The Aunt Bertha Blog

From Homes to Horses: How Service Providers Made a Difference in 2017

One of our mottos here at Aunt Bertha is a quote by Margaret Mead that reads, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  In that spirit and in honor of the New Year, we’re highlighting six of our direct service providers' powerful missions and showcasing how they were there for their communities in 2017.  These are the people whose work fuels ours, and we hope their stories inspire you as we begin 2018. 

Combatting Homelessness

"Most Americans are 1-2 paychecks from living on the street. It can happen to anyone" --Roz Palmer, The Kitchen, Springfield, MO. 

On any given night in 2017, 554,000 people¹ were experiencing homelessness in the United States. That's just shy of the entire population of Springfield, MO, where The Kitchen's mission is to prevent and end homelessness in the communities they serve by providing housing and stabilizing services with dignity and compassion.

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"We're trying to let people know that they are worthy of the help. Youth, or those living on the street sometimes don’t feel they’re worth the services, so our biggest challenge is just getting them in the door. We want people to know we work with everyone--from infants to the elderly. If you’re homeless, we work with you. We have youth programs, programs for at-risk and homeless veterans, programs fro the chronically homeless, families, and the working poor," said Roz Palmer, Community Development Manager at The Kitchen.

In 2017, The Kitchen housed more than 600 individuals. One third of those individuals being children under the age of 18.

One of those people was Belinda. Belinda was a registered medical assistant, but due to a brain injury, she was placed on leave from her job. Her FMLA ran out, but Belinda still wasn’t cleared to work. After going through her savings, Belinda had to decide between her medication and a stable home. The Kitchen was able to provide Belinda a place to stay while helping her navigate through and apply for, disability benefits. She has since exited the program and is living on her own in one of The Kitchen's affordable housing communities. 

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"We have a Housing First philosophy. We want to place someone in a home, then figure out the factors that may be leading to their homelessness.  For some it may mean education, for some, sobriety.  Our goal is that by the time they exit, they can can do whatever "it" is on their own." 

How You Can Help

  1. Support efforts with a financial donation.
  2. Donate furniture and household items, click here for a full list of needs.
  3. Volunteer! Sign up here.

Breaking Down Barriers 

"BOSS believes that people affected by crisis have invaluable knowledge and insight about what works to change lives, so we hire from our target population; at least 40% of BOSS staff have personal experience with homelessness, disabilities, substance abuse or criminal justice systems"--Sonja Fitz, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Berekely, CA.

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Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)'s mission is to help those who are mentally ill, struggling with substance abuse, formerly incarcerated or otherwise homeless achieve health and self-sufficiency, and to fight against the root causes of poverty and homelessness.

"We serve the very poor - people with one or more barriers to self-sufficiency, such as former incarceration, mental illness, substance abuse issues, inter-generational poverty, or lack of job skills and/or literacy. There are more people on the streets, more homeless encampments, and little-to-no housing that is affordable on very low incomes. Also, there are hundreds of formerly incarcerated individuals being released to communities in California due to AB 109 and they need help finding jobs and connecting with positive social supports quickly, before they can recidivate." said Sonja Fitz, Director of Development and Marketing at BOSS. 

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One of the ways BOSS tackled these issues in 2017 was by expanding their workforce development program (the Career Training and Employment Center), partnering with employers who were willing to take a risk on job seekers who needed a second chance. In October, the organization celebrated 50 graduates, all employed full-time.

How You Can Help

  1. Contact your elected officials (especially if you live in California) and tell them that affordable housing for everyone matters to you. 
  2. Support efforts with a financial donation.

Rebuilding Homes and Hope

In 2018, we plan to complete over 200 Harvey homes, maybe even more, but we're still going to continue to repair homes that were not impacted by Harvey, because we have people on our waiting list and we're not going to let them go. We're here for the long haul and will continue to take care of the populations we always have and serve the neighbors we always have"--Christine Holland,  CEO/Executive Director, Rebuilding Together Houston, Houston, TX.

In late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas' east coast. In the Houston metropolitan area specifically, widespread flooding damaged property and took lives. Prior to the storm, Rebuilding Together Houston was already providing no-cost home repair to low-income senior citizens, U.S. military veterans and people with disabilities, focused predominately on the exteriors of homes. Things like: replacing siding, making sure doors and windows were working properly, controlling water leaks, and adding ramps and railings to improve accessibility. rebuilding 3.jpg

"When Harvey happened, we knew that we needed to widen our lane. Normally, we wouldn't get involved in repairing a home until it was pretty much put back together and we would work on the outside, but we realized that that just wasn't going to cut it here", said Christine Holland, CEO and Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Houston. 

"It's been very difficult for anyone impacted by Harvey to begin the process of recovery. For vulnerable populations, its even more so. Very quickly, we got together to plan our response. We knew we needed to help our homeowners in a different kind of way, so we started our "Home After Harvey" program. We're still focusing on the same neighbors that we were before, but now we're working with contractors and volunteer teams to return the interior of the homes impacted by Harvey to a safe and livable condition."

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The New Orleans affiliate of Rebuilding Together came to Houston following the storm and took several days to teach the Houston staff how to muck and gut and take the house down to the studs.  Now though, Rebuilding Together Houston is starting to move into the recovery phase, putting the homes back together. In 2017, the non-profit began recovery work in more than 25 homes, beginning to return them to a safe and livable condition. That number is estimated to be 200 or more in 2018.

rebuilding 4.jpgWhen asked what the organization's biggest "win" in 2017 was, Ms. Holland instantly said, "Neighbors helping neighbors all over this city, and coming from everywhere. There's been an incredible outpouring of resources, funds, and building materials that gave our organization the confidence to jump in and help right away without worrying how we were going to fund it."

She added, "There are thousands and thousands of Houstonians who have been impacted by Harvey and it's going to take us years to get this done. Rebuilding Together Houston expects to be in the thick of this for 4 or 5 years. I think what's going to get harder in the years ahead is the awareness of what's happening here. Now, people are very engaged. In two years from now, we hope that's the same story."

How You Can Help

  1. VolunteerSkilled volunteers are needed for carpentry, drywall and painting, but Rebuilding Together Houston staff will also teach skills to anyone who is willing. 
  2. Support rebuilding efforts with a financial donation.

Standing with Women and Immigrants

Overall, our biggest wins are our client victories -- numerous cases where the work of Her Justice, our network of volunteer lawyers, and the resilience of our clients have resulted in positive outcomes and life altering consequences for the women we serve"--Sharon Rainey, Director of Communications, Her Justice, New York, New York.

In the current political climate, the threat of deportation of undocumented immigrants has spread panic in vulnerable communities. Many immigrants are afraid to reach out for help, or engage with the courts or law enforcement. Her Justice stands with women living in poverty in New York City by recruiting and mentoring volunteer lawyers to provide free legal help, and by addressing individual and systemic legal barriers. At a time when there are simply not enough lawyers to meet the demand, Her Justice fills a unique gap in NYC – providing legal assistance to women living in poverty facing high-stakes legal needs, who cannot get help elsewhere.

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"We serve women in all five boroughs in NYC, with the majority of our clients residing in Queens.  Brooklyn is a close second. More than one out of every four Her Justice clients cannot access the legal system without an interpreter" said Sharon Rainey, Director of Communications at Her Justice. 64% of Her Justice clients are mothers and 80% are survivors of domestic violence.

In 2017, their goal could be summed up simply: Expand access to the legal system in family, matrimonial and immigration matters for more women living in poverty in NYCAccomplishing it, however, was no simple task. To reach more women in need, Her Justice relaunched their live Legal Help Line, increased outreach into communities to provide information on immigrant rights under the Trump administration, celebrated the one-year anniversary of their Urgent Legal Care Project, where women with high-stakes legal needs obtain immediate representation or services, and launched an innovative medical-legal partnership with NYU Langone Hospital to help medical professionals identify victims of intimate partner violence.

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All in all, nearly 8,000 women and children living in poverty received free legal help thanks to Her Justice. The organizations "pro bono first" model where volunteer attorneys are trained and mentored  to provide free legal help in family, matrimonial and immigration matters to clients efficiently "brings the power of the private bar to serve some of the City’s most vulnerable women and children," said Rainey.

How You Can Help

  1. Support efforts with a financial donation.
  2. Volunteer.

Mental Health and...Horses?

Most people don't realize that horses are effective therapy animals beyond therapeutic riding, and are not aware of the vast differences between therapeutic riding and what Project Horse offers (equine assisted psychotherapy and wellness)," Emily Williams, Marketing Manager, Project Horse Empowerment Center, Purcellville, VA.

Project Horse Empowerment Center connects people in need of renewed hope and confidence with rehabilitated rescue horses, through innovative experiential learning programs and therapy services. The organization is dedicated to improving the quality of life for both horses and humans, creating a unique community of mutual healing and benefit.Reeses3.jpg

It all started with a rescue horse named Reeses. Reeses used to be a competitive athlete but her career ended with a dangerous fall. For reasons unknown to Project Horse, Reeses did not receive proper medical care and rehabilitation, leaving her physically disabled and no longer able to be ridden. Reeses was then sent to a breeding farm to be a broodmare, but when that didn’t produce results, she was deemed useless, turned out into a field, and forgotten.

Reeses was frightened and in very poor condition when the organization’s founder and Executive Director, Darcy Woessner, stumbled upon her. Reeses was not in sale condition and would never again be a riding horse, which left her in a dangerous situation. Darcy simply could not leave the horse there, so she purchased Reeses for a small price and began the slow rehabilitation process.

Reeses soon revealed an extraordinary ability to connect deeply with others, especially children and women. It quickly became apparent that, although Reeses could no longer be ridden, she had so much to offer through her quiet wisdom and nurturing support. Since no other programs existed where non-rideable horses could share their skills to help people, Reeses and Darcy founded Project Horse: a place where non-riding horses and humans needing support partner to find hope and mutual healing.

Over the past decade, Reeses and her herd have rescued, supported, and helped over 1,000 individuals, of all ages and with a wide variety of challenges. 

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"Most people don't realize that horses are effective therapy animals beyond therapeutic riding, and are not aware of the vast differences between therapeutic riding and what Project Horse offers (equine assisted psychotherapy and wellness),  said Emily William, Marketing Manager at Project Horse. 

We recently moved to a new location (late in 2016) that is more accessible, so we have been expanding our programming to include groups for veterans, the elderly, programs through Loudoun County Parks and Recreation, as well as servicing a growing number of individual therapy clients." 

A highlight for the organization in 2017? Being one of only 18 nonprofits in the United States to ServiceVisit.jpgreceive a grant from VetsAid Foundation.  With the grant from VetsAid, and a matching corporate sponsorship from Lockheed Martin, Project Horse was able to launch our Warrior HerdTM initiative.

Warrior HerdTM is a free monthly program that focuses on strengthening connections between veterans and their families and enhancing resiliency. Warrior HerdTM offers workshops for couples, individuals, and families. During summer 2018, Project Horse will host a Warrior HerdTM Family Day for all members of the military (active, inactive, veterans, reservists) and their families. They will also hold a week long summer camp for children who have lost a parent in combat. 

Project Horse has seen the demand for individual therapy services nearly double this past year. 

How You Can Help

  1. Support efforts with a financial donation.
  2. Sponsor a Horse
  3. Volunteer 
  4. Spread the word and make referrals! (especially to veterans for Project Horse's free Warrior HerdTM programs)

Note: Due to a growth, Reeses, the equine founder of Project Horse, had surgery to remove her left eye in November. Reeses did very well through surgery and the loss of her eye has only strengthened her exceptional ability as a therapy horse. 


Re-Entry with Dignity 

The ultimate objective--beyond the measurable goals--is to help participants rebuild their sense of self-worth, dignity, and self-confidence."--Austin Morreale, Service Director, NeighborCorps Re-Entry Services, Highland Park, New Jersey

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Created by the youth pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, NeighborCorps 
Re-Entry Services' mission is to work with individuals who are incarcerated (or who have been previously incarcerated) in Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center (MCACC), helping them successfully transition back to their communities, thereby helping lower the rate of recidivism.
 
"In addition to the NeighborCorps staff, we utilize volunteers (called Navigators) to work with our participants. Our staff and Navigators provide support and guidance to the participants (and their supportive relatives and friends) along their re-entry journey, connecting them with community resources and helping them in the areas of gainful employment, personal development, and social integration. The ultimate objective--beyond the measurable goals--is to help participants rebuild their sense of self-worth, dignity, and self-confidence," said Austin Morreale, Service Director at NeighorCorps. 
 
The two biggest challenges NeighborCorps faces in their work: connecting participants to housing and employment. As Morreale explained, "unless a participant has supportive friends or family in the area with whom they can stay, it is incredibly difficult to find housing for participants given the lack of shelters in the area and the long waiting lists for those shelters."
 
Additionally, "finding employers who will hire individuals with criminal histories is difficult, and when such an employer is found, securing a livable wage can be challenging. A large percentage of our participants are dependent on public transportation, but often the employers who hire ex-offenders aren't easily accessible via public transportation. Or, if they are accessible, the participants find the cost of public transportation to their place of employment quickly eats up their hourly wage."
 
After adding additional staff members in 2017, Morreale said, "I think one of the things I'm proudest of [this year] is the steps we've taken on initiatives outside of the relationships with participants." 
 
One such initiative, a backpack drive for NeighborCorps participants, will extend to all individuals in the jail if it is successful. 
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As Morreale explained, "when an individual is released from MCACC, the belongings they had with 
them when they arrived at the jail are given back to them in a clear plastic bag. If that individual doesn't have someone picking them up from jail on their release day, then they have to walk along Route 130 with the plastic bag clearly signaling they've just left incarceration to anyone who passes them. The backpack drive is a way to remove the stigma of the plastic bag for recently released individuals and hopefully give them a little bit of their dignity back as they take their first steps (literally) in their re-entry journey."
 
How You Can Help
1. Become a Navigator! Learn more here
2. Support efforts with a financial donation.
3. Educate yourself about criminal justice and re-entry issues and how their effects have an impact that reaches far beyond just the incarcerated individual. 
 
 

¹http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/12/the-number-of-homeless-people-in-america-increased-for-the-first-time-in-7-years/ 

Topics: social good non profits Social Services access to social services 2017 2018 year in review

Population Health Reporting

Organizations taking a vested interest in population health face a handful of challenges when it comes to identifying the social service needs of their members and/or patients. Historically, it has taken a considerable amount of work to find and organize domestic programs in the United States. Until now, the information on these services has either been scattered or siloed. Aunt Bertha aggregates domestic free and subsidized programs that are direct service from respective county, state, and federal levels.

Whether you are a local nonprofit or a multi-billion dollar health care organization, teams must confront the difficulty of better understanding the social services offered in their local communities, and their patient's respective needs. The inability to do so, can result in a multitude of negative consequences; ranging from expensive readmissions costs to missing the root cause of a member’s problem altogether.

If you are an agency providing a social program, you may understand the demand for your specific offerings, and respective capacity to perform these services. This is helpful, but do you know the number of individuals searching for programs similar to yours in your county? How about how many are searching last week or today?

Currently, most organizations are making anecdotal assumptions about their comminity's needs - or using academic reports that are out-dated. Are you scrambling every time a grant is due? Are you walking around with a pen and pad asking your employees how many people they served last year? In the past, the technology and systems simply haven’t been in place to understand these patient/member communities.

In real-time, Aunt Bertha tracks data related to the demand for specific social programs and the number of resources available to meet those demands. Our inventory reporting helps you clearly understand the current organizations offering programs by geographic location. Nationally, we have a plethora of programs across thousands of domestic providers. 

 Social Service Programs Across the US

Image: Aunt Bertha's customers can see - in real-time - the number of programs of all types in their community through an interactive reporting dashboard powered by Tableau, a world leader in reporting and data visualization software.

Additionally, our data team keeps the information up-to-date, and is constantly sourcing more information. With Aunt Bertha’s data and analytic tools, organizations can better understand the specific social needs of the population they serve and gaps that may exist in the system causing those needs to go unmet. 

However, there’s something even more interesting that our customers are seeing.

What if you could truly understand the needs in your community - in real-time? What if you could see reports that show you the exact number of people looking for food in the neighborhoods you serve? Or what if you provide subsidized dental services and you wanted to know which neighborhoods need the help? 

We believe this kind of data can lead to insights which can change the way social services are found and delivered - and ultimately - improve health outcomes in your community.

There are innovative, forward thinking organizations already looking at their own data to help people get healthier. And we’ve gotten to know some of them. For example, a healthcare system in Baltimore realized that some of their patients just needed a ride to their appointment. If someone who leaves a hospital just shows up to their next follow-up appointment, they are less likely to end up in the emergency room. This hospital system partnered with Uber, and granted these individuals $100 credits to and from the hospital. This is an example of data driven, innovative thinking that will drive down healthcare costs.   

Want to learn more? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how Aunt Bertha's Social Service Analytics can help your organization identify trends, cut costs, and effectively guide your decision making.

 Webinar Registration

 

Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics

Leveraging Data to Guide Funding Decisions

The holiday season is an important time to connect with loved ones, reflect on our lives, and appreciate what we have. In 2015, our founder, Erine Gray, was awarded the GLG Social Impact Fellowship for his efforts in helping make human service programs more accessible to those in need. Near the end of the year, GLG generously offered to make a contribution, in Aunt Bertha’s name, to the charity of our choice.

When organizations decide to fund programs, services, or missions, there are many different philosophies to help guide their decision making process. Initially, we leaned towards the idea of helping a local organization operating in Austin, TX. However, when we discussed this internally, our Chief Information Officer, Stu Scruggs, had a bright idea. He thought, since Aunt Bertha is a data rich organization that collects information from federal, state, and local programs nationwide, why don’t we conduct an analysis and determine the area that needs the gift most?

Aunt Bertha has data on available programs for each county around the country, and we regularly look at income and poverty rates for these respective areas. Typically, Aunt Bertha’s robust data strategy is used to help more people reach self-sufficiency, but we quickly realized the data was useful to better identify, and select a worthy recipient.

We dove right into the data, and easily determined one of the poorest counties in the country that could really use the extra help this holiday season (below).


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After a little research on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimate (SAIPE)’s database, Aunt Bertha quickly concluded that Shannon, South Dakota would greatly benefit from the money. The county is entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and contains part of Badlands National Park. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Shannon County’s population of roughly 13,500 has over 52% of the entire population living at, or below the poverty line.” In May 2015, Shannon County was renamed to Oglala Lakota County, named for the tribal nation that lives there. After the initial research, we ran a program inventory analysis, and looked at the available resources in the specific area.

As we started looking into it, we found a few organizations doing good work in Oglala Lakota. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation stood out to us because of its reputation and mission: “Empowering Lakota youth & families to improve health, culture and environment of our communities through the healing and strengthening of cultural identity.” Thunder Valley runs multiple projects, and Aunt Bertha helped fund the Youth Shelter Project that serves to shelter at-risk children.


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Teams of all shapes and sizes take advantage of data to help drive their decision making processes. Aunt Bertha helps not only program seekers, but also hospitals and healthcare systems to better understand their communities, and successfully provide holistic care.  

Want to learn more about how Aunt Bertha can help your organization with better data? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how your organization can leverage data to identify trends, and effectively guide your decision making. 

 Webinar Registration

 

Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics

Helping People Is Sexy?: Spreading Ideas That Matter In A Distracted World

"Helping People Is Sexy?!"

 

Seriously. Is this a PETA ad?


The Aunt Bertha pins were the idea of our founder, Erine Gray, and boy are these little critters feisty!

People love to put these pins on their lapels, jackets, and bookbags. We've given them out shamelessly to friends, family members, and supporters... hoping the idea of a sexy software company will stick

Let's be honest, People Magazine isn't exactly interested in the effectiveness of social service delivery! What is the message behind the buttons!?

Helping - Everyone needs help. There will come a time in all of our lives when we need a level of support that perhaps money, education, or even casual friendships can’t buy. Someday, we may caring for a sick child or parent. Someday we may get Cancer. As far fetched as it may sound, we may even be homelessness. Our life experiences have taught us this, which is why we’re taking a different approach. If we remember this, that someday we’re going to need help ourselves then we can be far more empathetic and do far more good.

People - Everyone has that time of vulnerability in their life. Everyone. If you talk to someone in your life that has experienced tragedy or hard times, it’s likely they say something like: “We all have something we have to overcome someday.” It’s true. We do all have something and we try to remember this when we see others that seem to be more fortunate.

Sexy - Ahh, the word that gets everybody so worked up! Basically, people who help other people are more attractive, generous, and they also live longer. This isn't me just saying this, either, it is science!

  1. A study by researchers at the University of Michigan suggests altruistic volunteers live longer.
  2. Being altruistic may increase attractiveness in an University of Nottingham study
  3. UMASS medical school study found a strong correlation withhappiness and helping others.
I told 'ya so!
 

The Problem With Doing Good


There's a common adage for newspaper outlets, "If it bleeds, it leads"!

Negative experiences sticks to our brain much longer than happy experiences. Hence, It is necessary for social good causes to attract attention by presenting ideas with energy and enthusiasm, or supporters, and even employees may end up forgetting about the mission of organizations that are ending hunger, fighting cancer, and helping those without shelter!

 
If you're in the social good or hope business here's some resources you might to want to look at:
 
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. This book explores why some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the “human scale principle,” using the “Velcro Theory of Memory,” and creating “curiosity gaps. “Check out their site to read the 1st chapter for free!
Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog. Katya Andresen is the chief operating officer and chief strategy officer of Network for Good, author of Robin Hood Marketing, a blogger, a public speaker, an adjunct professor of communications at American University, a board member of NTEN and mom to three.  Her blog provides practical tips and tools for those seeking to scale their message to the masses!

Ideavirus by Seth Godin. Counter to traditional marketing wisdom, which tries to count, measure, and manipulate the spread of information, Seth Godin argues that the information can spread most effectively from person to person, rather than from advertising. Godin calls this powerful person-to- person dialogue the ideavirus, and cheerfully eggs everyone on to create an environment where their ideas can replicate and spread. Godin embodies his own ideas by providing this book for FREE. Download the .PDFversion here!
 
We want to share the "Helping People Is Sexy" buttons with everyone for FREE! If you want a button, shoot an e-mail to our community manager, Mozart, and we'll hook you up as soon as possible!

Here's to great ideas that spread!
Topics: Erine Gray Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog Free Buttons social good Ideavirus PETA ADS Seth Godin Non profit marketing

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.
  
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.

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.

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:

Topics: online community technology building community open source kiva kickstarter social good ushahidi neighborland openIDEO wikipedia yelp crowdsourcing TED crowdfunding startsomegood

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 FoodTransportation, 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!
Topics: aunt bertha start-up building community auntbertha.com new features social good website update search social programs

Do Some Social Good On Your Lunch Break: Sparked.com

Happy Holidays!

Team Bertha hopes this time of year finds you well and in good spirits. These days we are working hard to improve our ability to help struggling families find help, enjoying the change in seasons, and expressing gratitude for supporters like you and the work we get to do in the world. I don't know about you, but doesn't it feel like there are so many worthy causes and not enough time?

We get it!
 
Recently, we came across Sparked.com. Sparked works with non-profits all across the world to match your skills and interests with small tasks you complete for them on your computer! The jobs are fun, high impact, and usually require less than 15 minutes to complete. For example, a job may be giving a charity in Costa Rica ideas on how to organize a fundraiser or providing feedback on whether or not you like a new logo design for a youth leadership center in New Jersey. You can help 3 non-profits in one day!Sparked.com offers you the chance to do great work for world changing organizations using the web!

Make an impact. Check it out!

Mozart Guerrier is a social worker and the community manager for Aunt Bertha.
Topics: micro volunteer non-profit tech internet sparked.com social good