Friday, December 28, 2007

Doing Good by Working the Web

A colleague recently brought a Facebook post by Alnisa Allgood to my attention. It describes the efforts of two brothers (who, for a year are communicating only via their vlog, but that’s another story) in behalf of the Project for Awesome. Hank and John Green’s basic idea was to get people (Nerdfighters) to post videos in support of their favorite charities on December 18. By all posting at once they would attract more attention.

It worked! The project had virtually all of the most-viewed videos on that day—shared only with Mike Huckabee, according to one of the brothers--Hank, I think, in this video. It’s about 4 minutes long, but worth watching completely for the ending.View the video here.

The project made its big splash on December 18, but it’s ongoing. There are about 4 thousand videos uploaded under the Project Awesome channel. It’s worth scrolling through several pages to see the diversity of causes represented. It’s also worth watching a few of the participant videos.

This effort reminds me of two things. One is the post I made in October in support of Blog Action Day, which focused on the environment. According to their stats, over 23 thousand posts were made that day. Some were targeted blogs like ours; but some of the best-known blogger names as well as corporate blogs also participated. This, too, was a volunteer effort, although it appears to have had back-end support from Google. So this kind of “flash mob” on the Web works in the short run. Does it create engagement with causes in the longer run? I don’t see how it can do anything less, when a person goes to the trouble to write a blog post or create a video.

The other reminder was my interesting class experience with the Gap participation in Project Red. Young people are looking for causes to believe in and support. Non-profits won’t reach or engage them by traditional methods. Both the New York Times and the Financial Times have recently written about the importance of web-base efforts to a variety of organizations.

Non-profits have work to do. Corporations and local businesses can help and support. There are two questions:
1.How to engage young people on their own ground, on their own terms.
2.How corporations can help—and how non-profits can take advantage of their help—without seeming (being) crass.

Witness the frenzy over “green” at the moment and the hype and misinformation that sometimes accompanies it. How can we do better?

Your thoughts?

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