6 reasons to make a difference

Folks, I believe that it’s important to help people out when you’re able to, and that means making a difference. It doesn’t have to be big stuff to really create change.

A lot of the work I do on craigconnects involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Mostly you hear from me bearing witness to good works of others, or, if I think I’m funny. (I know I’m not as funny as I think, though by Washington standards, I’m hi-larious.)

Here are 6 reasons that I work to make a difference:

  1. Code is power, and it’s important to encourage girls to learn how to code. Orgs like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are doing this.
  2. Vets and their families do a lot for us. If they’re willing to risk their lives for me, I’m willing to give back to them as much as I can. It’s one of the reasons I became the VA’s Nerd-in-Residence.
  3.  Ok, I really just want news I can trust. Trustworthy journalism’s far and few between lately, and that needs to change. Couple years ago, I blurted out that “the press should be the immune system of democracy,” and I still believe that.
  4. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that everyone is equal under law, and I figure election integrity is a big deal. However, there are some bad actors that are trying to pass legislation that will keep eligible people from voting. I’m working with folks like Voto Latino to stop ’em. Here’s an infographic the craigconnects team and I created about these issues: Think You Have the Right to Vote? Not so much!
  5. Consumer protection is needed to protect regular people from predatory financial institutions. That’s like home loaners who’ll make loans to people who can’t pay the bills, or payday loaners who deceive military families. Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to see how an effective government org gets stuff done.
  6. I’d like to help give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. Everyone should get the chance to be heard. It’s why I started craigconnects. My goal’s to team up with good folks in an effort to connect people and orgs around the world to get stuff done.

I’m looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

social change
Photo Credit: Aleksi Aaltonen

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

To be sure, I don’t feel this is altruistic or noble, it’s just that a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly. What are your reasons for making a difference?

Top 10 Veterans Orgs to Follow on Twitter

Hey,  Veterans Day is Monday, and there are some good orgs who really have their boots on the ground.

Okay, a while back, my wife (then fiance) asked me why I only did my normal level of support for veterans and military families on Memorial Day. My blurt was that “for me, every day’s Memorial Day.” And I feel the same way about Veterans Day.

Here are ten veterans orgs that you should be following on Twitter. They have important things to say, and are working hard for military families and veterans’ rights. The list is in no particular order.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American, @IAVA


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iavaSwords to Plowshares, @vetshelpingvets


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swordsplowsharesBob Woodruff Foundation, @Stand4Heroes


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woodruff

Blue Star Families, @BlueStarFamily


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bluestar

National Military Family Association, @military_family


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milfam

Returning Veterans Project, @ReturnVeterans


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The SF Veteran Success Center, @SF_VSC


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sf-vsc

Operation Homefront, @Op_Homefront


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ophomefront

Warrior Canine Connection, @WarriorCanineCn


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warriorcanine

Luke’s Wings, @LukesWingsUSA


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luke

 

I figure that we should support and thank Americans who risk taking a bullet to protect us, and that means also looking after their families. Just seems right… Happy Veterans Day, folks.

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.

The nerd-in-residence

The Department of Veterans Affairs has named me a “nerd-in-residence.” You can find more under VA team bios > Craig Newmark.

I really am a nerd, old-school, wore a plastic pocket protector, and glasses taped together, in the early sixties. I can now simulate social behavior for an hour, two hours tops, but then I start getting cranky. nerd-4

Far as my team’s concerned, this makes me the biggest nerd in the USA…

maybe the world.

(As you see, I’m comfortable being a nerd, and also, I might have a sense of humor. I don’t seem to be too concerned with dignity.)

On the other hand, I’m a customer service rep for craigslist, have been for more than eighteen years, and that changes humans. The stuff I do, I can see we help people put food on the table, and that matters.

The job also reminds me that crap rolls downhill, aimed at people with jobs that can be grinding and thankless. For example, I’ve first-hand seen that thousands of frontline VA people are doing everything in their power to do right by Vets, but government employees are being demonized or neglected.

(Dilbert is an excellent reference work regarding this. I’ve always resisted despair, that’s Wally; I’m Dilbert.)

Ever since connecting with the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America I’ve been getting more and more involved with military family and veterans’ efforts.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing some really good stuff for vets that no one hears about, catching up since 2009. I’ve helped, in a very minor way for several years, now I gotta do more, for VA, military families, and vets.

Anyway, a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Interview: Swords to Plowshares

Hey there, as many of you know, I gave $50k to the CrowdRise Veterans Charity Challenge earlier this month. The total money raised for Veterans and Milfams exceeded $448,000.

SwordstoPlowsharesLogo-51660c58206e4

 

In my #VetsChallenge wrap up post, I asked you to stay tuned for the interviews I’d be conducting with two great orgs, both winners of a Bonus Challenge.

The first interview was with Jordan Towers, Social Media Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares. Jordan talked about how the org has provided core services, like housing, employment, and training to vets since 1974.

Some of the things that Jordan said during the interview really stuck out to me,

“The amazing thing about Swords to Plowshares is that we help all veterans of every generation…[We help] about 2,000 veterans in the San Francisco Bay area every year….[and] really try to tackle what the veterans need, and to restore their dignity and self-sufficiency. All veterans are welcome, regardless of discharge status.”

 

 

You can listen to the full interview here:

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.

Craig Newmark’s big issues for craigconnects in 2013

Hey there folks, I’m figuring out what’s my deal, what do I spend time doing, and what’ll be my main focus for 2013. This seems to be the shortest version which makes any sense to anyone else.

A lot of this involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly.

You’ll see a focus on matters in the here and now, looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

Anyway…

craigslist customer service is something I’ve got a hard commitment to, only as long as I live. I got only lightweight stuff to do these days, which is a big deal since:

  • it reminds me of what’s real, when I hear from people who get food on the table via our site.
  • it reinforces my emotional investment in operating from the grassroots level on up, in identifying with the grassroots, and in viewing life from the bottom up.

Also, there’s my craigconnects.org stuff, which includes a number of areas, but the two big areas are military families/veterans issues, and journalism trust/ethics issues.

If someone’s willing to serve overseas and risk taking a bullet for me, I should give back at least a little. Also, everyone should remember that it’s not only a troop serving, it’s also his or her family who give up a lot for all of us.

1. There are networks of military spouses, often linked by the mailing lists (listservs) where spouses at specific bases help each other. Multiple spouse organizations maintain their own networks. Finally, the senior-most spouses talk with each other. If they would work with each other, and supported each other, they could get a lot more done, including much of what follows this item.

2. Military families sometimes need a hand from one of the tens of thousands of helping organizations around the US. This is what the Joint Chiefs call the “sea of goodwill” and the problem is locating who can help with what. A milfam group has built the beginning of a database and smartphone app toward this end. (Veterans need this also, but spouses groups might just have the lead.)

3. There are specific areas where maybe I can help in very minor ways, for example:

  • schools that serve military kids, at specific bases, are underfunded. A matching grants effort via DonorsChoose.org might be useful.
  • when a spouse moves from a base in one state to another, we need to find ways to make re-licensing fast to avoid loss of income.

4. Spouses and veterans need jobs, and the Veterans Job Bank is a good start. It needs updating, and then, we need to tell people it exists and is useful.

5. It’s really difficult for veterans to express military skills and experience in terms that civilian hiring managers can understand. Better programs need to be developed and they need to be actively used during transition from active service.

6. Troops who transition from active service can have a really hard time getting disability claims approved. The Fully Developed Claims effort needs to be amplified during transition and thereafter. Also, perhaps the Department of Veterans Affairs disability approval backlog can be helped by effectively getting the assistance of Veterans Service Organizations. VSO worker level personnel, maybe working directly with VA disability raters can help accelerate processing in unexpected ways. (Disclaimer: I’ve been personally involved with the VA employee innovation effort which has already helped a little.)

7. There needs to be greater outreach by VA medical centers via social media, and also regarding Blue Button efforts which allow veterans to download medical and work experience while in service.

 

Okay, the other big area I focus on involves journalism integrity and ethics, toward increasing the trustworthiness of news reporting. I really am aware that I’m not in the news industry, and won’t tell people how to do their job.

However, I really want to get news I can trust. After all, the press is the immune system of democracy… or should be.

Toward that end, I’m already working with the Poynter Institute, which is a really big deal in professional journalism. They’ve run a conference on journalistic issues, raising big issues. For example, to maintain a pretense of objectivity, it’s common to bring on a speaker a reporter knows will attempt to deceive the public. In such a case, is the reporter and news outlet complicit in that deception?

Moving forward, I’ll be increasingly involved in publicly raising such issues publicly, with the objective of finding news I can trust. That means working with more news organizations with a history of trustworthy behavior.

Finally, well, I was heavily involving in protecting the rights of all eligible Americans to vote, mostly by supporting organizations with boots on the ground. I figure this is about the values articulated in the Declaration of Independence, in that all are created equal, and that we really can be the “shining city on the hill.”

However, there are people who disagree with universal suffrage, and have taken that to the Supreme Court, so I’ll continue to help.

Anyway …

Please remember that I’m doing this real discreetly, not really rocking the boat except when a little of that is required, just the least amount needed.

Finally, nothing I do is altruistic the way I look at things; it just feels right. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

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