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Clicktivism

In the digital age, it is easier than ever to voice one’s support for a cause or raise awareness about a particular issue, all it takes is the click of a button.

In the wake of the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal, Facebook gave users the option to donate to the International Medical Corps’ relief efforts. According to a Facebook post by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, over $10 million was raised by the Facebook community — in just two days.

Social media provides a platform to quickly support a cause without exerting much — if any — personal effort. This phenomenon has been labeled as “clicktivism,” or “slacktivism,” and has been widely criticized for creating an impression of support, rather than actual accomplishing anything for the cause.

Many critics point out that clicktivism satisfies the urge to respond to an issue, thus reducing eagerness to take further action.

However, according to a study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, the truth is quite the contrary. Researchers found that Americans who promote causes using social media by creating posts, joining a group on Facebook or taking other similar actions, actually participate more in offline activist efforts than non-social media promoters.

“The presumption was that these individuals were replacing more ‘meaningful’ actions with simple clicks and shares. But what we found is that they’re actually supplementing—not replacing— actions like donating, volunteering and planning events,” Senior Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Center for Social Impact Communication Denise Keyes was quoted in the research report.

The study showed that so-called clicktivists are over four times as likely than non-social media promoters to encourage others to contact political representatives about an issue, twice as likely to volunteer time to a cause, more than twice as likely to participate in an event or a walk and just as likely to donate money.

It is unlikely that every user who donated to relief efforts in Nepal dedicated him- or herself to volunteering and staying informed about progress in the nation. But whether or not clicktivists take action offline, sharing a post inherently increases visibility and raises awareness, regardless of the amount of effort (or lack thereof) exerted by the “sharer” or “retweeter.” It is possible that a certain user does not accomplish anything further after pressing “share,” but that user’s friend might be scrolling through their newsfeed and be inspired to do more. Although using a hashtag and retweeting a human rights organization does not necessarily equate to action, the importance of such actions in rallying support for global issues cannot be diminished.

It is not a new concept to use whatever tools necessary to mobilize supporters of a cause. Activism is a spectrum comprised of many levels of involvement and dedication. Whether it be signing a petition or putting money in a donation box while purchasing groceries, lower levels of commitment exist and have existed, regardless of their portrayal on the Internet.

Clicktivists should remember that while their online actions are definitely helpful, it should not suffice or constitute full-fledged activism. Therefore, clicktivists should push themselves to stay committed to issues that peak their interest. That is not to say that they should stop sharing, liking and retweeting. The benefits of those actions are immeasurable.

– Arin Kerstein

Sources: Daily O, Facebook, Daily O, Georgetown University, Daily O
Photo: Invisible Children

nonprofit
Funds are critical in advancing the fight for poverty, and for nonprofits addressing these issues sponsorship in the form of charitable donations allows them to engage in various development, humanitarian and policy-related initiatives. Sponsorship of an organization can take place at any level, from individual to corporate, depending on who is donating and how much they are willing to give. While any amount no matter the size may be considered a sponsorship, nonprofits sometimes add in benefits for supporters who give larger donations.

The Borgen Project defines four specific categories in which donors may fall should an individual give large contributions: bronze partner, silver partner, gold partner and benefactor. Starting at $2,000, each offers benefits ranging from acknowledgements with the donor company’s link and logo on the borgenproject.org to an opportunity to join The Borgen Project’s National Council and be the subject of a news feature in BORGEN. Donations go toward the operation of this nonprofit and its efforts to bring about poverty and hunger alleviation through advocacy centered in Washington.

The U.N.’s World Food Programme is another example of an organization for which donations are critical, as it is completely funded by donors. Aid organizations will typically have a webpage for donors where they may select an amount and pay immediately through the site, making contributions quick and easy.

At a time when the WFP is seeing a record number of hunger crises, it is in significant need of people willing to make contributions to better the nutrition of malnourished and starving people around the globe. Ninety percent of every donation made goes toward anti-hunger operations.

Organizations usually have a couple options for the frequency of the donation. Those interested may make a one time donation or, if they have the capability and willingness to continue their donation throughout the year, a monthly option is available.

It is especially important to note that sponsorship of any amount is meaningful and necessary for the operation of a nonprofit. Individuals, rather than corporations, foundations and other nonprofits, accounted for most of The Borgen Project’s revenue in 2014. Whether it’s $25,000 or $25, every amount counts and is valuable to the initiatives being carried out by an organization.

– Amy Russo

Sources: The Borgen Project, WFP 1, WFP 2
Photo: Don’t Shoot the Costumer

write_to_congress
Contacting representatives in Congress is one of the most important things a citizen can do to be heard. Some people assume that representatives do not pay much attention to the opinions of their constituents, but this belief is wrong. Because representatives are elected to reflect the district’s or state’s opinions, they are attentive to constituent voices when contacted. Reaching out is key and lets representatives know what their constituents think about certain issues.

Without constituent initiative, opinions can go unheard. Thankfully, contacting representatives has never been easier, both by email or by writing a letter. Here is how:

Emailing

The easiest way to contact representatives is through email. Finding the correct email address is the hardest part of this process.

First, search for your representatives’ names. Visit the following website to search for a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives by zip code: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

To find a representative by his or her name, or to search by state, visit this website: http://www.house.gov/representatives/.

Conduct the same search for your representatives in the U.S. Senate by visiting the following website: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.

Upon finding the names of the representatives, visit their individual websites. Once there, find the “Contact” section of the website, where there is usually an automated email option. This is the official way to contact your representatives as this ensures the email is sent to the correct alias.

Another great, efficient way to write to Congress is through The Borgen Project website. In the “Act Now” portion of the website, click on the “Email Congress” link. After choosing the issue to be supported, enter all the necessary information to find your representatives in Congress. Once the representatives are located and selected, the representative(s) will receive an email with the simple click of a button!

Writing a Letter

Using the representatives’ websites, locate the postal addresses listed for their offices under the “Contact” section of each individual website. Many representatives have an office located in their district along with an office in Washington D.C. Both offices are receptive to constituent letters.

– Erik Nelson

Sources: U.S.A.gov, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, The Borgen Project
Photo: Impowerable

advocacy
Advocacy is an effective tool for social change. Advocacy is the act of holding elected officials accountable for their action or inaction. Advocacy has many forms, including letter writing, calling or e-mailing elected officials, call-in days, social media campaigns, direct lobbying and many others.

Who should advocate? The answer is anyone and everyone! When one engages in advocacy, he or she is attempting to convey a message he or she feels strongly about with the purpose of encouraging action from the official. Elected officials are more likely to take action when there is pressure, specifically from their constituents.

From global poverty to education, there are numerous ways to advocate one’s message. Advocating in person, or in groups, is extremely effective. This can be done through lobbying Congress and elected officials, administrators, policy makers or any other positions of power. One is able to advocate individually and remotely by sending emails, making calls to officials or sending letters. Ad-hoc situations of advocacy are very diverse, and are often resurrected around a specific issue or cause.

Ad-hoc advocacy has infinite room for creativity, and can be enacted through art installations, social media/photo campaigns, call-in days and a multitude of other options.

For best results, focus on one issue at a time. Be able to deliver the message in a succinct fashion, as people like short summaries for big pictures. While being specific, be sure to include personal experiences and why it is important to you. This is a great way to be remembered by the people (or person) you are lobbying. Beware of your audience while you are speaking from your heart, as you want to stay relatable while not appearing cliche.

To be an effective advocate, one ought to take advantage of technology, embrace available resources and personal skills, and most importantly, immerse oneself. Know the cause inside and out, therefore acting as a resource to others while being able to eloquently spread your passion! When delivering the message, be sure to identity yourself, explain why you are the best spokesperson for the issue and be prepared for questions.

The final step of advocacy is follow up, follow up, follow up! Persuade others to support the causes you support.

There are many issues one can advocate for; however, the most important factor is to advocate for something one is extremely passionate about.

At The Borgen Project, we are most passionate about global development and poverty alleviation. According to The Borgen Project, “Congressional staffers keep a tally of every issue that voters call, write and email the leader about. This information goes into a weekly report that is viewed by the Congressional leader. Your one email will get the issue or bill on the leader’s radar.”

To call or email Congressional leaders regarding issues of global poverty, check out https://borgenproject.org/get-involved-in-the-cause/.

“If you believe in great things, you may be able to make other people believe in them, too.”    – Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Neti Gupta

Sources: Bonner Network, TIME, Delaware Division of the Arts
Photo: Flickr

From Asia to Uganda, World Renew, formerly known as The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, is addressing the problems facing the most impoverished of communities all over the world. The name-change came in 2012 after the organization felt that that the work being done was growing larger and more significant. “The name better reflects who we are and what we are about as a trusted, established non-profit that is working to help eradicate the root causes of extreme global poverty through the renewal of relationships with God, neighbor, and the environment,” says World Renew’s Canadian director, Ida Mutoigo.

It is estimated that World Renew works with 1.86 million people who live in poverty in 35 different countries. This organization is known for its advocacy and quick responses to disasters like the 2011 earthquake in Japan or the conflict that currently exists in Syria. World Renew is also known for aiding with the systemic problems that affect the world’s poor. By focusing on things like AIDS, agriculture, literacy, health, the environment, sanitation and gender equality, the organization helps communities develop and thrive.

There are also unique programs where one can sponsor a refugee or “Free A Family,” where the charity works with a specific family with the help of a contributor’s donations and periodically gives the contributor updates on the family throughout the year. This program intends to provide a family with “nutritious food, clean water, improved health, and increased income.” Another interesting way World Renew helps is by providing materials for someone to throw his or her own “National Baby Shower,” an event where attendees can learn about child and maternal health.

World Renew also encourages individuals to create a campaign of their own by coming up with a “Passion Project.” In addition, there are 24 individual blogs on the World Renew website where volunteers focus posts updates on a specific country.

World Renew’s dedication to advocacy, disaster relief and community development has made change throughout the world. “Sometimes that change is as small as a baby chick, and sometimes it’s as big as community-wide peace-building and reconciliation between ethnic or religious groups,” says World Renew. Either way, its efforts have impacted the global poverty cause.

Melissa Binns

Sources: Give.org,  The Rapidian, World Renew

RESULTS_opt
RESULTS is a U.S.-based charity that advocates for the world’s poor. RESULTS uses advocacy to bring the world’s wealthiest governments together to do more to help end extreme poverty.

It relies heavily on volunteers and has partner organizations in four other countries—Canada, Australia, Japan and the U.K.

Thirty years ago, a teacher named Sam Daley-Harris, was inspired by a report from the National Academy of Sciences which stated that ending poverty was possible through strong political will. This led to the creation of RESULTS.

Each national organization has its own campaigns. Canada’s campaigns are nutrition, education, water and sanitation and microfinance. In the U.K., RESULTS is working on campaigns for basic education, child health and tuberculosis.

In the U.S., RESULTS has four main campaigns. The first is appropriation, which works to ensure that Congress continues to fund foreign assistance programs, specifically the ones that are the most effective.

The next campaign works to expand economic opportunities like increasing micro finance and “changing the policies of international financial institutions that hinder development.”

The final two campaigns are ensuring that all children have access to basic education and basic healthcare.

These campaigns are meant to educate communities and individuals as well as congress and the media on global poverty and hunger.

RESULTS U.S. has worked within Congress in support of important legislation like the Education for All Act as well as convincing congressmen to support crucial organizations like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

A clear definitive example of how RESULTS operates and achieves results is their written letter to the president in 2010. The letter was co-written with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and asked the president to pledge $6 billion from 2012-2014 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

An additional 101 members of congress signed the letter and the result was a $4 billion pledge which was a “38 percent increase over the preceding three-year period.”

There are many more examples of successes like this on their website—examples of how advocacy really made a difference.

Charity Navigator has only reviewed the U.S. based RESULTS organization. According to their website RESULTS has complete transparency and accountability with a 4 star rating and a score of 99 out of a 100.

It shows that 90 percent of their budget goes towards the programs they support. This is legitimate charity that anyone could feel confident donating too.

On the U.S. website they use a fitting quote that expresses how advocacy and education about poverty is the best way to end it.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus said during his acceptance speech, “I firmly believe that we can create a poverty-free world if we collectively believe in it. In a poverty-free world, the only place you would be able to see poverty is in the poverty museums.”

Eleni Marino

Sources: RESULTS UK, RESULTS Canada, RESULTS USA, Charity Navigator
Photo: Newsday

History of Advocacy
John Wilkes, a man from England born in the 18th century, is credited as the forefather of modern advocacy. Wilkes was critical of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years War and was imprisoned for libel shortly thereafter, although he was later acquitted. After Wilkes’ act of defiance, a pro-abolition movement arose in England, effectively ending slavery in England.

The beginning of the 19th century was relatively quiet, but in the middle of the century, a philosopher coined the term social movement. The term was only used to describe relatively smaller events at the time.

Around the turn of the century, advocacy began to make progress. The socialist movement and the labor movement were the most popular, and were soon to be the model of contemporary advocacy. Out of these movements, the communist and democratic parties were born.

Following World War I, there was a renewed push for activism. This period led to a new classification of groups—the new social movements. The post-industrial economy gave way to a large number of groups, including women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, the peace movement and the environmentalist movement. These movements stayed fairly static in terms of organization. More groups, such as the anti-nuclear movement, joined toward the middle of the century.

With the advent of the television, advocacy began to see incredible progression, which only foreshadowed the contemporary movement. The 1960s, in particular, were heavily influential, as civil rights took center stage.

The next step occurred around the 1990s. This period marked the era of global social activism, spurred on by the rise of the Internet. E-mail replaced postal mail and e-bulletin boards replaced traditional ones. The transition from analog to digital communication proved to be more effective in gathering support and more effective in increasing awareness. Groups that once couldn’t afford traditional publishing began to use the web as a platform for their activism.

Beyond Internet activism is the rise of social media and the role it plays in the history of advocacy. Popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter have begun to be utilized as platforms for advocacy. Sites like these allow people to connect and interact in ways that were previously impossible.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: University of Michigan, Mashable, Academia.edu, The Borgen Project
Photo: GuardianLV

Center for Civilians in Conflict
From the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan to the lawlessness in Somalia, many of the world’s regions experience violence and warfare. Countless civilians struggle to survive in war zones while terrorist groups, warlords and corrupt governments fight. The Center for Civilians in Conflict, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., seeks to be an ally to the innocent people surrounded by enemies. By helping to establish legal rights for conflict victims, the center holds warring groups responsible for their actions.

The Center for Civilians in Conflict’s founder, Marla Ruzicka, began her efforts to help victims of violence in 2001, when she traveled to Afghanistan after the war began. She found that neither side kept counts of civilian deaths or helped injured noncombatants and formed the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict in response. Ten years later, her organization, now called the Center for Civilians in Conflict, works to get justice for people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and other locations around the world.

Today’s conflicts have severe human and economic costs. The wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq have caused the deaths of at least 174,000 noncombatants, and several times more have died because of destroyed hospitals and infrastructure, according to the Costs of War Project. Marla Ruzicka herself died in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2005; her colleagues continued her work.

The Center for Civilians in Conflict uses multiple strategies to ensure human rights for those affected by violence. One way the organization helps is by working with U.S. legislators to design aid policies that protect and provide critical resources to conflict victims. The Marla Ruzicka fund, a USAID branch modeled and named after the founder, has given more than $7 million to help Iraqi families affected by conflict.

The U.S. government is not the only one that receives legislative advice from the Center for Civilians in Conflict. The nonprofit also works with foreign governments to create legal frameworks for giving civilians protection and the right to reparations. Recommendations that the center made to the Pakistani government to improve assistance funding to individual provinces have already been implemented.

Along with advocacy and legislation in the U.S. and abroad, the Center for Civilians in Conflict also works within combat zones to assess civilian damage and better create policies to help those affected. One of the nonprofit’s first actions was to take surveys of victims of the Iraq war in 2003. The center continues these surveys in Syria and Somalia, and it was the first group to publish reports on civilian casualties in Somalia.

To make it easier for governments to track civilian deaths, the Center for Civilians in Conflict trains local military and police forces to record and respond to civilian casualties. The government of Afghanistan is working to implement these strategies and has already created an office to measure civilian harm.

The Center for Civilians in Conflict consistently works to help violence victims get assistance funding from their own governments and from abroad to make up for the damage they suffer in wars. It also make sure governments can properly track civilian casualties and establish legal frameworks that give them rights to protection and reparation.

The damage from war is difficult to undo, but the Center for Civilians in Conflict makes sure innocent people can get the justice they deserve.

– Ted Rappleye

Sources: Civilians in Conflict, Civilians in Conflict 2, Costs of War, Global Communities
Photo: Civilians in Conflict

world humanitarian day
“One person can make a difference and every person should try.”
- JFK

On Aug. 19, World Humanitarian Day is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, recognizing the struggle and sacrifice made by aid workers.

World Humanitarian Day first began in 2003 in the wake of a terrorist attack that killed 22 aid workers who were working at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. Since then, the day has been set aside not only to shine a spotlight on those who often go unrecognized for their efforts, but also to remember those killed or seriously injured.

Since that first year, millions around the world have helped raise awareness of the real dangers that many aid workers face. The 2012 campaign – “I was here” – was one of the most successful reaching one billion people. It even included a song of the same name by Beyoncé in collaboration with the U.N.

In a video message about this year’s event, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Last year, more humanitarian workers were kidnapped, seriously injured or killed than ever before. This is an outrage,”

World Humanitarian Day provides a chance to honor the fallen and support those who continue to work despite the dangers they face. This year’s theme, ‘The world needs more,’ is a campaign meant to recognize humanitarian work and raise awareness about the great work being done and to offer support. The organization is highlighting different aid workers around the world, posting short excerpts of their stories and what motivates them to keep going on its website.

In honor of this day, the U.N. asked people to be a part of the conversation by tweeting #humanitarianheroes and listing someone they admire. This allows people around the world to show support for the workers that risk their lives everyday and whose efforts often go unnoticed.

The organization has also put out an interactive map that highlights the work taking place all over the world including Iraq, the Central African Republic and the Gaza Strip.

World Humanitarian Day is the rare opportunity to celebrate the unique spirit that undertakes humanitarian work. It is a chance to recognize thousands of people who face incredible odds and dangers to help those most in need.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: World Humanitarian Day 1, World Humanitarian Day 2, Vimeo, IB Times
Photo: Starmedica

how much to donate
Determining how to and how much to donate can be awkward. Finding both the sweet spot, that appropriate while not at all depleting amount of cash, and the most influential charities, preferably the ones that include a reasonable explanation of where your money goes exactly, may seem easier than it actually is. Luckily, a plethora of online resources like charity trackers, donation calculation machines and posts such as this one here are designed to help.

Before anyone decides how much of their annual income to give away to charity, he or she should look at the statistics. About 65 percent of households in the United States give some percentage of their earnings to charities. Many give due to religious obligations, but religion-influenced donations in total make up less than a third of annual giving. It’s the norm to be generous, as religious or as secular as one may be.

More data, found by a McClatchy analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reveals that in 2007 the poorest quintile of Americans gave a higher percentage of their incomes to charity than the richest quintile did. While the poorest Americans donated 4.3 percent on average, the richest donated less than half of that, 2.1 percent. Of course, 2.1 percent of a large income dwarfs 4.3 percent of a small one.

Looking at income is a good place to begin to gauge how much one can feasibly give to charities. Instead of giving a fixed amount, try giving a percentage of that income. If 4.3 percent is too high, try 4 or 3.5 percent. If it could be higher, try 5 or 6 percent. As long as a household can still afford the irrefutable necessities and maybe simple luxuries, it’s probably not giving too much.

“You should be able to pay your bills, cover expenses without the use of credit cards and put some savings away for retirement before you make a donation to charities,” says Laurie L. Dove of How Stuff Works, an online educational site.

Paying off mortgages, grocery bills, electricity and heat bills, insurances, etc. is all deemed essential. Other expenses such as snacks at the movie theater or Diet Cokes from Stop&Shop are not. To increase the size and impact of donations, try withholding from hedonist pleasures, the costs of which add up. The more one restrains oneself, the more one saves, and the more one will be able to donate. And, let’s be clear, not having a Diet Coke never hurt anyone.

Even if a household cannot donate what it deems a substantial amount, maybe only 1.5 percent of its annual income, there are certain tricks to facilitate efficacy. One idea is to only give to a single charity. Having significant impact in one area will probably be more rewarding than having little to no impact in many. Good charities can be found at sites like Charity Navigator, BBB and Charity Watch.

Finding highly rated nonprofits is a good bet. As John Stossel from Fox News puts it, the less transparent a charity is, the less one should want to give it money.

“The definition of ‘charitable work’ is rarely clear. How should the board of a nonprofit’s first-class hotel expenses during a trip to Africa be classified?” he asked. “That’s why I give to charities I can watch.”

Another idea is to give monthly. If each donation seems measly, try thinking in the long term: donations are cumulative and in a year, the small monthly donations will coalesce into a larger one. In ten years, the annual donations will coalesce. Not everything has to be given immediately or in the present. Donation schedules help.

It’s understandable if a household living on a limited income can only donate a small amount of money. And fortunately, there are other ways to donate: one can give time by volunteering or canvassing; one can give attention by studying the issue and one can raise awareness by hosting living room forums. These things help, almost as much as a percentage of annual income does.

Adam Kaminski

Sources: Fox News, How Stuff Works
Photo: moils