Thoughts on the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

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

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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:

September Campaign for Rwanda

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Current Affairs, Life | Posted on 30-08-2012

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The September Campaign was how I first heard of charity: water. Back in 2008 Beth Kanter sent a tweet about ‘giving up’ your September birthday for clean water. Being a September baby, I clicked through to the charity: water site, started a campaign… and the rest is history.

Every September Campaign is special, and this year I’m excited to share an epic story of redemption from Rwanda. Rwanda’s a country I’ve always thought deeply about as I’ve tried to make any sort of understanding of the 1994 genocide that saw 1 million people killed with machetes.

It’s been amazing to me to learn how much Rwanda’s moved forward, and it’s an honor to be able to try to help the people there get the most important leg up: access to clean and safe drinking water.

Check out our video trailer to learn about the campaign, and if you’d like to help I’d love you to donate for my birthday!

And here’s the second video we posted on the history of Rwanda: “The Spirit of Rwanda”

I hope you’ll check out the September Campaign, and I’d be honored if you’d donate to my birthday campaign — just $65 can bring one person clean water in Rwanda!

AMEX bought me a steak, Visa made me walk around an airport

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 09-08-2012

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I had a striking experience this week seeing old and new marketing clash head on in a battle between two of the world’s largest companies: Visa and American Express.

Sunday

I’m at Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight back to the States after watching my mate Ben St Lawrence run for Australia in the 10,000 meters final at the Olympics. With some time to kill before my flight, I decide to buy a Tshirt from the Olympic store to mark the occasion. I line up for 15 minutes, get to the counter… and can’t pay. The Olympics only accept Visa.

I only have a few coins left in my wallet, so have to trudge around the airport, pull out 20 quid from an ATM (with a foreign penalty) and go back to the Olympic store to buy my shirt. I curse Visa under my breath the entire flight home.

Monday

Every Monday a few of my mates get together for a steak night. I check in on Foursquare, as is my habit. Immediately I’m notified that American Express has a $5 off deal in the restaurant, because I’ve signed up for Amex Sync.

I tell all my friends about the deal, they check in and get a discount too. We all pull out our American Express cards instead of cash to pay the bill. American Express save us $20, and we have a positive conversation about their brand as we walk home.

I tweet about the #steakscore, and when I wake up I see a tweet @ me from Amex:

American Express bought me a steak and made me smile. Visa made me walk around an airport and frown.

This post says it best:

If you want people to like you, give them something. If you want people to hate you, take something away from them. 

 

Australian populism vs American populism

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Australia, Current Affairs, Humour, Internet | Posted on 20-01-2012

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This month I’ve seen two videos of political leaders go viral in my Facebook newsfeed. One from Australia, and one from the USA.

The content of each gives you a feel of the split between the cultures:

Barry Obama (POTUS 2008 – ) sings in Harlem:


Bob Hawke (Prime Minister of Australia 1983-1991) skulls a beer at the cricket:

Where does my iPhone come from?

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Internet, Life | Posted on 09-01-2012

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This morning just before I headed to work this tweet from Clay Shirky pointed me to an incredibly interesting podcast from This American Life:

Like many of us, I spend most of my waking hours touching an Apple product. First thing in the morning I fire up my iPhone to check overnight notifactions. For my full workday I bang on my MacBook Pro. When I get home I’m liable to unwind with some Fifa 12 on my iPad. Apple products and electronics surround my life, but I rarely stop to think about where they come from.

After listening to this podcast, no longer.

Like Mr Daisey the narrator, I always assumed a high tech factory used robots to construct my products with some human oversight. I didn’t think about an army of workers assembling my products painstakingly by hand while they barely made a living.

Thought provoking. Especially the analysis afterwards – are sweatshops like this a fact of life in developing countries that lead to growth despite our western sensibilities? Or do we as consumers, and more importantly Apple, Dell and their ilk who make massive profits from the labor, have a responsibility here?

Quoted in the WSJ #humblebrag

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Current Affairs, Humour, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 28-11-2011

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Humblebrag (urban dictionary): Subtly letting others now about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or “woe is me” gloss.

Somehow winded up in the Wall St Journal twice today.

First was for work, quoted in an article on the new trends in online philanthropy. 18 words made the quote, 2 of them “Justin” and “Bieber”.

Read the whole article here, here is the section on charity: water

Like some other nonprofits, charity: water, a New York-based organization dedicated to providing clean drinking water to people in developing nations, uses traditional and nontraditional fund-raising methods for separate purposes. Big gifts from private and corporate donors fund the charity’s operations, from staff salaries to ink for the printers. That allows 100% of donations from alternative channels, such as social media and the organization’s various websites, to directly fund water projects—an assurance meant to appeal to potential small donors concerned about where their money will go.

Seventy percent of donations to charity:water come from digital channels, mainly from individuals donating on its main website, by pressing the “donate” button, or going to mycharitywater.org, where anyone can set up a fund-raising campaign and ask friends to donate.

Mycharitywater.org has raised $11.5 million since August 2009. Individual fund-raisers have done everything from running marathons to setting up lemonade stands. The average campaign has raised $1,000, says Paull Young, director of digital engagement at charity: water. “Justin Bieber had people donate for his birthday,” he says. “Little girls have friends donate $7 for their seventh birthday.”

charity: water is experimenting with a new site, waterforward.org, that also relies on people’s social connections to expand the charity’s reach, but in a different way. The site maintains what it calls a “book”—a compilation of photos of people who have had a $10 donation to the site made in their name by someone they know. Once a person is in the book, he or she can bring in any number of other people by making a $10 contribution for each of them. Those people can then do the same, and so on. In effect, every donor becomes a fund-raiser.

The site is designed to make donating fun and engaging, and to allow donors to see that their contribution goes beyond the amount they can give, since each donation can lead to so many more donations, says Michael Birch, a major fund-raiser and contributor to charity: water who has helped the organization build its websites.

The second was more amusing. For 4th of July this year I embarked on a Texas trip with a bunch of rugby mates. For the occasion, I was in search of a stars’n’stripes Speedo… a surprisingly difficult item to acquire.

I turned to Zaarly, an awesome iPhone app turning commerce on its head, and a few hours and $50 was delivered a US flag speedo by a very confused personal shopper.

That same confused personal shopper appeared in a WSJ video today talking about his experience with Zaarly… his most awkward moment (you guessed it), my speedo.

Watch from 1.40:

charity: water on ABC 20/20

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Australia, charity: water, Current Affairs, Life | Posted on 19-12-2010

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Friday night was a really cool moment for charity: water as our story was told on ABC 20/20 – check it out here (RSS readers click through for video):

A great way to close out 2010!

In personal news, tomorrow I’m flying home to Australia for Christmas. I’ll be in Sydney December 23 to January 9, if you’d like to catch up comment, email me or send me a tweet!

charity: water september campaign on ABC 2020

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Current Affairs, Life | Posted on 16-12-2010

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This Friday at 10pm ET ABC 20/20 will feature charity: water and the 2010 September campaign as part of a special global healthcare series.

The ABC team visited our charity: water offices in NYC and spent a bunch of time with our founder Scott Harrison, and then headed to Central African Republic to film Jim Hocking and our partner ICDI drilling one of the 200 water projects funded by this year’s September campaign.

Check out this awesome video of Jim at work in CAR

And this clip with Scott filmed in our office in NYC

If you can watch the show live at 10pm on Friday join us on Twitter with the hashtag #2020 – the whole charity: water team, Scott and Jim will be watching it live and live-tweeting during the show. If you can’t catch it live set your DVR or check out the full episode online later on (I’m not sure if you’ll be able to watch it outside the US though).

I’m excited for Friday – I hope you’ll help us spread the word!

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?

September is Central African Republic

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Current Affairs, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 09-08-2010

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charity: water was born in September – and every year in September we ask our community to fundraise together with us to make a huge impact.

This year, we will be raising $1.7 million for Central African Republic to provide clean and safe drinking water to 85,000 people – including ALL of the Bayaka people.

The campaign launches August 16. If you’re birthday is between August 16 and September 30 please get in touch! I’d love you to donate your birthday alongside us. If you’re not in that window you can still spread the word. For starters, like us on Facebook for exclusive access to info and content, and right now check out a sneak peak of this year’s September story:

september campaign teaser from charity: water on Vimeo.

Why Central African Republic? Check this snippet from a recent Foreign Policy report:

Over the last year, we led a research team that conducted perhaps the most extensive survey on the impact of violence on the Central African Republic’s population. The results, which will be published in the Aug. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveal a country besieged by violence and extreme poverty. We asked 1,879 adults in five administrative areas of the country about their lives, their security, and their experience with conflict. More than three-quarters said they had either witnessed or personally experienced traumatic events during the wave of violence that began in 2001, and more than half met criteria for depression or anxiety. The monthly death rate was five per 1,000 individuals (in the United States it is 0.7; the average for sub-Saharan Africa is 1.3). Put another way, 6 percent of the country’s population is dying every year.

More to come next week.

You can help. The people of Central African Republic need you. If your birthday falls between August 16 and September 30 then I want you!

For more background on September, check out last year’s trailer:

The story of charity: water – The 2009 September Campaign Trailer from charity: water on Vimeo.

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