“Saving the World” DIY Style

People ask me how I go about figuring out what causes I really believe in and what’s the most effective way to support those efforts. You can find a list of what I support specifically here. My general philosophy is to do some real good in the short run, while learning how to scale that up in the long run – to the entire planet in maybe twenty years. I’m also very committed to helping people from the bottom up, to give people a break that rarely get one, and to help give a voice to the voiceless.

When it comes to business success and money, know when enough is enough, which translates to a business model of doing well by doing good. I guess I’ve been real successful at that, and I’ve been told by a lot of startup people that this approach has influenced them.

So, in the short run, I’ve been doing what I can to help US veterans and military families, figuring that if someone will risk a bullet protecting me, I need to give back. Recently, people helped me understand that the family of an active service member serves the country while that service member is deployed, particularly in a war zone.

I’ve chosen groups to support, in government and in the nonprofit world, guided by considerations including:

  • Do they impact something I believe in?
  • Are they good at it?
  • Can I help them via serious social media consulting and engagement?
  • Can I learn from the experience how to use social media on a very large scale?
  • Just in case, does the nonprofit tell a really slick, heart-wrenching story? Have they been seriously vetted? (If not, substantial chance it’s a scam.)

So, the themes here have to do with “social impact,” probably mediated by social media, while watching out for compelling scams. (Sorry, but this is currently a huge problem in the nonprofit world.) For that reason, I engage with Charity Navigator,GuideStar, and GreatNonProfits.org. In particular, Charity Nav is making real progress measuring social impact, which is about how good an org is at serving its clients. Social media provides the tools that effective people use to work together to get stuff done. We’re talking not only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, but also tools like spreadsheets used to rank “employee innovation” efforts.

Human history suggests that change begins from the networks of individuals who work together through the social media of their times, from Caesar and Cicero, to St Paul and Martin Luther, and John Locke and Tom Paine. Consider the UK Glorious Revolution which resulted in modern representative democracy, which I frequently call the Twitter Revolution of 1688. (A great history of pre-Internet social media isThe Writing on the Wall, by Tom Standage, who reminds us that “history retweets itself.”) That history tells us that social media provides a set of tools which can effect real change. That history is one of democratization; the costs of those tools restricted them to the wealthy at first, but now the cost of entry is close to zero.

In the short term, my focus is normally on small orgs, since they can be more effective. However, I’m now working with a huge org, the Department of Veterans Affairs, around 360,000 people, and from that, I’m learning how to run large organizations – and large governments – effectively.

For the long term, I’m supporting efforts in the here and now that are fundamental to universal fairness; the intent is to give everyone a break, to treat everyone how you’d like to be treated.

One such effort involves figuring out how to get news that I can trust. I’m a news consumer, but for the past decade I’ve been getting training in media ethics and trust issues, as well as being shown how the news sausage is made. (It ain’t pretty, particularly with all the disinfo being flung around.) The theme is that “the press is the immune system of democracy” and that a good ethical framework might lead some part of the press back to trustworthy behavior.

Another effort involves voting rights in the US. While the Declaration of Independence reminds us that we’re all equal under the law, bad actors in politics can only survive if they stop certain groups of people from voting, and that ain’t right.

It might occur to you that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” and that is another articulation of what my stuff’s all about. You’d be right.

Photo: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by USDAgov

Why Men Must “Lean In” to Support Women’s Leadership

Our times call for  some innovators and women leaders who work in partnership with men. Again, this is about my commitment to fairness.

Basically, it’s time we get more women into public office. I recorded this video about fairness and getting better government everywhere, maybe indulge me? It’s about creating real social change, for the better.

I’ve joined up with the Women In Public Service Project to play my part. I’m working with them to host a call to action to champions of change around the world. You can be a part of this movement, too…

(I also recorded a video about how to use social media better, for equality. Maybe it’ll help ya out.)

 

Some Things You Should Know About Voter ID Laws

Voter ID Laws: solving a nonexistent problem with more government and more expense.

Folks, we’re almost a month away from National Voter Registration Day, on September 23, 2014, and less than 3 months away from elections, and that means that you should be aware of your rights.

Elections for US States Senate will be November 4, 2014. These elections mark 100 years of direct elections of U.S. Senators.

The elections to the US House of Representatives, elections for governors in states and territories, and many state and local elections will also be held on November 4, 2014.

The Declaration of Independence reminds us that we’re all equal under the law, but there are politicians who find that threatening.

There are some real bad actors out there trying to implement laws to stop eligible people, including women, the elderly, and communities of color, from voting. What I learned in high school civics class is that an attack on voting rights is virtually the same as an attack on the country.

According to the ACLU, 30 states require voters to present identification to vote in federal, state and local elections.

The Founders of the US tell us that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, meaning that citizens have the right to vote. However, there are politicians who don’t like that, and they’re attacking the integrity of the election by making it hard for people to vote.

But there are some orgs out there who are doing real good work, like the Advancement Projectthe Brennan Center for Justice, Rock the Vote, League of Women Voters, and Voto Latino, they really have their boots on the ground when it comes to protecting the voting rights of us all.

49 yrs ago, LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to protect all voters. And, hey, maybe it’s time Congress does the same. It’s been over a year since the Supreme Court gutted the VRA. Congress needs to protect all voters by passing the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA) to restore the VRA and provide modern, nationwide protections against discrimination at the polls.

It’s important to know when the Voter Registration deadline is in your state, you can find out here.

Disenfranchising voters is not a new thing, but has been happening across the country for some time now. A while back, my team and I created an infographic about the impact of voter suppression. And we also put together a list of voting resources; please check it out, and share any helpful resources that you think are missing in the comment section.

Texas government working hard to prevent women from voting

Folks, we are gearing up for midterm elections and that means that you should be aware of your rights. wendy-davis-e1382019677722

There are some real bad actors out there trying to implement laws to stop eligible people, including women, from voting. What I learned in high school civics class is that an attack on voting rights is virtually the same as an attack on the country.

The New Civil Rights Movement writes, as reported by Think Progress:

“as of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like such a small thing, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66% of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesnʼt affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34% of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99% of men are home free.”

Some politicians have tried to manipulate voting laws for their benefit, that’s not right. We need integrity in our elections and voting that’s free, fair, and accessible.

It’s up to us all to ensure the integrity of our voting process by getting registered, speaking up against voter ID laws and the attack on voting rights, and to encourage everyone to vote, regardless of ethnicity or gender.

Disenfranchising voters is not a new thing, but has been happening across the country for some time now. Last year, I worked with some good folks to create an infographic about impact of voter suppression.

Capture

My team and I have compiled a list of voting resources; please check it out, and share any helpful resources that you think are missing in the comment section.

Government Shutdown Resources for Vets & Milfams

Hey folks, with the government shutdown happening I felt it was real important to share resources for military families and veterans.

We’ll try to keep it current.

If you have resources that you’d like to share, please note them in the comments. As we get new resources, we’ll update this post.

Trustworthy journalism in a fact-checking-free world

Getting real about trustworthy journalism

Okay, I really just want news I can trust.

Couple years ago, I blurted out that “the press should be the immune system of democracy.”

Personally, I really don’t like being lied to, but my deal here is that our social contract with the news business is that they hold the powerful to account.

In return, we buy the products of news outlets, and give news professionals certain protections, like the US First Amendment and shield laws.

That gives the press a lot of power, which means that the news industry itself needs to be accountable. That’s a lot easier said than done, and it’s only getting harder to do.

However, if a journalist or news outlet isn’t trustworthy, is it worth buying? Is it good for the country?

factcheck
Well, I’m not in the news business, I’m an outsider, but over years I’ve spent a lot of time with people in the business, and I’ve gotten glimpses as to how the sausage is made. That means I gotta respect boundaries, and not tell people how to do their job.

That job gets more and more challenging, and even good news orgs can have lapses. I’m good with that, if they fix those lapses and hold themselves otherwise accountable, in good faith. Sure, there’re legal consequences, but the bottom line is driven by trustworthy actions.

The solution involves:

Turns out that what we have now are a lot of ethics codes and policies, but very little accountability.

To make sense of this, here’s the kind of lapse I’m talking about, none of which seems to have been addressed.

1. NBC selectively edited a video and badly misrepresented a guy in a real ugly case. Not clear if they’ve come clean about it yet.

Suggestion: news outlets should make the full recording available, perhaps via a discreet rapid-response accountability team.

2. Sometimes a news outlet might broadcast a public figure lying, even when they know it’s a lie. This is what Jon Stewart calls the “CNN leaves it there” problem.

Suggestion: Reporters are smart, if they know they’re being lied to, don’t broadcast it. If they smell a lie but not sure, do a good faith fact-check.

3. Sometimes a news outlet does fact-checking and “forgets” to follow through. This has happened to me, but more importantly, happened to Jimmy Wales very recently, in the NY Times:

“It is very odd and filled with a lot of basic factual errors. For example, it says that Wikipedia was run out of a strip mall at one point – that’s just completely false and a very weird thing to have said, particularly since I explained to the fact checker that it was wrong!”

Suggestion: do fact-checking, and then, correct any falsehoods.

4. Sometimes multiple news outlets will report first, without fact-checking, doing a lot of damage. This was particularly true in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack.

Suggestion: confirm facts before publication.

5. Sometimes, news outlets don’t do their research, get a story badly wrong, and really hurts the country. This is very true regarding the recent IRS scandal, the real story is more about Congressional failure and that the IRS isn’t targeting enough possibly bogus charities.

Suggestion: use actual fact-checked research. Using other news reports as sources is not reliable. Reporting should be transparent about the political motivations of the people pushing the story. Specifically, journalists need to make sure they spend as much “good faith” time in exploring agendas as they do in seeking sources and exploring “the facts” they are made privy to.If so, the story would be perceived differently, perhaps accurately.

The news business is under considerable pressure, competing for a shrinking audience, often having to come up with many new stories per day. Sometimes the facts just can’t be checked, which is a big reason I keep talking about “good faith.”

My personal bias is that the news industry should create their own accountability tools. I don’t think they’ll be perfect, just looking for good faith action.

However, right now people are stirring the pot, constructively, suggesting that the government intervene.

Specifically, people are suggesting that “journalists” should have US First Amendment and shield law protections. Non-professionals, specifically “bloggers,” might be denied those protections.

I think that way of doing it is wrong, and that the issue isn’t “journalist vs. blogger” but whether or not the reporter and news outlet are accountable. Here, “accountable” means “acting in good faith to be trustworthy” which means having an ethics code and honestly trying hard to follow that code.

Does a journalist or news outlet without accountability have legal protections?

You can find a great summary by Mathew Ingram, which incorporates a lot of good work from Jillian York, Jeff Jarvis, David Weinberger, and others.

However, any news outlet that wants to succeed must be trustworthy, that is, accountable. I feel that’s required for their survival, and for national survival.

Perhaps people in news can suggest how they can get to actual accountability?

Helping out homeless veterans

Hey, the Department of Veterans Affairs does more and more to give homeless vets a hand: VA triples spending on homelessness problem

“The Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday awarded almost $300 million in grants for homeless and low-income assistance efforts, three times what the agency spent on that program last year.

Revised Homelessness at a Glance_jpegslide

The move is part of the larger government-wide effort to end veterans homelessness in the next two years, and comes at a time when most federal programs are tightening their belts in an effort to deal with sharp reductions in funding.”

That’s big, reminding us to all lend a hand.

Locally speaking, here’s what I support, all recommended!

… and more to come re Harbor Light.

 

Supporting more effective national service

President Obama and President George H.W. Bush present the 5,000th Daily Points of Light award to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, a retired couple from Iowa who founded a nonprofit that has delivered more than 232 million free meals to children around the world.

A lot of really good people are helping Americans in need via the Corporation for National and Community Service. It’s a “private-public partnership,” meaning that people in business, government, and the nonprofit sector work together with citizens to get results.

That includes a lot of good work by AmeriCorps, which engages 80,000 Americans in results-driven service to meet local needs. In the last year AmeriCorps has teamed up with other agencies to launch:

Lots more needs to get done, and to that effect, the President just signed an official memorandum on expanding national service.

Basically, it tells federal agencies to work together in a task force to expand national service in six areas: emergency and disaster services; economic opportunity; education; environmental stewardship; healthy futures; and veterans and military families. It also encourages more partnerships with the private sector to unleash the energy of citizens to get things done.

This is a big deal; there’s still a lot of suffering out there best address by a combination of public and private efforts.

There are a lot of people out there who could use an extra hand, even right in your own neighborhood. Help out if you can.

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