A few videos from Rwanda

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life | Posted on 02-12-2014


Earlier this year I had the good fortune to visit charity: water and visit amazing projects we’ve funded in the Rulindo district of Rwanda.

Here’s a couple of the videos we made:

A donor update for everyone who gave to the 2010 September Campaign (including my donors!):

September Campaign 2012 Rwanda Update from charity: water (special donors) on Vimeo.

A corporate video for Keurig Green Mountain, that then raised $100,000 through online sharing:

And the video that was most viewed (400,000 times!), this thank you for YouTube star PewDiePie:

Thoughts on the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Current Affairs, Internet, Life | Posted on 19-08-2014


Yesterday I was ‘nominated’ for the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. But I won’t be joining in. And here’s why.

It’s not because of the nomination. In fact, I like the video the good folk at OneLife made much more than most of the ice dumping videos I’ve seen on Facebook, because of the section at the start taking the time to outline what exactly ALS is:

(it’s really a good little video, check it out)

I’m not knocking back the nomination because I think the #ALSIceBucketChallenge is slacktivism or that the #NoIceBucketChallenge is a better option. Heck, I don’t even think it’s a waste of water. And if you know me, you’ll know I don’t mind looking stupid for a good cause.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned at charity: water is that people are good, but people are lazy. So I’ve loved watching the Ice Bucket Challenge activate people for good, when the alternative would have been nothing. But you’ve got to question whether a trend has run it’s course once Vin Diesel is challenging Vladimir Putin.

As usual, Seth Godin hits the nail on the head:

According to recent data about the ice bucket challenge making the rounds, more than 90% of the people mentioning it (posting themselves being doused or passing on the word) didn’t make a donation to support actual research on an actual disease. Sounds sad, no?

But I think these slacktivists have accomplished two important things at scale, things that slacktivists have worked to do through the ages:

  1. They’ve spread the word. The fact is that most charities have no chance at all to reach the typical citizen, and if their fundraising strategy is small donations from many people, this message barrier is a real issue. Peer-to-peer messaging, even if largely ego-driven, is far better than nothing. In a sideways media world, the only way to reach big numbers is for a large number of people to click a few times, probably in response to a request from a friend.
  2. Even more important, I think, is that they normalize charitable behavior. It’s easy to find glowing stories and infinite media impressions about people who win sporting events, become famous or make a lot of money. The more often our peers talk about a different kind of heroism, one that’s based on caring about people we don’t know, the more likely we are to see this as the sort of thing that people like us do as a matter of course.

Spreading the word and normalizing the behavior. Bravo.

But I won’t be doing the ice bucket thing for more personal reasons. I’m about to spend the next few weeks trying to inspire my friends to give to bring clean water to people in the Sahel. A place where women are working hours a day pulling buckets of dirty water from 60 feet underground in the heat of the desert. And a place, and a life, that my friends probably don’t know exist if I can’t tell them.

It doesn’t feel right to tip a bucket of ice on my head for social media when I’m spending so much time thinking about kids who might not see ice in their lifetime.

Instead, I’ll make donations:

1. To ALSA — I’ve learned from the ice craze that it’s a worthy cause

2. To Project ReMind for FTD — a debilitating terminal disease not unlike ALS that hasn’t benefited from the same publicity, but that I’ve seen impact people I care about

3. To this charity: water campaign and their #CleanWaterChallenge

And I’ll continue to try to inspire people to watch this film and give to make a huge change in the lives of people in the Sahel:

Is the pen dead?

Posted by admin | Posted in Business | Posted on 25-07-2014


I’m currently flying cross country and spotted two interesting articles back to back:

– Nick Bilton in the times on ‘The Demise of the Pen

– And none other than Taylor Swift pointing out that the autograph has been replaced by the Selfie

As an individual who prefers a pen-and-paper in a meeting to an open laptop, this par in Bilton’s piece struck me:

A competing study by Pam A. Mueller, a researcher at Princeton University’s psychology department, found that people who took notes using pen and paper tended to retain more information than those who used keyboards.

The problem, Ms. Mueller wrote in the paper, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” is that laptop note takers have a tendency to transcribe every detail, whereas pen note takers just jot down the important information.

Thoughts? My preference is to have an intern or junior staff taken notes in detail that can be emailed and uploaded to the crowd, while the rest of the meeting participants can be more active without the barrier of a distracting laptop in front of them.

Be Happy

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Life | Posted on 24-05-2014


Patti Smith gives some great life advice on BrainPicker:

“When I left home, I asked my father what advice he could give me. My father was very intelligent, very well-read — he read all the great books, all the great philosophers. But when I asked his advice, he told me one thing: Be happy. It’s all he said. So simple. I’m telling you, this simple thing — be happy — this will be your greatest ally. Because when you’re happy, you ignite that little flame that tells you and reminds you who you are. And it will ignite, it will animate your enthusiasm for things — it will enforce your work.

Be happy, and always let your conscience be your guide.”

How to Build a Brand That People Don’t Buy, They Join

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Events, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 29-03-2014


I had a lot of fun on this Social Media Week Panel with the very intelligent Susan McPherson, Rowan Gormley from Naked Wines and Maxine Bedat from Zady.

Check it out to see our thoughts on building a movement and driving action online and offline.

The Rising Tide of Purpose

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Life | Posted on 19-02-2014


As a brand guy deep within the social good vortex the biggest trend I’m seeing that is largely ignored is the desire from the brightest lights of my generation to live a life of purpose: especially in their job.

I’ve got a lot of banker mates, but I’m constantly meeting amazing young people who don’t care about living a life to generate profit alone, and don’t want to work for a stifling big company. I’d include myself on this list.

Put simply, I think the next challenge for some of the biggest companies in the world – your Goldman Sachs, IBMs and General Electrics – is great young people aren’t going to want to lose their youth trapped in a bureaucracy that gives them little chance of making a personal impact on the world.

It came home to me in this post Atlantic post, ‘The Woes of Young Bankers‘, where the Author outlines a significant factor he identified for why the  young bankers on Wall St are ‘so miserable': a lack of purpose.

3. Purpose

It might sound strange, but many young people come to Wall Street expecting to make the world a better place. This is partly the fault of recruiters, who tempt college juniors and seniors with promises of “real-world responsibility” and rhapsodies about socially responsible investing. But it’s also wishful thinking on the recruits’ part. Jeremy, for instance, had arrived at Goldman thinking that his specific job—trading commodities derivatives—could make the world a teensy bit better by allowing large companies to hedge their costs, and pass savings along to customers. But one day, his boss pulled him aside and told him that, in effect, he’d been naïve.

“We’re not here to save the world,” the boss said. “We exist to make money.”

The British economist Roger Bootle has written about the difference between “creative” and “distributive” work. Creative work, Bootle says, is work that brings something new into the world that adds to the total available to everyone (a doctor treating patients, an artist making sculptures). Distributive work, on the other hand, only carries the possibility of beating out competitors and winning a bigger share of a fixed-size market. Bootle explains that although many jobs in modern society consist of distributive work, there is something intrinsically happier about a society that skews in favor of the creative.

“There are some people who may derive active delight from the knowledge that their working life is devoted to making sure that someone else loses, but most people do not function that way,” he writes. “They like to have a sense of worth, and that sense usually comes from the belief that they are contributing to society.”

During my interviews with young bankers, I heard a lot of them express this exact sentiment. They wanted to do something, make something, add something to the world, instead of simply serving as well-paid financial intermediaries at giant investment banks. It doesn’t hurt that creative jobs—including, but not limited to, jobs with Silicon Valley tech companies—are now considered sexier and more socially acceptable than Wall Street jobs, which still carry the stigma of the financial crisis. At one point, during the Occupy Wall Street protests, Jeremy told me that he had begun camouflaging his Goldman affiliation in public.

“I lie whenever I go out now,” he told me. “I tell people I’m a consultant, a lawyer, whatever—anything but a Wall Street guy.”

In a Jelly World, Your Brand Needs Advocates

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 12-01-2014


This week Twitter co-founder Biz Stone unwrapped his newest creation, the mobile search engine ‘Jelly‘. At first glance, it’s simple: post a picture and a question, people answer it in the app. However, it highlights a continued trend boosting the importance of building advocates for your brand.

I downloaded the app immediately and started playing with it – mainly because I’m a huge Biz Stone fan after reading Nick Bilton’s exceptional Hatching Twitter. But it was this Thursday while participating in a panel for the Wildlife Conservation Society (with some very, very clever people) that the shift this app represents really came to the fore for me.

We had a discussion about fundraising and the big question about what’s more valuable: chasing a few major donors (who can give millions), or targeting thousands of much smaller donors. Now in that argument, I come down passionately on the side of the little guys. It’s why our focus at charity: water is on building a grassroots movement of inspired people actively giving, fundraising and influencing their peers. We have amazing major donors, but the real power of the movement is delivered by thousands of normal people running their own word-of-mouth marketing campaigns for the water cause.

We don’t want people to give quietly, and we don’t want them to give out of guilt. We want people to become vocal advocates to influence their friends to care.

So during the WCS panel we put forward the thought experiment of who would come to mind if an individual starts looking for an organization that cares for friendly sloths – like this guy:

To do a very quick piece of active research, I posted a pic of the happy sloth above on Jelly directly from my seat on the panel, and asked “What’s a great organization to give to that supports sloths?”

Within a couple of minutes, my mate Frank Danna down in Houston responded, recommending a small organization in Costa Rica named the Sloth Sanctuary.

This was followed up by one suggestion for the WWF from a stranger, but also two more recommendations for the Sloth Sanctuary from my good friend Shawn Cheng and another stranger. And sadly no mentions for the Wildlife Conservation Society (a great organization).

I’d never heard of the Sloth Sanctuary before, but if I was going to give time or money to help out Sloth’s now it’s them I’d support. They’ve built a brand that creates advocates, and like every human I trust my friends recommendations above any other source.

This means that your brand needs advocates. Especially in a Jelly World.

The Road That Changed Everything

Posted by admin | Posted in charity: water | Posted on 23-12-2013


The most inspiring thing about working for charity: water is watching people get inspired. And I’d love to share an inspiring story with you.

I’d also like to make one important request: if you do feel inspired by this story, I’d love for you to share this Upworthy link of the story on your Facebook page.

It’s that simple, copy and paste this link to Facebook: http://www.upworthy.com/well-its-official-this-holiday-gift-idea-is-way-more-meaningful-than-everything-ive-got-6

And ask your friends to share this story:

The video is powerful, and the backstory is even more impactful. Here’s a note our content strategist Tyler sent around the office after he returned from the village you’ve seen above:

Hey Team!
There’s a full trip recap/presentation coming next Friday (Jamie has promised to re-create some local song and dance for you), but I wanted to give you a quick overview of our experience in Malawi in the meantime since that’s the story we’ll be sharing at charity: ball — which is fast approaching.

For those of you who don’t know, Jamie, Esther Havens (famed c:w photographer) and I spent five days camping and living inside a community in the middle of nowhere in Nkhoma last week. Two villages in particular — both who did not have clean water.

It was the same set of villages that Scott and Christoph visited a few months ago — located at least thirty minutes away from any form of electricity and cut off from the rest of the world by a ravine outside the community.

Not only was that ravine limiting access to schools and hospitals, but it was the only thing that prevented them from receiving clean water earlier this year when the village on the other side did… because there was no way for the drilling rig to get across.

That’s the story we wanted to tell. Because after that day, these people became determined. At least one person from every household spent two months carrying rocks and bags of sand to the ravine until they had created a passable road across it. It was the first time that clean water had ever seemed like a possible reality for them.

What we didn’t know before we got there was that they had already finished building the road and that the drilling rig would arrive during our visit. WHAT?! I know.

We wanted to show the people hard at work and make the correlation at charity: ball that just as this community was coming together to do this incredible thing, we could come together to help others like them. But this news changed our story (in the best way possible).

Instead we get to show the result of that work… a convoy of trucks driving down the road in the distance, drilling rig at the front… people running down the hill at the sound… the rig rolling right over that bridge and into the community.

People sang and danced all day long. Waiting and hoping for clean water. We talked to women who were skipping chores because they didn’t want to miss anything. The entire community was there… waiting eagerly outside the ropes as drillers put pipe after pipe into the ground. 20 meters. 30 meters. 50 meters. Hours went by. And just as they were about to give up, water finally bubbled up from the ground.

Prior to this day, women had been getting water from a hole next to the river — a source they often had to share with pigs. They were walking to this place four to five times a day and often waiting in line. When that hole ran dry, they had to sit and wait for it to slowly refill.

But having clean water for them wasn’t just about saving time and work. And it wasn’t about better health. To them, water was a symbol of progress. Independence. Life.

When that moment came, the people in this village came charging past the ropes to the drill, and the drillers let them have it… flushing the pipe over and over again, shooting water into the sky so they could dance and sing in the rain.

I can’t even say what that was like.

One of the most important parts of working here, for me, is changing the way people think about charity and giving. But this moment was all about water. It has never been so clear to me how much water impacts lives. Freaking emotional is what it was.

Really, the entire week was emotional. There’s something very special about these people. They way they live. Their generosity. Their spirit. They welcomed us in instantly — not as people who were paying for them to have clean water, but as guests in their community. They shared hard stories and spoke over and over again about things like forgiveness and service.

As we drove away on Friday, the women lined up and sang once more. I asked our driver what they were singing, and he said, “It’s a song of appreciation. They’re saying it’s bittersweet — that you are like morning dew because you were here and you were beautiful and now you’re gone.”

Bring tissues to the presentation next week. That’s all I’m saying.

#PANTSFORPAULL – Citi Bike and J Crew: I love you

Posted by admin | Posted in charity: water, Humour, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 09-12-2013


This Friday I was rushing to work for an early morning meeting, so as per usual I jumped on a Citi Bike from the rank outside my apartment.

It was lightly raining so there were plenty of bikes available, but as I cruised down Avenue B and took a sharp turn onto 3rd street the bike slide out from under me and I took a tumble on the wet ground. What a way to start a Friday.

Now this tweet got a bit of reaction — nothing funnier than a fella falling off his bike on the way to work. My good friend Ryan wanted to make sure I was ok. I was fine. Pants… not so much.

Now at this point in the morning I take my soggy pants and head into 4 straight hours of meetings (working at charity: water in December is intense!).

I emerge from the conference room to find one of our awesome interns at my desk who hands me two small cards and says “um… Citi Bike just delivered this for you???”

And then I spot this tweet:

Sure enough, Citi Bike and the good folk at J Crew delivered a couple of gift vouchers to my office for some brand new pants. And made my day.

I love this so much. I’m already a huge fan of Citi Bike, and now I’m a new J Crew customer. Marketing is all about relationships, and every relationship needs to have mutual benefit.

Citi Bike and J Crew, I love you — and people love brands being human:


While some others just like making fun of their mates:


Google Glass and a Budgie Smuggler: The Killer Half Marathon Apps

Posted by admin | Posted in charity: water, Humour, Life | Posted on 25-11-2013


Every year in September I ‘give up’ my birthday for charity: water, and ask my friends to donate instead of giving me gifts. It’s how I first heard of charity: water in 2008, and each year it’s a really meaningful moment of connection for me with my friends and family.

This year I turned 30. A big one. I sat down in July at the World Domination Summit with Rael and Kaitlyn from my team and brainstormed over a good meal what it would take to do something I didn’t think possible for my 30th birthday: raise $30,000 for clean water in India.

Kaitlyn knows me well, and astutely observed ‘your friends would probably give a lot of money to make you do something really stupid’. So, inspired by one of my favorite charity: water campaigns from Sarah Peck, I eventually settled on pledging to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon in nothing but a speedo, if we raised over $30,000.

For a long time I thought I was ‘safe’ – $30K is a big goal, and while my friends are extremely generous it’s still a huge target. Then, the week before the marathon my roommate offered to give the final $5000 if we got to $25K, and with that incentive and many more generous donations – we hit the target.

So that led me to 7am last Sunday in Philadelphia, standing amongst 30,000 runners at the start line ready to take all my clothes off and run 13.1 miles. And if there’s one other item one should wear when running a race in a budgie smuggler, it’s Google Glass (we’ve got a pair in the office).

Update: just got a download of the finish line video — if you’re finishing a Half Marathon in a budgie smuggler, you sure better click your heels:


So without further ado, here’s photos and videos from my Google Glass.

5.45am race prep

“As the American Flag Crosses the Start Line!” start line announcer admiring my budgie smuggler

Early Running

Chafing was a common topic of conversation

As the crowd built, so did the amusing spectators, like old mate holding a giant picture of his own head

In nearly every photo I took someone in the background is reacting to my outfit

The reactions of runners I passed was priceless. Wearing no clothes makes you a lot of friends during a race.

“Oh no! Not the GLASS!” Bad Santa

6 miles in bumped into my cheer squad. Best sign at the marathon: “Aussies in Speedos are Hot” 

Pain Now. Beer Later.

“Officer! No Concealed Weapon!”

Chafe Now. Brag Forever.

Brittany was a lovely Dr from Iowa running the marathon who did a few miles with me. She’ll have a funny story for her husband about her speedo clad Australian friend

These Frat Boys didn’t actually give me any beer :(

Chafing is temporary. Pride is forever.

As you turn at mile 8 you meet some very strangely dressed, dancing characters

11 miles in and the crowd starts to build for the finish

Howdy, Howdy, Howdy, Howdy

Less than a mile to go…

And the Finish Line

1:48:00 later – Well that was fun

All in all, you know you’re doing something right when 16 year old girls are questioning your sanity on social media.

On a serious note though — because of the generosity of many of you, we’ve been able to bring clean drinking water to over 700 people in Orissa, India. We’ll change hundreds of lives for the better because 402 of you gave $31,690, every cent of which will fund water projects.

Here’s the charity: water September Campaign video that shows you exactly the change we’ll be making:

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