Monday, December 22, 2008

Reddit's Pairs Volunteers with Nonprofits, a social news site, is pairing volunteers with nonprofits between now and February 14, 2009 as part of its Feed a Need project.

Nonprofits can submit their organization's name to be considered for volunteer time through the Feed a Need site. The organizations that receive the most votes from the community before December 23, 2008 at 7 PM ET will be the winners of volunteer time.

Individuals who would like to volunteer can fill out a short form on the Feed a Need site to be entered into their, "Database of Awesome." If the volunteer works at least 2 hours on a Feed A Need project before February 14th, 2009, their name will be entered into a drawing to win prizes like an Xbox 360, or a new Dell computer.

I've never seen an online contest where the prize for the nonprofit is volunteer time. I'll be interested to see how reddit coordinates the actual doing of the volunteer work, and what the results are. Kudos to them for finding a way to use our "cognitive surplus" when people have less of a financial surplus to share with nonprofits.

You can find out more about the Feed a Need Project at, and read more about it on the Reddit blog post, - Volunteer to help nonprofits get important things done.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Favorite Do-Good Books of 2008

Below is my 4th annual list of Favorite Do-Good Books (in alphabetical order). You can also check out my lists from past years:

Favorite Do-Good Books of 2007
Favorite Do-Good Books of 2006
Favorite Do-Good Books of 2005

1. Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power

I know she shouldn't have said what she said about Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, but as a writer, Samantha Power is amazing. Her, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide was on my Favorite Do-Good Book of 2007 list. Her newest book, the story of a Brazilian diplomat who worked for the United Nations for 34 years, has inspired an upcoming documentary and feature film. Check out the Chasing the Flame blog for more details.

2. Grassroots Philanthropy by Bill Somerville and Fred Setterberg

As I wrote in my review, I Want to Be a Grassroots Philanthropist!, Bill Somerville makes the search for innovative funding opportunities sound like an Indiana Jones adventure. PhilanTopic included the book on its list of Best Philanthropy-Related Books of 2008.

3. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

What I loved about Shirky's book was that it wasn't about Web 2.0 tools, it was about how Web 2.0 tools can, and are changing our world. I've been opening a lot of talks about how nonprofits can use the social web with a line from his book, "Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies -- it happens when society adopts new behaviors." Check out Billy Matheson's review of Here Comes Everybody on WorldChanging.

4. Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist by Mike Farrell

Farrell's keynote at the Writing for Change Conference this year floored me, and everyone else in the room. The conference organizers had so many requests for copies of his speech that Farrell was nice enough to let them post it online. I immediately bought his book and relished every page. Who knew that the actor who played BJ Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H was such an incredible human rights activist? This was probably the book that moved me the most in 2008. Check out his website at

5. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela

What's not to love about the autobiography of Nelson Mandela? Come on. One of the projects he is involved with these days is The Elders. The Elders is, "a group of eminent global leaders, convened by Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel to bring their experience and independent voices to the resolution of conflict and to innovative, cooperative efforts to address the great global challenges of our time."

6. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

I liked this book so much that I gave away three copies to readers for Have Fun * Do Good Reader Appreciation Day. It's the do-good adventure story of a former mountain climber who has spent almost 15 years building schools in remote mountain villages of northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. If you're going to purchase a copy on Amazon, buy it though the Three Cups of Tea site so that Mortenson's organization will get up to 7% of the proceeds. They'll be publishing a young readers' version of the book in late January 2009.

7. What Is the What by Dave Eggers

This is the only fiction book on my list, but it reads like a nonfiction book, probably because it a "novelized autobiography" of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee of the Sudanese civil war. Proceeds from every copy of What is the What goes to The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation.

What are some your favorite do-good books from 2008?

All book cover images are from Powell's Books.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Please Vote for My Idea on

Hey Have Fun * Do Gooders!

There are only 2 weeks left in the first round of the Ideas for Change in America competition, and my idea, Make Things That Are "Public" Cool, is in 14th place in the Civic Engagement category.

The top 3 rated ideas for each category will make it to the second round, which will be held in early January. will announce the winners of the competition just before the Presidential Inauguration.

I need 192 votes to move up to 3rd place in Civic Engagement.

To vote, create a user account on, and go to to vote for your favorite ideas (you can vote for more than one).

You can vote for my idea at


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What is Your Favorite Social Action of 2008?

The short, dark, last days of the year are a great time to reflect on your 2008 Activist Resolutions, and your favorite "social actions" of 2008. What did you do this year that you feel made a real impact?

My favorite social action was being a sponsor for Jacinta Onoro, a Nigerian woman participating in Women for Women International.

Women for Women International supports women survivors of war in conflict and post-conflict areas (Afghanistan, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sudan). Each woman is paired with a sponsor whose donation helps to cover some of their basic necessities (food, water, medicine). They also participate in a Renewing Women’s Life Skills (ReneWLS) Program, a job skills program, and have access to business services to help them start microenterprises.

As a sponsor, in addition to the $27/month that I donated towards supporting Ms. Onoro, I also wrote a letter to her each month. It took a while for her to write back, but she did eventually, and told me about her experiences in the program.

Gina Trapani of Lifehacker is also a Women for Women International sponsor. She signed up to sponsor two women after seeing a 60 Minutes segment on rape in Congo, where Women for Women was featured. She posted a scan of one of the letters she received on her post, Two Great Charities at Work to Beat Poverty.

Ms. Onoro graduated from her program in November, and I've decided to sponsor another woman from Sudan in 2009. It would be nice to connect with other sponsors, like the woman who started a book club for Women for Women International sponsors, described in the post, Guest Post: Congo Conflict - What You Can Do. The group writes letters to the women they sponsor when they meet each month.

A Women for Women International sponsorship can also be given as a gift. Nancy Northrop created a special program to facilitate her customers supporting Women for Women International, which she describes in her post, Face-to-Face: How Women Can Make a Difference. Her company underwrites the cost of each survivor for one year, if the customer agrees to write them a letter each month.

What was your favorite social action of 2008? It can be anything: a volunteer opportunity, a donation, a petition, a protest, using less paper bags, or educating yourself about an issue. Tell us about it.

Cross-posted from

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Creating a Career with Impact: Share Your Story with Echoing Green

Echoing Green is looking for stories about creating a career with impact for their second book. Their first book, Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact, profiled the work of Echoing Green Fellows. Now they want to hear your story, or the story of someone you know:
"The focus of the book, and therefore the focus of the stories, is a suggestion that the practice of listening to your heart and harnessing those messages to the messages of your head (where patterns are discerned, options are evaluated, and strategies are formed) leads to a special form of action (hustle) that drives a life of meaningful impact. We want stories that illustrate specific, relatable examples of making sense of confusing signals in order to find clarity and direction in the early stages of career formation – particularly in unexpected ways."
You can find more information about the project, and how to apply at

You can also listen to Lara Galinsky, Echoing Green's Vice President of Strategy & Communications, on the Be Bold Podcast (which I host) talking about why they wrote the first book, why they are writing the second book, and what kind of stories they are looking for.

Don't be shy. Send in your story!

Encouraging Volunteerism: An Interview with Ruthanne Feinberg

Cross-posted from The Extraordinaries, on-demand volunteering by mobile phone.

Ruthanne Feinberg is a busy woman. In addition to being Managing Director, Head of Internal Recruiting and Co-Head of Human Resources Practice for Glocap Search, she also volunteers. She is on the National Advisory Council of DonorsChoose, teaches interview and resume skills to low income individuals with StreetWise and The Opportunity Network, knocked on doors during Hillary Clinton's campaign, and is an Advisor to The Extraordinaries.

Yet, in a recent phone interview, Feinberg said that she doesn't feel like she, or other people, are volunteering enough. "I'm embarrassed for how little I've done since I've moved to New York, "I think, especially now, there is so much talent out there that is sitting idle. . . . There is plenty of work that needs to be done in society. Somebody who is a laid off banker has a few hours a week to do something while they're doing a job search."

We discussed a few ways to encourage more volunteerism.

1. Volunteer opportunities need to be easier to find

"I'm a really big believer that more people would volunteer if we made it easy for them to do it. A hundred percent of the time if I call one of my friends and say, 'I'm going to do this, will you do it with me?" if they are available people love to do it.

I don't think many people know how to find volunteer opportunities. If I said to myself, 'Sometime in the next three months I want to do a resume workshop for somebody,' I wouldn't even know where to start."

2. Volunteering opportunities need to engage volunteers' skills

"I knew I wanted to work for Hillary Clinton, and it took me some time to figure out what I could do. At the end of the day I think what I did was satisfying, but I would have done a lot more had there had been a channel where I could have done that. I would have done much higher level work. I would have done more work. I just didn't know who to call, and tell them, 'I'm a resource.'"

3. Volunteer opportunities need to be shorter term, and more flexible to fit busy schedules

"I could never sign up for something like to be a Big Sister, or to tutor a child. My schedule is too unpredictable. I travel. I get called into meetings at the last minute. It's very hard for people to do something like that. However, if someone said, 'Ruthanne, come on Saturday and paint a school, or do a workshop. I'm much more inclined to do that.'

Some of Feinberg's ideas for 20-minute volunteer opportunities that people could do through The Extraordinaries were:
  • Give feedback on a resume and cover letter
  • Give advice to low income youth about their college applications
  • Help with a grant application
  • Assist with a PowerPoint presentation
  • Talk to seniors who need companionship on the phone
  • Proofread
In addition to making volunteer opportunities easier to find, more engaging of the volunteer's skill set, and suitable for a busy schedule, Feinberg thinks people are particularly attracted to opportunities that make then feel connected to the people they are helping. "That's one of the reasons I really like DonorsChoose. You see exactly where your money is going."

Feinberg's most fulfilling volunteer experience was delivering food to people with AIDS through Elipse in San Mateo, CA. She has difficulty talking about the death of one of the people she delivered food to, "I was with him right before he died. It was a very meaningful, intimate volunteer experience."

When asked how she made time to volunteer for Elipse, Feinberg explains that she was younger then, but quickly adds, "If something is important you make the time."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Have Fun * Do Good Press Mention RoundUp

I'm putting an application together today for The Women's Media Center's Progressive Women's Voices program (fingers crossed). Part of the application process is to submit links to places you've been quoted, interviewed, or mentioned in the media.

I thought I'd post the list here, to give a little "link love" to the folks who quoted, or interviewed me, and 'cause some of the pieces might interest you.


“Soul in the City,” by Summer Bowen. Common Ground. December 2008.

“Maverick 101” by E.B. Boyd Common Ground. October 2008.

“The Carbon Report” by Mike Rosen-Molina. The Monthly. August 2007.

2007 Best Podcaster: Blogger Most Dedicated to Social Change. East Bay Express

“Women's Voices Boom in the Blogosphere,” by Rose Aguilar. Bay Area Businesswoman. July 2006.

“Call Them Equal Opportunity Bloggers,” by Jessica Guynn. Contra Costa Times. May 21, 2006. Link available with archive subscription.


“Have Fun * Do Good: An Interview with Britt Bravo,” by Beth Terry on Fake Plastic Fish. May 14, 2008.

“Britt Bravo's Expert Tips,” by Celeste Fraser Delgado for the Worthy Causes section of MOLI. March 5, 2008.

“Britt Bravo - Having Fun & Doing Good,” by Anna Gordon on Women Who Work Out Loud.


“Meet Britt Bravo” Interview by David Collin. November 5, 2008

“Is the Internet Good for Humanity?” Interview by JD Lasica. May 27, 2007

Friday, December 12, 2008

Don't Let Your Holiday Donations Be Like Buying Gum in the Checkout Line

Do you know why they put gum, keychains and other small, low-cost items at the checkout counter? So that you'll throw them in your cart at the last minute as an impulse buy. Even though you didn't go into the store planning on buying a 3-pack of ChapStick, it seems like a good idea in the moment, so you do.

Holiday giving can be like that. You receive dozens of letters and emails asking you to support all kinds of causes, and the folks sending out the letters and email are hoping that when you open their message, even though you weren't planning on it, something will tug at your heartstrings in that moment, and you will write a check, or click a PayPal button.

Just like you should bring a list to the grocery store to avoid overspending, you should go into the holiday season, and the New Year, with a giving plan so that at the year's end you'll feel satisfied with your philanthropic "purchases."

In her article, Straight from the Heart: A Plan to Organize Your Giving in Crosswalk, Beth Huber offers six steps for creating a giving plan:

1. Establish your giving goal.
2. Select the recipients of your giving.
3. Create a giving plan chart.
4. Create a file for your giving records.
5. Review your giving plan on a monthly basis.
6. Finalize your giving plan in December and revise it for the New Year.

Tired But Happy posted Our Giving Plan on their blog a couple years ago. To create their plan, they decided how much they would give to each cause by how important it is to them. For example, they planned on giving $200 out of their annual budget to an organization, or organizations that work on women's health, and violence against women issues, and $50 to an organization, or organizations that work on economic justice and labor issues. You can read more about how they came up with their plan in the post, Tithing: Creating a Giving Plan.

In her article, Create a Giving Plan in the North County Times, Candace Bahr and her husband use 4 criteria to create a giving plan every six-months:

1. Find your passion.
2. Focus your gifts, rather than scattering them.
3. Share your time and skills.
4. Give money to causes you are passionate about.

Finally, in their post, Establish a Giving Plan, Free Money Finance outlines how they create their annual giving plan:

1. They divide their giving into three categories: tithe (10% of their gross income), offerings (donations that go beyond their tithe), and gifts that are not tax deductible.
2. The tithe goes to their church each week.
3. Each month, they decide which organization(s) to give their offering. They determine the offering amount by taking their annual budget and dividing it by 12.
4. The non-tax deductible donations happen at random.
5. They do Quicken reports on occasion to make sure they are on track with their giving.

I haven't read it, but Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan by Tracy Gary and Melissa Kohner looks like it might be a good resource to help you create your giving plan too.

This post was written in response to Nathaniel Whittemore's post, The One Thing You Need to Know Before You Donate to Charity this Holiday Season on Check it out for more holiday giving tips from Nathaniel, and other bloggers.

Cross-posted from BlogHer
Flick photo credit: $5700 by Andrew Magill

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Does Human Rights Mean to You?

Today is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' 60th anniversary. As part of the 60th anniversary celebration, is holding an Online Rally for Human Rights. You can participate in several ways:

1. Sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. Send the message below to your network of friends and family via text, Twitter and/or email:
Today is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' 60th anniversary.

I believe that Every Human Has Rights:

3. Change your profile photo on your social networks to a photo of you with the message, "Every Human Has Rights," or to the campaign badge above which can be downloaded here.

4. Join the Every Human Has Rights Cause on Facebook.

5. Blog about what human rights means to you, and your commitment to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Send Every Human Has Rights the link to your blog so they can link back to you.


What does human rights mean to me? That's a tough question isn't it? One of the articles I feel the most strongly about is Article 5, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Torture isn't exactly the easiest thing to talk about, or to get people excited about working against. It's the dark side of our human natures that we don't like to acknowledge because, as the Stanford Prison Experiment showed, under certain circumstances we are all capable of it.

Amazingly, a couple years ago Amnesty International made a funny (yes, funny) 1:36 min video to raise awareness about extraordinary rendition (moving prisoners to other countries to be tortured). You can watch Is It Okay To Torture? on YouTube.

As part of my commitment to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I looked for an action I could take against torture on Amnesty International's site. There are three campaigns that need support. I'm going to pick one to get involved with:

Protect Three Victims of Police Brutality in Mexico (UA 330/08)
Protect Syrian Prisoner From Torture (UA 328/08)

Why do you believe every human has rights? Which Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights do you feel the most strongly about?


Related blog posts:
Happy Human Rights Day: Live and Do So Peacefully by Sarah Kuck on Worldchanging
What image opened your eyes to human rights? by Chris Michael on WITNESS' The Hub blog.
The Balkans: Human Rights and LGBT by Sinisa Boljanovic on Global Voices Online
Human Rights Day, 2008: U.S. Workers Still Lack the Freedom to Form Unions by Seth Michaels on the AFL-CIO Now Blog
Happy Birthday, Human Rights by Michael Byers on The Tyee.
Today is Human Rights Day by Michael DeJong on The Huffington Post

Cross-posted from

Monday, December 08, 2008

2009 Career Coaching Discount for Have Fun * Do Good Readers

Happy Monday Have Fun * Do Gooders!

I'm offering Have Fun * Do Good readers a special discount if they would like to give themselves, or a friend the gift of career coaching in 2009.

Some of you know that in addition to the blogging, podcasting and other nonprofit technology stuff I do, I am also a career consultant. For a long time I taught workshops based on Carol Lloyd's book, Creating a Life Worth Living. Now I mainly do one-on-one work with people via phone, and teach classes on occasion. You can read Green LA Girl's post about the work we did together this fall: My Life, Directed by Big Vision Career and Project Consulting.

I also host Echoing Green's Be Bold Podcast about creating a career with impact.

Most people who work with me fall into 1 of 3 categories. Which one sounds like you, or someone you know?

-You’re trying to figure out what kind of work would make you happy.
-You know the kind of work you want to do, but aren’t sure how to achieve it.
-You know the work you want to do, you know how to get there, but aren’t taking action.

I usually charge $85/hour phone session, or $75/hour phone session if you pre-pay for 4 sessions ($300 total). I'm offering Have Fun * Do Good readers and their friends a special discount. $75/hour phone session, or $65/hour phone session if you pre-pay for 4 sessions ($260 total). Payment must be received by December 31, 2008.

For more info, email me at and let me know you are a Have Fun * Do Good reader. You can learn more about my work at

Friday, December 05, 2008

Give the Gift of Time Together for the Holidays

When you're on your death bed looking back on your life, what will you remember most, the stuff you received as gifts, or the time you spent with the people you care about?

On Wednesday I posted 10 Lists of Holiday Gifts That Give Back. Although many of the ideas on the lists help people in need, or have a light impact on the planet, most of the ideas are objects to purchase. I want to share with you a story about a friend of mine's mom who for the last few years has only given gifts of time for birthdays and holidays.

Last Christmas at breakfast, rather than under the tree, she presented her two daughters, son in-law and three grandchildren with a set of different colored nesting boxes, the kind that, when empty, fit inside each other. Each had a sand dollar glued on the top for decoration.

The family opened the boxes in order, by size. The smallest box was for the youngest grandchild. When she opened the tiny little box, glued inside the lid was a piece of paper that unfolded, like a fortune cookie fortune. It said, "A trip to the zoo!" Inside the box was a brochure for the Oakland Zoo.

The next largest box was opened by the 2nd oldest grandchild. Glued inside was the same kind of folded paper that said, "An overnight with tennis and swimming!" The next box was opened by the eldest grandchild who received, "An overnight with Stanford baseball!"

The eldest daughter's box contained ""Tickets to a show!" The son in-law received "Stanford football tickets!" and his wife, the youngest daughter and my friend, got, "A lunch and shopping date (with paid babysitter included)!"

My friend said that not only did everyone love their gifts of time to spend with grandma/mom/mom in-law, but that the gifts have changed how the children give their grandma gifts:
"One thing that has come out of it, that is really special, is that my kids really want to give her gifts of time now, too. They do things like, "A hike in the woods!" or "A picnic at the pool!" Of course, I have to be involved in it, but they get to pick what they want to do, and then they gift it to her. They draw a picture and write what they want to do with her."
It's important to give back to your local and global community, but it is also important to "give back" to your friends and family. Give them the gift of time together.

Related blog posts:
Give the Gift of Time Together This Holiday Season on Treehugging Family.
Christmas and Other Holidays: Gifts of Time on Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News
Green Giving: Experiential and the Gift of Time on Eco - Action

Flickr photo credit: Sand Dollar uploaded by Bart Everson.
Cross-posted from

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mindapple: What's Your 5-A-Day?

Super duper nonprofit tech blogger Amy Sample Ward has tagged me in a new meme started by Mindapples: What's Your 5-A-Day?

I'm supposed to share the five things I do each day that keep my mind healthy (kinda like how five servings of fruits and veggies keep your body healthy), and then tag 5 more bloggers to share their 5-A-Day.

My 5-A-Day:

1. Yoga. If I have time, I like to do Rodney Yee's 25 minute Power Yoga - Flexibility DVD. If I'm short on time, I do a few of the routines from Kimberly Wilson's Hip Tranquil Chick book.

2. Journal. I'm not really a narrative journal writer. More of a brain dumper. I like to start each day describing my "ideal day" to help me focus on what I want to do that day.

3. Read. I **love** to read. I find that even if I only get to read a few pages in the morning, I write better and think more creatively that day. Plus, I like learning new things. Right now I am reading How Did I Get So Busy?, as a result of my recent 29-Day Giving Challenge reflections, and CauseWired as part of my ongoing "professional development."

If you connect with me on Facebook (let me know you are a Have Fun * Do Good reader), you can see my reading lists on GoodReads and Visual Bookshelf.

4. Cook. I also love cooking. If I have time to cook a proper dinner (Annie's mac n' cheese doesn't count) I know my life is in balance. Right now I'm having fun trying recipes from Nigella Express 'cause they are yummy, but quick. I recommend the Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Mushrooms and the Flash-fried Steak with White Bean Mash. I'm going to try the Pea and Pesto Soup tonight.

5. Spend time with my hubs. What can I say? He's my favorite person. Life is more fun when he's around. Check out his new website:

6. (Bonus) Laugh at our cat (pictured above). Not a day goes by when she doesn't crack me up and help me take life less seriously.

To continue the meme, I tag:

Into the Studio
Jen Lemen
Life Unfolds
Vale of Evening Fog

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

10 Lists of Holiday Gifts That Give Back

According to the recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article, Americans Rate Charity Gifts a Priority This Holiday Season, a study conducted for World Vision by Harris Interactive found that 84% percent of people surveyed, "would prefer to receive a gift that would benefit someone else rather than a traditional present, such as clothing or electronics."

When I posted my list of 10 Holiday Gifts That Give Back last year, there weren't many lists like it, but now there are tons! Instead of creating my own 2008 list, I thought I'd do a roundup of some of the lists I've found. Please include links in the comments to any lists I've missed, as well as your own gifts that give back ideas.
  1. 2008 Charitable Holiday Shopping Guide, Part 1 on The Vibe.
    (There will be a Part 2 & 3).
  2. Holiday Gift Guide on Echoing Green's Spark blog.
  3. Gifts That Give Back from posted on
  4. Christmas Gifts That Give Back on An Untraditional Home.
  5. Beautiful Gifts That Give Back on The Coveted.
  6. Gifts That Give Back - Charitable Gifts in Marie Claire.
  7. Let Charity Begin at Home This Holiday Season on Cafe Mom
  8. Giving Gifts That Give Back in Conscience Choice
  9. Charity Christmas Gifts That Give Back on Quick and Simple.
  10. Lucky's Favorite Holiday Gifts That Give Back in the TODAY holiday guide.
One more list to check out is the Give List. The Give List, started by Allison Fine of the Social Citizens Blog and Marnie Web of ext337, is a site that aggregates ways you can contribute to nonprofit organizations without writing a check, or buying anything. Anyone can add to the Give List by tagging an idea with #givelist on Twitter, or with "givelist" (without the quotation marks) on de.licio.ous. Some of the ideas that have already been contributed are Recycle for United Cerebal Palsy, Holiday Mail for Heroes, and GoodSearch.

Image Credit: Screenshot from Heifer International Online Gift Catalog.
Cross-posted from

Top 10 NPTech Blogs: Thanks Beth Kanter!

Find the best blogs at

Beth Kanter, the nonprofits and social media guru, recently posted her list of Top 10 Nonprofit Technology (NPTech) and Social Media for Social Change Blogs on, and I'm one of them!

The list includes:

Amy Sample Ward's Version of NPTech
Have Fun * Do Good
Katya Andresen: Nonprofit Marketing Blog
Laura's Notebook
Qui Diaz - Evange.list
Social Actions
Social Citizens Blog

I'm honored to be included (:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Volunteering 2.0: Community Building

When I do presentations about nonprofits and the social web, I often explain Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0 like this:

Web 1.0 is a one way conversation.

Web 2.0 is a two way conversation.

Web 1.0 is about listening to me. Web 2.0 is about listening to each other.

In her recent article, From Organizing Charity to Community Building, Susan Ellis of Energize Inc. uses a similar framework to talk about the future of volunteering. Ellis reflects,
"The problem, for me, is that the charity model is one-way. It centers on givers, 'those who have so much,' providing aid to recipients, 'those who have so little.' . . .

What would happen if we stopped asking 'what new people can we find out there to give us help?' and instead talked to our members, audience, visitors, clients – whomever our focus is – and found out what they wanted and were willing to help create?"
Ellis recommends that volunteer managers focus on building community among the populations they serve, and describes the best volunteering as an "exchange." She writes about a program that connects elementary school children and seniors as an example of a beneficial volunteer exchange:
"A nursing home near an elementary school was asked to open its dining room from 3:00 to 5:00 as a safe place for 'latchkey' children who otherwise had no adult supervision in the late afternoon to do homework. Older residents who were able were encouraged to greet the youngsters, give milk and cookies, and help with the homework. As you can imagine, the kids responded and pretty soon it was very hard to tell who was giving or receiving more. The seniors suddenly had young visitors and the students suddenly had tutors."
Most people want to contribute to making the world a better place, in one way or another. Whether they are creating a YouTube video for a cause, or helping to create an urban garden, it's not just the giving that makes them feel good, it's also the feeling that they are part of a community that is working together for a better world.

The next time your organization creates a program, or campaign to recruit more volunteers don't just ask yourself, "How can I facilitate them doing something for us?" Also ask yourself, "How can I facilitate our doing something together?"

Cross-posted from The Extraordinaries.
Flickr photo credit: One Way uploaded by Jef Poskanzer. Elephants uploaded by wwarby.

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.