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A Bad Day I Can Relate To

I decided to write this blog post because I was inspired by my friend Dan Brown’s recent video called “Bad Day”. If you don’t know who Dan is and what “Dan 3.0” is about – watch this as a primer.

You could basically write a list as long as my arm as to how Dan and I are very different people, with different backgrounds, different cultural upbringings, and different global experiences.

Yet, despite all our differences, we seem to have wound up on a very similar path. YouTube is a big part of our lives, we both have extremely ambitious projects, and we both walked away from institutional education to pursue our respective visions.

It’s for this reason, I couldn’t help but see myself in Dan’s latest video.

I’ve been there. One some days – I’m still there. It’s not the ambitious scale and scope of a project that gets you down, it’s small technical hurdles which derail things. It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts.

I’ve done the sleeping during the day – where you’re too stressed to sleep but sleep enough to screw up your sleeping schedule. I’ve had the “OMG what was I thinking when I started this project?!?” moments all too often.

So Dan, if you’re reading this, I have just one thing to say: hang in there. This maybe the first bad day you’ve had in your project – but it won’t be the last. But you know what? It can be worth it.

You may find yourself one day doing something that you never imagined you’d do or finding yourself touching and inspiring people in ways you could never imagine.

And when that day happens, you’ll know in your heart that it was worth every frustrating moment, every bad day, every sleep-but-too-stressed-to-sleep night you’ve had.

You also have a lot of things to your advantage that I wish I had (your massive online audience aside). You have tons of confidence. The first thing I think of when I turn on the camera is “OMG I’m too fat, ugly, and stumble on words too much to be on camera”.

In fact, in much the same way that your videos are condensed moments when your the most cheerful, my videos are the condensed moments when I’m the most confident and am able to silence my inner-critic long enough to be on camera to say a few lines.

That’s actually why I’m blogging this. I would never have the confidence or courage to film myself during a bad day. On really bad days I just go silent: no vlogs, no tweets, nothing.

So thanks for sharing this and hang in there. And, for anyone else reading this, I wonder how many other people can relate to this in whatever projects you guys are undertaking…

Going to VidCon!

Tomorrow I’m flying to Los Angeles to be a part of VidCon 2010. Not sure what VidCon is? The Globe & Mail did a great story on it (honoured to be featured in it!) that you can read here.

If you’re going, here’s a sneak peak of a short 6 minute video I hope to show there. The YouTube version will go up afterwards.

5 Mistakes in My Search for Sustainability

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been away from Bangladesh. Although it looks like I’ll be going back in the near future, long-term sustainability is still a problem. It doesn’t help that I feel I do can more as an individual instead of formalizing – but that’s not the only hurdle.

Here are five mistakes I’ve made in my search for sustainability…

5) Searching for Magic Sponsorship: As I’ve said before, my videos have been inspired a lot by Matt Harding and his “Where the Hell is Matt?” videos. I mistakenly assumed that, since there was a company out there willing to pay a man to dance around the world, there would be some company out there willing to pay a man to go around the world helping people. Assuming this, and searching for that magic sponsor, only wasted time.

4) Courting Foundations: If you’re in the aid & development community, you already know of the Skoll Foundation, the Ashoka Changemakers Foundation, Echoing Green Foundation, and a gazillion other “social media” and “social change” foundations. Most like what I do – but all have a strict policy of only supporting tax write-off organizations. Assuming they’d make an exception for little old me was a mistake.

3) Soliciting Google: The number one question I get asked by everyone IRL is why doesn’t Google sponsor my project. Individuals, businesses, aid workers, & charity execs alike have assumed that, since my work showcases what you can do through YouTube, sponsorship through Google would be a natural fit. The frequency of this question lulled me into believing such a thing was possible. It was not – and I shouldn’t have thought to pursue it.

2) Not Setting Boundaries: I’ve encountered many selfless people who have helped me in very important ways along my journey. But I’ve also encountered people who were helping on the assumption they were becoming a “stakeholder” with veto power. As I’ve said before, with the exception of those we help, I never want anyone to have veto power over the community. I failed to see that different people have different (but understandable) reasons for helping – and I failed to draw proper boundaries.

1) Assuming the Value of this Project was Self-Evident: When I’m in the field, local villagers constantly come up to me to tell me how unique my work is and how they love what I’m doing. They love that I’m an independent voice outside of the NGO ecosystem. They love that I film everything and keep an eye on how every donation is spent. They love that I’m a direct line to the donors & manage the donations myself instead of some bureaucracy. My mistake? I assumed because they loved it – someone over here would love it enough to invest & sustain it.

I’ve made mistakes – and probably will make new & different mistakes in the future. Despite this, I don’t know what more I can be doing. Whether it’s teaming up with an on-the-ground charity, getting support from a foundation, or sponsorship from a or corporate benefactor – this should be all win/win/win. I know the path to sustainability isn’t easy – but at this point I’m not sure if there is going to be a happy ending.

Hi CNN.com Readers =)

Hi! If you just found this website because of this CNN.com article let me give you a quick introduction. I’m Shawn and “The Uncultured Project” isn’t a charity, organization, or anything formal. Think of it as “citizen journalism” meets “citizen philanthropy”.

I raise funds online (as an individual – alas, not tax deductible) and I give 100% of what I raise away to charitable causes. And I mean 100% – I even have a friend who covers the PayPal fees of your donation (for now at least). I then show you were the money goes via YouTube and/or Twitter. Sometimes both as you can see in this video.

Most of my work focuses primarily on Bangladesh because I have an ancestry there and still have a few aunts & uncles who live there (although they’ve kinda shunned me for pursuing a project like this – but that’s another story). But, poverty exists everywhere – even around your street corner. That’s why I decided to focus on the LA Regional Food Bank – you don’t need to go overseas to help people.

If you have a few minutes to spare, you can watch my food bank video by clicking here (it’s 3 minutes long). If you want to know more about “The Uncultured Project” you can watch this (it’s also 3 minutes). And if you have a bit more time, please do check out this video of a water project I did in Bangladesh that took over a year to complete (it’s a 4 minute video).

If you are wondering how to support my work – well, donating isn’t the biggest way. The biggest way is by helping me build a bigger voice on YouTube. Please consider signing up for a YouTube account (it’s free) and subscribing to my channel on YouTube. The bigger the voice this project can get, the better the chances that sustainability and more opportunities can come around the corner.

I also want to give a shout-out to my friends Hank & John Green (who were also quoted in that article). Without Hank & John, I wouldn’t have started to accept online donations from the public (they also get automatically notified every time you make a project donation). Also a huge thanks to my friends working at YouTube (many of whom I got to meet IRL) who made this interview with CNN possible.

Stick around. There are lots of hurdles – but I’m positive the best is yet to come.

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”.


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


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.


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!

One of My Favorite Photos

Connecting Communities

Children in Barguna, Bangaldesh watch YouTube video responses of people who told me to provide this village with clean & safe drinking water. Clean water project implemented with Save the Children.

You can see the full video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJubQzKYMGg