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#Awesummit2012

How Technology made Philanthropy #Awesome

Under the tagline Let’s make “making the world better” better!,” the latest edition of the Awesome Summit took place at the MIT Media Lab in Boston on July 23th.

The reunion, which describes itself as a welcoming, productive space for those who are democratizing philanthropy, rethinking development, or just don’t fit into the traditional third sector, was organized by the Awesome Foundation, a worldwide network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe. The foundation distributes a series of monthly $1,000 grants to projects dedicated to conserve, sustain, and support the worldwide ecosystem of awesomeness.

The one-day event sponsored by the MIT Center of Civic Media, the Knight Foundation and Mozilla Webmaker, gathered social entrepreneurs, designers, techies, academics, and grassroots activists  to form a new community through practical workshops and inspiring discussions.

Among this year “Lightning Talks” were Nathaniel James from Adventures in New Giving; Good Magazine; Deanna Zandt, on her The One4One Project; Elizabeth Woodson from Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and more inspiring people.

This new philanthropic wave is not news in the tech world, where many initiatives have been born out of collaborative shareware, with many successful examples of young tech people caring about the global challenges and trying to solve them one step at a time. Such is the case of BreadPig, an “uncorporation” that deals in delightful geeky wares and helps people helping the world. Breadpig donates profits to organizations and individuals while discovering and promoting inspiring and fascinating tech innovations, hackers, and ideas from all over the world.

DonorsChoose.org is another example of awesomeness that changed the rules of charity for good. You don’t need to be a multimillionaire or a very successful entrepreneur to help others, in this case, kids in schools. You can directly donate as much as you choose to project requests made by public school teachers from every corner of America, requests that range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class. Individual donors can browse these project requests and give any amount that inspires them, providing a streamlined way to help schools directly.  Once a project reaches its funding goal, the materials are delivered to each school.

Watch this introduction to DonorsChoose.org by Michelle Obama and Stephen Colbert:

Despite claims that increased use of the Internet is producing a dystopic tech universe of tuned-out, selfish users,  this group of awesome people is definitely proving them wrong. Technology, when used for good, can be a powerful tool to achieve what was once impossible.




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