Wednesday, May 30, 2012

INTERVIEW: Steve Wanta - Purpose, Collaboration, and the Journey of Poverty


"[Working with families in poverty] is a journey... there is not one loan that will lift a family out of poverty!" -Steve Wanta 




Welcome To Aunt Bertha's Blog

Aunt Bertha is a website that helps struggling individuals and families find programs based on need(food, health, education, etc) in seconds. Think: 911 meets Google meets the Aunt that keeps it real at Thanksgiving and is always willing to give you a hand when you're in need.




Interview Series

Aunt Bertha is still organizing all the need-based programs in the United States, but we also realize the need for real conversations. We want to talk to people who care, who want to make a difference, and who have been where we want to go. 3 other important reasons:

-We want to share our journey with other non-profit, government, and other social good organizations!

-We want our readers to have strategies to keep going on their projects in Social Enterprise and Social Work.

-We want to break down the process of building something bigger than all of us for social good.


Interviewee: Steve Wanta


Why are we interviewing Steve Wanta?


-He has led a MAJOR micro-finance team for over 6 years for the Whole Planet Foundation.

-He has a keen understanding of collaboration and innovation.

-He manages grassroots projects in over 50+ countries.

-He recently started a local co-working space for social entrepreneurs and non-profits.



Who is this interview for?

-Human service providers: I specifically ask question about potentially harming the people we want to help and how to trust other service providers.

-Anyone who wants to learn by doing!

-Innovators who are focused on a business plans and not taking action!

-Professionals who want first hand accounts of what it takes to thrive as an international social good organization. 

-Young social entrepreneurs who want to know the best business plan strategy


Press play to listen to the interview!






Check out Steve's Adventures 


Check out the Soundcheck Music Festival June 2nd in Austin, TX.


Check out Center 61 a co-working space for Social enterprises and Non-profits





Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Crowdsourcing: Living in the Age of the Crowd


Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing in a Wired article in 2006. Since then, crowdsourcing has been hyped as the star way to raise funds, develop new products, and gather knowledge in a process driven by public engagement. Once called the wave of the future, crowdsourcing is now ubiquitous, with new technology assisting us as we draw on the resources of our communities in novel ways.

Today, we have the ability to collectively build knowledge on Wikipedia, map crises with Ushahidi, fund creative projects on Kickstarter, take freeclasses online using Open Source software, provide loans through Kiva, rate businesses on Yelp, support environmental projects with ioby, design solutions for social good with OpenIDEO, subsidize social entrepreneurs through StartSomeGood, improve neighborhoods with Neighborland, along with countless other opportunities taking form every day.
 
LADD used the Ushahidi platform to map the Gulf Oil Spill

As with many concepts, the idea of leveraging the power of community has been around long before it was a buzzword. Your local bagel shop’s funky suggestion box and the old art of panhandling on the street rely on creating an opening for a “crowd” to have impact by generating ideas/knowledge or by providing many small amounts of money to make a large amount. 

For impressive crowdsourcing feats, Crowdsourcing.org (mecca for all things crowdsourced) has a hall of fame of seminal moments in crowdsourcing, both before and after the term’s creation. 

We can see in many of these examples that by opening doors for contributions and collaboration, crowdsourcing has become an important tool for public good. 

Scientific and technological advancements are being made, government bodies work to address public concerns through open government platforms, and urban planning is evolving to incorporate the community more. For example, the 2012 TED prize is sponsoring TheCity2.org, a crowdsourcing platform to help citizens engage in reshaping their cities.

"I am the City 2.0. Dream me. Build me. Make me real."

The value of the crowdsourcing approach is, quite obviously, in the crowd. I won’t take Joe Schmoes’s cock-eyed, ALL CAPS rant about a restaurant in a Yelp review seriously without knowing if he’s a credible source. However, I am more inclined to steer clear of that restaurant if I see 400 people have collectively scored it low. I refer to Wikipedia to quickly settle bar bets because of the expectation that enough people have looked at the entry on which I’m relying that any errors will have been removed. Open IDEO, an online platform that poses challenges to find potential answers to social problems, relies on having a large base of ideas from which the crowd can refine and retool and evaluate solutions.

A challenge on OpenIDEO

In crowdsourcing, without quantity, quality can suffer. So, the key question in accessing the power of crowdsourcing is:  "How can we build a community that is engaged, that cares, that participates?" 

And that, my friends, is an age old question. 


How would you answer it? Let us know in the comments below. 



*For more information on crowdsourcing, check out these resources:

Friday, May 11, 2012

You Spoke. We Listened! Helping Families Find Need-Based Programs With Ease!


Aunt Bertha got a make-over!



Not only is the site easier on the eyes, but it is easier than ever to find social service programs in your area.


In order to make Aunt Bertha great, we get feedback from our users on how to be better. The Aunt Bertha team has been working hard to make your suggestions a reality and this month’s release features some good-looking updates to the way that programs on the site are categorized, changes to the layout, and a new free-text search capability.

You’ll notice that there are now 8 categories which programs fall under. We’ve taken away “Other” and sorted every program in the directory into specific categories. 






















Within these main 8 categories there are sub-categories to narrow your results further. For example, within Everyday Needs you will find Food, Transportation, and Clothing.
















Now you can use your own words to find programs with the brand new search feature, find ones you may qualify for by using the Advanced Search feature, and if you notice that a program isn’t listed, you can easily let us know with the add a program feature on the homepage. 

 













 The Aunt Bertha team is always working to make the site better, so next month’s release will see increased website speed, simplified categories, easier ways to tell us what you think, and the ability to create a profile - enabling programs you pre-qualify for to rise to the top of searches. You’ll also be able to bookmark and email programs. Stay tuned!

Let us know what you think of the new features – leave feedback in the comments below!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How To Easily Rate Charities and Non Profits In A Complicated World

“I knocked on the shelter’s doors for hours and no one came out to help me....” -M.W

“How long does it usually take to get help for a fire? It has been 2 weeks since we lost everything.” 

-S.D

Above are just some of the reactions of what happens when a non-profit or charity goes missing or doesn’t provide the service promised. These are problems of speed, effectiveness, quality of care - things that impact families in crisis at the worst possible moment. Where is one to go when those who are supposed to provide the service are unavailable? Who’s listening?

Charity Navigator, GuideStar, funding and government agencies all create reports on nonprofits, but these reports are made for educated professionals and are generated once or at most a few times a year.
 

Who's generated reports for the parents who may not be educated in the art of program evaluation?

Some social service clients are asked to fill out customer satisfaction surveys, but honestly, how can someone rate an agency without bias, when the agency is providing a situation critical service?

These are questions that have been on the hearts and minds of all of us at Aunt Bertha. We are working to develop situation responsive solutions for families in need and a framework that eases service delivery for non-profits. To that effect, we wonder, where is the true voice of the people being served?

Oftentimes, the only time you’ll hear the voice of a family that has used social services is in “feel good” testimonial stories or large scale investigations by journalists.

Where is the middle ground?

Not just “this organization saved my life” or “this place is rude and horrible”, but “I had a great appointment with my job coach at Goodwill, things are looking up!” We’re interested in the idea of unprovoked feedback that ranges between amazing, good, fair, and bad.

Those in a position of power need to know. Yes!

Those who are actually seeking a specific service need to know with more urgency and frequency than any other party involved.

Imagine: I work a part time job, have 2 children, and barely making ends meet. I call the food pantry number to check on food availability. No answer. I catch the bus to the local food pantry during the “open and available” hours only to discover that there is no more food available. It takes 1.5 hours to get to the pantry and the next pantry is another 1.5 hour bus ride away.

Wouldn’t it have been easier if I could tell someone in a community setting for the next parent seeking food with limited resources? 

I think so. 

Now, we need to decide how to balance the various interest and issues with this idea of good feedback with hopes of one day integrating rating into Aunt Bertha. 

Do you think evaluating Non-profits is a good or bad thing?

Who should evaluate these do-gooders?