Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tips for Disaster Relief Bloggers

The last BlogHer Conference session I went to yesterday, before leaving early to go to a wedding, was about using blogging for Community Assistance. The panelists were Grace Davis, who created the Hurricane Disaster Direct Relief blog; Sara Ford, a native of Waveland Mississippi whose posts about Waveland after Hurricane Katrina turned her into a disaster relief center of one; and Dina Mehta who set up a community blog, Mumbai Help, after the tsunami, that grew in three days from a few bloggers to 250 contributors. They also set up a wiki.

Here are some of the tips they gave for other disaster relief bloggers:

Tips from Grace

1. Your blog needs to be a place to “help the helper.” Most times during a disaster, the survivors do not have power, so your blog isn’t for them, it is for the people on the outside who want to help them.

2. Because your readers are looking to your blog for authentic places to give their time and resources to, you need to be sure that your sources are authentic. Grace relied a lot on an on the ground contact in New Orleans, Victoria Powell, to call her and let her know what resources were needed. If Grace got a call from a source that she wasn’t sure was real, she would call the local fire department for more information.

3. She steered away from using a PayPal button and worked only with donations of supplies and equipment.

4. People want to hear real people’s stories and see photos of the town they are giving to, so she posted stories and had a Flickr photo stream.

5. Work with traditional media and blogs to get the word out about your work.

Tips from Sara

1. Provide daily update posts.

2. Sara also had a Flickr account. People wanted to see how her town looked before, as well as after the hurricane.

3. Be honest about what you can and cannot help with. When she began getting up to 100 requests a day for survivor information, Sara directed people to survivor sites and other resources.

4. Only ask for and accept specific clothing, or be prepared for people to give you tons of everything. It took her 10 hours, by herself, to sort through all of the clothing donations that she received.

5. Medical supplies are always needed, including everyday supplies like Band-Aids, antacid, sunscreen and bug repellant.

6. Sara’s readers requested a PayPal account so that they could donate money for her to distribute to local organizations when she delivered supplies. She said she wished that she had put it up sooner.

Tips from Dina

1. If you want to help, you can make a difference.

2. Using for their community blog made it very easy for people to post, even people who had never blogged before. She called blogs, wikis and Skype/VoIP, “technology with heart,” tools that allow people to help one another and to, “give real information, in real time, with real voices.”

3. You don’t have to create a nonprofit or NGO. Many people asked them if they were worried about being sued because they weren’t a formal organization, but they have a disclaimer on their blog and wiki that none of the information is confirmed, and that you are reading, “people’s voices."

4. Deena recommended not using a PayPal button. A lot of fake relief sites popped up after the tsunami asking people for money, and she felt that many people mistook those sites for her
site. They took their PayPal button down.

5. Have monitors for your wikis to clean out spam.

6. Find as many people as possible on the ground to give you specific information about what is going on at the disaster location.

As I was leaving, the group began discussing how to create a BlogHer Relief Network--I hope it happens. It would be a great way to mobilize the power of women bloggers.

Photo credit: Hurricane Katrina Donations (ii) by Barret Anspach

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Blogging for Social Change

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How Has Blogging Changed Your World?

The first whole group session of Day 2 of BlogHer was, “How Has Blogging Changed your World?”

The first woman to speak was Cooper Monroe, one of the bloggers who created The Being There Clearing House. When Hurricane Katrina hit, she and her blogging partner decided to write a post asking their readers to post items in the comments section that they could donate to Katrina survivors. Within two days, they went from being mommybloggers to running a relief agency, and from 200-300 readers a day to 20,000. The site continues today and has expanded to areas like Pittsburg, where Katrina survivors have been re-located. Monroe closed by saying, "I learned that women bloggers can change the world."

Mary Hodder, founder of Dabble and Napsterization blogger said, "Blogging gives you the confidence to believe that you can take an aspiration and make it real.”

Food blogger, Egg Beater, who is a professional chef, said, “Blogging has gotten me out of the kitchen. . . . I consider food to be really political. It has to do with race, class and culture. . . . .Food is something that binds us all. We all have to eat no matter how much we make, or the color of our skin.” Check out her May 1st A Day Without An Immigrant National Protest post.

Finally, 80-year-old blogger Millie Garfield, who writes My Mom's Blog by Thoroughly Modern Millie, said that blogging has changed her routine. She used to get up every day and read the Boston Globe and have a cup of coffee. Now she goes straight to the computer, reads her favorite bloggers and checks her comments. “I have friends all over the world,” she said smiling.

Photo credit: Nature Globes by Lady-bug/Lisa

Friday, July 28, 2006

Could Blogher Be Green Next Year?

I met lots of great folks tonight at the evening cocktail party, but as I saw tons of trash being thrown away, and lots of meat being served, I couldn't help asking myself, could BlogHer be green next year?

Julia Butterfly Hill's nonprofit, Circle of Life, has a Greening Event Guide available for free to event planners.

The Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Boot Camp was a zero waste event last year. According to their site, they was able, "to divert more than 2,000 pounds of garbage."

Couldn't BlogHer be zero waste, too?

Um, and I'd love some more vegetables--organic would be fab--and fair trade coffee--and more vegetarian options (even though I'm not a vegetarian).

And a social change component. Like participating in a Blogathon, or BloggersChoose, or a fundraiser like Chez Pim's A Menu for Hope.

Margaret Mead said, ""A small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 700 women is a pretty BIG group if you ask me. Think what a difference we could make.

Celebration of Women and Computing

This is a photo of Erica Rios/Xicanista. Erica did some fabulous live-blogging during the NetSquared Conference. She's holding up a postcard for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women and Computing presented by the Anita Borg Institute for Technology and Women, where she is the Internet Project Manager, and by the Association for Computing Machinery. The conference is October 4-7, 2006 in San Diego, CA. & Where to Volunteer with Families

These two bloggers, Ann Crady and Yael Pasternak Valek, are from, a resource wiki for moms. Because I write about nonprofit/ do*good things, they asked me about places for people to volunteer with their families. I recommended checking out VolunteerMatch, Hands On Network, the volunteer section of Craig's List and the Points of Light Foundation Directory of Volunteer Centers.

Where else do you look for volunteer opportunities for your family?

Test Driving Saturns

I am a volunteer BlogHer social liveblogger along with Beth Kanter at the BlogHer Conference, thus, the other two posts I put up this morning.

GM is one of BlogHer's sponsors and I went for a fun, fast whirl with BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort around lunchtime. (That's Elisa driving, not me). You can see a couple more pix of BlogHers test driving on my Flickr stream.

Morning at BlogHer, Day 1

This is my first BlogHer Conference and when I walked into the registration area this morning--wow, wow, wow. I can only describe it as a room filled with the energy of potential. The potential to connect, the potential to learn, the potential to see the world in another way.

I'm a back of the conference room kinda gal, close access to the bathroom, less noisy and less crowded, so I'm at a table with just two other women: Ayse from arse poetica and Stacie from Schmoopy.

More at lunch!

Lemon Drops @ BlogHer

Last night was the thank you dinner for BlogHer Contributing Editors, panelists and sponsors. I took a bunch of pix that you can check out on my Flickr account.

I would say that the dominant theme was lemon drops and a burning desire for people to be wearing nametags so that you can figure out if you read them.

My favorite moment last night was when Grace Davis met Susie Bright and was speechless until Susie gave her a big kiss.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Eat In, Act Out Week July 31 - August 6

The Massachusetts-based nonprofit, the Food Project is putting on it's annual Eat In, Act Out Week, and you can participate! Next Week (July 31st-August 6th) make an effort to, eat in (use local food and cook food yourself instead of going out), and act out (speak up and take action to promote local food).
You can find places selling local food near you through the Local Harvest site, search for Eat In, Act Out events near you, or add your own, on the Eat In, Act Out Frappr Map (pictured above), and read more about the Food Project on their blog.

I've been reading a lot about food lately because earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview Anna Lappé, author of Grub, and co-author, with her mother, Frances Moore Lappé, of Hope's Edge (I'll be posting the interview after I come back from the BlogHer Conference).

Here are are some links from the Community Food Audit form in the back of Grub (you can download it on their web site too) to help you find your local:

* Farmer's market: Sustainable Table
* CSA Farm: Local Harvest and CSA & Robin Van En Center
* Food Coop: Cooperative Grocer
* Grocery Store with Local Foods:
* Organic Meat & Dairy/Egg Provider: Eat Well Guide
* Community Garden: American Community Garden Association
* Elected Officials:
* School Food Resources: Farm to School and Farm to College
* & Other Community Food Resources: Community Food Security Commission

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cocktails and School Supplies

If you live in the Los Angeles Area, a friend of ours, Meg Martin, is hosting a night of drinking and pool Friday, August 4th at Hollywood Billiards (5750 Hollywood Blvd.) at 7:30 PM, to raise money and collect school supplies for a school Covenant House is opening in Tijuana. Covenant House is a shelter that houses 18-24 year old homeless and runaway youth. In mid-August Meg will be one of the people taking a group of youth from Covenant House to Tijuana to open a school which will serve one of the poorest communities in the city.

Here are some of the things that the school needs need:
  • Any school supplies - pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, sharpeners, etc.
  • Backpacks - especially for children 8-12
  • Shoes and socks - in any childrens size
  • Clothing - in any childrens size
You can bring the school supplies to the party, or contact Meg at (818) 298-4779, or megmartin AT and she will arrange to pick them up. Bring as many people as you like, the place is huge. Valet parking is $5 and street parking is possible, with a little patience.

If you can't come, but would like to make a donation, please send a check (before August 14th) to:

Sr. Margaret Farrell/Covenant House
Covenant House California
1325 N. Western Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90027

Be sure to write, "Tijuana School Supplies" in the memo field, and make the check out to "Sister Margaret Farrell" (this earmarks the check for the Tijuana trip).

Send me pix if you go. I have some friends visiting from out of town that weekend, but I'd love to be there.

Photo credit:
Caleb, Caleb, Caleb by Crystl

Friday, July 21, 2006

How to Support Women in Lebanon

The Global Fund for Women has lots of good information up right now about how to support women in the Middle East.

You can donate to the Global Fund for Women
and they will make sure your money goes to women in the Middle East. If you make an online donation, write "Middle East Crisis" in the section entitled, "Would you like to make this contribution in honor of someone special?", or if you mail in your check, be sure to write, "Middle East Crisis" on it or your donation form. The GFW recently donated $15,000 to the Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action to support displaced families in Lebanon:

CRTD.A, which promotes gender equality and the leadership of Arab women, is working with the Zicco Relief Centre to secure basic supplies for women and children affected by the conflict. Schools across the country, where thousands of Lebanese families are taking refuge, are in need of hygienic supplies such as sanitary napkins, which are often excluded from international aid, as well as drinking water, diapers and soap.

Another GFW grantee, Helem, a Lebanese group promoting the rights of sexual minorities and women, is also providing basic supplies to Lebanese refugees.

Photo credit: Beirutladies by Kevin Walsh.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Paradigm Found: Leading & Managing for Postive Change

Believing that social change is possible is the beginning. Realizing that you yourself can effect such change will lead you to clarify your vision and identify the skills you need to prepare the ground and plant the seeds of change.--Anne Firth Murray

While on vacation I read several books, but the one that stood out the most was Paradigm Found: Leading and Managing for Positive Change by Anne Firth Murray, the founder of the Global Fund for Women.

Whether you are starting your own nonprofit, or simply interested in how a person can take a seed of an idea for positive change and make it into reality, you'll find some nuggets of wisdom in this book.

What I find so interesting and inspiring about the Global Fund's work is how their grants to women's groups seem to come with so few strings attached, which empowers the women receiving the funds to use them how they best feel that they need to be spent. Murray writes:

At the Global Fund I defined empowerment as 'having a vision, having a plan to work toward that vision, and having the capacity to take the first steps toward the plan.' The Global Fund's role in such empowerment usually involved responding to requests from women's groups to provide the financial means for women to take the first steps in a plan that they had already developed in the context of their vision.
Over and over again, Murray talks about the importance of making connections and of people working together to create positive change. Interestingly, in the late 90's the Fund received a grant for the Pacific Institute for Women's Health to visit 56 grantees in 8 countries and report back about their successes. One of the results was:

[T]he researchers learned that trust was a key element in women's perception of the success of their organizations. . . . the researchers also discovered that the act of gathering together in groups with other women appeared to increase feelings of power, status, and well-being in women.

We love the groups---book clubs, Weight Watchers, Dining for Women--BlogHer!

So for all you Solutionary Women out there, no matter what goal you are pointed towards, whether it's to create social change, find work that you love, be a better mom, or paint your kitchen, reach out to other women and see how much more you can achieve.

Image via

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Organic Chocolate & Coffee in Maui, and Other Delicious Food

I'm back from an awesome belated honeymoon in Maui! One of our favorite places to go while we were there was the town of Paia, one of the last big towns at the beginning of the Road to Hana.

We got box lunches from the brightly painted restaurant below, Cafe Mambo (30 Baldwin Ave), before going on the Road to Hana.

We went back to Paia several times, and one of the yummiest meals we had was at the Paia
Fish Market ( 2 Baldwin Ave). The fish taco was delish.

Afterwards, we stopped at a new cafe, Cafe Chocolat (105 Baldwin Ave.), that serves all organic coffee and chocolate (including local, shade-grown coffee). It was a great little local hangout with people dropping in to chat with the owners. While we were there we found out that the Dalai Lama will be visiting Paia April 24 & 25, 2007. The Maui Dharma Center is hoping to finish construction on a temple and stupa in Paia before his arrival. If you are going to Maui and think you'll go to the Cafe Chocolat, let me know and I'll mail you a business card the owner gave me with, "Coffee or Tea on Me" written on the back by her daughter, and you can get a free drink!

If you want to hang out in a laid back town with yummy restaurants and a good vibe, check out Paia.

Two other foodie tips:
The pineapple from Take Home Maui in Lahaina (121 Dickenson St.) was out of this world, and the coconut encrusted Mahi Mahi at Da Kitchen in Kihei (2439 South Kihei Rd.) was to die for.


I miss it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nata Village Blog

Last month Nancy White wrote a post about a very cool fundraising blog, the Nata Village blog, that I want to share with you. The blog documents not only the lives of the people in Nata, but is a tool to raise funds for a support group for residents living with AIDS, an AIDS prevention program where youth use the arts to educate others about AIDS, and the Nata clinic.

Readers can donate directly to the village through the blog's PayPal account.

Nata is a village of 5,000 people in Botswana. According to the blog, 50% of the pregnant women in the village are HIV positive and 400 children have been orphaned by AIDS. Botswana has the second highest HIV infection rate in Africa.

The Nata Village blog was designed and is administered by photographer/vidographer, John Rawlingson, and written by Peace Corps volunteer, Melody Jenkins, and Martha Ramaditse, who was born and raised in Nata.

They also have a Flickr stream and a video blog.

Photo credit: The Nata Village videoblog, Episode 1 by JRAWLS' Photos.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

UNIFEM, Women-Owned Businesses & Rwanda Knits

I have to admit that I had never heard of UNIFEM (United Nations Developing Fund for Women) until I read an article about Nicole Kidman in Ladies Home Journal while on jury duty--she is one of their Goodwill Ambassadors. For those of you who haven't heard of UNIFEM either, it is the women's fund at the United Nations. Their four goals are:

1. to reduce feminized poverty
2. to end violence against women
3. to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls
4. to achieve gender equality in democratic governance in times of peace as well as war.

While looking for other UNIFEM-related blogs, I found the Business Council for Peace, one of UNIFEM's partners. They help women living in regions of conflict and post-conflict start businesses. Eight BPeace members traveled to Rwanda in May 2006 and used the Bpeace Rwanda blog to document their trip. One of the team's members, Cari Clement of the Fiber and Craft Entrepreneurial Development Center, also kept her own travel blog, Rwanda Knits, during the trip.

The Fiber and Craft Entrepreneurial Development Center (FACED) provides knitting machines and training to women living in Rwanda.

Here is an excerpt from one Clement's entries towards the end of the trip:

Yesterday was probably the biggest day of the trip: the “hand-over” ceremony where USAID officially handed over the 630 knitting machines to the 16 associations and the handing out of the certificates to the graduates of the business training held over the past four days at Gitarama. Before the ceremony, the training continued in [the] morning, with the IWACU instructor teaching the women how to create an income statement and balance sheet. . . .Then it was time for graduation for the students who had attended the business training seminar. Each attendee, including representatives from the Kiziba refugee camp where all this started, was given a certificate which their association can use to help them get micro-credit to purchase yarn for their group.

If you want to help, according to the FACED site, a donation of $165 provides, "an Ultimate Sweater Machine, Row Counter, all freight and clearing costs and skills training."

Photo credit: Ethiopia 3 by babasteve

Monday, July 03, 2006

Join the Blogger Challenge: Raise Funds for Public Schools

DonorsChoose has launched a new program called BloggersChoose which allows bloggers to search through mini-grant proposals that school teachers have submitted to DonorsChoose, and ask their readers to fund them.

I set up my own Blogger's Challenge last week to support a Butterfly Garden for third graders in the Bronx where 73% of the students come from low income homes, a sixth grade Life Lab garden in San Jose, CA where 77% of the students come from low income homes, and a school/community garden in Manhattan where 91% of the students come from low income homes.

According to DonorsChoose:

"low income" refers to the percentage of students at a given school who qualify for free lunch, which is considered a measure of economic need. To be deemed eligible for free lunch, a student must submit a form showing family income at or below 130% of the poverty line. In 2001, a student in a family of 4 received free lunch if the family income was $23,530 or less.

If you would like to support any of these projects, just click HERE, or click on the "donate to my challenge" button on the sidebar of this blog.

Photo of Children's Garden from spacecadet's Flickr stream. This photo has an Attribution 2.0 Creative Commons license

Big Vision Podcast: Steve Williams from POWER

I recently posted my interview with Steve Williams, the Executive Director and co-founder of POWER: People Organized to Win Employment Rights on the Big Vision Podcast. Steve also happens to be the fiancé of Mei-ying Ho, who I interviewed last month. They're kinda like the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt of the Bay Area (:

You can listen to the podcast on Gcast, Odeo or iTunes and I've included a transcript of it below in , as well.

If you know a person who is creating positive change that you think should be interviewed for the Big Vision Podcast, please send me their name and contact information at britt AT

Britt Bravo:
Hi! Welcome to the Big Vision Podcast, where we talk with individuals and organizations who are creating positive change. My name is Britt Bravo, and in today's show I talk with Steve Williams, the co-founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit, POWER: People Organized to Win Employment Rights.

Steve Williams: POWER stands for "People Organized to Win Employment Rights" and we are a membership organization of low-wage workers and tenants. We started off in 1997, initially organizing welfare recipients.

At the time, the Federal government had just signed the welfare deform legislation, pushing millions of welfare recipients from welfare to work. But by and large, people were pushed into poverty wage jobs and forced to make profit for huge corporations, while not having any opportunity to improve the living standards for themselves or their families.

We began, essentially, organizing a union of low-wage workers, unemployed workers, to try to improve both the living conditions and the working conditions for low-wage workers here in San Francisco. In the last couple of years, we've begun two new organizing projects. One: organizing immigrant women, mostly Latinas, who are working as domestic workers cleaning the houses and raising the kids, mostly of rich folks. The other organizing project is organizing in Bay View Hunters Point, the last remaining African American neighborhood here in San Francisco, organizing for housing justice and equitable development.

Britt Bravo: Tell me a little more about the campaign for domestic workers.

Steve Williams: One of the interesting things that we have seen historically is that women's labor, and particularly women of color, have played a central role of supporting the economy. So, oftentimes when we hear about San Francisco's economy, the main aspects, the main industries that we hear about are the dot com sector or Wall Street and finance, but all of those industries are made possible because, oftentimes, it is immigrant women who are going into the homes of those high-tech professionals to clean their houses, cook their food, raise their children, but all too frequently those women don't receive a livable wage. Almost never do they receive healthcare benefits or vacation time and oftentimes, have to work in incredibly oppressive environments.

The industry -- the federal government, and the state government specifically exclude domestic workers as classes of workers to be protected by labor rights legislation. Oftentimes, women are forced to do this work individually in other people's homes and have no recourse to have their rights protected. POWER began this organizing project, both to get the work and the labor of these immigrant women to be respected and compensated fairly, but then also to establish mechanism to be able to ensure that their rights can actually be enforced, and if the state won't do that level of enforcement now, then the women will do that enforcement for themselves.

The campaign has been interesting. Initially, it developed with us going out to parks. There were a lot of women who would take the kids that they were caretaking for, they would take them out to parks in the middle of the day, so that the kids could play around, the women who were then working as domestics would sit around and watch the kids. We would go up to parks in Pacific Heights and the Marina and you'd see all these white kids playing around in the playground and all of these brown Latina women sitting around, talking Spanish. So, it was pretty clear that there were domestics in the parks.

Initially, after conversations with a lot of domestic workers, we realized that the women really wanted to have negotiation training. Because there aren't formal union contracts in the domestic work industry, women are put in the position where they are negotiating theterms of their employment by themselves. We developed negotiation training to develop the capacity of the women to be able to ask for better working conditions, better wages, which is something that the women said they that had no understanding of, no access to those levels of skills.

Through the negotiation training, women began identifying particular problems that they were having in their work. Whether it was that they were not receiving livable wages, or maybe it was that initially they were hired just to take care of the kids and then after a couple of months, they were also doing some of the cooking for the family, and then after a couple more months, they were also doing laundry, and as their job descriptions were expanding, there was no increase in pay, there was no opportunity for vacation leave and almost never was there any healthcare protections.

Through that, we've actually have began a campaign now at a statewide level to ensure that all domestic workers who are doing any work in the homes actually have access to overtime pay, just the same as every other employee. Right now, that piece of legislation has just passed the assembly and is right now in front of the state Senate.

Britt Bravo: Do you have any stories of individual women's successes that you can share?

Steve Williams: Yes. Coming out of the negotiation training, it was very interesting because, like I had said before, a lot of women felt like they didn't have the skills to really be able to negotiate with their employer. A lot of women reflected back to us that they felt oftentimes like the families would treat them as if they were a part of the family, so that then their work was in some ways made invisible. But, it also created a relationship where it was more difficult for the women to actually ask for what they needed in order to be able to meet the needs of themselves and their families.

Women would tell all of these incredible stories throughout the negotiation training. There was one woman, who in particular, after we concluded the negotiation training, decided to initiate a re-negotiation of both the terms of her employment. Initially, she was getting paid eight dollars an hour. At the end of the negotiation, the family raised her pay to 14 dollars an hour. She came back and she was really excited and she said it was really a result of the experiences that she had in the negotiation training and the increased level of confidence that she had that both she could ask for what it is that she needed and if she didn't get it, that she had other recourses.

Britt Bravo: What brought you to this work. Why do you do this work, and not some other kind of work?

Steve Williams: I think for me one of the things that motivates me is the idea that the world can be a better place. Just from my understanding of history and my understanding of politics, the best way of actually being able to improve the living conditions of low income, oppressed people is for those people to come together and take their destinies into their own hands.

If you look at the history in South Africa, and the movement to end the apartheid regime, or if you look at the revolution in Cuba, where literally the island was essentially a playground for rich people from the United States. The Cuban people took their own destiny in their hands and altered then the future for not only themselves, but also future generations.

I think here, in the United States, just understanding the history of the civil rights movement and understanding the exploitation and oppression that African-Americans have experienced, and that my ancestors came together to really reshape the history of this country and the world. I think as we look at all of the really oppressive statistics; half of the world lives on less than two dollars a day, that people, particularly throughout the third world and the global south, die of preventable diseases by the thousands every day, and that all of that happens at the same time that huge corporations like Bechtel or Microsoft are making hundreds of millions of dollars, that there are actually the resources to create a better world and a better future for all of us. I think that the way it is actually going to wind up taking place is for working class people of color to come together in unity and really begin shifting the structures that impact all of our lives.

I just feel really fortunate to be able to be here at POWER, as one organization that creates a space for working class people of color to come together, to find their voice, and then actually to begin exercising that voice in the public domain.

Britt Bravo: Have you always done this kind of work?

Steve Williams: When I was in college I did a lot of service work around homelessness issues. I was somewhat lazy in doing that work. I was like, "It's cool doing it," but I recognize that regardless of how hard I worked in the homeless shelter, that every day there were more and more people, who were forced to come to the shelter because they had nowhere else to go. I think that I wanted to figure out a way that by doing the work that I am doing, that some day, no one will ever be homeless, or no one will have to make a decision between buying medicine for their kids, or paying rent.

The summer before my last year in college, I participated in a summer program in Philadelphia that was designed to teach young people organizing skills around poverty and homelessness issues. It was the first experience that I had with social movement organizing. I was hooked from that moment on. Immediately after I graduated, I got a job with the Coalition on Homelessness here in San Francisco, where I feel that I learned a tremendous amount about creating spaces for low income people to be able to raise their voice, recognizing that all too often, people of color, women and low-ncome people are excluded from the decision-making processes that actually affect their day-to-day lives, and that the only way that those folks are going to be able to come together to have a say is by coming together in numbers and asserting that strength. So, from the Coalition on Homelessness, there was a push to initiate a welfare rights organization, and it was the leadership of that grouping of folks, who with me, then ultimately wound up founding POWER in 1997.

Britt Bravo: What keeps you motivated and inspired? What keeps you going, because you have been doing this for a while, and it's not easy work.

Steve Williams: Yes, it's not easy work. I think the thing that every day inspires me are the members of POWER. I think it's constantly a moment of inspiration to see people who initially come into the organization somewhat shy, not convinced that things will actually be able to change, and to see them over the course of several months become dedicated and very skilled organizers and leaders in a broader social movement.

There is a member of the organization, who we first met when we were organizing out at one of the MUNI bus yards. In exchange for welfare benefits, welfare recipients in San Francisco were forced to do public sector work, work which was once performed by unionized city employees. This woman was cleaning the buses, cleaning graffiti off the San Francisco MUNI buses. Unionized city employees used to make 27 to 35 dollars an hour doing that work and she, along with her co-workers, was now forced to do that work for 345 dollars a month with no benefits, no protections.

When we first came in contact with her, it was like pulling teeth to get her to say anything, even in small group meetings out at her work site, where she knew everybody. But, she continued to come to all the meetings. She would sit in the back, she would observe what was going on, and a couple of months later, she started talking up in the meetings. She eventually became a member of the steering committee, the leadership body of the organization. A couple of years ago she was actually speaking at a demonstration where there were about 1500 people, and she was one of the most articulate, fiery, inspirational speakers that I have ever heard. I think it is just a constant inspiration to me to see the transformation that people can go through when they really take their destinies into their own hands.

That coupled with getting an opportunity to go outside the United States and see movements that are really vibrant and broad based. Having an opportunity to go to Cuba, to South Africa, to Venezuela, and to see places where both ordinary people have really seen the results of what happens when they join up with their neighbors and begin to trying to change their own reality. But, then also recognizing it has real positive impacts on our ability to have community with each other. The idea that we can all have free education through university level, or that we will all have free health care, I think really begins to shift the way that we relate to each other and really establishes a basis for strong community, both between racial lines, but also across racial lines, across language lines. I think those have been the experiences, both inside and then outside the country, that have really inspired me to know that the work that I am doing here, in San Francisco, is connected to a global movement that is, I think some day, going to achieve justice.

Britt Bravo: If someone listening to this podcast wants to become an organizer, what should they do?

Steve Williams: The first thing that folks should do is to locate an organization in your community. POWER, like every other grassroots membership organization that I know, is constantly looking for volunteers, is dramatically under-resourced, and our ambitions never match up with the resources that we have in the bank. I think that folks could financially support membership organizations, but I also think that people coan figure out a way of volunteering and figuring out ways of being able to support the leadership of low income people.

Then, if through that experience, people are so inspired to then try to become, and try to take up the work of organizing, there are some really incredible training programs where people can learn how to do organizing as a full-time activity. A couple of the programs that we have come in contact with -- SOUL, the School of Unity and Liberation, runs an eight-week summer-long program for young people that, I think is really amazing in both developing the skills of young people as organizers, but then also putting organizing in a broader political and economic context. That's one. SOUL is located here in the Bay area, in Oakland. Another organization based here in the Bay Area is the Center for Third World Organizing, C-TWO, who also has an organizing internship program that I think has really produced some of this generation's best organizers. Then also, down in Los Angeles, there is an organization called the Labor Community Strategy Center that has, probably, the most extensive and thorough organizing training program. That's actually a nine-month long training and they, I think, are incredibly sophisticated, both at developing people's skills as organizers, but then also helping people to develop a sharp analysis of what's going on in our communities and how it is that we can make positive change.

Britt Bravo: Is there anything else that you want people to know about POWER and its work?

Steve Williams: I think for POWER -- we're really struggling with the fact that there are massive changes happening in all of our communities. In San Francisco, the African-American population has decreased by 23 percent over the past ten years. I think that is related to fundamental shifts that are happening in both the political and economic structures in this country and in the entire world. I think it is really important for all of us who are trying to make change to develop really sharp analyses of what is going on in the world around us. I think that this analysis of what the problem is, ultimately impacts our ideas of what the solutions are going to be to fixing those problems.

Because POWER was grappling with understanding what is going on in the world around us, we ultimately wound up going into a nine-month study process that ultimately culminated in the publishing of a book, which is entitled, Towards Land, Work, and Power. It's now available on AK Press; you can get it at, or on It is the result of four organizers here, at POWER, really trying to put our ideas about the problems that we see in society, but also really trying to couple that with solutions because I think, it's all too easy right now to get discouraged and disillusioned and to think that there is no way that we're ever going to win. But, I think that there are countless examples through history, in individual communities across the country and around the globe, where ordinary people have risen up to then completely alter the course of history. I think it is important for us to build off that hope and build off the experiences of folks who have gone before us. I would encourage people to pick up POWER's book and hopefully, if you like this podcast, you will like the book as well.

Britt Bravo: Thanks for listening to the Big Vision Podcast. For more information about POWER, go to I will also be posting a transcript of this interview on my blog, Have Fun, Do Good, at You can also find transcripts of past interviews on that blog as well.

If you like the music, it is from Kenya Masala's "Mango Delight" and you can learn more about Kenya's work and his music by going to

Finally, if you want more information about Big Vision Career and Project Consulting, you can check out my website at

Thanks for listening.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Basic Blogging for Women-REVISED

Rose Aguilar from Bay Area Business Woman interviewed me recently for an article entitled, "Women's Voices Boom in the Blogosphere." During my conversation with Rose, she told me about a panel she was on, that had a mainly women audience, and how surprised she was by how many women had questions about blogging basics. I started thinking, sounds like there are a lot of women out there who would like to start a blog, but don't know how. . . .

8.31.06 Get info. about the Basic Blogging for Women Workshop October 22, 2006 here.

Revised 8.3.06: I am currently searching for a new space to hold a Basic Blogging for Women Workshop where everyone can be on computers. New date and location to be announced soon!

Basic Blogging for Women is for you if:

* You have something you want to say, and share with other people.
* You want to start, or find a community of like-minded people.
* You are looking for a new communication tool for your organization or business.

By the end of the workshop, you will:

* Be ready to set up a basic blog.
* Know what type of blog is best for you.
* Be able to connect with people who share your
passions and interests.
* Use your blog as a marketing or advocacy tool.

Britt Bravo, MA, write for three blogs: her personal blog, Have Fun * Do Good, the NetSquared blog, where she is the Community Builder, and for BlogHer, where she is a Nonprofit and NGO Contributing Editor. She also produces her own Big Vision podcast and the NetSquared This Week in NetSquared News podcast. She was a mentor to young women bloggers as part of the Young Caucasus Women project and the blogs for African Women project.

In an effort to be part of the positive change she wants to see, Britt uses her counseling, organizing, blogging, podcasting, community outreach and program development skills to work with individuals and organizations to realize their "Big Vision" for a better world.