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Archive for December, 2008

Beth Kanter alluded to ‘reciprocity’ in her comment on yesterday’s post about micro-donors. The concept of reciprocity in the general area of social good, is one that has been on my mind for quite some time. A few weeks ago, I participated in a discussion on The Huffington Post, in response to Craig Newmark‘s post on “A Craigslist for Service”. In my comments, I drive home some key points about the old volunteering model, and what I see as the future of  ‘doing good’:

Marguerite – While it is true that service does increase individual happiness up a notch, it is, as you point out early in your post, not an option for the increasingly large, disenfranchised segment of the population. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an apt framework. As times grow more and more dire, I would like to suggest another twist on the service idea, that relies on the trading of services, rather than traditional volunteering. I see a huge opportunity in the service enabling infrastructure space, to facilitate such bartering of goods and services. This is why Craigslist is such a great model. I also like the mutuality involved in bartering of services, a model that it is inherently more respectful of each individual’s need to be valued. One psychological aspect of the volunteering model that has not been looked at enough, is the subtle negative effect of being on the receiver’s end. We all need to feel that we have something to give. I may be homeless, but give me a job to do, like working at the city recycling center, and I will gladly accept a hot meal and shelter in return. I may be a single mom with four kids, barely making it in the poor part of town, but ask me to participate in a babysitting co-op so that I can have time to go to school and get the skills I need to get a job. You get the picture.

DragonMama – great minds think alike – i suggested to my local democrats club at the first meeting after the election that what we need are “childcare co-opts for change” or at least playdates for change. i have so many friends with small children who just can’t afford to pay a babysitter so they can participate in the civic/volunteer engagement things (tho my personal preference is to bring my kids – ages 4 and 1 – with me whenever possible… how else are they going to learn to be good citizen participants?). people who were school-aged during the Regan administration seem to have been very strongly indoctrinated with the “asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure” mentality, to the point that we almost need to hit rock bottom before we ask for the smallest bit of help, and we have a hard time accepting it even when it’s freely offered WITHOUT our having to ask for it. I’ve grown up physically challenged so I got over it, but even I tend to wait too long to ask for help or even delegate a task. I know very few people under the age of 45 who are any good at delegating tasks or other forms of cooperative effort. It’s a skill we desperately need to learn, not just for the good of the country but also for our own mental health.

Loria – DragonMama,
That is a great idea. I am fortunate. My kids are in school and old enough to take care of themselves. I work, but not fulltime. But, I have friends who want to volunteer, yet they have young children. A coop for volunteers is a good option for them. You are right. It will also teach their children from a very young age of the importance of giving back.

LaurieR – Some wonderful points, Marguerite. A “handout” often diminishes the person it’s meant to help. People in “reduced circumstances” need to feel like they’re a part of the world around them, not invisible… or even worse, a liability. (Geez, I think I’ve been possessed by the spirit of RFK today. Which is hardly a bad thing!)

Marguerite – It is time to reexamine the values handed down to us, from well-meaning, patriarchal organizations, that are relying on hierarchical, top down, them vs. us, type of model. Language is important, as is the – often implied – transactional framework that’s being used.

Thanks DragonMama, Lorie R, and Loria, for chiming in. From now on, let’s give everyone equal opportunity to do good.

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Laura Fitton started a new wave with her charity.water fundraising campaign on Twitter, and there is no stopping the flow of other social organizations wanting to jump in. After all, money’s tight and big donors are no longer so eager to write the big checks that used to keep non profits afloat.

The problem is, people like me, with not so deep pockets, want to help, but only up to a point. Once the novelty of  Tipjoy wears off, my hunch is, the people are going to start suffering from micro-donor’s fatigue, and micro-fundraisers are going to have to work a lot harder.

When going for the gold on Twitter, or other social media platforms, try to answer these five questions first:

  • Who are the people most likely to be interested in helping our cause?
  • Who else is competing for these people’s money?
  • What is it in our cause that’s uniquely compelling, and that will give potential donors the biggest emotional reward?
  • Besides altruism, what are some creative ways that we can we reward and entice donors?
  • How high is the gift threshold?

Any other question I have not covered, please add in comments.

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A mail this morning from my friend Lynn Miller, at OrganicMania, made me realize I failed to properly close the chapter on all work that took place here on this blog, on critical issue of climate change:

I read your blog post on La M about the new direction, and really wanted to respond but felt like I should run this by you first….I am happy for you that you are on a path that excites you….but at the same time, I do really miss the old global warming focused La Marguerite. You were my main source of information and inspiration on global warming, and I felt a part of your community. I thought you were the top female voice on global warming, bar none, and one of the very top in the world (Ok, I really like Friedman, but you were up there!)   

Will you still be writing about global warming under “social issues?” I felt like in your post you were a bit dismissive of the incredible work you did in global warming. I’m sure I’m not the only one  who feels this way…

First, let me apologize for my haste and for appearing ‘dismissive’ of all the work that took place on La Marguerite, regarding raising awareness and looking for behavioral solutions to global warming. It is one thing for me to decide to take a turn. It is another to not properly acknowledge the community that formed and contributed so much. There has been many ripples from the discussions held at La Marguerite. Sharing of information that would not otherwise have made it into the mainstream media. Connections formed that led to enduring collaborations outside the scope of this blog. Acts of activism. Personal awakenings . . . Lynn is right. 

Still, I am closing the climate change chapter for good. After eighteen months of being a voice and a community organizer for climate solutions, it is time for me to move on, and leave it to others to carry the torch. With the election of Barack Obama, I feel the stakes are different, and the path is more clear. What is needed now, more than ever, are new policies, quick, and the support of the people to pass these new policies. 

I am very much looking forward to the opening of  the next chapter on La Marguerite, as discussed in earlier post. My professional interests are now gravitating towards social media and social change ventures, and it is only natural for my blog to follow. 

Let me end with a big thanks to all who contributed to the climate change chapter on La Marguerite. I wish you to continue your awesome work in the many venues available to you, both online and in the outer world. 

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Thanks to Peter Kim for putting out his great survey of Social Media Predictions 2009. One unintended learning from the survey, at least for me, was this list, and what it means for social media:

Fifteen big names in social media – including Peter Kim -, and only two of them women.

I can understand women being underrepresented in older, more traditional fields such as engineering, or government, but social media? This feels like deja vu. I noticed a similar trend in the field of green and sustainability, prompting me to ask the question, ‘Where are the Women in the Green Stratosphere?’

Men appear to be especially good at appropriating spaces, even ones they don’t particularly care for as a whole. Again the cooking analogy applies. While women represents the majority of the home cooks, and do most of the daily cooking, cooking celebrities, the chefs with five star restaurants, big cooking shows and books galore, tend to be men. Same with social media. From 2008 Rapleaf study:

When it comes to social media, women are at the forefront. At Rapleaf we conducted a study of 13.2 million people and how they’re using social media. While the trends indicate both sexes are using social media in huge numbers, our findings show that women far outpace the men.

Not surprising, given that women are inherently inclined to being more social than men. It’s part of our DNA, and a well documented fact. Women will continue to thrive in both online and physical social networks. I just wish we took a more deliberate role in the shaping of social media. Women have things to say, that are different from men, and that can contribute to a richer picture.

This post is the first in a series I will be writing on social media. My humble attempt at adding another feminine voice to the social media chorus . . .

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Too busy with the faltering economy, healthcare, global warming, and other pressing issues, U.S. legislators are putting food safety reforms on the backburner. That’s unfortunate, considering this recent statement from the Food and Drug Administration Science Board, that it can “no longer fulfill its mission without substantial and sustained additional appropriations.” I was shocked to learn that   only 1% of most imported food gets inspected. Also, the current legislation does not require food manufacturers to disclose sourcing for ingredients used in processed foods. The implication  is, unless sticking to natural, non processed, domestic foods, there is  no way of knowing for sure what’s in our food.

Confused shopper in grocery store - Ralph Bijker, Flickr image

Confused shopper in grocery store - Ralph Bijker, Flickr image

Watchdog organizations such as Food and Water Watch, Environmental Working Group, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Center for Science and Public Interest, and Food Policy Institute, are doing what they can to alert consumers, each with a slightly different take and focus. The result is a confusing picture, that can be reduced to 14 relatively simple steps: 

  • Eat at home where you have more control over food supply
  • Avoid processed foods with ingredients of unknown origin
  • Avoid foods with non natural ingredients
  • Buy domestic products
  • Buy organic eggs, poultry, meat, and dairy
  • Cook well eggs, poultry, meat, and high risk veggie – green onions 
  • Stick to organic for produce with high pesticity index
  • Buy fish from safe fish list
  • Avoid raw oysters
  • Avoid food requiring excessive handling such as pre-cut fruit, deli cold cuts
  • Scrub and wash all vegetables and fruits in soapy water, including packaged, pre-cut items
  • Limit canned foods because of lead/plastic lining contamination risks
  • Buy organic versions of corn, soy, canola, and cotton based products
  • Stay clear of trans fats and saturated fats

Did I miss anything?

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Social VCs, angel investors, move aside. Inspired by Obama’s Amazing Money Machine, social enterprises are now turning to the people, for their funding needs, and using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook, to reach out. In The Huffington Post, John Borthwick and Kenneth Lerer refer to  Micro-Giving: A New Era in Fundraising.  In her blog, Beth Kanter shares her first hand account of  How You Can Leverage Your Twitter Network for Good Causes and Raise Money for a Good Cause Really Fast . Both articles sing the praises of Laura Fitton, of Pistachio Consulting for her Twitter micro-giving campaign on behalf of charity:water. Cool site, and very well executed campaign.

Some micro-fundraising tools for social ventures:

My sense is, this is just the beginning. More creative ways are going to be developed to tap into our collective resources for doing good, of which money is only a small, albeit very necessary part. 

Please use comments to complete list of micro-funding tools. 

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As reflected in the new tag line ‘A Girl’s View of Social Media, Sustainability, and Social Change‘, La Marguerite is getting reborn. From a green blog, to a more inclusive forum where to share my three main interests: sustainability, still, and also, social media, and social change. Social media has become a passion that’s become too big for just a few occasional tweets on Twitter. Social change touches upon my current forays into social entrepreneurship. All three embraced from a very feminine perspective:

dsc00349

I am thrilled!

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ok, I admit it. I have been flirting with the idea of giving up La Marguerite blog altogether. Life and the need for action have been catching up with me, and taken away much of the energy I used to put into this blog and other places. I have also started to be a lot more discriminant about what I blog about. No more rehash of current events, or venting. No more sharing for the sake of sharing. Instead, only fresh, constructive thinking allowed.

This confession does not go without a mixed bag of feelings attached. Guilt, for ‘abandoning’ the people who got used to reading me daily. Unease from transitioning from one identity to another – avid blogger to passionate entrepreneur. And also, relief from being truly myself, and in touch with the reality of the moment.

My sense is, I am discovering the fluid nature of blogging. A blog is a living thing, with a rhythm of its own. One blog vanishes, soon to reincarnate into a new form, or on another topic. Once La Marguerite on WordPress, now La Marguerite on Twitter, and sometimes The Huffington Post. With a lot more to come, that I can’t share yet publicly.

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A Visual Post

A picture is worth a thousand words, or in my case a blog post. Here is a collage I did, that pretty much tells the story of what I am up too these days:

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Every night, the same question comes up, of what to make for dinner? Tonight’s no different. No leftover in the fridge to give me a hint. Instead an odd assortment of vegetables, not even enough to make a soup with. And no help to be had from family members. All four have different ideas, and I do not have the time nor the desire to accommodate all. I shall make an executive decision. Of course, it would be nice to be ‘creative’ and step out of the usual repertoire, for a change. But tonight’s not the night. I am going to go for the safest bet. Roasted chicken with potatoes, and a green salad. I can zip over to Whole Foods, buy their organic fryer, organic potatoes, and organic lettuce, and while I am at it, a few extra vegetables so I can make a soup out of the leftovers tomorrow. Preparation time, 15′ total, and I can go back to my work, while the creature’s cooking in the oven. Done.

There is a lot to be said for that roasted chicken dinner. Most importantly, it meets all four criteria in my good food book:

  1. Cost: a whole chicken can be stretched over two meals for four people, easily, with roasted chicken first day, and chicken soup with rice the day after
  2. Health: no worries to be had with natural, organic ingredients
  3. Convenience: both meals are easy and quick to make, less than 15′, my usual limit on week days
  4. Taste: it’s hard to mess up roasted chicken, plus who doesn’t like chicken?

In a perfect world, I would have a hundred ‘roasted chicken’ recipes to pick from. The reality is closer to five or six meals, that I keep repeating, from week to week. The children have noticed. Oh! we’re having crepes again . . . How about a different dressing for the salad? I have fallen into a rut. I wish I could be more creative and fancy myself as one of my French friends, for whom cooking is still very much a daily practice in effortless imagination. Once in a while, I decide to shake things up a bit, and invest in a new cookbook. Last time, was The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, by Alice Waters. I remember being quite excited, and thinking this was going to be THE book, unlike the thirty previous volumes, that have been gathering dust on my kitchen shelf. Of course, my interest in THE book was short-lived. I found it hard to make Alice’s recipes mine. An interesting observation, given that, objectively, her recipes embody all I want in food.

I am left with the question of why? How come is it that I keep going back to these few ‘comfort recipes’? When I could so easily whip myself into shape, and start meal planning the heck out of Alice’s cookbook, gathering hundreds of perfect recipes in the process. The answer is in the smell coming out of my oven right now. The aroma from the roasted chicken, and the potatoes brings me right back to my mother, and also my grandmother’s kitchen, to my French peasant roots of uncomplicated, good food. From the many more dishes that I watched, and sometimes helped them make, only le poulet roti, les pommes de terre au four, la salade verte toute bete, la soupe de legumes, les crepes, la tarte aux pommes, and le pudding au chocolat have remained in my primal core . . .

Of course, I am fortunate, to have been wired early on to only appreciate really good, natural food. That I am a boring cook with a limited repertoire is a small problem, compared to what happens for the majority of people in America, who have been brought up to love not natural food, but fast food instead.  To them, a visit to McDonald’s may bring up the same positive emotional onslaught as the one I feel when cooking my grandmother’s vegetable soup. And cooking naturally, or even cooking period, may be a lot harder for them to get into. Although hugely popular, cookbooks, recipe websites, and TV cooking shows, often cannot compete with the aroma of a Big Mac with French fries, on the side.

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