Computers: a bicycle for our minds

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 24-10-2010

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I saw this quote attributed to Steve Jobs in Techcrunch today and found this great short video of a young Steve Jobs explaining how computers are ‘like a bicycle for our minds’

Humans as Infrastructure

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life | Posted on 22-10-2010

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Seth Godin raved about  Kevin Kelly’s new book What Technology Wants so I ordered it and got stuck into it today.

The book focuses on the benefits technology has brought society, and this paragraph from chapter 1 struck me deeply:

As Lynn White, historian of technology wrote,

“The chief glory of the later Middle Ages was not its cathedrals or its epics or its scholasticism: it was the building for the first time in history of a complex civilization which rested not on the backs of sweating slaves or coolies but primarily on non-human power.”

A beautiful sentiment, and it is great that technology has played a role in replacing man-labor and freeing up our time for higher level pursuits… well at least if you live in the developed world.

This statement couldn’t help but jar against what I read on blogging on water’s Blog Action Day post, Stop Using Girls as Infrastructure:

Stop using girls as infrastructure. When we create proper infrastructures – build roads, install electricity and clean watergirls won’t need to be used as infrastructure any longer. Today they function as the electric grid as they carry firewood, plumbing system as they carry water, childcare system, etc.

Couldn’t agree more. Too often around the world women and girls are used as water (and all too often wastewater) infrastructure instead of being given the opportunity to be educated and become productive members of society.

Technology is a beautiful thing. And we’re lucky we live in the part of the world where we can play Angry Birds to our hearts content, not the part where we have to send our women and children on grueling daily walks for water.

Blog Action Day: Water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Current Affairs, Life | Posted on 15-10-2010

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Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event where thousands of bloggers around the world lend their voice to one topic – and this year that topic is water.

Why Water? This is a question I frequently answer working with charity: water.

The stats are compelling:

  • 1 billion people don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water
  • 4,5000 children die every day due to lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation
  • More people die each year because of water and sanitation issues than all forms of violence, including war

But it’s hard to grasp these numbers. When people ask me why they should care, I try to show them something like this instead.

Please take a minute to watch this video my team filmed in Central African Republic last month with a Bayaka woman given the gift of clean water after previously losing a child in its absence.

Will you lend your voice to water today?

Delivering Happiness: Non-Profit Perspective

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 13-10-2010

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I try not to read too many business books. I have a constant stream of business info heading my way via Google Reader and Twitter. And any time I’m reading a business book I always think I’m missing out on working through the classics or another piece of great fiction that might extend my world view.

So it’s rare I’ll really enjoy a business book. It’s even rarer one will instantly produce a significant shift in my thinking. Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh managed to do both.

Reading Tony Hsieh's 'Delivering Happiness' on the bus to work - seems fitting right @dhbus?

Tony Hsieh and Zappos are renowned for their approach to customer service and company culture. Delivering Happiness looks at both through the frame of Tony’s personal experience and outlines the core thinking that led to Zappos eventual billion dollar acquisition by Amazon.

As I read Tony’s story I found more and more similarities with my work at charity: water, and also got a glimpse of how our organization can take a Zappos approach to charity and change the world while we’re at it.

We deliver clean water to developing nations, Zappos delivers shoes to westerners – how could there be a link?

It boils down to this: all online shoe vendors are basically the same. It’s not a sexy business, nor groundbreaking. The point of differentiation for Zappos is in making customers go ‘WOW’ and sparking a deep relationship with the brand. In practice this looks like:

– Free shipping for deliveries AND returns
– A real person on the phone, every time
– Upgrades when possible to next day delivery
– Most importantly, a deeply held commitment to doing right by the customer

As a non-profit charity: water doesn’t necessarily have ‘customers’. And we don’t have a ‘customer service’ department. But we’ve got something even more important: donors, fundraisers and supporters.

The question for me is how can we build a culture that can deliver that WOW factor to all of them. What is the equivalent, for a non-profit, of free shipping and next day delivery of a pair of shoes?

In the case of charity: water – it’s reporting.

We already focus on this more than most – we send 100% of donations to the field and we’ve always marked every water project we’ve built on Google Maps to prove the impact. And it’s right here, the connection AFTER our donors have committed funds, when we can ‘deliver happiness’ to our supporters unlike any other cause, and in doing so turn them into lifelong fans.

The biggest adjustment for now: ‘reporting’ has moved to the core of our digital strategy (headlined with a phrase stolen from Zappos: ‘Deliver WOW through service’). And here is an example of how reporting can WOW – check out this video we made Will and Jada Smith to show them the well they funded (they’ve since become two of our biggest supporters).

For now, grab yourself a copy of Delivering Happiness and have a read. In the meantime, check out this video featuring the Delivering Happiness crew visiting our office at charity: water last month:

And for one final piece of happiness for you – leave a thoughtful comment and I’ve got a copy of Delivering Happiness on hand that I’d be most happy to send to my favorite commenter.

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