How to Engage Us

Beth Kanter

This blog post is for those who have found my work through Beth Kanter’s presentation at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City.

First, don’t let the self-referential blog posts, tweets, and videos fool you – this isn’t about me as much as it is about the community supporting it. We are a group of idealistic people who want to be part of the generation that ends extreme poverty (in our lifetime no less).

But, we don’t like being guilted into donating with depressing images of poverty. We don’t like to donate money in a way we can’t track where our donation has gone. And we don’t like the fact that most charities can be fortresses which tend to keep us at arms length.

My role in this community is simple: I’m part journalist (telling stories from the field), I’m part philanthropist (raising funds as a private citizen), and I’m part implementer (executing the democratic will of the communities I meet on the ground and the community that participates online).

I call this community-powered “philanthropic journalism”. Beth calls it being a “free agent”. If this is something you’d like to engage – here’s what you should keep in mind:

Interviewing Save the Children Field Personnel

On the Ground Access

5) I need on-the-ground access: I need to be able to bring my camera, cellphone, and laptop into the field with your charity or organization so I can write blogs, make videos, and tweet. This means I need both the permission from your organization to do so and technical capacity (i.e. internet connection & bandwidth) to upload content from the field.

4) I have a preference for Bangladesh: My parents were born & raised in Bangladesh – it has a special place in my heart. More importantly, if we team up in Bangladesh you don’t have to worry about needing a Bengali translator or worry about setting me up with mobile internet. I can figure it out.

3) I do more than report: I need to be able to provide your organization with restricted donations to do specific projects. Why restricted? Because it’s the only way I can guarantee to the community where exactly their money has gone. Ideally, I’d like to negotiate minimal (or no) administrative costs.

Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities

2) I do more than donate: I have learned the devil is in the details. Having control over naming rights, signboard design, and allowing for changes in project plans based on on-the-ground feedback and online input is how this becomes less about hand-outs and more about one community helping another.

1) I don’t do it for name or fame: If this was about self-aggrandizement, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post from Toronto, Canada. I’d already be back in the field with a fly by night “charity” which would let me do whatever I wanted. This is about doing good with good organizations.

I realize that these five things don’t make it the easiest for me to work or team up with. It would be so much easier for me to take photos while I hand you a big check at your home office. But, the community behind this project wants something more substantive. In exchange, you will find we’re fiercely loyal and passionate. And made of awesome.

 

If you’re a for-profit, you’re more than welcome to join what we could call a “threesome for good”: with me as a free-agent, a trusted organization as charity implementer, and a for-profit helping to fund the logistics (and the charity’s admin costs) behind all this. And hey, if there is a for-profit that will pay a man to dance around the world, surely there is a for-profit that will pay for this guy to go and help people.

You can reach me on Twitter @uncultured and by email at project@uncultured.com

10 Responses to “How to Engage Us”


  1. 1 Wendy

    Hi Shawn – Keep up the great work! We’re gonna figure this out.

  2. 2 Wendy

    Hi Shawn – Keep up the great work! We’re gonna figure this out.

  3. 3 Shannon Aronin

    Hi Shawn. Reading this post made me want to say one more thing. Could you, would you, take a charity you love. Don’t go “into the field,” and don’t just do a big check photo op. Can you shadow some excellent nonprofit staff and write about that? Their stories are rarely told, and I think the perspective of a “free agent” literally shadowing an “insider” would lead to some fascinating discoveries that could really challenge nonprofits to turn with you.

  4. 4 Shannon Aronin

    Hi Shawn. Reading this post made me want to say one more thing. Could you, would you, take a charity you love. Don’t go “into the field,” and don’t just do a big check photo op. Can you shadow some excellent nonprofit staff and write about that? Their stories are rarely told, and I think the perspective of a “free agent” literally shadowing an “insider” would lead to some fascinating discoveries that could really challenge nonprofits to turn with you.

  5. 5 Shawn

    Hi Shannon – If you look at my videos, you won’t find any big checks in any of them 🙂 And I’ve done what you’re suggesting to some extent. Have you seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax9NYavTsJg ?

    Often, when I go in the field with a charity, I have to go with charity staff. So I’m with them. But, as you can tell from my work, I do far more than “shadow”. And, it’s my preference to keep it that way.

  6. 6 Shawn

    Hi Shannon – If you look at my videos, you won’t find any big checks in any of them 🙂 And I’ve done what you’re suggesting to some extent. Have you seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax9NYavTsJg ?

    Often, when I go in the field with a charity, I have to go with charity staff. So I’m with them. But, as you can tell from my work, I do far more than “shadow”. And, it’s my preference to keep it that way.

  7. 7 Tiffany

    Hi Shawn – I just wanted to tell you that I’ve just discovered your blog via Beth’s Blog and I think that what you and your community do is amazing. I work for a non-profit and with your vast experience, I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to more actively engage social media. Locally, we have little to no social media presence other than a Facebook page and I’d like to help change that. Where do I begin? Thanks for advance for any help that you can provide.

  8. 8 Tiffany

    Hi Shawn – I just wanted to tell you that I’ve just discovered your blog via Beth’s Blog and I think that what you and your community do is amazing. I work for a non-profit and with your vast experience, I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to more actively engage social media. Locally, we have little to no social media presence other than a Facebook page and I’d like to help change that. Where do I begin? Thanks for advance for any help that you can provide.

  9. 9 Owen

    Hello Shawn

    Just to say – all my previous comments have become “Anonymous”. That’s not in any way an attempt to distance myself from all that you do and for which you have my admiration. It’s simply an attempt to free myself from the sticky clutches of Disqus. It’s a nightmare. But keep up the good work!

  10. 10 Owen

    Hello Shawn

    Just to say – all my previous comments have become “Anonymous”. That’s not in any way an attempt to distance myself from all that you do and for which you have my admiration. It’s simply an attempt to free myself from the sticky clutches of Disqus. It’s a nightmare. But keep up the good work!

  1. 1 Keynote from My Charity Connects Conference at NetChange Week « My Blog
  2. 2 Beth Kanter Gets It | UP | uncultured project
  3. 3 My 5 Fact Pitch to Save the Children | UP | uncultured project
  4. 4 The ‘Net also wants to help but charities not open : MEGAHELP

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