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“Vote for Shawn!” Poster

I was checking Dailybooth just now and found one of my friends Vondell had drawn this:

95ab85d1090312fcedb1e8ed46d85deb_2524886

Shawn of the Uncultured Project is in the running for a slot at the 2010 World Economic Forum Meeting. If selected, he will have a chance speak to world leaders about the terrifically strong and largely untapped power the YouTube community has as a force of good.

Watch Shawn’s video and vote here:
http://www.youtube.com/Davos
Votes can be submitted every day until the 15th of January.

Tonight it doesn’t matter if I never ever get to Davos because this drawing is awesome 😀

Within Reach of Davos

In January of 2007, I withdrew from grad school at the University of Notre Dame and began an unemployed, unplanned, and “uncultured” journey to help the poor.

Almost exactly three years later, that journey has brought me to within grasp of being able to talk to world leaders about global poverty at one of the planet’s most important conferences. I can get there – but only with your help.

Out of 75 applications from around the world (and many more that didn’t make the deadline), I was selected as one of five potential candidates to go to Davos. The winner, is determined by you – because it’s your vote that determines the winner.

I won’t lie. I’m up against some brilliant people. I wish we could all go – because I’d love to meet them all and brainstorm. At the same time, I know that it’s not like global poverty can be solved with a one week trip to Switzerland.

But this could be big. It’s the biggest thing to ever happen in my life and it could be the biggest thing for the future of this project. So, if you’d like to help, here’s how you can do so:

Things you will need [REVISED as of Jan 11th, 2010]:

  1. A YouTube or Google account. Signing up for either is free. UPDATE: You don’t need to signup for anything to vote.
  2. An internet connection good enough to use YouTube.
  3. The ability to get online every 24 hours until January 15th.
  4. If Possible: Friends & family who might be interested in voting as well.

Here’s how you can vote:

1. Go to http://YouTube.com/Davos

2. On the top half of the page, you will see something about the Davos Debates. It will have three tabs. Click on “vote”.

VoteTab

3. You will see five videos from the five candidates. Select my video called “A Message to Davos” – the thumbnail is my picture.

VotePage

Videos Are Randomly Sorted and May Not Appeared In This Order

4. Once the video starts playing, click the green thumbs-up button. Wait a few seconds. Your vote has been placed.

VotePlaced

When The Red Thumbs Down Turns Grey, Your Vote Has Been Cast.

5. You can vote again everyday.

It may seem that, with so many followers on Twitter and so many subscribers, this is all but guaranteed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Without getting too academic, it boils down to public vs. private networks. My support network is very public. And, like every network, not everyone following me or subscribed will be reading my tweets, watching the videos, or reading this blog.

It’s very possible (and very likely) that many of these candidates have a group of friends, family, and colleagues who will be diligently voting. This could be close.

Every. Vote. Counts.

(Photo Seen in Featured Content is from Flickr)

“We Are Powerful – Use It!”

Just got this via Facebook this evening…

Hey Shawn, I saw your Davos video (of course) and the one blaring thing I noticed is that you did not mention what is UNIQUE about YOU. Lots of people work on ending poverty. You even listed websites who are doing it too.. but you didn’t say.. what is special about YOU.

You’ve gotta start using that as your leverage. Thats why I gave YOU money instead of them. That’s why we follow you. You’ve got a unique audience because of the unique way you work – which is also important.

Mention it in your next davos, and in any of the other videos you make that describe what you do. The thing about not using guilt, about showing your viewers where the money goes.. use that. use the unique viewers you have.. we are not middle aged charity people.

We’re nerdfighters and youtubers and we are powerful – use it!

Disappointment at Davos

Bono and Al Gore talk about Poverty and Global Warming

The World Economic Forum wanted to tap into the power of YouTube in an attempt to become more transparent, more open, and more democratic. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The World Economic Forum – a gathering of influential people and world leaders in Davos, Switzerland – has garnered the reputation of being a bit of a closed door venue. It’s an invitation only event and isn’t open to the public. That is, until the World Economic Forum turned to YouTube.

Starting last year, the World Economic Forum opened it’s (virtual) doors by allowing anyone to submit their thoughts to Davos. It was a good idea, but their first start had a lot to be improved upon. I had written about it on this blog when it happened – I was really excited at the idea, but was disappointed with the original execution.

This year, it seemed that the World Economic Forum had learned from its first run and was coming back stronger than ever. Instead of just submitting videos that were to be spliced into a clip show, one lucky person was to be flown to Davos to interact with those attending. And best of all? The YouTube community would help pick the winner.

Unfortunately, I was left with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu and disappointment. Click the jump to find out why.

Continue reading ‘Disappointment at Davos’

Disappointed with Davos?

I really thought I was going to be witnessing history with this YouTube/Davos partnership. What I feel we got instead was a missed opportunity.

I was kind expecting – or at least hoping – that when YouTube partnered with the World Economic Forum at Davos, they would be doing the same kind of thing that YouTube did with the Presidential debates. At the CNN YouTube Debates, the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates were asked questions submitted by the YouTube community. The candidates would listen to the question and then respond. CNN even flew a few of those YouTubers down to the debates so that they would have an opportunity to make a follow-up question or comment. Even if the debate didn’t move beyond canned responses – at least there was citizen interaction.

That I believe was what was missing with YouTube and the Davos Question.

First, since those submitting videos were asked to keep their videos under 3 minutes, I kind of assumed that meant there would be a 10 to 30 minute screening of the best videos for world leaders to see. What happened instead, was that a handful of videos were cut into a two minute montage sequence. As you can see here, half of that montage sequence was devoted to restating the original Davos Question (“What can we do in 2008?”, “Hello Davos!”, “Wow, that’s a big question. Big big question”, etc.,.). The remaining minute was just a quick laundry list of requests and ideas (lower poverty! more renewable energy! invest in kids!). What could have been the opportunity for powerful ideas and discussions to emerge ended up looking more like a wish list to Santa Claus.

Second, just like regular YouTube users submitted their answer to the Davos Question, world leaders, celebrities, businessmen, and future youth leaders were able to record what they’re take was on the question. But, for the most part, this was nothing new. Bono, of course, asked us to support the Millennium Development Goals. The executive director for UNICEF made a similar plea. There were a few surprises of course. It was good to see youth leaders like Whitney and Juan there with some good ideas. I was a bit surprised that most important issue the Director of the American Center for Disease Control chose to raise was “Exercise!”. What was absent, however, was any evidence of interaction with the community.

I was really hoping that the world leaders at Davos would be watching some of the videos and then commenting and responding. Ideally, it would have been nice if these leaders would have gone back to YouTube later to check and see what the response to their videos were. They called this “The Davos Conversation” but it didn’t feel much different than watching an interview on TV. There were a few exceptions, the US Director of Education decided to voice her agreement to a video by a YouTuber pleading for greater investment in children. And Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, decided to respond to a question raised by a YouTuber about Google’s potential to help in electronic voting.

If The Uncultured Project has taught me anything it’s that, if you are not satisfied with the way things are being done – you have to offer your own solution instead of critiquing others. This is where the World Social Forum can come in….

Why can’t the World Social Forum take the same technology (YouTube) and use it to the full potential the the folks at Davos did not?

My Take on the Davos Question

What do I think will make the world a better place? Well, that’s what this whole project is about. I don’t have a 100% set-in-stone answer, but I’m trying to share as much of my journey finding that answer. One thing is certain, the more I let Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’s message sink in – the more I believe it to be true.

Jeffrey Sachs and Me at the Notre Dame 2006 Forum on Global Health

What will make the world a better place? Ending extreme global poverty.

Why? Because:

1) Ending extreme poverty will keep us all healthier. Global pandemics incubate among the global poor before migrating to richer nations.

Don’t believe me? Well, as Dr. Sachs pointed out, recent studies into the origin of the AIDS virus suggests that it originated in Africa – years and years before it first appeared in America. But, no one cared. Why? Because Africans die – that’s seen as “normal” in this world as Dr. Sachs points out.

2) Ending poverty will help us fight terrorism. Terrorists recruit from the desperate and offer them a fictitious reward for sacrifices the leaders are too cowardly to make themselves.

When I went to the Cyclone Sidr Disaster Area, there was one thing I noticed most – everyone was in shock and everyone was vulnerable. Many had lost loved ones and were struggling to find the strength to carry on. They could be very vulnerable to a message from a radical extremist promising a better life if they just sacrifice themselves to a terrorist cause. Thankfully, Bangladesh isn’t as prone to Islamic Extremism as elsewhere in the world. But, as long as this extreme poverty (and with it extreme desperation) continue – terrorists will always have an easy recruiting base.

3) Ending poverty is critical to maintaining our personal identity as good natured human beings.

I decided to start this project because I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore. As I point out in my about page, everyday, 30,000 children die due to poverty and illnesses that can be easily treated. Am I doing enough? Over half the world – over 3,000,000,000 people – live on less than $2 a day. Am I doing enough? Each year, over 8,000,000 people die because they were simply too poor to stay alive. Am I doing enough? Before this project, all I was doing were just a few paltry donation here and there – usually around Christmas time.

I kind of envied others for not having these thoughts when they saw themselves in the mirror. I think a lot of us don’t think about these issues because we kind of assumed that the problem is so immense and so huge – it can’t possibly be solved and we are too small and insignificant to be a part of the movement towards that goal. But look at me – I’m running on small family donations and my 2006 tax return. It’s not a lot of money – but look how much I’ve been able to do! I’m just one person – currently unemployed. Imagine what we could all do if we tried?

Okay, so how this sounds all high and noble – but how do we get to that goal? It’s simple – we complete the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations and agreed upon by almost every country in the world. We’ve been laxing on our commitments to fund these development goals – but we always seem to find money for other things.

PermaNet (Mosquito Net) Given to a Single Mother of Two

Why is this approach the best?

1) It can appeal to those who are either politically left or right leaning.

What if there was this terrorist cell working in Africa trying to develop a pathogen that would kill many Africans before spreading to Europe and America? It wouldn’t take much effort to get people on both the left and the right to unify and authorize millions and millions of dollars in spending to stop this from happening.

Why then, does the consensus break down when the threat is the same but the situation causing it is a little less dramatic? Because of the poor state of health in Africa, disease festers, mutates, and grows. Nature will create this pandemic on its own if we continue to neglect things – the only thing terrorists need to do is sit back and wait.

Supporting the MDGs isn’t a slippery slope to “one-world government”, global taxation, or the lessening of national sovereignty. It’s a logical, non-partisan, self-interest based course of action.

2) It is not a move towards socialism or communism, nor is it a refutation of market economies.

“Are we trying to prove a theory, or are we trying to save lives?” asked Dr. Sachs in regards to laissez-faire economics. Even if you believe that market economics will eventually benefit everyone – a lot of people can die before that benefit reaches them. The MDGs isn’t akin to starting a Soviet Russian-style command economy. This doesn’t involve telling people what to produce or how to work. Rather, it’s about opening up possibilities. Someone who isn’t fighting off deadly disease can focus on work and building a life. Someone who knows how to read and write has more job options than someone who is illiterate. Those who aren’t starving can aspire to earn a living that is more than just subsistence.

If people can earn a living – they’ll eventually want to live it up.

3) It doesn’t require drastic change or expenditure.

The amount of money required by any individual nation to contribute towards completing the MDGs is in the single digit percentages. In fact, as Dr. Sachs points out, if we stopped Pentagon funding for just ONE DAY – every man, woman, and child in Africa could be protected from Malaria for the next twenty year. Many Americans consider America to be a Christian nation. What if, every Christmas Day, the money that would normally be directed towards military expenditures gets redirected towards projects that reflect the spirit of Jesus and the message of the Bible?



I didn’t have time to make a separate video for the Davos Question on YouTube. But if you want the world leaders to be able to see Episode One of the Uncultured Project (which includes clips of ND 2006 Forum – used with permission) here’s how you can help make that happen. Go to this page and click on “view/vote”. Then there is a search for videos section. Search for unculturedproject – there is no space between “uncultured” and “project”. Episode one should appear – click it, and give it a thumbs up. Voting ends pretty soon actually – so don’t worry if you’ve read this after it’s too late to vote.

YouTube and Davos – Trying to Do Good Amid the Noise

In one of the last courses I took before I left Notre Dame to start this project, I had a professor who was highly critical of the World Economic Forum.

What’s the World Economic Forum? It’s an event that happens once a year in Davos, Switzerland. World leaders, economic leaders, and prominent citizens get together to discuss the future of the world. According to this professor, the World Economic Forum was not only something to be seriously critiqued – it should be boycotted. Many people share this professor’s view and, as a counter to the World Economic Forum, have formed something called the World Social Forum. Why all the criticism of the World Economic Forum? The argument is that the World Economic Forum is too elitist, with not enough grass-roots input, and too undemocratic.

Well in 2008, thanks to YouTube, that all changed.

This year, anyone with a message to world leaders could make a video and put it on YouTube. These videos would then be rated, judged, and evaluated by other YouTube users. Anyone with an account on YouTube can go to the channel called “The Davos Question” and view and vote on which videos should be seen by the World Economic Forum members. The Davos Question was a question put forward by the World Economic Forum asking us – what do we think needs to be done by corporations, individuals, and governments to make the world a better place? The videos with the highest ratings would then be screened in the World Economic Forum. Bono, Bush, and Blair – they would all see what you had to say. All of a sudden, ordinary joes with good ideas got a voice at one of the world’s highest forums. Fancy that.

Okay…. so it’s not that simple….

The biggest problem with getting a message across – no matter how good – is dealing with haters (or “haterz”). Haters are a problem for people who get popular on YouTube. Fortunately, I haven’t run into that problem – which probably speaks to how much I am an unknown on YouTube. But, for many people trying to put good ideas forward in order to answer the The Davos Question, a lot of them are being picked apart by haters. One of my favorite videos to the Davos Question was done by a high school teacher (and fellow Canadian) by the name of Greg. He calls for greater consideration towards the global poor. As you can see in his video, he’s articulate and he makes a passionate plea.



But, after his video got popular, what do the haters have to say?

Find out after the jump.

Continue reading ‘YouTube and Davos – Trying to Do Good Amid the Noise’