Thoughts on Collaborative Social Innovation

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This is Pensaola Beach, awash with tar balls from the Deep Horizon Oil Spill.

Recently I ran across a phenomenal crowdsourcing initiative last week, Lego’s NXTLog Senior Solutions Challenge, which leverages robotic designs to create better living for the elderly. It was a brilliant blend of brand, cause and community that empowers customers to make a difference.

I could not help but wonder how can B Corps and nonprofits and general do-gooders leverage the power of new models like the collaborative economy to share and make great things happen?

Social good is no longer the domain of big donors or causes anymore, but we haven’t gotten much further than crowdfunding, social sharing, and participatory access to campaigns. There is a stiff arm between cause and community.

What if mission trips were something that anyone can take, regardless of faith? Or if you couldn’t participate in a full four week mission trip, could you offer a portion of your work to another person?

Can we build stronger volunteering platforms to allow people to intelligently make a difference when a crisis like the Oklahoma tornadoes or the Deep Horizon oil spill happens? In both of those instances individuals were turned away from making a difference because their unorganized presence created more rubbernecking than contribution. Right now it takes an organization like Crisis Commons to try and harness general volunteering and good will.

How about technology? Could people donate minutes or bandwidth to a region on a temporary basis? Or could a company share its Salesforce database with smaller nonprofit partners so they, too, might benefit from a top tier CRM solution?

You can see how collaborative model could offer significant progress to the cause space. Yet, here we are, playing the same game.

Perhaps it is time for more.

What do you think?

Six Months Later: BP’s Oil Spill Still Stains

It has been six months since the height of public outrage about the Deep Horizon catastrophe and ensuing oil spill. Periodically, news bubbles up about potential lawsuits against BP and partners, but for the most part, the media has moved on to more current pastures. Meanwhile the damage left behind still ravages the Gulf Coast environs and economy.

Earlier this month, ABC News reported on University of Georgia’s Samantha Joye’s findings that Deep Horizon oil carpets the Gulf of Mexico floor. At 5,000 feet below the surface there appears to be an 80-square mile kill zone. “It looks like everything’s dead,” Samantha Joye said.

Meanwhile economic relief efforts seem to be hitting some walls. While tourist centric business like casinos located far away from Gulf shores are getting Gulf Coast Claims approved by the government, fishermen are being denied after one of the worst shrimping seasons every recorded. These fisherman fall into four classes:

  • Small vocal number who have presented Feinberg with strong documentation.
  • A much larger group that has been paid, but far less than their emergency claims called for.
  • Another group of more than 30,000 claimants, led by an organized Vietnamese contingent in Louisiana.
  • Thousands who can’t produce enough documentation to satisfy the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

The government dismisses these as suspect or fraudulent. Somewhere in between lies the truth. And on the interwebs, the BP PR machine continues.

No one asked BP to negligently contract and manage the operation of the oil Deep Horizon rig and its ensuing damage. Regardless of how the government and BP spin it, Americans, and the global environment will suffer for years to come.

2010 will go down as one of the worst years ever for environmental disasters. And BP’s negligent actions before and after the oil spill will go down as the largest lump of coal in the lot. The novelty of this has not been matched by the actions necessary to reverse the affects of manmade climate change. In fact, at least in the United States, environmental regulation seems to be moving backwards. Again, action to change falls to the individual.

If you would like to take action to help the fishing families of New Orleans, please consider Citizen Effect’s CitizenGulf project. Money goes to provide fishing children after school education programs.

Thank You, #CitizenGulf

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Yesterday’s national day of CitizenGulf events ranged from the first Social Media Club event in Fredericksburg, VA to a big get together in Honolulu, Hawaii. With tickets starting at $10 a pop, it looks like 400 people came together and raised roughly $10,000 (preliminary estimate) benefiting at least eight children of fishing families in the Catholic Charities of New Orleans After School Program.

Considering that this whole effort is volunteer based on literally no budget and named after a hashtag, I am just stunned. Two months ago, four of us were heading down to the Gulf on a fact finding mission with no idea about what we would find. And two months later we had this incredible day of action, thanks to you.

Next week I’ll provide a post mortem analysis of what did and did not work about the campaign from my perspective. Today and this weekend are all about cherishing the action so many of us have taken towards a positive, mindful result after the oil spill. With BP and Obama responsible for and promising everything, and often falling short, this is not the easiest cause to take on, but a very important one. Taking mindful steps — instead of staying angry and letting the Gulf suffer — are acts of compassion.

There are so many of us who participated, from the more than 750 people who tweeted to the more than 400 people who attended our 20 events. Jeff Dolan even made a tribute music video! I know of at least 60 blog posts written about the Day of Action. It’s impossible to thank everyone, so please forgive me if I’ve forgotten you.

First, let me thank Dan Morrison and May Yu of Citizen Effect, and Jill Foster of LiveYourTalk. It’s amazing how far this crazy little trip went. And Dan, did you think the fajitas at Lauriol Plaza would turn into this?

Eric Johnson at El Studio deserves a huge thanks for designing our Posterous blog, and for his work migrating the site. Thank you to my long term cohort on cause based action Andy Sternberg for his hard work and running the LA event.

Thank you to Sloane Berrent and Taylor Davidson for letting us co-promote with Gulf Coast Benefits. I can’t wait to see what you do next. And a huge thanks to Social Media Club co-founders Kristie Wells and Chris Heuer for believing in CitizenGulf and making it an official Club event.

Thank you to David Bazea and Citrix Online for donating your organizing software and phone services. Michael Ivey, thank you for donating RT2Give set-up. And thanks to iShake for donating proceeds from iPhone application sales.

I want to give a special thanks to a few city captains who just took CitizenGulf on and made it theirs. Gloria Bell (Philly), Kami Huyse and Grace Rodriguez (Houston), Richard Laermer (who helped me co-organize NYC), Heidi Massey (Chicago), and last, but not least Andi Narvaez (DC, our top fundraiser). Each of these cities raised $1000 or more! Also, I owe a personal thank you to Kelly Mitchell (Honolulu), Todd Van Hoosear (Boston), Alex de Carvalho (Miami), Heather Coleman (Fredericksburg), and “Calamity Jen,” Jennifer Navarete, and Colleen Pence (San Antonio) for organizing their cities! Thank you to all of our other city organizers for going the distance.

And finally, as co-organizer of the New York City event, I’d like to thank my committee of outreach kings and queens. Thank you to Damien Basile, Anna Curran, Erica Grigg (Carbon Outreach), Nicole D’Alonzo, Howard Greenstein, and our special guest Eric Proulx! CitizenGulf would not have been the same with New York!

Again, if I missed you, please forgive me. Thanks so much!

Citizen Effect will continue the CitizenGulf Project. You can create your own initiative to benefit Gulf kids, or you can still give if you’d like. Here’s the donation page.

Don’t Believe the BP Hype!

How The Hell Are We Supposed Feed Our Kids Now

Let’s be frank, lots of people are helping with #citizengulf and it’s awesome. There are so many people spreading the word, I can’t even begin to thank them. But this is not Haiti, in large part because of BP’s responsibility for causing the oil spill, and its moral and legal obligation to clean up the mess.

Many people express this to me, “Why should I help? It’s BP’s fault!”

But as we have seen over and over again, BP continues to promise fully responsible actions, only to have its actions completely contradict its PR and messaging. Consider the most recent lies that have been exposed this week:

1) The oil is not gone from the Gulf waters. In fact, University of Georgia scientists have done a study showing that 70-79% of the oil remains in the water. Now we see the role dispersants have played in this Dantean nightmare.

2) Phytoplankton, the base element of the fishing food chain, have been poisoned by this oil. This means the entire Gulf food supply has been affected and will have crude oil poisoning to contend with.

This continued public lying (and the co-signing of this behavior by the Obama Administration) should tell all of us one thing: BP will abandon its responsibility to clean up the Gulf at the first opportunity. The Gulf cannot count on BP or the federal government to resolve this situation.

Any of us would be furious if our homes and livelihoods were treated in such a fashion. In fact, many of us who do not live in the Gulf are angered by the public hucksterism we are being offered by BP and the Obama Administration. But what can we do about it? Plenty, and as my trip to the Gulf convinced me, this hurricane ravaged region definitely needs our help.

The citizengulf program was designed to provide easy, mindful actions to affect change, specifically, by using education to provide fishing families new opportunities for a brighter, more sustainable future. I hope you’ll join us on August 25 as we take a day of action together by attending an event, donating or voting.

Beyond the citizengulf program, there are more mindful actions: Write your elected officials and tell them to stand up to big oil and large corporations ruining our country, live a better sustainable life, and restore ethics to the communications profession. Want more? The AARP offers six ways you can make a difference for the Gulf.

No , it’s not Haiti. But it’s happening in our own back yard at the hands of corrupt oil company with the federal government cosigning it. Whatever you do, friends, I encourage you not to sit this one out. In my mind, it’s a civic duty. Take mindful action and say no to BP.

#citizengulf Events Open Amidst Another Oil Spill Controversy

Today we opened the first #citizengulf city events for registration on the Citizen Gulf site. Citizen Effect‘s national day of citizen action seeks to help fishing families in need by providing an education for their children, in the hopes that they may be able to pursue new careers in the wake of the oil spill’s long term impact.

And as we launch, a raging controversy brews about the latest spin from BP and Obama – claims that the oil spill’s impact is disappearing. Fishing families and other members of the Gulf economy still struggle to survive. As the above video from a Grand Isle City Hall meeting last week, shows even with BP’s financial aid, the oil spill survivors are suffering and cannot pay their bills.

Meanwhile, though fishing waters may be opening again, oil and dispersant traces have been found in blue shell crab larvae, entering the food chain. Further, as satellite imagery of the Gulf waters show there’s a malignant brown stain to the oil spill water still. Many believe this is from a combined tarry mixture of over-deployed dispersants and oil, sunk below the surface.

The fishing families of Louisiana and the Gulf beyond still need our help. It’s clear that BP and Obama will shirk this responsibility at the first opportunity. Meanwhile fishing families are left to pursue their profession of generations in diminished, or worse, permanently tainted waters.

Andy Gibson’s story is the classic example (on Friends of the Fishermen’s charity site). A fourth generation fisherman who found his waters closed to shrimping and the market for his goods bottomed out, Gibson simply went further out to the fertile fishing grounds of western Louisiana and Texas, untouched by the oil spill. Gibson is “determined he will figure out a way to make it through.”

Many fishing families will continue to choose this life style in the face of adversity. But their children can have an option. Working with Catholic Charities of New Orleans — an organization working directly with fishing families everyday in eight parishes — we can provide an opportunity for kids to have a better education and the choice for a different career path.

Join the #citizengulf effort today to make a difference. Host or attend an event on august 25, donate or vote in the Pepsi Refresh contest.

Best #citizengulf Photos & What’s Coming Next

Above find a slideshow of my favorite photos from our Citizen Effect Gulf Mission trip. The slideshow really tells the story of what we saw. Quite a crushing blow has been dealt to the Gulf marine environment and the communities built around it.

The fact-finding trip, representing the listening phase of our effort, is complete. You can find links to all of the content — from CNN iReports, photos and podcasts to Mashable, Live Earth and other blog posts — aggregated on the Citizen Effect Gulf Mission project page. We will likely write an executive summary over the next week.

Next steps will be a public gathering here in Washington, DC the week of July 12. Time and location to be determined, but we will U-Stream it. At that time, the Citizen Effect team will review our findings (find my initial conclusions here), take questions, and announce our program of action, which will likely be a Day of Citizen Action.

The entire purpose of the trip was to assess the situation first hand, and then create a way for Americans across the country who want to find mindful ways to help. This Day of Citizen Action will be the start of the program, and will provide several ways, from a simple Facebook Like to full on grassroots activism, for people to act. Stay tuned.