Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time is a Gift: Reflections on My 29th Day of the Giving Challenge

I am an extremely busy person who makes a lot of lists. Work lists. Personal lists. Urgent, Not Urgent, Important, Not Important Lists. And I have a lot of ideas, which get added to the lists, and make them longer.

Time is never on my side.

Those of you who are not time addicts like myself might not understand how difficult it is to look at your ginormous lists and say yes to taking a couple hours to help a friend move, or visit your family for 5 days with limited Wi-Fi (gasp!), or give your full attention during a phone call without simultaneously making dinner and unloading the drier, or spend the day with your husband going with the flow (hello, where's the agenda?).

During my second round of the 29 Day Giving Challenge, which ends today, my main takeaway is that I need to be more conscious about how I give my time. Over the 29 days I gave away all kinds of stuff: donations, free advice, things, but it was when I gave the gift of being fully present with people, and spending time with them, those were the richest gifts of all.

The older I get, the faster time goes. According to my grandma, it is going to go even faster (yikes!). A lot of the Big Vision Consulting work I do happens on, or is related to the Web. It moves very fast. News spreads quickly. Videos go "viral." The hottest technology changes daily. I love things that move quickly, because they save you time, but I think I need to start taking the advice I often give my over-worked clients,
"Just because you work on the Web doesn't mean you have to move as quickly as it does."
Technology allows us to be connected to a lot of people quickly, all the time, whether by a phone call, an email, an instant message, or a text, which is good. It mirrors the fact that we are all connected, as a human community, and that all of our actions affect each other. But, in our excitement to be connected to so many people, in so many ways, and in so many places, we may make less time for deep connections, which are facilitated by spending time together in person.

In my recent interview with Marianne Manilov of The Engage Network she said,
"I want to know people at a deep level. I don't want to know them in passing. I want to know less people, and I want to know them more."
That quote has resonated with me throughout my 29 days of giving. I know that somehow I have to change how I give my time to make more space for deeper connections. Ultimately, those kinds of connections can help change the world. As Manilov said in the same interview,
"It's not how many friends you have on Facebook, it's the depth of connection of our community ties that will keep us together and allow us to have political power together."
Today, on American Thanksgiving, I'm going to try to to give thanks by being fully present with the people I am with. I'll be a little quieter than I usually would be. I'll really listen to them. I'll tell them a little bit more about myself than I usually would. I'll really share with them. I'll enjoy the time I have with them in this moment, because its all we really have.

As the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said,
"Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life."
If you want to learn more about the 29 Day Giving Challenge, go to Happy Thanksgiving!

Flickr photo credit: Pocket Watch uploaded by Andreas Falk.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Breadline Africa's Blogger Bakeoff: Bake Bread, Give Dough

Are you a bread baking blogger who wants to make the world a better place? Sign on up for Breadline Africa's Blogger Bakeoff, a year-long campaign (October 15, 2008-October 15, 2009) to raise 1 million dollars for Breadline Africa's projects by, "baking bread and giving dough."

Here's how it works.

1. Join the campaign.

2. Add a Breadline Blogger Bakeoff fundraising widget to your blog.

3. Make a donation to Breadline Africa. Breadline Africa is a South Africa based organization working to alleviate poverty in Africa. You can see a list of projects they support by clicking here.

4. Upload your bread recipe with a photo or video.

5. Vote for your favorite recipes in each of the three categories:
  • Most Nutritious
  • Most Unusual
  • Best Traditional
The winner in each category will receive a $250 Amazon voucher.

6. Tag/invite five other bloggers to join the campaign.

7. Invite your friends and readers to donate to Breadline Africa. The participant who refers the most donations will receive a $500 Amazon voucher, and have their name on a Breadline Africa kitchen built from a converted shipping container. You can see a container that was converted into a classroom by clicking here.

Below are links to some of the bloggers who have participated, and their recipes:
You can follow news about the Blogger Bakeoff Challenge on Breadline Africa's Blog, and the Blogger Bakeoff Twitter feed.

Flickr photo credit: Bread uploaded by Jeremy Keith.
Cross-posted from

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post Your Ideas for the Obama Administration on, along with MySpace and other partners, has launched a new campaign called Ideas for Change in America. They are asking you to submit your idea for an innovative solution to change America, as well as vote for others ideas you like. The first round of voting will end on December 31, 2008.

The top three ideas in each category (there are almost 30 categories) that receive the most votes will make it to the second round of voting starting January 5, 2009 and ending on January 15.

The top 10 ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day, and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by, MySpace, and more than a dozen other nonprofits after the Inauguration.

I just submitted my idea:

Make Things That Are "Public" Cool
Obama said that he wants to make politics cool. I hope he'll make funding, supporting, and using "public" services like education, transportation, parks, libraries and broadcasting cool too.

You can vote for my idea by clicking on the button above, or voting on

Monday, November 24, 2008

Video of Me Talking About Nonprofits & Web 2.0 Stuff

Last month David Collin of FI Space interviewed me about the Internet Strategy on the Cheap session that Eric Leland of Five Paths and I presented at the Bay Area Craigslist Nonprofit Boot Camp.

I've posted the video below, or you can watch it on Vimeo.

Meet Britt Bravo from David Collin on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Echoing Green Fellowships for Social Entrepreneurs: Deadline Dec. 1

Are you an aspiring social entrepreneur who needs some support getting your idea of the ground? Echoing Green awards 20 fellowships for social entrepreneurs each year. Fellows receive up to $90,000 in seed funding and technical support to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable social change organizations.

If you're interested, you better get cracking 'cause the deadline to apply is December 1st 5 PM EST!

You kind find more information about the Echoing Green Fellowship at:

During the most recent episode of Echoing Green's Be Bold Podcast (which I host) Lara Galinsky, the Vice President of Strategy and Communications, answers questions about the process like:
  • What is the Echoing Green Fellowship?
  • What are the application requirements?
  • What are common mistakes in the application process?
  • What additional resources does Echoing Green provide to applicants?
You can listen to the Be Bold podcast online, or subscribe via iTunes.

You can also find additional support and answers to your application questions on the Ask Echoing Green blog, or by watching videos of former Fellows (Mark Hanis, Chris Myers Asch, Bethany Robertson, and John Alford) answering frequently asked applicant questions on the Echoing Green YouTube Channel.

Echoing Green recommends that you find a coach to help you with your application. They've created an Applicant Coaching Guide, and a slideshow about effective coaching strategies.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

UTNE's 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World

Will you be traveling during the holiday season? Why not pick up a copy of the November/December issue of Utne Reader for some inspiration on the plane? Its feature story is "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."

There are too many visionaries in the article for me to list them all here, but here's a sampling, with links to their blogs:

Take a look through the full list. Who else do you think they should have included on the list?

Image credit: Utne Reader November/December 2008 cover image from

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Resources to Launch a Virtual Volunteer Program for Your Nonprofit

Last week I posted about becoming a virtual volunteer (a volunteer whose work happens online), but what if you're a nonprofit that wants to start a virtual volunteer program?

Here are a few resources to get you going:

What are some of your favorite virtual volunteer program management tips and resources?

Cross-posted from The Extraordinaries.
Flickr photo credit:
NASA Rocket Launch 9/25/06 uploaded by nashpreds99

Friday, November 14, 2008

Vote for Your CNN Hero: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Impact

I started watching a lot of CNN before the election. It's kinda depressing, but I'm trying to stay informed. Over the past week though, there have been little glimpses of happiness amid the disasters, scandals and economic bad news - stories about the CNN Heroes: Ordinary People Extraordinary Impact.

According the CNN Heroes site, they received nearly 4,000 submissions from 75 countries that were narrowed down to 10 candidates by a Blue Ribbon Panel. The Panel included luminaries like Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Jeffrey Sachs and Jane Goodall.

You can vote for who will be awarded $100,00, named CNN's Hero of the Year, and be honored at "An All-Star Tribute" with Anderson Cooper at 9 ET Thanksgiving night. I've included part of the nominees' profiles below, as they are written up on the site, but added links to their organizations and projects where I could find them.

You can read more about the nominees on the CNN Heroes site where you can also get a CNN Heroes digital badge (like the one above), sign up for their email list, comment on the CNN Heroes Blog, and watch a video of Anderson Cooper announcing the top 10 CNN Heroes:

Tad Agoglia
"Started The First Response Team to provide immediate help to areas hit by natural disasters. Since May 2007, he and his crew have aided thousands of victims at 15 sites across the United States -- free of charge."

Maria Da Silva
"Has lost 14 family members to AIDS. Today, the Los Angeles nanny funds a school in her native Malawi -- where half a million children have been orphaned by the disease."

Yohannes Gebregeorgis
"Moved by the lack of children's books and literacy in his native Ethiopia, Yohannes Gebregeorgis established Ethiopia Reads, bringing free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of Ethiopian children."

Carolyn LeCroy
"After serving time in prison, Carolyn LeCroy started The Messages Project to help children stay connected with their incarcerated parents. She and volunteer camera crews have taped roughly 3,000 inmate messages."

Anne Mahlum
"Used to run by homeless men each morning. Today, she's running with them, and others, as part of her 'Back On My Feet' program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania."

Liz McCartney
"Dedicated to helping Hurricane Katrina survivors in St. Bernard Parish, a community just outside New Orleans. Her nonprofit St. Bernard Project has rebuilt the homes of more than 120 families."

Phymean Noun
"Growing up in Cambodia, Phymean Noun struggled to complete high school. Today, she offers hundreds of children who work in Phnom Penh's trash dump a way out through free schooling and job training."

David Puckett
"Started PIPO Missions to bring ongoing prosthetic and orthotic care to those in need. Since November 2000, he has helped more than 420 people in southeastern Mexico, free of charge."

Maria Ruiz
"Several times a week, Maria Ruiz of El Paso, Texas, crosses the border into Juarez, Mexico, bringing food, clothing and toys for hundreds of impoverished children and their families."

Viola Vaughn
"A group of failing schoolchildren in Kaolack, Senegal, once asked Viola Vaughn to help them pass their classes. Today, her 10,000 Girls program is helping girls succeed in school and learn business skills."

Related blog posts
Vote for Ethiopia Reads' Yohannes Gebregeorgis as CNN's hero of the year from The Latest Word.
NICE News: CNN Heroes from Operation NICE
CNN's Top 10 Heroes Of 2008 from The Huffington Post

Check Out the New Social Actions!

For the past couple months, I've been working with the Social Actions team on their site redesign, which launched today!

Social Actions is a nonprofit initiative that helps you find and share opportunities to change the world.

They collect ways for you to get involved in the causes you care about from 30+ action sources like Care2,,, DemocracyinAction, GlobalGiving, Idealist, Kiva, SixDegrees and VolunteerMatch.

You can find an action to take about the causes you care about by using their search engine, and share ways for others to take action on your website, blog, or mobile device with one of their web applications.

They'll also be launching a web application development contest, Change the Web 2009, in January.

Like all web sites, it is a work in progress, so I hope you'll check it out, click around, and add your thoughts and suggestions in the comments of this post, or to the announcement post on the Social Actions blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Small Groups Can Change the World: An Interview with Marianne Manilov of The Engage Network

"It's not how many friends you have on Facebook, it's the depth of connection of our community ties that will keep us together and allow us to have political power together."

Last week, after the election, BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone, asked What Will You Do To Change America? I wrote a few suggestions for how to figure out how you want to create change in my post, How Can You Make An Impact? including finding a small group of people to support you in your process.

The Engage Network is a nonprofit social venture that facilitates the power of small community groups to create social change. At the moment, The Engage Network includes three "sectors": What's Your Tree?, inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill's tree-sit, Off the Mat Into the World, founded by yoga teacher Seane Corn, and Green for All, founded by Van Jones.

On October 21, 2008, I interviewed Marianne Manilov, the National Team Leader at The Engage Network, about their work. Below is an edited transcript of an interview, which you can also listen to on the Big Vision Podcast.

For folks who don't know, what is The Engage Network?

The Engage Network is a new nonprofit/for-profit venture started two years ago. Its main purpose is to help people really get engaged on the ground in social change. We do that through a model of living room circles, circles in cafes, and circles in yoga studios It's a place for people to actually plug in and get trained to be leaders.

The Engage Network site features three sectors which are three very different programs. What's the connection between these programs, and how do they fit into The Engage Network?

Well, I think what you have to look at is, when people come to get involved in social change, how does that happen? You see somebody who inspires you. You see, perhaps, Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat in a tree, or you see Van Jones, who's the leader of Green For All, or maybe you see somebody else. You hear them speak, or you read their book, or you listen to your podcast, and then you generally write to that person, or you go up to them, rush them at the end of a speech and say, "I'm a student, I want to get involved."

What they're going to say to you is, "Join my email list." That email list is going to give you updates once a quarter. Maybe you're going to get involved in a day of action. Maybe you're going to give money. That's kind of the trajectory for how we get people involved.

The Engage Network was founded when Julia Butterfly Hill had a major motion picture coming out about her, and we saw what had happened with An Inconvenient Truth. Actually, it started a little bit before An Inconvenient Truth, but essentially, people got really excited by Al Gore's message, he's a social champion, somebody who inspires us, and then they really didn't have a lot of ways to plug in.

Of course, this incredible film was produced in a short amount of time, without a lot of budget to do outreach. I think they did a great job of trying to give people 10 actions, but a lot of it was "Change your light bulb," or "Buy a Prius." It really wasn't how most of us felt after seeing the film, which was, "I want to truly get involved." Most of that was picked up by Billy Parish and the people with Energy Action Coalition, and It's Getting Hot In Here.

So, we're looking at, how do we partner with people who inspire people? Right now we have three partnerships, one is with Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat in a tree for a long time; one is with Seane Corn, who is a nationally known yoga instructor, but she's also known for her work working with child prostitutes and young people with AIDS; and Van Jones.

We're looking at partnering with people who really inspire, and giving people a way to plug in on the ground after those people leave. So, if you see Van speak, our goal is to have a place that you can plug in, a local leader who says, "Come to my house."

The commonality between all the programs is that we will help you find what it is that calls you, your purpose in social change, and build you a community of friends who have a deep connection to you, so if you get sick, or you need something, they're going to be there for you, and then have you start taking action in the world. That's the trajectory that we're really looking at for Engage. We're looking at taking people beyond that, "I want to be on an email list," into action in their own communities. The difference is that we're partnering with different social champions.

On the site, you have different influences for this organization. A lot of them were books like, The Starfish and the Spider, The Purpose-Driven Church, and Blessed Unrest. Can you talk a little more about the kind of the organizing model that this is based on? You've touched on it a little bit, but maybe go into it a little bit deeper.

Again, just to tell you that story, what had happened was that Julia Butterfly Hill had this major motion picture coming out, and to give you a sense of what that meant, An Inconvenient Truth opened in about four theaters, and maybe expanded to 20 or 30. Julia's film will likely open in 1,500 theaters, on the low end. She really wanted a way to get people engaged that wasn't just, "Get on an email list".

Then her film was delayed. It's still delayed, actually, we're waiting for it to go into production. She said, "If you could do anything, what would you do?" A team of us said, "We would study what works in citizen engagement." So, we spent a year, and a significant amount of resources, close to half a million dollars. A team from Circle of Life, and myself, went around and started studying organizing models.

What are the things that I've seen that have worked? The first one for me, as somebody who's a progressive, was the Howard Dean community. They had an amazing network on the ground, volunteers. I tracked down some of the Howard Dean guys. I'm particularly influenced by a guy named Michael Silberman. He's with EchoDitto, now working with One Sky. I had to beg to drive him to the airport to even get any time with him, because he had no idea who I was. I'm an older organizer, he's the next generation.

For me, what was key about him is he was the person, when Howard Dean was building living room circles, that was building the leadership of each of the leaders who was running a living room circle. He was actually dealing with those leaders, helping them build skills, helping them be inspired, and he was their coordinator. I wanted to know what worked, what didn't work, and what did he learn. He was a very big influence.

We also looked to the business community. There was this book, The Starfish and the Spider, which studied things like Craigslist, which is a distributive model of people being able to post things online.

Strangely enough, I read that book about three times, was obsessed with it, and then realized the third time through that one of the authors had organized under me when he was in college, so I called him. He became an advisor, not just because of what was in the book, but everything he had been studying. He'd been going around the country looking at everything from disaster sites, to CEOs of corporations, and seeing how people were empowered from the ground up. Even though it was a business book, The Starfish and the Spider, it was really looking at, how do we distribute power in a network so people feel like they can take action? His name is Ori Brafman.

I met with people like Erin Potts, the founder of the Students for a Free Tibet concert series. She engages students at a concert level. What had she learned, what had she studied?

We started to see some common themes. Our biggest breakthrough, I think, in that year of study, came when we decided that if we're going to really understand organizing, we can't just study progressives. We have to study the right. We knew that the last election was given to Bush by the evangelical Christian movement, so we thought, we have to go in and study this.

Myself and Alissa Hauser, who was Julia Butterfly's Executive Director, and a Board member of Circle of Life, and Ina Pockrass, went to Rick Warren's church. Now we all know who Rick Warren is because he hosted a debate; at that time nobody did. He's the founder of this network called The Purpose-Driven Network based on the Purpose-Driven Life book series. He had a conference about how to build a purpose-driven church.

I remember being there at that conference, we registered as a church (in my personal life I am an assistant minister at a place here in Oakland), and I was expecting to be very uncomfortable there, but I was very comfortable in that community. I was surprised how welcoming they were to people of all different faiths.

It was a very interesting community. We were there for awhile studying, and I remember at one point thinking, "This is going to change my life." I called Van Jones on the phone, because we're good friends, I was crying, and I said to him,

"I have done 20 years of organizing one way, and I did it the wrong way. Now at least I have a beginning of what we need to do right. If they don't pay me for the rest of my life, this is what I'm going to dedicate my life to."

What moved me so much was that, in organizing, when I've worked on national campaigns, our job is always to go to leaders, whether that's a union leader, or an environmental organization, Sierra Club, whoever it is, on a piece of legislation and to say, "Excite your leaders. Go out, call them, get them engaged."

That is a model that I call "Core to Community." A core group of leaders who, in the organizing movement, happen to be predominantly white men (still) who are in positions of strong power, who are trying to excite a base of people for a period of time on a certain issue.

Small group to large group, issue-based, short-term. Not so great. There are base-building groups, we have ACORN, I'm not saying the movement doesn't have that, but their predominant methodology was, take people who have never been involved. In fact, Rick Warren, in starting his church, one of the first things he said was, "If you're involved in a church, I'm not interested in you." He's looking for unbelievers. The progressive movement never does that. We are completely looking for people who've already bought every single solitary thing, myself included.

He takes them through a process of building them up from Community to Core through building them up into small groups who take care of each other, and learn to change the world together, and he actually has a social justice framework.

Of course, as they're coming through that network from Community to Core, he also wants them to accept Christ into their life. So, he has a spiritual goal for them. Being a spiritually mature leader, in my worldview, is not a bad thing. The people I work with in organizing who are what I would consider spiritually mature leaders — it's a great thing.

He takes them through both that process of skills building, of how to run a group and build other leaders, and also a spiritual maturity process. In his church, he has over 3,000 small groups. Those groups are always happening, always taking care of someone. If someone goes to the hospital, who takes care of them? The small group. If somebody needs childcare, who takes care of them? Their small group.

If he wants to do a political campaign, he's going to say, "For the next 40 days, I want you to feed all of the homeless in Orange County." Well, when he announced that to his church, they did 40 days of community service, and 10,000 people signed up.

That's what it looks like to me to change the frame of a small group of people who activate a base for the short term, to a long term building of people through a process of leadership and taking care of each other so that we can build out a movement, and then lay campaigns on that. I feel like we've been doing the opposite, and people feel burned out and disconnected.

We talk about this vision of what it will be like when things have changed. I get a little sense of that from the Obama election, but it still doesn't mean that somebody has childcare who doesn't have it. Until I know in the movement that people who are with us are truly cared for, and truly coming from a place of being called into their greatness, and we have pathways to get them from A to B, it doesn't mean much. We keep talking about it, but I haven't seen much outside of people getting really burnt out, and having to leave to get the care they need.

That's changeable, and I don't think the right-wing churches have a handle on the whole thing, obviously, but they have a best practices network of small groups that I study, and I definitely think we have some of those in the progressive movement. Also, there's a whole church movement that is particularly strong in Africa that also has these kinds of things, and there's social capital that's been studied out of Harvard, how you build social capital. We've combined a lot of those things, and we've come up with a theory of change.

We are testing it on the ground with these social champions, and with curriculum, and with local leaders. It's like the iPhone, version one, lot of glitches. We're probably in version three now, but I don't want to release it publicly outside of our partners, or broadly to the movement, until we get a little bit further down into the versions.

We want to take it to scale and see what the problems are that we come up with at scale in these three programs: What's Your Tree?, Off the Mat, and Green For All. We're constantly failing and finding things that are wrong. That's part of our methodology. We are an organization that's an adaptive organization; we want to be adaptive and constantly changing, and we want the model to actually move and change and grow, but it has to get to a certain level of growth, just like a child does, before it has enough energy.

Van and I spent a lot of time this summer really talking about that, his feelings for Green For All, and my feelings for Engage, that we want to do things in a way that's very intentional, so that as we scale it up to a lot of people, it holds up. Not that it doesn't have some failure; I think failure is a sign of success.

You mentioned that you've been organizing for 20 years. Can you talk a little bit about the path that brought you to this work?

Well, I come from an organizing family, union organizing family. Some people's families are doctors or lawyers, mine's organizers. I was involved from a very young age in many different social change things. As a college student, I was part of the national student divestment movement. I went to the University of Iowa. We took over a building. We locked down.

I was trained by Mel King, a civil rights leader out of Boston, extensively, and I still really identify with a lot of his work. Then I went on to work for Amnesty and Greenpeace, and I've done an enormous amount of youth organizing. I founded a nonprofit with a couple of other women, Robin Templeton, Asha Bandele, and Veronica Sanchez called UNPLUG, and then did consulting, and wrote a book. I was never planning on founding another nonprofit, and definitely did not want to birth Engage. [laughs] But, it became very clear to me, there were many signs, that it was what I was supposed to be part of birthing, and the group that birthed Engage, it called all of us to stand up and do that.

And what is the long-term vision for Engage?

My long-term vision for Engage is, how I'll know it's a success, is when I look back on it (we all talk about being in rocking chairs now because I'm about to turn 43 next week) and when I'm sitting in a rocking chair next to Van, and other people, what I'm looking for is that there is a team of leaders who truly know how to both care for people, and change their world at the same time. That when you plug into the social change movement, what you're going to get first is a sense of community, and a sense of care, and a sense of somebody really looking at you and saying, "What is it you want to do? What is it that calls you to be more than you thought you could be?", and then a team of people that helps you get there.

I want to see that we're having a lot of community care, and we have political power because of that base. Make no doubt about it, the small circle network in the evangelical churches have elected presidents. I believe the small circles that came together around Obama will elect him, but the question is, what happens after a single campaign? Do we stay together and create this kind of community we always talk about, but I don't see in practice that often, except for maybe at a Bioneers conference, or something for a weekend?

That's not what it looks like. What it looks like is Van's wife being able to call me and say, "I need somebody to come get my son today, can you pick him up?" or me being able to say, "I have dental surgery, who's going to come and take care of me?" and knowing that people in the movement aren't going to say, "Oh, you know, I'm working 70 hours a week, I'd really love to be there, but I couldn't." That's not what it is. It's not how many friends you have on Facebook, it's the depth of connection of our community ties that will keep us together and allow us to have political power together.

I want to know people at a deep level. I don't want to know them in passing. I want to know less people, and I want to know them more. I keep looking when people are asking to Facebook me now, and Erin Potts said to me, "You know, I'm really looking at, would I spend a weekend with those people?" I want to know who it is that I'm in contact with because I can't take care of everyone, and I can't be involved in everything, so I want to choose really well.

Can you talk a little bit more about what the three programs that make up The Engage Network are about?

Right now we've partnered with three social champions. One is Julia Butterfly Hill, who had a two-year tree sit, and that program that surrounds her is called What's Your Tree? What's Your Tree? is a program for people who might see her movie, or for the first time are thinking about being involved in environmental or social change. It takes them through a process of finding their purpose, building a community team, and taking action.

Then we have Off the Mat, Into the World, which, as you might imagine, is a yoga program with Seane Corn, that takes yoga leaders, and people in yoga studios through that same process, but also has a very embodied sense of it; the yoga teachers take people through some work. Also, I think it's a little bit deeper work because you're doing work in your body.

Right now we're in the design phase with Green For All, and looking at launching a leadership training program in two to five cities in the spring, predominantly in communities of color, that will build small living room circles as well. With Green For All, there are students who are in green jobs programs, there are people at the city level, there are the student environmentalists, we have to look at all those places and serve many different communities. We'll be piloting in the spring, and then version two.

If people who are listening to, or reading this interview are getting excited about what you're saying, how can they get involved in The Engage Network?

Well, there are two ways to get involved. One is, you can go to the Engage website at The way you enter is through the partner organizations, What's Your Tree?, Off the Mat, or Green For All. You can see if there is a local group in your area. At this point, there may not be, in which case, I would say, there isn't a way to locally get involved. You can sign up and say, "I want to start a small group," but we're not launching in that way.

What I would encourage people to do in the meantime is to not wait for Engage. Find a circle of five of your closest friends and start having a potluck once a week. Start bringing in readings, talk about your visions and your dreams, and what it is you want to do, and how you want to be there for each other. Make a commitment to meeting for six months, or a year. Your ability to build community among your friends who you want to do social change with, and to stay in that community changes the world.

We now know that groups of people who are strongly tied together, there are government studies, Harvard studies, that show us this, vote more often. They're less sick. They're less in poverty. Once that group of people has met for six months, and really spent some time internally getting to know each other, I mean, like, six months, a year, maybe think of one thing you want to take on together. Or, go around and each person gives a vision, and say, we're going to take on the vision of one person for a couple of months.

That's the process. We're doing it through curriculum, and looking at scale, but you don't need us to do that. As much as I love Facebook and MySpace, that isn't what is going to build us a movement, so be willing to be bold and take the next step into movement. We're not the only group that's doing small groups, the Howard Dean group went into Democracy for America. Look for groups that have that ability to train you as a leader on the ground, and really tie deeper into your current community.

Is there anything else that you didn't get to talk about, either about The Engage Network, or your partners, or the work that you've done that you want to share with folks?

I think it's an incredible time. When people are feeling this call to get plugged in, it is hard to take that first step. I say to people, the first step is a potluck. You've seen what people around the country making a few phone calls for Obama has done. We're going to elect a president. 3.2 million people giving money, 82 or 86 dollars.

See, that one step of community, it's a very valid step that, for whatever reason, the movement left behind. Realize that the Civil Rights movement, the women's movement, the anti-slavery movement, there isn't a movement that was successful without those kinds of small living room circles. Stand in that and know that once a month, or twice a month potlucks can change the world.

Photo: The Engage Network Founders: Marianne Manilov, Ina Pockrass and Alissa Hauser.
Cross-posted from BlogHer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Make a Difference From Home: Be a Virtual Volunteer

You're busy, but you want to volunteer--why not try being a virtual volunteer! Virtual or online volunteering allows you to do your volunteer work online.

Wondering what kind of things you could help with?

In his post, Become a Virtual Volunteer and Make a Real Difference, Jeff Nickles of My Super Charged Life points out that nonprofits need all kinds of help that can be done online:
"[V]olunteers are needed in researching topics, editing documents, developing web sites, writing proposals, creating curriculum, tutoring students, designing graphics, and editing video, just to name a few possibilities. In addition, organizations need online volunteers with legal, financial, environmental, information technology, and project management expertise."
In her post, Be a Virtual Volunteer, Karama of the blog, So What Can I Do? also has a list of ways you can help including: grant writing, website or graphic design, being an email pen pal, raising money on eBay, transcription or translation, research, database development or management, and copy editing. also has a long list of virtual volunteer ideas in its article, What Can a Virtual Volunteer Do?

Are you inspired and ready to find a virtual volunteer opportunity?

In addition to the United Nations Volunteers Online Volunteering Service that I posted about last week, you can also search for virtual opportunities on VolunteerMatch,,, and You also might want to check out's Virtual Volunteering: Questions from Volunteers for more ideas and information about being a virtual volunteer.

If you're interested in social entrepreneurship, Ashoka and the Ashoka Fellows are always looking for virtual translators who speak Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Polish, Arabic, Hebrew and African and Indian languages.

Where else can people find virtual volunteer opportunities?

Cross-posted from The Extraordinaries.
Photo of virtual volunteer cat by me.

Be Bold Podcast: Create a Career with Impact, Episode #3

The third episode of Echoing Green's Be Bold Podcast, that I host, is up. The show features a discussion of two career related questions with Lara Galinsky, author of Be Bold: Create A Career with Impact.

The questions are:

1. I recently quit from an organization where I worked for the last 11 years. I haven’t decided what to do next and am considering doing consultancy work. How do I market myself given that I’ve never done this kind of work before?

2. I am currently completing a Ph.D in Anthropology with a focus in U.S. Historical Archeology. I am now interested in pursuing a career with either a nonprofit or NGO abroad, working primarily in the area of education and educational development policy. My question is twofold:

a. How do I now market myself for this field when most of my education and research has been in another field, and primarily in the US.

b. While looking for organizations to apply to, I have not had much luck in finding any geared towards education, and education development abroad. Are there any particularly useful websites, or organizations that I could direct my search to?

You can listen to the Be Bold podcast online, or subscribe via iTunes.

Send in your questions to be answered on the Be Bold Podcast to Also, check out the Be Bold Resources page, and the New York Times' Social Impact Career Center, created in partnership with Echoing Green.

Finally, the deadline to apply for an Echoing Green Fellowship for social entrepreneurs is coming up: December 1, 2008.

Friday, November 07, 2008

November 10: Bloggers Raise Awareness About Refugees During Bloggers Unite

Monday, November 10th, in an initiative similar to Blog Action Day, thousands of bloggers will post about refugee issues to raise awareness as part of Bloggers Unite.

The Bloggers Unite site has Bloggers Unite for Refugees digital badges you can add to your blog or website, as well as links to information about refugee issues:

All kinds of blogs are spreading the word and planning on joining Bloggers Unite like:

Medusa's Muse, a blog by the publisher and owner of an independent press in Northern California of the same name.
Flavours of Italy, the blog of Flavours Italian Cookery Holidays, an Italian holiday tour operator.
Traveling Project, a travel blog by "TravelDude."

This isn't the first Bloggers Unite campaign. In the past, bloggers have written posts on the same day about human rights, acts of kindness, abuse, and organ donation.

Cross-posted from President Elect Obama's new site

I've been following Barack Obama for about as long as I've written Have Fun * Do Good:

• I wrote about his podcast in September 2005: Obama's podcasts and Clinton's version of Slamdance.

• Listed Dreams of My Father as one of my Favorite Do-Good Books of 2006.

• Saw him speak in 2007: Obama in Oakland.

• And saw him speak again in 2008 at the September 11 Presidential Forum on Service.

But today is the first day it feels real. Barack Obama is going to be the President of the United States.



He has an amazing new site up, Office of the President-Elect. It has a newsroom and a blog, and information about their agenda, how to apply for jobs, and how to be of service.

It also has a place to "tell your story" about what this election and campaign means to you, as well as a way to share your vision for where Obama should lead the country.

It gives me the shivers. To be asked. What I think. By my government.

I don't think I've ever written that. My government. My government.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How Can You Make An Impact?

"So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other."
--President-elect Obama's acceptance speech
November 4, 2008

In her post today, Congratulations President-elect Obama: Now, BlogHers, what will YOU do to change America?, BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone asks us to make our own "transition plan," and ask ourselves how are we are each going to help create change in America.

To figure out how you can make an impact, try this exercise based on a similar one from Carol Lloyd's book Creating a Life Worth Living:

1. On a blank piece of paper write (without editing) a long list, or create a mind map, of all of the issues that are important to you (i.e. health care, education, foreign policy, the arts, crime, poverty, animal rights, environment, local politics, organic food). You can be as general or specific as you like.

2. On a second piece of paper, write (without editing) a long list, or create a mind map, of all the skills (personal and professional) you like to use (i.e. research, construction, making music, translation, driving, cooking, organizing, presenting).

3. You can do this third part alone, but it's even better if you can find a friend, or group of friends to brainstorm with. Take a final piece of paper and write, without editing, or create a mind map, all the ways you could use the skills you enjoy to work on the issues that are important to you.

4. Look through your list and mark the three ideas that you are the most excited about. Your ideas may be life changing, like entering the Peace Corps, or smaller changes in your daily life, like volunteering one morning a week at a public school in your neighborhood.

5. Write down three small actions you can take toward exploring one of these ideas. Ideally, the actions would take somewhere between 30 minutes-2 hours, so that they feel doable. Mark a date on your calendar when you'll complete your actions. When that day arrives, pick three new, small actions towards the same idea, or a different one.

6. Find a small group of people to share this process with on a regular basis. I'll be posting a transcript this week, or next week from my Big Vision Podcast interview with Marianne Manilov of The Engage Network. She talks about the power of small groups to change the world.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."-- Margaret Mead

How some bloggers are changing the world:

Julia of How I Changed the World Today regularly documents the loans she makes to to social entrepreneurs on

Karama of So What Can I Do? posts ideas for how you can change the world. In today's post, Join the Carnival of Change We Can Believe In (Booth 11) she suggests supporting Obama's presidency by: 1. voting for every position in every election, 2. serving jury duty (willingly), 3. writing to your elected officials, and 4. running for political office.

As part of Art Every Day Month, Jennifer of the Life Unfolds blog is creating collage cards for each of her core values. She is also the creator of the Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit.

Cross-posted from
Flickr photo credit: American Flag, Navy Pier, Chicago by Belinda Hankins Miller.

United Nations Volunteers Launches New Online Volunteering Site

Have you ever wanted to translate newspaper articles from Turkish to English for UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)?

Help the UNDP's (United Nations Development Programme) International Poverty Centre forge research partnerships in the Arab States region?

Do graphic design for Lawyers without Borders?

Provide CiviCRM and Drupal support for the Aid Workers Network?

Write a great apes species profile for the African Conservation Foundation?

You can find online volunteer opportunities like these from UN agencies, and development organizations on the UNV Online Volunteering Service. The UNV recently updated its site to make it easier for individuals to find online volunteer opportunities, and for organizations to post them.

Mrs. Rizki of the Mr. and Mrs. Rizki blog, has been a member of the UNV online volunteering community for 5 years. She recently signed up to do some translation:

"I found this organisation named PEOI, which specializes in providing free online education for several countries, including Indonesia. I, basically translate their English contents to Indonesian."

SanityFound's Ramblings joined the United Nations Online Volunteer Programme when she was home with extra time on her hands:

"I loved the concept of being able to help the Developing Nations while I worked as I was not in a position to join the full time volunteer programmes."

You can search for volunteer opportunities in English, French or Spanish by task, development topic, and region. Best of all, all of your work is done online, so you can fit it in to your schedule!

Have you ever been an online volunteer for the UNV? What was it like?

Cross-posted from The Extraordinaries