craigconnects: Connecting the World for the Common Good

Craig's Blog

Important voting messaging

Folks, there are some orgs out there who are doing real good work, like the Advancement Project, the Brennan Center for Justice, and SKDKnickerbocker, they really have their boots on the ground when it comes to talking about Voting.

Their key messages really are spot on, and highlight the importance of voting, and why you should vote. Here's the list, I figure we should post something, now and then…

  • Strengthen Our Community: Voting brings us together as Americans, and you should join your family and friends to help strengthen our community.
  • Equality: Voting is the one time we are all equal — whether you’re young or old, rich or poor. When we vote, we all have the same say.
  • Civic Duty: As American citizens, it is our responsibility and civic duty to vote and it’s something we do to show our country and children that we are proud to be American.
  • Free, Fair and Accessible: As the leading democracy of the world, the U.S. should work to keep our voting system free, fair, and accessible to all Americans.
  • Have Your Voice Heard: In order to participate in our great democracy and have your voice heard, every voter needs to understand the rules in their state, register on time, and show up at the correct polling place.
  • Empowerment: Voting is empowering and provides us with some control over what happens to our families and our community.
  • Your Vote Counts: Your vote makes a difference, and together Americans’ voices count. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

And folks – don't forget to check out all of the organizations doing good work on this issue.

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craigconnects Celebrates a 2nd Anniversary

Hey there, folks -

It's craigconnects' 2nd anniversary already, and we've worked with some real good people in the last year to get stuff done. This year I'm also focusing a lot on vets and military families, and I've teamed up with Crowdrise to do a big campaign to raise money for these organizations, which will launch in a few months. I'd like to encourage any organizations working with vets and military families to get in touch with Crowdrise on how they can participate.

A few highlights of the good orgs and folks we've worked with for social good:

  • I went to a really good conference and hackathon addressing Truthiness in Digital Media last year. While I'm not going to tell anyone how to do their job, I feel the country needs the news media to restore trust in their reporting, in large part, by doing lots of factchecking again.
  • I worked with some good folks focusing on Voter Suppression issues to create an Infographic about Voter's rights, Think You Have the Right to Vote? Not so much! There are some bad actors that are trying to pass legislation that will keep eligible people from voting.
  • Re: voting, I supported the good folks at Election Protection, Lawyers' Committee, NOI, and Ushahidi who developed and launched Our Vote Live to help people out if they encountered problems while trying to vote.
  • And in this past year, I discovered that it's a new era of squirrel-based activism with the #Squirrels4Good campaign we did with the National Wildlife Federation, who really have their boots on the ground. I gave $1 for each use of the hashtag #Squirrels4Good, and donated $10K to NWF. Those squirrels really are urban survivors.
  • Folks often email me asking for support with their campaigns. I tell 'em to email me the links to their posts, and maybe they should do ask their supporters to do the same. Here's a little post about how to easily share your posts for the most visibility.
  • I've been quietly working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau including Liz Warren and Holly Petraeus, on stuff like customer service tech. They're for real, getting stuff done. The CFPB does stuff like protecting regular people from predatory financial institutions.
  • We created a few memes to talk about current affairs:

What I think happens with memes is that they get into someone's brain as code, executes in one's brain, and then spreads the idea of the meme using the person as a host where it is spreads to other people (hopefully in an epidemic manner). Again, I'm speaking literally, which shows I read too much science fiction. But it's not all science fiction.

Other things that happened over the last year:

  • A good friend of mine, Maria Teresa Kumar, Co-Founder and President of Voto Latino, and actress America Ferrera began a new media, grassroots campaign called America4America. The campaign's main message "Don't Let Anyone Scare You" is geared toward Latino Voters. The campaign is doing good stuff educating young folks about issues like voter ID laws and immigration.
  • Okay, I was chatting with Reshma Saujani from Girls Who Code last year, providing modest social media help, and blurted out that "code is power." And I still think that it's true. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit that teaches under-served girls how to computer program.
  • Speaking of women in tech, Allyson Kapin, craigconnects team member and founder of Women Who Tech, co-authored a book with Amy Sample Ward of NTEN called Social Change Anytime Everywhere. I wrote the book foreword and had a chance to talk nerdy about why nonprofits need to use social media and online channels to reach people.
  • Last summer I wanted to help out with the massive wildfires that were blazing across Colorado and the people (and animals) there that needed help dealing with the damage.  I committed a matching donation up to $5K to support the good folks at a local American Red Cross. They're doing the real hard work on the ground to help those in immediate need. Small gesture on my part, but it's something…
  •  I worked with the good folks at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to create an infographic explaining how CDA 230 really protects Internet speech.
  • I've been teching across the globe, funding tech labs around the globe. Ranging from San Francisco to Kenya, a Beduoin village in Israel, to Haiti and India, and the Palestinian West Bank; this is a really big deal. It's important that people have access to the voice that they may not have otherwise.
  • Hurricane Sandy was real serious. It caused a lot of damage across the East Coast including my hometown Morristown, New Jersey from downed power lines to major flooding. I did my small part with Crowdrise by matching $25K to relief organizations like the American Red Cross, Feeding America, AmeriCares, IAVA, and National Wildlife Federation, who have their boots on the ground and help people (and the little furry ones) out. We raised over $110K!
  • I spoke at the Poynter Journalism Ethics Symposium last October. I spoke only as a news consumer, I just want news I can trust. The press should be the immune system of democracy, and needs to fulfill that role again.
  • The Bob Woodruff Foundation’s Sixth Annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit was this past November. There were some real great folks there, and we raised some money for a good cause. My match of $25k was met during the event, and another donor matched $25k on Friday. A total of over $3 million was raised. The wounded warriors and their families have really stood up for us, now it’s time we stood up for them.
  • I teamed up with the good folks at National Wildlife Federation once again to raise money for the furry little critters. I asked folks on social media to #Hoot2Give. Each time someone used the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, I gave $1 to NWF (up to $5k). In just a few days there were over 5k mentions and a lot of really cute photos of owls.
  • I asked folks, how does the Internet give you a voice?  I collected answers about how the Internet gives people a voice and shared them on Internet Freedom Day.

It was a really busy year. We're really looking forward to the years to come. I don't think of it as altruism, it just feels right and a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.


Big IT development at Dept of Vets Affairs

(from the dept of giving-credit-where-it's-due)

Peter Levin and Roger Baker leave Dept Veterans Affairs

VistA is the Dept of Vets Affairs health record system, and it's been a huge success. VA has open sourced it, which is remarkable achievement for
Washington, a really big deal. It means that anyone can improve it or interface with it. Check out the VA Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest.

What they're now saying is that the Dept of Defense is considering a health records system, and that VistA should be considered for that.

That sounds right to me, it gets the job done, has been working well for years, and is already available publicly for the public to better help veterans. That means people can find ways to add function to better help active service troops. Find out more here:

But wait, there's more! Folks at VA have been doing some big stuff since 2009. They've announced the VA Center for Innovation. I'd say that the
following is a small part of VA innovation, I've seen it firsthand and it's real. Here's a little of what they have to say:

As you can see, the new VA Center for Innovation is more than a name change for us. And to make this all the more real, we get to announce a
few recent milestones along with the VACI rollout:

  • Launched a dozen new innovations covering telemedicine, prosthetic socket designs, kidney disease, mobile health/Blue Button, and robotics for sterilization of medical equipment
  • Launched the new VACI website at:
  • Published the 2010-2012 Stakeholder Report (available for download at
  • Selected our first Senior Fellows (Dr. Adam Darkins and Dr. Peter Almenoff on telehealth and healthcare value, respectively)
  • Named serial entrepreneur and Air Force veteran Steve Blank as Senior Advisor to VACI
  • Appointed our first EiR in Doug Trauner, CEO of and co-chair of the FCC's mHealth taskforce
  • Added our first participant in the Partnership program with the nation's largest health carrier, UnitedHealth Group
  • Added our second Partnership, this one with TEDMED

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Peter Levin and Roger Baker leave Dept Veterans Affairs; legacy includes the VA Center for Innovation

Hey, VA got a lot done under really tough conditions in the last several years. That includes dealing with increasing IT workload regarding the GI Bill, more web-based access to benefits, and processing a lot more vets entering the system from current wars and also Vietnam.

Peter Levin and Roger Baker leave Dept Veterans Affairs

That's a lot more than anyone knows, and it's a good time to step up to recognize these guys. It'll be really hard to replace them, to continue the momentum at VA which started in 2009.

Part of that is addressed by the new form of the VA Innovation Initiative, the VA Center for Innovation. The deal has a lot to do with working with employees, vendors, and others for suggestions from folks with boots on the ground.

For example, employee suggestions have led to Disability Benefits Questionnaires, which show real promise addressing a part of the disability backlog. (Disclaimer: in 2009 I helped judge the employee innovation effort as a civilian/nerd.)

Vendor innovations have a lot to do with medical gear that wounded warriors could wear that reports sensor readings via smartphones to VA databases. That could, in turn, be included in Blue Button files which make it way easier for doctors to share current data.

All this is a much bigger deal than I can articulate; the country really does owe a lot to Peter and Roger, and I already see the VA Center for Innovation getting stuff done.

You can read more on Peter, Roger, and the VACI:

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Social Enterprises: The Silver Lining Between the Free Market and Social Good


In recent years, there have been elevated tensions between the traditional free market economy and our society. Some of those tensions are related to misconceptions about a free market. Investopedia defines the free market as:

A market economy based on supply and demand with little or no government control. [...]

In other words, it is a voluntary agreement between people who trade goods and services.

For example, when you go to the store to buy a loaf of bread, you are participating in the free market. In addition, a free market can also describe a political view or ideology. As we know, political differences can create tensions and misunderstandings between people of any political perspective.

The free market is a resource for job creation, economic growth, and mobility. It is also a resource for making a difference in the world through a hybrid business called a social enterprise.

“Social enterprises are revenue-generating businesses with a twist,” according to the BC Centre for Social Enterprise. These entities have two core values: To create goodwill and to earn revenue.

A social enterprise can be a for-profit, a nonprofit, or a charity. Perhaps some of those tensions in the past years related to the earning revenue part – business has had a bad reputation. Sometimes when people think about business, they think about scandals and fallout from big companies like Enron, or Lehman Brothers.

In reality, most businesses in this country are small businesses. According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, there were 3,617,764 companies with 1 to 4 employees, compared to 18,469 companies with over 500 employees. Small businesses create jobs. And social enterprises have double value: they create jobs and positive social change. They are an ideal opportunity for social entrepreneurs to change the world and earn revenue.

This bit of background is leading to our story: a story about a silver lining in the dark cloud between the traditional free market economy and the wellbeing of our society…

The Silver Lining

At the end of 2011, Craig Newmark’s craigconnects launched a project with a grand idea: Craig asked people to send in their ideas about how they would change the world in 2012. In early December 2011, Craig’s inspirational call-to-action lead us to submit our idea “How Secretary of Innovation Will Change the World in 365 Days”:

We created SoI’s [Secretary of Innovation] Web of Life series this year. Each day, we post pictures of anything in nature – animals, plants, water, people. We share the beauty and diversity of life as a reminder that everything is part of the Web of Life. is a spinoff of the Web of Life series – WoL means the Web of Life. is one way for people to think about our connection with nature. This new social media project will be a hybrid business model: self-funding for SoI and proceeds donated to charity.

December 27, 2011, our idea to change the world was selected and listed on craigconnects “16 People and Organizations Changing the World in 2012”:

Bessie and Claude DiDomenica over at Secretary of Innovation, share their ideas about building bridges and making connections by sharing “the beauty and diversity of life as a reminder that everything is part of the Web of Life.”

Turning Silver Into Gold

We took our pledge seriously. On December 31, 2012, we launched our photo sharing crowdfunding effort, “WoL” stands for “Web of Life.” Our purpose is to use photo sharing and crowdfunding to raise money for worthy causes. is now in Alpha/proof-of-concept mode.

In January 2013, craigconnects had another call-to-action: How does the Internet give you a voice? We heeded the call and published “How the Internet Gives a Voice”:

For many people, freedom and liberty seem to be ethereal nebulous concepts. However, people without freedom appreciate what we all often take for granted. Our thanks to craigconnects for the opportunity to remember ideas that are most precious to all of us: Freedom and liberty. We all need to work together to protect our liberties.

January 18th is Internet Freedom Day, and we’d like to share a few words of support.

On December 31, 2012, we launched, a photo sharing crowdfunding social enterprise. Our goal is to be a for-profit business run in the spirit of a non-profit: to do good and do well. We want to provide resources for worthy causes. The Internet is a resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The Internet has given us this voice to help others…

January 18, 2013, our blog on Internet freedom was selected and listed on craigconnects “Internet Freedom Day: Giving a voice to the voiceless.”

We were motivated by the challenge to make a difference in the world. Through hard work and finding the right people, has emerged as a social enterprise and a small business to create jobs.

2013 is going to be a great year for and other social enterprises. There is hope, possibility, and a silver lining. If you’ve thought about starting a business, embrace your entrepreneurial spirit! Stop thinking and take a step toward a new reality.

Epilogue has gotten off to a great start! But there is still much work to do. Our volunteer advisory board is in place with eight wonderful people who have offered their help. We invite others to join our advisory board, and welcome celebrity kudos and endorsements.

We are actively looking for other worthy causes that can benefit from crowdfunding. And we are lining up business partners who will provide discounts and freebies for our paying subscribers.

Bessie & Claude DiDomenica

Co-founders | Photo Sharing Philanthropy Engine

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”

–Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama

About the Authors


Bessie DiDomenica, MBA is a successful entrepreneur, researcher, business professional, writer, social media manager, and agent of change. She is responsible for the contentand business development for

Bessie is a doctoral candidate in public policy and is writing her dissertation on urban food policy.

Claude DiDomenica is a gifted, award-winning jazz composer/guitarist and agent of change with an intuitive talent for solving computer problems. He dreamed up the idea and is the Webmaster and Chief Imagination Officer.

Claude thrives on creativity, and innovation, and is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence.

Copyright © 2013, All Rights Reserved [republished with permission]