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Archive for December, 2010

Will Smith on Success

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Damn – Will Smith channeling his inner Tony Robbins:

Categories: INSPIRATION Tags:

2010: A Look Back

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Some people have been busy making predictions for next year, but before we get ahead of ourselves, take a look at the links I’ve gathered below.

The 10th Annual Year in Ideas is a really cool interactive site by The New York Times.

Mobile Future: Mobile Year in Review 2010 Video. Lots of good stats, like Foursquare’s explosive growth, going from 200,ooo users in 2009 to 5 Million this year.

Google Zeitgeist 2010: Year in Review. Great video with the distinctive Google feel.

The Top 10 of Everything 2010 is a huge, extensive list by TIME. Worth a look.

Categories: TRENDS

Chrome for a Cause

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Earlier today I found out about a really cool fundraising campaign – Chrome for a Cause.

How It Works:

The chrome for a cause extension will count your tabs while you browse the web. At the end of the day, you’ll be asked to choose a charity to receive your tabs. Every day between December 15 and 19 presents the chance to contribute your tabs, so you can choose to support the same charity or pick a different one each day.

Even better, there are some great non-profits participating, including Charity: Water and one of my favorite charities, Room to Read.

 

Categories: PHILANTHROPY Tags: , ,

Most Contagious 2010

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The Contagious report is a summary of the biggest trends of 2010. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but it should make for some good holiday reading:

Categories: TRENDS

Is “MOvember” Real Activism?

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Disclosure: This post was originally published on the Casanova Pendrill blog, on Nov. 23, 2010.

If you’ve noticed a strange increase in guys with mustaches everywhere you go, it’s not a new fashion statement (although I have my fingers crossed for the day they’re back in style — no joke). It’s Movember, a global campaign that’s raising awareness and donations for cancers that affect men. Earlier this month, many of my manly colleagues at Casanova joined forces (and varying levels of facial hair) to support this important cause.

But is this real activism or just another form of slacktivism masquerading as real social change? That’s the question posed by Malcolm Gladwell in his recent New Yorker piece “Twitter, Facebook and social activism: Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.”

In this article, “Gladwell argues that online social networks aren’t suited for “real” social activism, so all the Utopian predictions about Twitter and Iran, or Facebook and Obama, will never come to pass. This is because, Gladwell says, online networks are all about weak ties — a weak tie is a friend of a friend, or a casual acquaintance — whereas real activism (he uses the example of the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King) depends on strong ties, or those people you know and trust:

There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances — not our friends — are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvelous efficiency. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.SOURCE: Jonah Lehrer, “Weak Ties, Twitter and Revolution,” Wired Science

Maria Popova (@brainpicker) says “Malcolm Gladwell is #Wrong.” Her post is a thorough refutation of Gladwell’s stance, point by point, and argues that:

We need a definition of what activism is, not what it is not, before we can argue for or against its existence. As far as I’m concerned, activism is any action or set of actions, be it organized, grassroots or self-initiated, that aims to resolve a problem that diminishes the quality of life of individuals, communities or society.”

The negative connotation associated with slacktivism implies that there is very little expenditure of energy/effort. Possibly. But to say that activism is any less effective because of the level involvement is looking at the situation from the wrong lens.

My father tends to think that a hard day’s work = manual labor. Using your hands, working outside, getting dirty, etc. This is old-school thinking. It’s focusing on the input instead of the output and at the end of the day, what’s truly meaningful is whether or not your actions are generating satisfactory results.

So how has Movember performed?

In 2009, the movement was able to raise $42 Million globally.  Although the majority of participants may not be hard-core activists, it’s still a significant figure. It may even have a side-benefit: inspiring first-time fundraisers to get involved in other social causes.

Categories: DIGITAL Tags: ,

Book Review: Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

December 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Leaving Microsoft To Change the World” by John Wood, founder of Room To Read, is easily the most inspirational book I’ve read all year. I found it fast-paced and very readable. It’s the story of a Microsoft employee who decides to leave his position as a technology executive to help under-resourced Third World children gain access to education through libraries, schools and books.

I’m going to share a passage about the madrassa schools in Afghanistan (these schools are also present in neighboring countries like Pakistan). I never heard about this story until I read this book. It’s a strong argument for supporting education, especially abroad:

Afghanistan has been invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979. The United States, fearful of a further expansion of Soviet influence, provided weapons and large amounts of cash to the Afghan resistance fighters. After tens of thousands of deaths and years of warfare, the Soviets realized that they were not going to win control of this fiercely independent country. It marked the end of eight decades of Soviet expansion, and the beginning of the implosion of an empire that had reached to far and stretched itself to thin.

The United States watched the withdrawal and decided that with the Soviets vanquished, America’s job was done. The U.S. could pull out immediately and leave the Afghani people, amongst the poorest in the world, to live amongst their piles of bombed rubble. The American government did not so much as buy them some brooms to help start the cleaning.

This was such a major strategic error on the part of our government. Because guess what came next? There was the need to rebuild the destroyed buildings, including the hospitals and the schools. The Soviets has been merciless in their attempts to intimidate the Afghani people by bombing them back to the Stone Age. The U.S. did not stick around long enough to help in the rebuilding, because our reason for there was not pro-Afghani, but rather Anti-Soviet. So the Afghan government needed help in rebuilding, and the Iranians and the Saudis were only to eager to help.

Both countries, neighbors to Afghanistan, wanted to fill the vacuum that had been left by the departure of the two superpowers. They each made a big commitment to constructing schools. The only problem is that these were not secular schools. They were madrassas, or religious schools, that taught a very hate-filled version of Islam (NOTE: not every madrassa has a political, religious or radical affiliation). The Saudi schools taught their own anti-Western Wahhabi version, while the Iranians built schools that taught their students to curse ‘the Great Satan’ of America. The only difference between the Saudi schools and the Iranian ones was the degree of anti-Westernism in their curriculum.

The CIA estimates that between them, the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia sponsored the opening of over ten thousand madrassas in Afghanistan. And you know the rest of the story, because we’ve been living it for the last two weeks. A large percentage of the terrorists at large today were trained in these schools. Can you imagine how different the world would look today if those students had been more focused on one-two-threes and ABCs instead of being taught to chant ‘Death to America?’ We lost our opportunity to rebuild those schools, and we will be paying the price for decades to come.”

I’ve spent a number of years looking for a cause I can support. Take one look at CharityNavigator.org and the options are both limitless and overwhelming.  “Leaving Microsoft…” has made the choice much easier.

The challenge many would-be donors face is knowing where their money is going. One of the main things that makes Room to Read stand out is that they do a good job of being transparent and providing tangible results: X dollars builds Y schools/libraries, etc. I encourage everyone to visit the Room To Read website (and read the book) to get involved and learn more about this great organization.

BUY IT ON AMAZON Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children

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