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Monthly Archives: March 2012

News From the Home Front

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I can’t decide if I’ve been in Portland for just over a week, or just over two weeks. It feels like it has been months. This is a blog about nonprofits, so I’m going to do my best to tie that in somewhere, but it does feel good to take a moment, breathe, and write. First and foremost, Mom is doing great. Her physical and mental status reflects the best possible outcome of a terrible situation. Every time I think about strokes I recall details from one of my favorite books, so I know that now that we’re out of the danger zone, we have an exciting opportunity to rebuild positive neural connections.

I have a general tendency to put a positive spin on most things, but honestly, this hasn’t been easy, and not just for the reasons you’d think. Tough family moments have a way of stripping people down to their most honest and vulnerable selves, and while I’ve always been that way around my dearest friends, I’ve never quite shared that side of myself with my family. Until this week, I would have said with confidence that my best friends have seen my cry more than my family has. Reversing the trend has felt more than a little uncomfortable.

So there’s this profound sense of concurrent strength and weakness, now, because I can’t quite hold it together enough to pretend that I don’t worry, that brain issues haven’t kept me up at night (my grandma’s aneurysm, Martha’s epilepsy, my central apnea, and now this), and that my reaction to this latest medical problem doesn’t mirror what I went through growing up with Martha. I’ve done my utmost to be as supportive and helpful as possible, but on a selfish level, I would give anything to just see a friend or my boyfriend or even set foot outside the house. Writing this blog and knowing someone may read it is the first cathartic experience I’ve had. I can’t believe how much being back home in the midst of another medical problem is causing me to re-live my childhood.

And now to relate this to the Great Exchange. The Great Exchange exists because Martha has had a profound impact on my ability to empathize and feel joy and compassion for all types of people, and I want other people to experience that too. It’s also an oversimplification. For the purposes of the organization’s story, that oversimplification will stand. But on a personal level it feels a bit flat, like a painting that contains no shadow, like a romantic comedy, like a book without subtext.

From a purely developmental perspective, thinking about who I was as a child, for every positive experience there was a negative. For every insight gained, there was a tough lesson. For every award-winning piece of poetry I ever wrote, there was a child who sat in her room and wrote poetry, trying to be quiet and good. Behind my decision to attend Smith was a desire to go to the same school as my favorite children’s author, whose books I would read as a kid until the pages literally fell out because reading is all I ever did, and I was convinced those books were “rescuing” me. For every disabled child who has grown up happy and loved, there is a sibling who has quietly set their own needs aside.

The reason people grow up and move on and smile and laugh and build relationships and start nonprofits and become healthy is because it’s nobody’s fault. I’d venture to guess the majority of people who found nonprofits do so for personal reasons, and those reasons are probably laced with a hint of pain. That’s okay. But coming home and dealing with my own pain means I’d really like the Great Exchange to embark on an initiative that helps siblings, that puts them in the spotlight, that makes them feel special and loved even as their family is forced to prioritize the special needs child.

It’s going to be important to focus on the main goal of the Great Exchange before expanding, but as I recruit our Core Members I’m no doubt going to encounter the siblings who get lost in the trenches, and it would be great to funnel them somewhere. I’m going to do some research on my own, but if anyone knows of any sibling support networks in the Austin area, I’d love to build a partnership. Just email me; I’m always open to brainstorming.

Break

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My mom is in the hospital after having an aneurysm on Saturday morning, so I’m taking a break from blogging and, well, most things. Everything looks like it’s heading in a positive direction and I’ll be back in Portland on Thursday. I’m really worried, but I have a good intuition that she’ll be able to get through this. There’s not much else I want to say in this venue, besides that this has been an intense reminder of a lot of important things, and my anxiety about the little stuff has momentarily disappeared.

This has also been an example of the unique ability my sister has to assess a situation and be strong through it. She’s really inspiring everyone else do do the same. I value her emotional intelligence as much as I’ve ever valued anyone’s intellect, and it’s really shining through in this situation.

The outpouring of support and positivity has been amazing. Can’t wait to report back soon with good news!

Entrepreneur Anxiety

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Why does nobody talk about this? And no, I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill, “man, I hope this works!” anxiety. I’m talking about waking up in the morning and feeling incapable of categorizing all of my looming expectations. I’m talking about trying to weave something huge into an already vibrant and dynamic life that includes full-time work, friendships, a relationship, and, well, a pretty major and completely inexplicable sleep disorder.

at the sleep clinic

You must admit, I'm the cutest little sleep clinic patient you've ever seen.

Do I expect my life to become less full now, or ever? No. Do I expect it to stop me? No. But I do need to learn to manage expectations. For example, my full-time job will continue to be my full-time job, and that’s just the way it is. And I frankly enjoy the work I do a lot; marketing is a great way to leverage both sides of my brain.

So that means The Great Exchange is relegated to the early morning, evenings, and weekends, and to those magical times when it actually overlaps with the research I do for work. I think a lot can be accomplished within those windows, a lot can grow and coalesce, a lot of weekend team outings can begin happening. I have so many plans that would turn The Great Exchange into a full-time job–including an earned-income model inspired by my favorite store in Portland, SCRAP–but I wrote those plans down, they’re not going away, and that’s the best I can do.

There is no timeline for The Great Exchange and I need to continue to let it grow organically, without fear or obligation or pressure. And for the love of all that is holy, I need to be good to myself in the meantime, because my life does become just a little harder when I miss an entire stage of sleep every night. It’s manageable, but that’s because I have great friends and a boyfriend who does the brunt of the cooking and grocery shopping. Anyway, it’s time to start taking extreme measures. Yes, you know what that means.  Shambhala meditation! If anyone who reads this blog happens to live in the Austin area, let me know if you’d like to go with me sometime.

The Winning Design

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All of the South by Southwest stuff happening this week means I’m probably not going to be as faithful to my little blog, but I did want to share The Great Exchange’s winning logo design after a bit of deliberation.

The Great Exchange's winning logo design

It’s this one! Those are now my official brand colors, too. I decided on it awhile back, but I just realized I never mentioned it. I love how warm and open and inviting it is, and a lot of the organization is designed around bridge imagery (see “bridging event” on The Great Exchange Glossary). As my close friend Marius said, “In this logo, exchanges are done in the light of the heart…The light of the heart has something very spontaneously warm about it, watching, embracing, and lighting all potential activity in the picture.”

Here’s a screen shot of the Great Exchange’s landing page:

The Great Exchange landing page

 

I’m quite happy with it, for a site I built myself (from a WordPress template…I’m no web designer). The internal pages aren’t so awesome yet, but they do convey the right information.

Design is really important to me, so this will continue to be a work in progress. But for now, it’s a relief to have a web site I feel comfortable directing people to.

More later!

Sunday Morning Coffee: Thunderstorm Aftermath Edition

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Blog Post Roundup

This week’s edition of Sunday Morning Coffee is brought to you by the utter lack of sleep I get every time there’s a thunderstorm in Texas. For reasons that are beyond me, at the first hint of thunder or lightning my dog mysteriously leaves his body and becomes a panting, shivering, whimpering mess. He usually defecates on the carpet at least twice. It’s a strange phenomenon that is equal parts sad and frustrating.

Now that we’re working under the caveat that this will be less coherent than usual, let’s get down to it!

  • Did you know we celebrated International Women’s Day last week? I did, but that’s because I went to an all-women’s college, so my lovely classmates were more likely than most to post about it on my Facebook newsfeed. I may be cheating by posting to a collection of articles rather than a single one, but Small Business Trends curated a pretty great collection of stories about female entrepreneurs. Rock on, sisters.
  • On a related note, here’s an interesting article discussing Columbia’s reaction to its sister school, Barnard College, landing President Obama as their commencement speaker. In sum: there’s still a bizarre undercurrent of misogyny about all-women’s colleges and their relative “ease.” Going to Smith left me with some complicated feelings about same-sex education–on a personal level, I’d probably never do it again–but it still hurts to hear the stereotypes about the worth of these schools as compared to their co-ed counterparts. My former classmates pretty much kick a bunch of ass.
  • Hey! It’s South by Southwest Interactive here in Austin! I haven’t been able to go to any of the Interactive stuff, because my budget lines up better with the free music that will be beginning next week. But I’ve been interested in reading up on all the emergent technology that folks have brought to the table. For example, here’s an app that will allow you to identify information about any potential connections you may have with total strangers. Creepy? Absolutely. Cool? I think so. As with most technology, I meet this with a combination of fear and total awe.
  • Speaking of mixed feelings, my hometown brings us a bizarre article about a couple suing a hospital for neglecting to discover that their unborn child had Down Syndrome. Prenatal testing is a weird issue and I can’t really craft a cogent response to it at the moment. I do understand how many parents would not feel ready or willing to raise a disabled child; but on a gut level, reading about this particularly extreme reaction was disappointing. My oversimplified response: stuff happens, and we’re often unprepared for it. Then we learn and grow and become better people. And sometimes we start nonprofits.
  • On marketing: H&R Block’s popularity with the young adult  crowd has jumped impressively since their support of a tongue-in-cheek political initiative called The ‘Stach Act. What does this teach us about marketing? Well, my entire generation is really weird, that’s what. Our obsessions include, but are not limited to: cats, anything from the 90’s, cats interacting with dogs, bacon, cats wearing clothing, George Takei, mustaches, and cats. Harness the power of any of that, and you’ve pretty much struck marketing gold. But I’d like everybody to know that my dear hipster friend Weston and I loved H&R Block before it was cool. That’s Weston and me at the bottom, featured in “The Pilot Episode.”

I’m Trying to Find a Way to Responsibly Wrap Up Yesterday’s Kony Discussion

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…before my blog fades back into internet obscurity. People are asking a lot of great questions, and yesterday’s blog post went kinda viral because of that (also because of a link from Visible Children). I’m aware of the nature of viral sharing, which means I have approximately two seconds to communicate anything I want while I’m still standing in the spotlight’s shadow. I think I’ll say this:

I am not an authority on Uganda. This guy is. The only authority I have to even write about Invisible Children as a nonprofit is that I care a lot about transparency and nonprofit behavior. A lot of people who consider themselves advocates choose a focus and then become knowledgable enough to fight for it, and my focus is on disability rights. My sister has spent years and years teaching me about it, so it comes naturally (and if you’re playing along at home, yes, I’m applying metonymy to my sister and me).

What I do have a solid grasp on, though, is film, pop culture, and marketing. It’s sort of what I do when I’m not trying to start a nonprofit. I would like to believe I do it responsibly, but I’ve also taken a series of wacky “test paths” as I tried to figure out how to make a positive impact. I’ll be honest; I was never able to put enough time or energy into film to reach a place where I could use it to make a difference, and I really admire the people who can.

The side effect of spending a long time thinking that filmmaking would be my path, though, is spending about five years studying all the how’s and why’s of film and impact: how is it beautiful, how is it dangerous, how can we allow ourselves to be deeply moved while also trying to consider the people who sit just outside the frame of a movie or a YouTube video?

So again, I am not qualified to speak to the issues surrounding Joseph Kony. I am, however, qualified to think critically about the abundance of sensory input I receive each day. We all are. The Kony 2012 campaign was the lens of the conversation because from an activism and advocacy standpoint, it is probably the biggest viral social media campaign we have ever seen. People are scrambling for for a way to interpret what just happened because there is no precedent for this. But do you know what does have a precedent?

This type of image.

Sudan, 1993 and Kony 2012

Kevin Carter--Sudan, 1993

Taken by Kevin Carter, Sudan, 1993 was a quintessentially iconic image that circled the world. People saw it and became rightfully horrified. The child in the photo, of indeterminate sex, suddenly represented every child not just in Sudan, but in the entire continent (also, she’s a girl). People instinctively drew a “predator v. prey” inference because of their natural reversion to archetypes, and the photo became a widespread symbol of starvation.

The Save the Children Foundation appropriated the photo and used it on their donor brochures accompanied by the headline, “Stop a Different Kind of Child Abuse.” Save The Children’s use of the photo suggested a “starving Africa” in need of aid, which was not simply offensive; it was also an incorrect interpretation of the photo. David Perlmutter later noted in his book Photojournalism and Foreign Policy: Icons of Outrage in International Crises that the famine the photo reflected was most likely the result of a civil war that raged in the region at the time. Further, in 1993, Save The Children had no outposts in Sudan.

For good measure, I’m going to throw in one more image that sets a precedent:

our response to images

I so badly want to love you...

This is a spider. With the exception of a small, brave subset of the human population (myself not included), do you know what we do when we see one of these guys? Our pulse quickens; we abandon whatever we’re doing; and we look for the fastest way to get it the hell out of our vicinity. This is no doubt evolutionary; our biologically constructed reality is such that when we see a threatening thing or animal, we react instantaneously. We don’t have to think. It doesn’t matter if most of the spiders we encounter every day are harmless; once the fear seed is planted, the reaction prevails.

What does this have to do with film and the media? Well, the visual and emotional medium draws upon the same receptors, and we react in the same way: instantaneously. But in this case, unlike that of our reaction to a potential threat, we do have to think. And the questions I raised, with regards to a campaign designed to produce an emotional, knee-jerk reaction, are good ones to start with as we think past our immediate responses.

Always seek the bigger context. Always, always, always. That’s the message I’d like to impart, as a tiny blogger who has a bigger platform than usual for a couple of seconds. Oh, and go check out The Great Exchange. I think you’ll like it.

Impact Measurement, Part 2: Questions We Can Ask About Kony 2012

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[I know, I promised something else for the second part of this “series,” but Kony 2012 is a phenomenon that warrants discussion. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled program soon.]

Before we begin, if you watched the ubiquitous Kony 2012 video and it inspired you to donate to the cause, that’s great! I highly recommend you don’t donate to Invisible Children unless you’re in the mood for funding Self-Congratulatory Film #12. Grant Oyston over at Visible Children did some research and came up with a list of great nonprofits that operate in Central Africa, all of which have received more trustworthy ratings from Charity Navigator than IC has.

Kony 2012, the internet campaign that rightfully denounces Ugandan guerrilla group leader Joseph Kony, is a great opportunity to ask questions about “awareness generation” nonprofits and decide for ourselves how we feel about their overall impact. I suppose I already made my stance on the issue clear in the first paragraph; but I’m not necessarily out to convince people that Invisible Children is a sham. This post will certainly not be without bias, but no matter where we stand, I want us to ask ourselves the following questions (some of which have no answers):

  • What are the implications of lumping such an important issue into a frantically consumed, frantically discarded viral culture? Kony 2012, by its very nature, is a meme–the social activism equivalent of sharing a picture of a cat who uses poor grammar. How does this compare, impact-wise, to the slow, sustained growth of knowledge and awareness? Will those who were driven to donate to the cause do so again in a month? In six months? In a year? In five years?
  • Does a campaign like this elicit widespread action? By “widespread action,” I am not referring to Tweeting, Facebooking, or sharing a video on your blog. I’m curious, in particular, about the well-intentioned souls who claim to have sobbed throughout the video. What did they do once they dried their tears? Did they call or write to a political figure? Did they do more research? Did they donate to an in-the-field organization? On a similar note:
  • Does sharing a video about a cause create a false sense of empowerment? Spreading awareness is so, so important. But don’t our responsibilities as concerned human beings extend beyond that? I could talk about disability rights until my face turns blue, and I certainly will; but I am not expecting my words to create systemic change. I am expecting my actions to do so. My words are just a conduit for meaningful information, so people can fundamentally understand how and why they should take the next step.
  • What is the strategy behind equating one figure with an incredibly complex issue? This is a great opportunity for me to break out the concept of metonymy, which I learned about when I was a student at the Northwest Institute for Social Change. Metonymy is the idea of using a single, tangible person or symbol to represent a large concept. It’s a psychological trick that allows us to grasp the intangible; and because of this, it’s a powerful practice and it’s certainly a strategy that all nonprofits should consider as they communicate their message. The problem emerges when metonymy is a stand-alone strategy. My beautiful roommate Jen spent time in Uganda building friendships and conducting interviews with female refugees. She is absolutely livid with Invisible Children’s consistently over-exaggerated claims about the LRA. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the bigger picture of what’s going on in Uganda, but watching the Kony video certainly didn’t help.
  • How meaningful is it that the majority of Invisible Children’s budget is funneled to overhead and media production? Despite their refusal to report certain information to the Better Business Bureau, Invisible Children’s financials are pretty clear. This is not an aid organization; it is a film company. As someone who spent a few years in the film industry trying to make social awareness films, I wholeheartedly support the goal of using film and popular culture as a mainline to our consciousness. For this, I applaud Invisible Children. I hope they will always continue to raise awareness about important issues in Uganda; but I do think it is their responsibility, as an influential media organization, to give people a clear picture of the nonprofits people can support when they want to take action.
And finally:
  • Why is it that the most successful nonprofits are almost universally the ones with the best marketing, and how can we use this knowledge responsibly? If there’s one thing Kony 2012 can teach all nonprofit professionals, it’s the overwhelming success of smart marketing. Because that’s what this campaign is: smart. Brilliant, even. So, study what works for Invisible Children, study it comprehensively, and use it. Use social media, use metonymy, use powerful storytelling. Find a great filmmaker in your area and make a film. Do whatever it takes to get the word out about your cause without lying, misleading, or manipulating. But do not, do not, do not let it end there. That’s not why we’re doing this, and any nonprofit worth its salt knows that.

Measuring Impact, Part 1

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How Do You Measure Impact?

"Nonprofit number three, will you accept this rooooose?"

Impact measurement is a big deal to me. It’s the root of the essential trust between a nonprofit and its constituents. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking for a nonprofit to support and it isn’t immediately clear how that nonprofit is evaluating or sharing its impact, run away from it. I’m serious. Why? Because impact is, quite literally, every nonprofit’s primary concern. If they weren’t trying to achieve a certain type of impact, why would they exist?

Unfortunately, measuring impact is also one of the most difficult things nonprofits have to do. Think about a for-profit and how it measures its success: dollars, right? Sure, they may consider other factors, but the fundamental concern is revenue, and differentiating between a successful for-profit and an unsuccessful for-profit is relatively straightforward

The success of a nonprofit, by contrast, is measured in degree of impact. The problem is, while dollar amounts are logical and immutable, impact is amorphous, slippery, convoluted, and transient. Say your nonprofit’s goal is to increase literacy by giving books to low-income children in a particular neighborhood. You dutifully measure, and in five years’ time, the children who were given books are higher achievers than the children of five years ago! Awesome! Except…now you have the fun task of figuring out what else might have happened in the neighborhood, besides your book program, that could have increased literacy.

So you do some research and discover that some new educational initiatives were pushed, the local Boys & Girls Club started a popular reading program, and the neighborhood library received an attractive new overhaul. Your books-to-kids program probably did still influence the overall bump in literacy; it’s just that it’s nearly impossible to tell exactly how much. In a case like this, your impact is a guy who’s dating ten people and he refuses to reveal which one is the most important to him (sorry…as you’ll recall, sometimes I watch bad television).

The point is, measuring impact–especially as nonprofits grow city-wide or systemic–is an art form. A maddening, elusive, existential art form with no right answers and a lot of good guesses.

In other words, I love it.

Tomorrow I’m going to show you the first survey I designed to begin the process of measuring The Great Exchange’s impact! Don’t miss it–it’s going to be hot. It’s going shocking. It’s going to be the most controversial season of The Bachel–um, I mean of my blog–yet!

The Best Thing About Running a Startup? The Small Victories.

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Donation thank-you

What I found when I was searching for "DIY greeting cards." Horrifying.

This morning, I:

  • Dragged myself out of bed while still trying to remember the fabulous dream I had about helping my family pick out a pet tiger from the Tiger Humane Society (usual)
  • Turned on the coffee pot before I had actually put coffee into it and consequently made a delicious pot of hot water (usual)
  • Checked my email; deleted the latest Groupon offer. Told myself, as I do every morning, that I should unsubscribe from Groupon but then did nothing about it (usual)
  • Opened a notification from Paypal that said…what? The Great Exchange received its first donation from a complete stranger? Unusual!

With any luck, in a few years this feeling won’t be unusual. But today, an attorney in Albany, New York gave the Great Exchange a small vote of confidence…and I haven’t felt this good since I found out I was going to Finland for free (another story for another time).

Do you remember how wonderful the world was when you were a child? Well, the Great Exchange is currently in its “child” phase, and nearly everything–from a bump in traffic on this blog to the smallest of donations–feels big and weird and awe-inspiring. Sure, in a few years The Great Exchange will be as old and wizened as a retired police cop (“I’ve seen it all in my day, kids”), but today, I am making a homemade greeting card for a man I don’t know who believes in disability rights and inclusion.

And then I’m redoubling my efforts to get fiscal sponsorship, and I’ll probably look into opening a Great Exchange bank account, and I need to create an on-the-fly donor management system.This donation is a great reminder of all the things I have left to do.

Study: Many Adults With Disabilities Do Nothing All Day

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Yesterday I discovered an unsettling but not unsurprising study about adults with disabilities. A survey of about 800 siblings of adults with disabilities reveals that about 13% of disabled adults have nothing to do with their time–no job, no educational activity, and no form of recreation.

Now, numbers can be misleading and our brains are trained to interpret data in a certain way. So if your first reaction to this information was to say, “13%? That’s not so bad!” then I don’t fault you. To be honest, that was my first impulse too.

However, 13% of 800 is 104 people. That’s a significant number. If the percentage holds true across the board (and it probably doesn’t–given the demographic of the siblings surveyed, the percentage is most likely a lot higher), then here’s the breakdown:

  • There are 6.2 to 7.5 million people with cognitive disabilities in the United States, so:
  • There are 800,600 to 975,000 disabled adults just sitting around all day, unenriched, unfulfilled, and most likely quite depressed.

Again, I’d wager to guess that the numbers are even more dire than these findings reveal. The siblings who were surveyed were wealthier and more educated than the general population as a whole, meaning they’re more likely to have the means to find outlets for their disabled loved ones.

But even having the means won’t do a damn thing if the outlets don’t exist in the first place. My parents are pitch-perfect examples of people who provide their disabled daughter with a happy, fulfilling life–but even they worry about what Martha is going to do with her time when she graduates from the Transition House (part of her local special education program–instead of going to school all day, she goes to a house for disabled students up to the age of 21 that teaches basic life skills). Although Martha is happy and social and would be a wonderful asset to any organization, her cognitive abilities are such that even Goodwill can’t offer her a job. Finding recreational, social, and educational opportunities for disabled adults is a full-time job (usually falling to parents or other family members) that takes tenacity and creativity.

I see this as a fundamental human rights issue. The Declaration of Independence’s “right to the pursuit of happiness” is one of the most influential phrases in U.S. history. Anyone who has ever felt isolated or bored can tell you that an absence of meaning and purpose is one of the most horrible, defeating, and depressing feelings in the world. But our society is simply not set up in a way that allows many disabled adults to pursue happiness.

There is a disabled man who sits in front of my apartment complex’s mailboxes all day, every day. He is always there unless it’s too hot or too cold, at which point I imagine he sits in his apartment. You’d be amazed at the degree to which he lights up every time I’m out walking my dog; I always say hi to him and ask if he wants to pet the dog. I’ve never seen anyone else in my apartment complex speak to him.

Widespread change is going to take a lot of effort; in the meantime, if you pass a person like that man every day, just have a conversation with him. It could be the most stimulating thing he does all day.

“Your Job is Not to Be Perfect. Your Job is to Be Human.”

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Juggling multiple things (sorry, did I say “things?” I meant “chainsaws”) can be paralyzing. I just became so overwhelmed that I ate an entire jar of martini olives and stared at the wall for 30 minutes. Then I tried to snap myself out of the dead-zone by watching TED Talks. I found a great one by Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of Acumen Fund.

I might be flattering myself here, but I think she looks a little bit like she could be a long lost relative of mine:

Jacqueline Novogratz is a Great Exchange hero

Pretty!

 

Anyway, her TED Talk about inspiring a life of immersion, while a little all-over-the-place, does a great job of detailing the cost of not trying. It was enough to snap me out of my olive-induced coma, because I’m proud to be trying. And now I need to go find some water, because I’m pretty sure I just consumed three days’ worth of sodium.

 

Sunday Morning Coffee: Big Rainbow Mug Edition

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It’s time for another round of Sunday Morning Coffee! This week’s edition is brought to you by a beautiful sunny Austin day, leftover Indian food, and the letter A. So without further delay, here five things that are worthy of sharing:

  • How much do you know about gamification? Talk to me in six months, and I bet the answer will be, “I wish everyone would shut up about gamification already.” Gamification, or the idea that everyday situations like work or exercise can become engaging and absorbing when you apply popular game design techniques, is every bit as cool as it sounds. The smarter companies are already jumping on top of this trend (and using it for good or evil…please use it for good, guys). Because I think it will probably be the secret to successful fundraising, I read about it a lot. An article titled Startup Gamification Lessons from a Kindergartner is my favorite gamification article of the week.
  • On a related note, here’s a great argument for removing the stigma from “edutainment.” Educational entertainment has come a long way since your fourth grade teacher carted you and your classmates off to the new school computer lab for another round of Oregon Trail. Now, I don’t think anyone would argue that computer games should replace classroom teaching, hands-on learning, or important dialogue; but as a supplemental form of engagement, it can work wonders. Even Oregon Trail, which may not have been the world’s most educational computer game, left me with a lasting awareness of 19th century diseases:

weekly blog post roundup

  • Think you don’t have time to go play in the sunshine, savor a piece of chocolate cake, cuddle with your partner, or do whatever makes your little heart sing? Well, read this article about how happiness makes your brain work better, and then pencil something you enjoy onto your to-do list. Your success depends on it! My secret to happiness involves blasting Nick Cave music and trying to play my ukulele along. I, um, wouldn’t be surprised if yours is different.
  • But if there’s one thing that will make us all a little happier, it’s a baby sloth in a pretty blue onesie:

Holy moly. I can feel my brain working better already. Time to go forth and be productive.