Giving rice for free!

Forgive me for being skeptical, but rice for free?

The FreeRice website claims that for every correct answer while playing their vocabulary brain-teaser, they will donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger.

I’ll admit it. I was a complete cynic too.

So I decided to actually visit the website and play the game. It started off fairly easy. ‘Effect’ means ‘result’…correct! ‘Teacher means ‘instructor’…correct! As I continued to get each answer right, I noticed the questions gradually getting harder and after 13 right answers, I finally got one wrong. It felt really nice to be sharpening my vocabulary skills – something I hadn’t touched on since finishing high school. It was then that I saw a banner mentioning my donation of 130 grains of rice – ten for each of my right answers as promised. Curious to find out how all this works, I dug deeper.

In Read more…

Inspirational talks from TED

TED is not a person.

Don’t worry I made the same mistake the first time too, thinking

Wow, this TED guy is really smart and gives some really thought provoking speeches. How come I haven’t heard of him before?

And even though the person giving the talk was always different, it never really occurred to me that TED was in fact not a person, but an organization.

One that is determined to create ideas worth spreading.

TED – the organization

Founded by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in 1984, TED started out as a conference bringing people together from three disciplines: Technology, Entertainment and Design.

Since 1990, the conference has been held annually in Long Beach and Palm Springs (USA) and has recently expanded to a TEDGlobal conference in Oxford, UK.

In these conferences, some of the most remarkable thinkers (scientists, professors, leaders, etc) in the world would get up on stage and give some of the Read more…

Why Wikipedia Deserves Our Money

I confess, I’m a junkie.

An information junkie. Should I have a conversation or debate with someone where God-forbid I don’t know something, I’ll slowly find a wifi spot, pull out my phone and “wiki” that info. Sneak back into the conversation (like Bond), drop some heavy insight into the argument, and yes…almost certainly, walk away with the win!

Yeah, I said I’ll ‘Wiki’ that information!

But who here hasn’t ‘Wiki’d’ something in order to broaden their knowledge of a certain subject, only to click on the next link and the next. Before we know it, we’ve been on Wikipedia for an hour, learning stuff.

But did you know that the term Wiki isn’t theoretically correct since a “Wiki” is just any website which allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor. (*sourced from Wikipedia)

I lose you there? Read more…

A kickstarter for your creative project

So let’s say you are an artist.

A film maker, musician, perhaps a designer, a writer, or an illustrator. Or maybe a performer, curator, promoter or even an explorer and you’re looking for a way to not only get your project funded but be motivated by others to get it off the ground and running.

What would you do? Where would you go for help?

How about if you’re a person who just enjoys supporting other people’s creative efforts.  You’d love to fund their ambitious, yet passionate endeavors and you like the thought that your contribution will actually help initiate their project. Since you’re not expecting anything, you consider it a bonus that you will actually receive something in return directly from the creator of the project for engaging your (financial) pledge.

Here’s a thought – How about looking at Kickstarter, website that allows people to fund and follow creativity.

This is how it works: Read more…

Khan Academy: The Future of Education

Education for most people around the world is not free.

It actually costs money – and a lot of it.

I’m not going to delve into the numbers too much (as they vary according to country and grade level), however picture this for a moment…

The cost of raising a child alone (form birth to age 17) is approximately $182,857.

17% of that is child education = $31,085.69. If education costs money, it becomes an expense – and essentially schools become a business, and a business’ responsibility is to cater to the bottom line – profit.

Education = Expense
Schools = Business
Education = Profit

In today’s consolidating economy, people are getting paid less to do more, yet the cost of education continues to rise at an average rate of 6% annually.

If a parent’s income suffers in any way, they’re forced to make a very tough decision – one that may force them to pull their child out Read more…

WWF: More than just an organization

Every single thing you do has an impact on the world we all share.

Every item you buy, every trip you take, every piece of mail you receive, and every bite of food you eat.

Consider all the decisions you make in a day. Now multiply those decisions by 6.7 billion, and imagine the effect of all those choices on the world around us.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature [WWF] knows that the future is man made.

This ad is just one of many from the creative and provocative advertising department at the World WWF, all designed to remind us that with every new development, we take away habitat and resources needed by the populations that share our planet: animals, plants, and, well, everything. The ads are part of a global initiative to draw attention to the ways we all hurt every living thing.

Where it begins, Where it Read more…

The Brand that Keeps on Giving: Why Starbucks is #1 on the Net

I feel a sense of irony sitting here at my local Starbucks drinking my skinny vanilla latte, writing about why Starbucks is at the top. But honestly, it’s where I go to write all my articles.

So…Why Starbucks?

Being in a Starbucks makes me feel good.

Be it the fresh “fair trade” coffee served in a recycled cup telling me that I’m a “pioneer” for using it. My cup holder letting me know that it’s also made of recycled materials. The napkin informing me that Starbucks doesn’t use trans fats, artificial flavours or high-fructose corn syrups in my brown bagel.

I feel very socially responsible buying coffee from Starbucks.

However, I’m at the end of the line…Starbucks’ goodness actually begins with their mission statement.

“We’ve always believed that businesses can – and should – have a positive impact on the communities they serve. So ever since we opened our first store in 1971, we dedicated ourselves Read more…

Sustainable Harvest International: Farming Change in Central America

What do YOU look for when choosing a non-profit organization to support?

I look for an organization that actually has a goal of putting themselves out of work by creating and implementing a program that meets the needs of the people and the environment they are trying to serve.

“SHI is a charity well worth supporting because its mission isn’t charity at all — it’s empowerment.” – SHI supporter and volunteer.

It is important to me that the people receiving the assistance have ownership of the program and the decision-making power over what happens to their families and businesses.

Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) is one organization that has an extremely sustainable business model and that’s attractive to someone who really values local empowerment, sustainable practices and creative solutions.

In The Beginning

SHI was founded by Florence Reed in 1997. SHI works to provide farmers with sustainable alternatives to current slash-and-burn agricultural practices and addresses the tropical Read more…

Kiva: Loans that are changing lives

Buying a Car? A house? Starting up a business? Need money for college? I could go on but whatever the reason is, you’re in a situation where you need a loan. You’re looking for a bank to lend you a helping hand and in exchange you will pay them back (in installments) the full amount, plus interest.

Seems like a pretty normal situation.

However, what if that bank was you? What if poor students and entrepreneurs from across the world told you why they needed a loan, how it would help them and were willing to pay you back (with interest)?

Seems like an interesting concept?

Well, that’s exactly what Kiva.org is – a crowd-sourced micro-lending website/platform service that allows individuals (like you and I) to lend money to extremely low income students and entrepreneurs across the globe.

Crowd-sourced micro-lending?

This is the source of how Kiva operates and it’s basically a group of people contributing Read more…

Our stuff and its interesting story

Let’s agree on something: We all buy stuff. Right?

When I’m at the store, all I really care about is getting a bargain. If it’s the right price, I’ll buy it and I’m sure you’re the same way too.

Not once through the whole process do I stop to think – Where has this come from? What was involved in making this? Is it really safe for me? Do I actually need this?

As long as we walk away with a good deal, we are happy.

Lately however, we’re constantly hearing about words like consumerism, sustainability, the environment, sustainable development and the list goes on. Everyday we’re being told to reduce our consumption and increase our awareness.

I for one hate being told to do something without reason. If someone really wants me to do something, I want them to help me understand the situation first. Well, recently I came across a video that Read more…

DonorsChoose: You Can Choose to Help Students Learn

Take yourself back. All the way back – to when you were in school.

It’s after recess, you’re sitting at your desk watching your classmates getting excited about the paper-mache project you and your peers will be spending the afternoon working on. You’re enthused as well, but unlike the rest, you’re containing yourself. You know what you’re going to create, and it’s going to be awesome.

The teacher walks in and she has an announcement. “Class, due to budget cuts and lack of funding, the principal has decided that we will not be buying any supplies this year and unfortunately, that means no glue. So unfortunately our craft session will have to be cancelled. We can spend the rest of the day learning art history instead”

I apologize to the people who love art history (I’m one of them) but I was really looking forward to making a paper-mache light saber!

More and more, Read more…

“Tag Your Green” – GE’s Ecomagination Project

Corporations…they’re evil right?

Maybe you’ve seen the 2003 documentary “The Corporation”, maybe you haven’t but maybe you should.

What you do need to know though is that there are a lot of corporations who do operate with a blatant disregard for our society and our environment.

Yes, the environment belongs to you!

However, these days, things are starting to shift. More companies are trending towards being “green” and being more “socially responsible” and, for the most part, their intentions are good (with a little bit of business thrown in there of course).

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.

One Corporation who’s starting to lead in a more socially responsible way is General Electric (GE).

About 5 years ago, they launched their CSR initiative called Ecomagination.

Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to imagine and build innovative solutions to today’s environmental challenges while driving economic growth.

It’s a Read more…

The Creators Project – When a dream becomes reality

What would you say if someone told you that you could do anything you wanted, with no financial restraints?

That’s the exact question that video director Spike Jonze asked (Vice’s) Shane Smith in a conversation over dinner.

Smith said that his dream was to launch something along the lines of 1920s salons in Paris, where writers, artists, musicians and playwrights gathered to exchange ideas, resulting in a rich cultural cross-pollination. – sourced from Wired

And so began, The Creators Project

A multi-year program dedicated to identifying leading artists, TheCreatorsProject.com enables them to showcase their works and artistic visions through interactive media, creative conferences, new multi-disciplinary collaborative projects and its website.

Together, the partnership between Vice (an online den of nefarious activity and enlightening information technology) and tech giant Intel have brought together some of the world’s leading and most relevant innovators in music, art, film, design and architecture in hopes to connect global youth through a Read more…

Why Did I Buy That? – The Story of Electronics

For those of you who know me personally, especially at the time I had bought my first Smartphone, the N97 in August of 2009, you may remember how proud I was that it wasn’t an iPhone.

I carried on about how the N97 was not only a touch phone, like the iPhone, but it also had a QWERTY keyboard, like the Blackberry.

The phone did everything I needed: Update my Facebook, Twitter, send emails via Gmail, video capabilities, 5mp Carl Zeiss camera, 32gb for my music, an fm transmitter so I could listen to it in my car and yes, I’d even use it to for phone calls from time to time.

I was a winner! Someone who had a phone to end all phones.

3 months later Nokia released the N97 mini and a few months later – the N900. And just last month, when I was visiting the Nokia stand at GITEX Read more…

It’s time we Stand up 2 Cancer

What does Cancer mean to you?

For the majority of us it sparks sirens of fear and uncertainty and immediately associate it with death.

And for good reason too – we ALL know of someone who’s been affected by this disease.

Cancer kills 1,500 Americans every single day, 1 person every minute. 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of every 2 men will hear the words “You have Cancer”.

Then there are those who’ve fought Cancer and won and I applaud you. We all do actually.

These people inspire us because in them we see incredible strength and the determination to stay alive, for their friends, families and most importantly, for themselves.

They’ve stood toe to toe up against one of the most terrifying epidemics known to mankind, and won.

So what if I asked everyone reading this to Stand Up to Cancer?

Well, that’s exactly what StandUp2Cancer.Org is asking you to do.

Led by a group Read more…

Providing hope, one video at a time: It Gets Better

Suicide.

It is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Shocking? It should be

Being a teenager isn’t always the best thing in the world. Especially when you’re gay.

Yes, gay.

Sure enough fitting in is tough enough as it is, but it gets harder when you have a different sexuality than the rest. When there are norms and social clichés in school, there is unfortunately bound to be some sort of bullying.

Bullying can range in various forms: physical, emotional and more recently, cyber bullying. Things only get worse, when in the midst of trying to understand who one really is; one is mocked and ridiculed for being gay. It’s a dark tunnel, with infinite twists and turns, and sadly, there seems to be no hope for light at the end.

This is where the It Gets Better Project Read more…

The search for a cure – Arthritis Research UK

I respect science.

Scientists are skilled innovators, inventors, and passionate people, who are sometimes eccentric, but always looking to solve the ordinary and on the occasion, the extraordinary.

If someone asked me, in this moment of time, what disease would I want science to cure?  I would selfishly reply, arthritis.

Why Arthritis?

Well for starters, there is no cure.

Secondly, both my grand-mum and my mum have osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease).

Thirdly, as someone who’s suffered six broken bones over the years, I know how agonizing it can be to live with that constant ‘bone’ pain.

What is Arthritis?

Without going into detail, I will brief you on the two most common types:

Rheumatoid Arthritis: A persistent and progressive disease in which the immune system attacks the joints. It is characterized by pain, inflammation and swelling of the joints, stiffness and  loss of mobility.

Osteoarthritis: Chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints and the most common form of arthritis Read more…

Crowdrise: If you don’t give back, no one will like you

How many of you have tried raising money for a worthy cause and found it very difficult?

Personally, I’m trying to do so at the moment, and am finding it challenging, especially online.

Raising awareness seems easy enough, but having people actually donate… well that’s another story.

It would certainly be nice to have a place where all my friends can get involved, be able to contribute directly to my initiative and receiving a further incentive for doing so.

This would not only keep them motivated, but it would make raising money a lot more fun – so much so that everyone else would actually want to get involved.

Enter Crowdrise…

Crowdrise started as a dry run when brothers Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe (creators of online outdoor apparel store Moosejaw), along with (film producer) Shauna Robertson, teamed up with (actor /philanthropist) Edward Norton and his organization (Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust) to create a web-based Read more…

The Girl Effect: The Most Powerful Force for Change

“Invest in a girl, and she will do the rest, but to do that, she needs your help now.”

The Girl Effect is ‘a movement driven by girl champions around the globe.’

When a girl living in poverty turns 12, her life reaches a crossroads.

One path has her marrying – one in seven marry at the age of 14 in developing parts of the world – becoming pregnant by 15, possibly contracting HIV, and possibly forced to sell her body in order to survive.

The other path is much brighter – receive an education, stay healthy, marry when she chooses and raise a healthy family.

How it all began

The Girl Effect is the brainchild of Maria Eitel , the founding president of the Nike Foundation and Jennifer Buffet, president and co-chair of the NoVo Foundation. NoVo and the Nike Foundation joined forces in 2008 and committed $90 million to The Girl Effect.

In a 2010 Read more…

Get off your butt: DoSomething.org

They walk among us.

We all know one. We admire their tenacity, their determination and their leadership abilities. They amaze us with their capacity to make informed, mature decisions. Their passionate desire to make the world a better place to live is truly inspirational. The agents of change I am talking about are not heads of state, corporate CEO’s or even executive director’s multi-national charitable organizations.

They are teenagers.

I consider myself very lucky to have one such teenager in my family. My cousin Mallory and her friends believe that they can make a difference in their community and they aren’t letting anyone stop them from helping those in need. From organizing winter clothing drives to anti-bullying campaigns, these girls are taking charge and showing adults, including myself, just how it’s done. They shatter the stereotype of disengaged teenagers who are selfish and uncaring. And they are not alone. There are Read more…

ONE: We’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice

In a world where nearly everything costs something, it’s nice to take comfort in the fact that we all have a valuable resource to offer that doesn’t come with a price tag – our voices.

That’s the objective of ONE, a grassroots anti-poverty advocacy organization that works to increase public awareness of poverty and places pressure on political leaders to work towards poverty alleviation.

They’re not soliciting funds, they’re soliciting support.

In the beginning

ONE is an organization that has been in the making since 2002.

The concept itself began when Bono [front man for world renowned band U2], along with Bob Geldof, Bobby Shriver, Jamie Drummond and Lucy Matthew got together and decided to start up advocacy organization DATA (debt, AIDS, trade, Africa).

Shortly after, ONE was born as a means of creating a broader campaign to mobilize public support to fight against poverty and raise global health awareness. By 2008, it was concluded Read more…

Acumen Fund: Investments not Grants, Building Business Models to Solve the World’s Problems

This story begins with Jacqueline Novogratz’s favourite blue sweater…

Jacqueline Novogratz: Founder of Acumen Fund

And so this amazing tale inspired Jacqueline’s ambitious venture into social good with her creation of Acumen Fund: an organization dedicated to investing in social entrepreneurs and enterprises focused on providing critical goods to the world’s poor.

Investing Patient Capital in Social Entrepreneurs

By using the idea of patient capital (where investors are willing to make a financial investment in a business with no expectation of turning a quick profit) and investing this into people trying to solve vital problems for the poor in their region, this essentially creates a system that combines both businesses (whose bottom line is profit) and philanthropy (a focus on creating a positive impact on society), ultimately breaking the cycle of poverty.

Since a social entrepreneur’s model is based on not one but three bottom lines – People (society), Planet (the environment) & Profit Read more…

Nike: Working Towards a Better World

Sports have always been an important part of my life.

Whether it’s basketball, baseball, tennis, football, swimming, running or soccer, I’ve always been involved in sports in some aspect or the other.

Playing sports has kept me fit and out of trouble. It’s taught me individual (strength, perseverance) & team (interpersonal, collaboration) skills.

Most importantly, sports have taught me responsibility.

My actions (big or small), always have an impact on myself, teammates and the game. By being accountable, it’s forced me to always strive to become better.

Better World

Nike is a brand that’s synonymous with sports.

Seek high performance in any sport, and you’ll find a Nike product that is specifically designed to help you do better.

In recent years however, Nike has opened up its “better” focus towards positively impacting society, and the environment.

Earlier this year, Nike launched its corporate responsibility micro-site “Nike: Better World” with one mission: Make the world better through sport.

Start of by Read more…

Social Good Summit 2011 (presented by Mashable, 92nd Street Y & the UN Foundation)

A few months ago whilst catching up on the latest social media news I came across the “Social Good Summit” – an annual conference hosted by Mashable, 92nd Street Y, and the United Nations Foundation aimed at bringing together technologists, thought leaders and passionate activists to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place.

Why not?

Since I was heading back to North America for a few months, and seeing that Ted Turner, Lance Armstrong and Doug Ulman were going to be amongst some of the notable speakers, I thought to myself, “Why not grab a couple of tickets and use this as a reason to visit New York?”.

Afterall, it’s an opportunity to connect with some amazing people and organizations involved in social good.

At first I thought it was just going to be a small event, however as the weeks rolled by more and more Read more…

Paint It (RED)

What’s found in stores, socially responsible, and (RED) all over?

In our society, shopping has become somewhat of a sport. Black Friday deal-hunting crowds make headlines and entire television shows are dedicated to the premise of coupon collecting. Surely we are all motivated by getting the most ‘bang for our buck’. So, what about the possibility of changing a life while you pick up a new t-shirt? Funding the donation of antiretroviral drugs to AIDS inflicted communities at the same time you buy a new iPod? To me that seems like the ultimate bargain.

This is the very premise of (RED). (RED) is all about letting our purchasing power speak for those who do not have it. It’s about recognizing our ability to choose what we buy and picking the product that can bring about positive change.

In the beginning

(RED) was created by musical artist Bono in conjunction with Bob Shriver, activist and politician. It came Read more…