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Key insights from the Mashable/92Y
Mashable and the 92nd Street Y, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, present the Social Good Summit
Over the course of four days earlier this year, Mashable, the 92Y, and the United Nations Foundation teamed up to gather some of the most enterprising nonprofit tech start-ups in the world to share best practices and ideas at one of the most unique events of its kind: the Social Good Summit. At the summit, we learned about the inspiring work that these organizations are doing and how brands and advertisers can help them help the world. The summit featured presentations and speakers from all walks of life; from passionate celebrities with their own charitable platforms like Edward Norton and media executives like Ted Turner to startups such as Jumo, Wine to Water, Kiva, and Project Zero. In addition, other companies that attended the event included PBS, Skype, One Laptop Per Child, MTV Networks, among others. While all of the nonprofits that attended were linked by their passion to solve problems, they also all used technology and social media to engage donors and volunteers in surprising and innovative ways. By following these innovations, marketers can gain insights into how to turn online passion into offline action.
All images credits: Insider Images
Many of the nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that presented were working in developing nations with limited access to technology. This challenge has forced NGOs to get creative when leveraging digital solutions within these emerging economies. Increasingly to address this, nonprofits are using mobile technology to reach people and help them collaborate with one another to affect social change. One such organization is Refugees United, which helps family and friends find one another for free through its safe and secure platform. For many of the 43 million displaced refugees living in Kenya, Uganda, Kampala and other countries, there are no landlines or access to the Internet, which makes it incredibly difficult to find missing loved ones. Many refugees however, still have mobile phones. Through Refugees United, people can create a profile, search and connect directly through SMS. Champions for Children is using mobile technology to eradicate malnutrition among children in the Horn of Africa. Specifically, they are enabling adults to use mobile texting to report on nutritional problems in their villages. In addition to its applications by NGOs in developing nations, mobile is proving to be an effective marketing tool for social causes in developed markets. An example of this is nonprofits using mobile texting as a way to engage the youth segment—a demographic that does not have ready access to high-priced smartphones but leverages texting as a core mode of communication among their peer groups. DoSomething.org, a nonprofit that focuses on young people and social change, successfully engages teens and gains volunteers via SMS. In one campaign, they enjoyed a 20% response rate in nine minutes with less than a 0.1% drop-off rate.
“It is so important to provide everything we can using technology to empower them, to help them connect…they need support and technology is one of the most important instruments we have to mitigate their plight.” –António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Throughout the social media-fueled digital space, social gaming has taken off. Gaming’s ability to engage users and connect them with other friends on platforms like Facebook has inspired many nonprofits to add a game layer to their platforms. By doing so, organizations have also realized gaming’s potential as a medium that can incentivize people to take action by donating their time and money. Sparked is a volunteering website that puts social gaming to good use by encouraging “microvolunteering” for busy people looking for a convenient and fun way to lend a hand to a variety of causes. For Sparked’s microvolunteers, helping others is fun, social and easy. Companies like Google, LinkedIn and SAP have dedicated pages for their employees to volunteer in micro-increments. Another start-up harnessing the power of social gaming in a unique way is Simple Energy. Utility companies already spend $11 billion a year engaging their customers to cut back on energy use. Simple Energy’s goal is to help people lower their energy use—which helps the environment as well as saves money— by connecting users through Facebook Connect, where they can see their energy consumption score and compare it with friends. Users with the lowest scores are rewarded with gaming systems, electronics, and other prizes. Gaming is also being used in the classroom to help teachers provide children with the tools they need to learn in remote villages where access to materials is often scarce. Games for Change leverages game mechanics to teach gender equality to school children by developing simple games for mobile devices. The games also help children learn valuable information about pregnancy, infections and more.
“If we took just the people that use FarmVille everyday and got them to spend ten minutes more volunteering, we could literally double capacity for the nonprofit sector in the United States” —Sparked
“Our problems are all connected, but we are not.” – Idealist.org
Build Connections and Networks
Without question, the recent growth of social networking has enabled friends to connect and new friendships to be forged over common interests. Recognizing this, social good platforms are tapping the potential of social networking to connect passionate volunteers with worthy nonprofits and to build communities centered on giving and volunteering. Idealist.org works to connect people, organizations and resources to break down the barriers that make it difficult for people to help one another. Idealist creates local networks to help solve local problems with local expertise. There are now over 70,000 organizations and 100,000 daily visitors who interact on Idealist’s website. Fundly is a social fundraising platform for nonprofits and a variety of other organizations seeking donations. With the knowledge that friends are 10 times more likely to donate when asked by a friend than by an organization, Fundly believes that leveraging the power of social media will bring in greater donations for those who need it the most. And its thesis is proving correct; Fundly has quickly become the number one online fundraising platform. Livestrong has built community online in another way by sharing firsthand interviews with cancer survivors on their website. Livestrong found that many more people were willing to get tested and cope with cancer by hearing firsthand testimonials. Their culture of storytelling helps people share more often and save the lives of others. Women’s health is yet another issue that has been tackled, in part, by social networking. ABC News and the United Nations Foundation used the power of connecting people to address women’s health crises by launching an online community called the Million Moms Challenge. The effort was part of a campaign that engages women online on maternal health issues.
One of the goals of the Social Good Summit was to explore how to solve problems through innovative digital solutions; specifically, problems that traditional methods have been unable to handle. One successful example of this is microfinancing. Micro-financing addresses a pervasive problem: poor people who want to start their own business or better their lives cannot receive a loan from a traditional bank without collateral. Digitally enabled microfinancing solutions make it possible for strangers to grant small loans to people who need them, even if the lender and borrower are on opposite sides of the world. Nobel Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus spoke at the summit about how microloans are changing lives and proving to be a simple solution to a complex problem. By focusing on the barriers to entry that many low-income people face, social entrepreneurs can leverage digital innovations to circumvent these barriers and allow people to create better lives for themselves.
“In a world where you need a dollar to catch a dollar you need to have something to help the people at the bottom lift themselves up.” –Dr. Muhammad Yunus
Dr. Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank speaks at the Social Good Summit, in New York. (Gary He/ Insider Images for United Nations Foundation)
Cheaper Technology Will Change the World
As One Laptop per Child has shown, bringing cheap technology to developing nations can transform lives in fantastic ways. Organizations like One Laptop per Child know that providing $100 laptops doesn’t just mean affordable access to technology, it means access to education and reading that can change the course of lives and entire countries. Another nonprofit that is making big changes with low-cost technology is SunSaluter. The SunSaluter is a low-cost nonelectrical rotator for solar panels that generates more electricity from the sun. The SunSaluter helps solar panels be 40% more efficient, giving electricity to people who need it most for less.
With the introduction of their $100 tablet, One Laptop per Child hopes to teach “70 million children to read.” –Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman and Founder, One Laptop per Child
Credit: One Laptop Per Child
From left, United Nation Foundation’s Robert Skinner, One Day on Earth co-founder and executive producer Brandon Litman and Boaz Paldi, head of video unit at the United Nations Development Programme, speak at the Social Good Summit, in New York. (Gary He/Insider Images for United Nations Foundation)
Other Key Takeaways
The Social Good Summit also taught us that We need to empower the individual as a consumer/client rather than a recipient of an organization’s charitable deeds. Multilingual content is an increasingly important way to reach a broader spectrum of people. Digital tools should be used to encourage Internet users to take their support into the real world; turning intentions into actions. Organizations need to prove how donations have helped lives. Charity Water allows donors to track where their money goes, through Google Maps, and sends pictures when a project has been completed. Social entrepreneurs should focus on alternative clean-energy resources as entrepreneurial opportunities.
Creating a Culture of Activism
The Social Good Summit proved a seminal showcase on how worthy causes and nonprofit organizations are harnessing the power of the digital revolution to create revolutions of their own. The amazing ingenuity and creative innovation put on display by these entrepreneurial organizations and catalysts for change can set an example for brands. The summit shows us how digital can be so much more than a new way to communicate with consumers—it can be used as a way to inspire passion, teach, connect, and ultimately inspire people to take action and create movements.
WRITTEN BY SHAWN CHENG CHELSEA LO PINTO EDITED BY EDWIN PHILOGENE
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