That was the idea behind the original project within my circle of friends.

Moreover, in this blog I want to show the many ways of how to make small, effortless contributions to a better future. The web offers many possibilities.

Read more on the original project here and find more ways to do smth good here

If you’re following social media (or digging deeper in traditional media) you’ve probably come across “Kony 2012” or #stopkony – the campaign’s video has already gotten more than 50 million views since it started 2 weeks ago – although it has gone incredibly viral only the last couple of days as you can see:

Vimeo Stats for Kony 2012 - from 10 views to 50k to 2.7million in 3 days

YouTube shows how viral Kony 2012 went

Ok my analytical geekness caught me here for a second, so back to the topic.

If you haven’t watched the video, watch it. Give it 5 minutes afterwards and come back here with your opinion on it – but be warned: the video is 29minutes long.

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

So what do you think? If you haven’t had the time to watch the video: it’s the central piece of a campaign to make one man famous all over the world. A man called Joseph Kony, known to have abducted at least 30,000 children in Uganda over the last 25 years, turning them into child soldiers amongst other horrible things. Invisible Children is the American NGO behind this campaign and her goal is to create a movement to stop Joseph Kony – in fact the NGO has been operating over the last 9 years.

INVISIBLE CHILDREN USES FILM, CREATIVITY AND SOCIAL ACTION TO END THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN JOSEPH KONY’S REBEL WAR AND RESTORE LRA-AFFECTED COMMUNITIES IN CENTRAL AFRICA TO PEACE AND PROSPERITY.

Sounds like a great campaign making use of the power of the social web, doesn’t it?

Well, what if I tell you there’s been an increasing amount of criticism. Criticism on the use and transparency of Invisible Children’s funding. Criticism from local NGOs and people in Uganda. Criticism on the realistic impact of the campaign. Criticism on the hollywood-style documentary that lacks journalistic principles and exploits people’s emotions. Criticism that Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda at all actually. Criticism that this is yet another naive attempt of white man (Americans trying to gain influence over another country in a colonial style denying the extremely complex situation).

This blog is entirely devoted to highlighting doubt-worthy aspects: http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/
Also the Guardian has set up a continuously updated investigation on the justification of critiques.
Invisible Children themselves have responded to critiques with an open statement here.

So what are we supposed to think and do?

Does raising awareness for a topic that’s not given attention by media justify any method?
Is it ok that the symbol of the campaign is not the largest issue anymore but helps spreading awareness?

But even more so, how do I, how do we as individuals and groups react?
Do you feel a bit insecure what to think now? Well, you’re not alone.

Does it make you a naive person if you just shared the video because it succeeded in appealing to your emotions?
Does it make you a “better” person if you didn’t share it because of all the criticism around it?
How could you have known all this?
Are you suposed to spend hours digging into the background details?
Are you supposed to stop everything you do and go to Africa to make a difference? Would this be courageous, naive or stupid?
Are you supposed to realize you’ll never be able to understand the complexity? Do people only pretend certain things are complex to stop people from asking for, thinking about, or simply putting a solution in place?

To be honest, I haven’t made up my mind yet. There’s never been a clear “black” and “white” scenario in human history but always some grey zone in between. Yet this is exactly what the Kony campaign does: painting it black & white. Kony is the bad guy and if he’s removed all will be good. With the social web spreading ideas, opinions, facts – whether they be true or not – lightning fast, it becomes increasingly difficult to trust. Social proof is meant to establish trust but we know that erring is human. And the grey zone keeps growing.

At the same time, the power to dig really deep into vast amounts of information has never been easier. It’s at your finger tips, a google search away. But will as fast as wrong claims spread, correcting claims spread equally fast? Social has the ability to trigger amazing movements – but at the same time also to manipulate and trigger dangerous group behavior.

So I’m not gonna tell you what you should think about Kony 2012 but I think that there’s –

A new responsibility

Let’s not re-share just because it’s so easy to click, just because everyone is doing it, just because you want to be the 1st one amongst your friends – and most importantly: let’s not re-share stuff we haven’t even read, watched or listened to.

A new responsibility is evolving for everyone making use of the social web.

I agree with Musa Okwanga (born in Uganda) who says: “Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions”.
Don’t stop asking questions.
And I’d like to add: Do something – but reflect on it.

So did you share the video? What did you think of it? What do you think after reading the criticism?

 

Want to have your picture in the book that brings clean water to 1 billion people? All you have to do is pay it forward to someone – $10 for clean water projects. The catch? You need to know someone who is already in the book and who will pay it forward to you. Think that sounds a bit strange and you’re skeptical? Here’s why I think it’s a great idea – but first: for the time-constrained ones: go to Waterforward.org and see whether you know somebody who’s already in the book who will pay it forward to you with a $10 donation to charity: water – one of the largest non-profits dedicated to solving the water crisis.

The idea is simple and not new in its basic principle – some might remember it from the movie “Pay it forward” but in fact it goes as far back as ancient Greece.  You do someone a favor and in exchange a 3rd one gets the favor returned. Or in the case of waterforward: You donate $10 to clean water projects in the name of someone else – who again will hopefully do the same. The twist: you can only pay it forward if someone put you “in the book”, means already paid it forward to you.

Something, I found rather strange at first after a bit of reflecting think is a great idea. It perfectly uses the power of twitter’s and facebook’s social graph, it has all the potential to go viral in a super-effective way, employs the exclusivity element for something good, and puts a bit of social pressure on paid-forward people to continue the spark of forward reciprocity.

The best about it? charity: water really seems to be a trustworthy, remarkable movement. Founded 5 years ago, the non-profit has private sponsors such as Gary Vaynerchuck, Edward Norton, Jack Dorsey, Jason Fried or Kevin Rose who enable the organization to operate and forward the full 100% of public donations to clean water projects. More info?

  • 100% of public donations go to the projects: apparently even the credit card fees are sponsored
  • Want to see all the projects they’ve completed so far? Here’s their maps
  • Want to know how exactly the donations are spent? Here’s the complete history of dollars spent
  • Want to have a look at their financials? Here’re the open books

Finally, watch this video why clean water is not only about something to drink but much more:

Summary: go to Levi’s’ Facebook fan page and share a tweet or facebook post to support a pledge for 145 more children to be fed and educated for a year by Thanda.org – an organisation supporting currently 325 orphans of AIDS and vulnerable children in South-Africa with the Thanda After-School project.

Did you know that South-Africa has most likely the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS? 5.3 million

This is about one 10th of the population.  Estimates say that by 2015 there will be 5.7 million orphans in South-Africa. This is about the entire population of Denmark.

Have you got mixed feelings about also promoting Levi’s with this? Here’s some more info:

Share a tweet and/or facebook status to support this project

The current pledge is part of a large Facebook campaign for a good cause. Started about 5 weeks ago, the first ‘pioneer project’ resulted in 33,047 pledges and Levi’s donated funds to Water.org (co-founded by Matt Damon and Garry White) to give 8,000 people life-long fresh water supply.

The first campaign required people to click on an ad stating that Levi’s would donate if 100,000 people clicked on the ad. The current pledge seems less clear about goals and how exactly Levi’s will support Thanda.org but it seems that the goal is to provide education to 145 more orphans for another year.

Currently, 13,185 tweets/facebook status posts have been shared to support this pledge. Simply go to Levi’s’ facebook fan page and click “Tweet Your Support” – you don’t have to like the fanpage, and you can approve a tweet and/or facebook status post.

About the ‘Go Forth’ campaign:
‘Your life is your life’ starts the poem that accompanies the intro video on Levi’s’ ‘Go Forth’ campaign on Facebook – the campaign already got some press for its bad timing with the London riots since the video ‘romanticizes youth riots’.

There will be 3 more pioneers who are yet to be announced featured in the campaign and if you want you can tell Levi’s who should be in.

How do you feel about campaigns like these? 

Initiated by whom else than Al Gore, starting in about 3hrs from now this will be a reminder going through the whole world with 24 speakers in 24 time zones and 13 languages. Starting in Mexico City and ending in New York City. One entire day dedicated to building awareness and reminding everybody who has fallen asleep that this challenge is as threatening as ever before.

24 hours dedicated to climate change

What can you do?

need some more intro info? watch this video

or is it abusing good will? the judges are still out….

Once in a while we’re reminded that individuals can move a lot with a clever idea. Jonathan Stark is one of these guys and if you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s a short summary of the story that started as a social media experiment for fun and was shut down a month later by Starbucks –  close to 15,000 twitter followers and 8,000 facebook fans are now waiting what happens next.

On July 14 Jonathan Stark put his Starbucks card publicly on the web – including some money to be spent on coffee by whoever wanted.

In the following weeks hundreds of strangers enjoyed coffee bought virtually by some other stranger, and many of them also made sure the experiment wouldn’t end: close to $9,000, including $300 from Jonathan himself, were donated to the card.

Last Friday, after the experiment had gained lots of attention in the social media and media world Starbucks reluctantly pulled the plug. Why? Well, here comes the interesting twist: earlier that same day a sub-experiment had come to light and had set the fans of the Jonathan Card on fire.

Using an automatic hacker-script, entrepreneur Sam Odio hat silently “stolen” around $625 in the last week and transferred to his own Starbucks card. In his public post “How to use Jonathan’s Card to buy yourself an iPad” he explains that he found “yuppies buying yuppies coffee” a bit lame, so he decided to “mix things up a bit”. He definitely did looking at the reactions. However, he’s not getting himself an iPad. Instead he put the card for sale on eBay – with 100% of the returns going to Save the Children, where $1 feeds 1 child a whole day. (5days left, 21 bids made so far)

While this is clearly not in the original intent of the experiment – do you think it’s justified because of the good cause? Or is it just jumping on the bandwagon to attract more followers?

What I think is the key lesson from this story: no matter what happens next, hundreds of people seem to have already gotten enough inspiration to starting their own small acts of good – all triggered by one individual with a clever idea. Remember the movie ‘Pay it forward’?

No time, no idea? Install this extension and donate with every purchase on Amazon to projects in Burkina Faso.

I guess it’s normal that I’m more touched and emotionally connected to the slaughtering in Norway than to the small headline below that says another 40 protesters shot by Syrian security forces. And then today another headline: I read that 3.7 million people are threatened starving to death. In Somalia local power groups don’t allow food transports to enter the country. I can’t put the numbers into context. 91 people in Norway I can relate to, it’s hard to imagine hundred thousands of humans dying a senseless death. I donate to do something at least. It’s not enough, so I write this little post but I can’t really find good words. So here are the 2 organisations that I hope are trustworthy where I donated. I was out and had a nice dinner yesterday, so I took the same amount. Doctors without borders say it can provide 2 high-energy meals a day for 200 children for an entire month with that money.

What did you spend on food yesterday?

Aerzte ohne Grenzen

Unicef

the links are for the Austrian sub-organisations but I’m sure you can easily find the equivalents in your country: doctors without borders (MSF.org), and Unicef

We’ve once again mastered to survive pre-christmas stress with last-minute shopping, delays while travelling to the beloved ones, the obligatory christmas disputes between family members, the annual once-a-year visit to church, and loads and loads of good food and cookies.

For me that’s always a good time to remember how damn good my life is. I got a little post card from Caritas (the organisation we support for aid projects) that said: “Luck is the only thing doubling when shared”

So here is a very nice way to do something good – fast and easy!

Ute Bock is a truely impressive woman. Aged 68 she offers shelter, home, juridical assistance, and above all humanity to refugees and asylum seekers in Vienna. Currently, she finances already about 60 lodging places.