Where does my iPhone come from?

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


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?

Thank You for 2011

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Life | Posted on 31-12-2011


As many of us do I’m reflecting on 2011 as the last few hours of the year wind down. And the strongest feeling I have is one of gratitude to all of you who’ve helped me personally and professionally through the year.

The greatest thing about working for a non-profit is seeing how people come out to help. Many of you have donated money, time and your brains to helping charity: water along this year. I appreciate it greatly.

Here’s a quick video we made to say thanks that I think you’ll enjoy:

2011 — charity: water’s year in review. from charity: water on Vimeo.


Finally, I wanted to share the opening lines of the latest book I’m reading, Street Sweeper by Aussie Elliot Perlman, they seem particularly apt for reflecting on the last day of the year:

Memory is a wilful dog. It won’t be summoned or dismissed but it cannot survive without you. It can sustain you or feed on you. It visits when it is hungry, not when you are. It has a schedule all its own that you never know. It can capture you, corner you or liberate you. It can leave you howling and it can make you smile.

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


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:

How to live before you die

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Life | Posted on 05-10-2011


Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Nick Kristof: Rachel’s Last Fund-Raiser

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life | Posted on 11-08-2011


Rachel Beckwith’s story has touched me deeply. She was trying to raise $300 for charity: water her 9th birthday when she was tragically killed in a car crash. Strangers have since donated nearly $1 million in her name.

So it’s all the more inspiring to see one of my favorite journalists, Nick Kristof, cover her story in the NY Times:

“In the midst of this grim summer, my faith in humanity has been restored by the saga of Rachel Beckwith. She could teach my generation a great deal about maturity and unselfishness — even though she’s just 9 years old, or was when she died on July 23 … Yet this is a story not just of one girl, but of a generation of young people working creatively to make this a better world.”

Read the piece in full here.

Water Brings Hope

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Life | Posted on 25-07-2011


At charity: water we always say that Water Changes Everything. But even working for the cause it’s hard to visualize what nearly 1 billion people without clean water means.

But after visiting the village of Moale, deep in the jungle of Central African Republic, the water issue for me is always going to be these three beautiful girls:

It’ll be a mother like this:

Or a smile like this:

I took each of these photos while they gathered water at this dirty spring, miles from their village, as they’ve probably done for every day they can remember:

The injustice I feel that people are surviving on water I wouldn’t let my cattle drink from, is balanced by the hope, joy and happiness I found with everyone I met in Moale and several villages like it.

The same hope you’ll see in this video we filmed last week, on the day Moale finally got clean water after more than a decade of trying:

We promised we’d be back. from charity: water on Vimeo.

Heading to Central African Republic

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life | Posted on 12-07-2011


Today’s a big day for me as I embark on my first trip with charity: water (and first trip to Africa) to visit the water projects we funded in last year’s September Campaign for the Central African Republic.

C.A.R. has become a nation I care deeply for. A country I couldn’t have found on a map a little over a year ago, I’ve personally fundraised to help people there, and I’ve worked hard to help our partners on the ground, ICDI led by Jim Hocking, make a difference in thousands of lives.

The highlight will be visiting Moale, a village we care deeply about at charity: water that was the site of a failed drill on our fourth anniversary last year.

Here’s the video of that sad occassion:

Live Drill – No water for our birthday in Central African Republic from charity: water on Vimeo.

We’re returning to Moale and we’re looking for a different story. Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook for updates this week, and make sure you’re signed up to our email list.

We’re also visiting Jerusalem, the scene of the successful drill last year that you’ll see in these two videos:

Live Drill Day 2 – We Hit Water! from charity: water on Vimeo.

Day 3 – Live Drill Finale – September Campaign 2010 from charity: water on Vimeo.

I’m not sure exactly how this trip will change me, but I’m sure it will. I’ll share thoughts here on my return. If you want to keep up with my travels I am testing a Spot GPS unit that will share my location each day.

NYC July 4th Fireworks, Viewed from a Plane

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Life | Posted on 05-07-2011


Last night I flew in to Newark Airport from Texas and was lucky enough to view New York City’s 4th of July Fireworks out of the window of the plane on final descent.

Here’s a phone video that doesn’t quite do it justice:

Thank you to the state of New Jersey for providing an entertaining impromptu fireworks parade throughout our descent, and moreso to Manhattan for the big finale!

I’m just upset that the plane didn’t break into a big USA chant or rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

5 Learnings from Year 1 at charity: water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 09-06-2011


This time last year I took a plunge and joined my favorite non-profit, charity: water, as Director of Digital.

The first year has been amazing. The most fulfilling, exciting and extending year of my professional career. So I thought I’d take some time to share the 5 biggest learnings from my first year on the job.

  1. Team is everything
  2. The power of brand and creative
  3. Relationships drive return
  4. Prioritize and be decisive
  5. People are good
  • Team is Everything

I’ve learned a huge amount about teamwork alongside my executive team at charity: water. ‘Teamwork’ was always a value I appreciated, but I didn’t quite understand just how important it is, and just how much hard work it is, until the past year.

We work at it every day – we’ve brought on executive coaches, we’ve read books together, we’ve spent a lot of time intentionally learning how to work better together. A real turning point for us has been the past 6 months, we’ve begun meeting as an executive team every morning at 9am and the additional time together has made a big impact.

Teamwork requires deep trust (that only comes with time), constant communication (listening as much as talking), and, importantly, vulnerability (not easy for a rugby player). It’s also essential that everyone on the team has deep committment to shared goals and to each other.

The biggest learning for me has been that you don’t really realize what good teamwork is until you start working as a high performing team.

  • The power of brand and creative

Few things can boost your brand in an online world more than great creative. And for truly inspiring creative you need talented people given the freedom, time and resources to produce amazing work.

We’re very lucky to have a stroyteller and huge creative brain in our Founder Scott, and also the strongest creative team I’ve ever worked with led by Vik’s genius and supported by a great team.

So many times I’ve worked with big brands who would focus rigidly on budgets, ‘eyeballs’ and numbers driven strategies. Content and creative is just a means to an end in this dynamic. But now I’ve seen how an investment of time and effort in inspiring, powerful content can lead to huge gains and ROI.

At charity: water we spend about $0.08 for every $1 we raise – and our powerful brand and creative is a huge element in making that happen.

  • Relationships drive return

One of the first things I did at charity: water was put together a digital strategy hinging around relationships. This comes naturally to the brand – and most importantly it involves thinking of people as people, not wallets.

One of our strategic priorities as an organization is to ‘inspire a movement of passionate, informed and active supporters’. We can only do this by focusing in on our customer experience, thinking about long-term relationships with every donor, and continually thinking ‘how can we make our fundraisers heros?’.

We do this in many ways, such as by focusing on entertaining content and saying thank you instead of asking for money (we’ve never sent direct mail). We’re also working on proving to our donors where every cent of their money goes, and hopefully delighting them by showing the impact they have made.

Think about this for a second: what’s the last thing you’ve done for your customers?

Customer experience matters. Relationships and giving to your audience is so valid. Our thank you emails, water changes everything, dollars to projects.

  • Prioritize and be decisive

charity: water is a brand on an explosive growth curve. We perpetually have more opportunity than we can deal with. This has taught me that prioritizing and decisiveness are essential skills for a leader.

One of our coaches, Carol Morley, shared a thought on this that has stuck with me:

Someone who makes 10 decisions a day, and gets seven right and 3 wrong, will be much more successful in the long run than someone who makes just 3 decisions… but ensures all 3 are perfect.

In the words of another mentor Mike Moran: Do It Wrong Quickly.

  • People are good

Everyday I’m inspired by things people do to help the cause. Michael Birch not only plays a big role in keeping our lights on, but is investing energy in a new web project. Bill Nussey’s Silverpop via Joohae and Erinne have revitalized our approach to email. The good people at Razorfish have done huge things for us digitally pro-bono (shout out: Andrea, Rupa, Raashi, Shawn, Emily). Michael Lazerow and the Buddy Media team have even helped us help Will Smith spread the word!

And then there’s the kids, like little Tariku who built a well with his 5th birthday, and 11 year old Nathan Hidjat and his Google Doodle.

People are good. And people are also kinda lazy. Inspire them and empower them and they’ll change the world for you.

That’s the big 5 insights… there are thousands more of course! If there is anything else you’d like me to share just leave a comment or ask me on Quora.

One Piece of Advice from the DMEF Rising Stars

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Life, Marketing | Posted on 01-06-2011


I was recently honored to be nominated alongside Avinash Kaushik, Shane Atchison, Steve Froehlich and Megan Pagliuca as a 2011 DMEF Rising Star.

The awards dinner is coming up in June, but ahead of that date I asked each of the Rising Stars to contribute the single most important piece of advice you would give to someone just embarking on their career in marketing/communications?

I’ll start to kick us off:

Keep learning. Every single day. Students and new professionals have never had access to so much information that can expand their lives and careers.

Join Twitter and follow smart people, start a Google Reader and subscribe to a range of blogs and RSS feeds, visit news websites every day (or read the paper over breakfast!), subscribe to some quality magazines like the Atlantic. Read some books!

The more time you spend now absorbing information the more you’ll expand your worldview, your career prospects and your strategic thinking doing the track. And it’s like eating right or going to the gym – you need to make it a part of your every day routine to get results!

Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist, Google

Draw a Venn diagram.

Circle one contains the things you are really good at and passionate about. This requires far more soul searching than you might imagine, in the end you have things you LOVE doing.

Circle two contains things your audience (co-workers, Twitter followers, etc) really care about, things they value. This means asking questions, listening, asking follow up questions, listening some more.

What’s at the intersection of those two circles? Is there anything you are passionate about (also good at) and what your audience values?

Build a career doing that.

You’ll live a life of bliss. Your audience will cherish you. Everything good in life will come from that.

Megan Pagliuca, VP Display Media, Merkle

The advertising industry is going through immense change, an evolution from an offline world to an online world. Immense change enables immense opportunity, both for ambitious young professionals and for new visions and innovations to make the advertising world work better than it did before. A few pieces of advice for someone starting out:

1.       Break the Rules – In school, breaking the rules did not work to your advantage.  In the business world, breaking the rules is a critical piece of success.  Breaking current processes, creating new ways to do things even when you’re given a million reasons why they can’t be done, is how you innovate.

2.       Believe in the Vision – In order to be successful, whether it’s delivering better results, creating a new technology, or generating efficiencies in the marketplace, you must believe in what you are doing and do it with passion.

3.       Take Calculated Risks – The consequences of doing nothing is greater than the risk of failing at something you want or believe in. Take the job at the smaller company where you’ll gain more experience, challenge your competitor to a head to head test, or build the product that you know will win in market.

Steve Froehlich, VP Membership, ASPCA

My first response was only 4 words: “you gotta burn to earn,” but I thought this sounded better:

As a direct response marketer in nonprofit fundraising, we should recognize that we are standing on the shoulders of giants who were writing direct mail copy and delivering data on tapes to service bureaus when I was just a baby.  As technology continues to evolve, it comes as little surprise that the basic principles of RFM segmentation, urgent & emotional creative, efficiencies of scale, meaningful mass personalization, and prompt acknowledgments remain at the core of what we do. Fundraisers who see a dip in performance can (and do) often blame external factors like the economy, natural disasters, or even their agency… and while it has taken me some time in life to understand the difference between what is urgent and what is important, the best advice I’ve ever received was from a dear friend who told me, “you’re a fundraiser: spend the most time on what raises the most money and spend the least time on what raises the least.”

What’s your best tip for young professionals? Leave a comment!

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