kantayya

Sixty years ago, very few people would have seen the connection between peace and hydrology, but today that connection is clear to the foresighted. If we do not deal with the water problems on a global scale, I believe we will see conflict on a global scale.--UNESCO in the Spotlight

Shalini Kantayya
is a filmmaker, educator, and activist who uses film/video as a tool to educate, inspire, and empower audiences. She believes in making films that spark positive social change and recently completed a short film about water rights issues, A Drop of Life.

Shalini finished in the top 10 out of 12,000 filmmakers on FOX’s On the Lot, a reality show by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett. Below is the transcript of a recent interview with her from the Big Vision Podcast.

Shalini Kantayya: My name is Shalini Kantayya, and I am the Director of a company called 7th Empire Media. The mission of my work is to take the things that I care about the most, women, the environment, and social issues, and package them in a very sexy commercial medium of narrative filmmaking that reaches millions of people. My mission is to take the things that I care about, and to inspire and educate people through narrative story telling.

Britt Bravo: What are you working on now?

SK: I just completed a film called A Drop of Life, which is a film about the future of water; it's about a woman from America who comes to India to seal a deal that would put plastic prepaid credit card meters on the village water pumps so you can't get water unless you have a prepaid card. It's based on a true story of these water meters that exist in 10 countries, including the U.S.

I just think that it's incredibly alarming that by the year 2027, two thirds of the world's population, over four billion people, will not have adequate access to clean drinking water. Water is something that sort of shook me out of my seat. What I am seeking to do now is to make a major motion picture about the future of water that will move audiences and really put this issue on the map.

BB: Where are you in the process and how can people who are listening support you?

SK: The short film is available at www.adropoflife.tv, and now I am in the process of seeking development money and looking for very, extremely talented writers to help me in this process.

I want to create a really fantastic story. I think coming from India I've been really moved by stories like the Mahabharata, or the Ramayana, or even Star Wars, for that matter, because it tells you this epic story of the hero's journey. It's so interesting because I talk to little kids today, and Star Wars is still one of their favorite movies. And I think, oh my god, how can this movie dated in 1976, 30 years ago, which is a lot of time in cinema, still have relevance today?

How could the Mahabharata, being 2000 years old, still be told today? Over and over we sit the whole night to listen to these stories. I think that we need a new mythology, we need a new story, we need a new hero, we need a new she-ro, and I think that's what my mission and my gift is, to create really compelling stories that engage people in the most critical issues of our times.

BB: What's the path that brought you to this work?

SK:
I don't think I ever made any intellectual decisions in my life [laughs]. I feel like most of the big callings in my life have come in the form of falling in love, these great romances, first with images and then with this river.

I was actually 19 years old, and I was in a Buddhist monastery in South India, it was one of the 13 villages India gave Tibet. I heard these monks chanting this deep throated prayer, it was like 800 monks, and something sort of hit me in my heart, and I knew that there were things I couldn't express in words. From that moment, I started to put imaginary picture frames on everything I saw, and sort of experienced my seeing in this new way.

This was before I knew aperture, or iris or knew anything about filmmaking, it was just almost discovering my sight in a new way, and feeling that there were stories that I needed to tell that I could not express in words. So, filmmaking happened that way and then, on a whim, I was on Fulbright in India, and a friend asked me to document this festival called the Kumbha Mela, which is the largest gathering of human beings on earth where an estimated 70 million people come to bathe in the confluence of these three rivers, at this particular time, because they believe it will wash away their sins and bring them closer to Moksha.

Through working on this documentary I spent 40 days living in a tent at the banks of the Ganga and the Jamuna, and I took lots of baths, and I was really moved by the devotion to a river as a life-giving goddess, even the word "India" comes from the river Indus. But at the same time, I wondered about calling something "mother" and then throwing all this shit into the river. And so I began to question, but it happened through my having such reverence for this river, and having this really personal experience and kind of communion with this river. Then my love compelled me to ask questions, and to take action in some way.

Then I read this book, Blue Gold by Maude Barlow, which I recommend everyone read. It shook me out of my seat. I think coming of age between the United States and India, I've seen the world of the technologically advanced and the material excessive, and the world that can't get a clean glass of water.

I'm just really alarmed that our generation isn't speaking up about it. I think for a lot of us who grow up in the "First World, " and hot and cold water runs--even me, I live in New York. What can I possibly have to do with the environment? I mean my food comes from the bodega, the water runs hot and cold from my faucet. But, then you realize that we're all part of this very fragile ecosystem.

Even in the cities, a transit strike goes off, or there's a power outage. You realize that you're not living inside of a machine, that even urban cities are part of this environment, and that we are all part of an ecosystem. The very simple choices that we make every day really matter.

So that's sort of what brought me to this journey, is this thought that a billion children are suffering every day. Every 14 seconds a child dies because of lack of clean water. Beyond those statistics, I mean, these are children that are beloved to their parents and their communities. I feel like every time a child dies because of lack of clean water that we have failed as a global community.

So I seek to put my voice as a filmmaker, and the sharpness of the tools of major motion picture filmmaking, behind this thing that I care so deeply about.

BB: Your roots are as an independent filmmaker, but you've just finished being part of a big reality show. How do you balance those two worlds?

SK: I know it's really hard to make the leap from a Buddhist monastery in South India, and holy baths in the Gunga, and then a Fox-based reality TV show. It seems like a little bit of a disparity. But I really came to the show, Fox On The Lot, with a very clear intention. I don't know that everyone had the same intention. My intention was to bring our issues to the forefront and to get progressive media onto Fox.

I had four films screen on Fox, and two of them were political in some nature. I feel like we can't shy away from going mainstream. I mean, I really have a strong respect for grassroots documentary. I've certainly done it a really long time. But what I admire about filmmakers like Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas is that they've transformed culture. It's not that they're just filmmakers.

It's hard to imagine American culture without Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. I mean, they gave us E.T. they gave us Star Wars, they gave us, Jaws, Jurassic Park. These are major pillars of American culture. I feel like what is the most powerful about this work is that you can say, "May the force be with you," anywhere in the world and people will know what you're talking about.

With my filmmaking, I really seek to do that with my work. I'm not thinking small. I really want to reach millions and millions of people around the world, and transform culture with my work. And with that comes the machinery of commercial filmmaking. Of course, that's sort of treacherous territory. [laughs] I won't lie about that. But I think we need to get in there, I think it takes all types. I think some of us need to work within the system, and some of us need to work without it.

That's my goal, is to reach as many people with my work, and have the largest distribution possible, and have the machinery of commercial filmmaking behind me. I mean, when you look even at cinema, there were more women directing films in the Silent Era, before filmmaking became a commercial industry, then there are today. I think that just goes to show that we need to put our money behind women filmmakers.

BB: As an artist and activist, how do you balance your art, your activism, and making a living?

SK: Well, my mom always used to say to me, "Filmmaking, schilmmaking, how you eat? [laughs] "Movies, schmovies. How you eat?" But the thing is that I really honestly believe is that if you follow your highest calling in life, and I've never been more clear, I mean, I have other issues, but following my calling and having passion is not one of them.

I really feel like if you follow what you think is your gift in this world; and if you show up every day, and you work hard, and you're tenacious, that sooner or later it's going to happen for you. You're going to get the resources to do what you need to do. That's what's been happening in my case.

So, for eight years I've been able to--for 10 years actually, I've been able to make a living as a filmmaker. I'm definitely not getting fatter, but I'm definitely eating. [laughs]

BB: What advice do you have for artists, who want to use their art for social change?

SK: I would just say, "We need your voice. We need you to get up, and stand up, and get out of bed when you feel like it's too hard to. Have faith in yourself and speak your truth because we're living in an age where six corporations control most of what we see, read, and hear. I can't think of a bigger threat to democracy.

No matter how you feel about an issue, we have got to have voices of dissent. It's not easy. It's not easy to be the single voice that says, "We need to do this." It's not easy to practice your art, but I feel like we each have our little garden patch of change to make. I would just say to everyone out there, "Speak your truth and have faith in what you know and believe."

BB: You've done a lot of interviews. What is the thing that you wish you were asked about?

SK: Isn't reality TV strange? [laughs] Reality TV is really strange. I'm probably not supposed to speak about it publicly, but I will. I'm really interested in why reality TV has become such a craze in our culture, and I wonder if people listening understand how completely manipulated--now I'm speaking as a viewer of reality TV, no implications of my own show--but how constructed reality TV is and why it is that people like to see that kind of low-brow drama, and the way that it's constructed and why people feed off of it. I think is really interesting.

I think it's a commentary on truth. Are we looking for drama, are we looking for truth? I don't know. I don't know what the answer is. I just see it... I actually kind of see it as a disease, honestly. I feel like the way that we've been taught to consume violence, and to consume drama, and to enjoy people fighting with each other is really a sickness that we have, and I feel like our media is completely distracting us from the things that really matter.

BB: I read somewhere that you interviewed the Dalai Lama. What was that like?

SK: I love the Dalai Lama. I interviewed him in 2002. I had a private audience with him. The work actually started at a conference called, Peacemaking: The Power of Nonviolence. I was 19 and there were about 200 youth there that didn't know what to do with this idea of nonviolence. How do you practice that? What do you do with it?

On a whim, I ended up speaking on behalf of the youth at the closing ceremony of the conference, and ten minutes later the Dalai Lama gave us $10,000 to start a new organization. So I feel like the Dalai Lama has had this sort of direct impact on my activism.

Also, it was just a wonderful affirmation, because as a youth, I feel like we sometimes don't know what we can do. How do we make change? It seems crazy. How do we stop this war? I feel like when you're young, you feel like, "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm going to do something."

I think that's something we should never lose. I feel like whether it's a small action or a large action, I feel like that, "I have to do something," is something that I really treasure in youth and people that are able to do that.

And so I interviewed him. I interviewed him in Dharamsala, in Northern India. He accepted on the basis of me standing on the Youth Coalition for Peace and Justice. He came because the Dalai Lama is actually very interested in youth issues.

So, I talked to him, and he is such a charming man. When you're around him, you just want to tickle him because he's so giggly and he has such a presence. There are two moments that I really, really appreciate from my interview with the Dalai Lama.

There was this moment where I was saying, "How do you build bridges between race and sex and sexual orientation."

He said "Sexual orientation?"

And his translator was in the room. He was speaking in English, and you heard a couple of Tibetan words going back and forth. "Ah! Oh! Boys. Girls. Ah." He was understanding what sexual orientation meant.

And then there was another really brilliant moment with the Dalai Lama where I said, "So Your Holiness, you're saying if someone hits you, it's OK to hit them back?"

And he said, "I think so." It was this big epiphany for me because I realized he really does believe in self defense. He's said, "Say you're sorry. Don't do it maliciously." He was saying all of these things, but it was just this really wonderful moment of kind of breaking the mold of what I had thought of him. So that was lovely.

BB: Is there anything else you want people to know about your work?

SK: My ultimate goal is to do a trilogy of feature films about the environment and to create a mythology for our generation that makes it cool to be a change maker that transforms culture and associates being an activist with being a hipster.

I feel like our culture has to change, and our values have to change, and I think whenever that happens it has to happen through youth. And so that's the target of my films, to reach youth.

You can learn more about food and water issues from Food and Water Watch.





Thursday, October 11, 2007

Women Who Light the Dark by Paola Gianturco

Women Who Light the Dark by photojournalist Paola Gianturco (powerHouse books, September 2007) begins with a profile of Betty Makoni and the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe. Betty and 6 tenth grade students co-founded the Girl Child Network. GCN is a girl's rights organization which has 350 chapters of 20,000 primary and high school members across the country.

When Gianturco asked a twelve and half year old girl, Sarah Chinhire, "Of all the GCN work you are doing, what makes you proudest?" she answered, "Teaching my colleagues what to do when they are abused." Girls risk being raped by men with AIDS who have been told by traditional healers that they can be cured if they have intercourse with a virgin.

Each new GCN member receives a journal for poetry, art and reflection. In her poem, "Watch Out," Gillian Bomba writes:
We can do anything, the sky is the limit
You did what you did to us
But this time we will not let you escape
Don't say we didn't warn you.
We will harm you.
Only to make sure that we are free and safe.
Michealene Cristini Risley is making a documentary, Tapestries of Hope, about Betty Makoni and the Girl Child Network. In her post, Gratitude: Musings After My Incarceration in Zimbabwe, she describes Women Who Light the Dark as, "an incredible book about women all over the globe who use their imagination and passion to create change."

Betty is just one of 129 women in 15 countries on 5 continents whose inspiring stories Gianturco captures with her compelling narrative and over 250 luminous color photographs. The book's back matter includes a comprehensive listing of all of the organizations that are profiled, as well as suggestions for further reading about the issues in each region.

Eighteen Global Fund for Women grantees are profiled in the book, and Gianturco is donating 100 percent of the royalties from the book to the Global Fund for Women. The Global Fund for Women advocates for and defends women's human rights by making grants to support women's groups around the world. You can enter a raffle on the Global Fund for Women's site to win a free copy of the book, and you can download free screensavers and wallpapers with images from the book. Check out the GFW Blog too.

This isn't Gianturco's first photographic portrait of strong women. She also captured women's photos and stories in Celebrating Women, and In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World.

You can learn more about international women's issues and how you can take action in the Shine YOUR Light section of the Women Who Light the World web site.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from powerHouse books.





Monday, October 08, 2007

Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog

The folks at the Stanford Social Innovation Review's Opinion blog were nice enough to ask me to post there every couple months.

If you want to check it out, my first post is, "Preventing Online Activism Fatigue."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Connecting Sister Circles: Peace X Peace Global Network






The Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.

--Black Elk, Oglala Sioux

Last month, the ePhilanthropy Foundation named Peace x Peace the 2007 Best Community Building/Volunteerism and/or Activism Campaign as part of its 2007 International ePhilanthropy Awards.

You may have seen Peace x Peace in O, The Oprah Magazine several years back. Established in 2002, Peace x Peace's Global Network connects women's groups (Circles) across the globe to foster understanding and support actions that creates peace. For example, the Philosophy Cafe blog recently connected their Circle, in Saudia Arabia, with a Sister Circle in Oregon. In a post on the Tharwa Review, Patricia Smith Melton, the founder and chairperson of Peace X Peace, describes how Peace X Peace connects Palestinian and Israeli women:
Now Peace X Peace members throughout the region work hard to meet with each other (where and when it is legal) and with our Palestinian and Israeli liaisons in or near Jerusalem. They email each other, plan to visit refugee camps together, and some call each other "sister". While some women are not interested - some Palestinians particularly refuse to meet with Israelis - many Peace X Peace members are frustrated at their inability to be together easily, to be friends face to face.
Though the Peace x Peace site, you can start a Circle, or connect an already existing Circle to a Sister Circle in the Global Network. You can also listen to audio interviews with inspiring women and peacemakers in their Voice x Voice section, call the Act Now! Peace Action line to talk to a real person (an amazing feat these days) who will help your Circle create an action plan, and read their blog, Week x Week.

Peace x Peace is presently looking for a Women's Global Roundtable Intern to contribute to the direct marketing of their Women’s Global Roundtable:
The Women's Global Roundtable is a new live teleconference program that brings to life the stories of women from around the world. Peace X Peace interviews a different woman from a different country weekly. After the interview, any audience member can ask her questions and explore directly with the featured speaker.
Whether through Giving Circles or Sister Circles, in a world, at least in the US, where individualism and private property rule, perhaps we are learning, as Corey Pudhorodsky often says on his 501c3Cast, "If we keep working together, it will get better."




Monday, October 01, 2007

Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants: How Does Your Nonprofit Have Fun and Do Good?

I am hosting the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants this week. As the host, I asked bloggers to post about, How Does Your Nonprofit Have Fun and Do Good?

Bloggers were invited to post about:
1. Your favorite fun, creative nonprofit campaign (i.e. fundraising, advocacy).
2. How you make nonprofit work fun for you, your colleagues and constituents.
3. Your own take on the theme.
**Extra points if you include an amusing photo, cartoon or video with your post.

LOLnptech: Comic Relief for the Nonprofit Technology Community said I could pick my favorite one of their posts for the Carnival so I picked the image above from They Want Me to Build Them a Facebook Widget.

Rob Cottingham contributed an original cartoon, Go Fish, on the Social Signal blog about how hard it is to take time to have fun when you work for a nonprofit (pictured left)

Idealist.org has fun with their staff by producing “Ideavision”:
"We’ll close our email boxes and set aside our to-do lists for a moment and don our lip-synching rock star hats. We choose a song (Bohemian Rhapsody was a recent favorite) and 'produce' a music video. As you can probably imagine, we've learned a lot about one another's hidden talents in the process!"
School gardening program, Urban Sprouts, has fun by collaborating with Meet the Greens, a website about two middle school kids who are green (literally and environmentally), and with Trash Mash-Up an organization that works with students to make costumes and other fun things out of trash.

George Irish of Shake the Pillars posts about Amnesty International's "Get in Bed with Darfur" -Putting the Fun Into Human Rights Campaigning.

To promote Amnesty International's CD Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, which features musicians' recordings of their versions of John Lennon classics, Amnesty decided to build an outreach effort around the Bed-in for Peace that John Lennon and Yoko Ono carried out in the summer of 1969. They replaced tabling at concerts and festivals with a big tie-dyed bed. Be sure to read his post for more campaign details and check out the over 1,000 photos of people who have joined their Virtual Bed-In.

Isabella Mori of Alphablogs.net suggests 10 Reasons Why Arts Organizations Should Have Blogs including to be, "a virtual gallery, museum, concert hall or book store."

Ken Goldstein of The Nonprofit Consultant Blog is excited that YouTube Ups the Ante for Nonprofits with the launch of the YouTube Nonprofit Program:
"Online video has become a vital communications tool. With today's technology it doesn't take much to get started telling your story in moving images. YouTube makes it easy to post and host your video on their site using their servers and then easily embed it into your web site with no additional server load.

So, what are you waiting for?"
Thanks to everyone who submitted posts and images to this episode of the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants.

You can keep track of the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, no matter which blog is hosting, by subscribing to the Carnival feed.

Next week's carnival will be hosted by Michelle Murrain of
Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology. The topic is: We all make mistakes in our work with clients. What mistakes have you learned the most from? How do you deal with making mistakes?