I always like to hear the story (although I’m not sure it’s still in effect) about how Google permits its employees to dedicate 20% of their time to pursuing creative and innovative work of their own choosing. Here at the newly launched SoCo Partners, we’re instituting 20% time not for innovation, but for pursuing civic activism. I’ve chosen domestic and international poverty as my issue. Here in Austin, there are many ways you can contribute to helping the less fortunate. Here are a few causes I am involved with or with which I am planning to be involved:1. For the past two years, my daughter and I have participated in Operation Turkey on Thanksgiving. Bryan Menell turned me onto this from Facebook when we first arrived in Austin. We love doing it. Every year it grows and is more impressive. I plan to do this forever more. Wonderful way to give thanks.2. I’ve recently become involved with Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Last Friday I saw an Austin screening of “Happiness Is,” a beautiful and moving documentary by Andrew Shapter, a local Austin film-maker. Alan Graham, founder of Mobile
Loaves and Fishes is featured generously in the film and participated afterward in a live panel discussion with the director. Alan said a number of things that completely changed my worldview regarding the homeless. In Austin we have many intersections where folks hold cardboard signs looking for help. The individuals are as varied as the messages they broadcast to the uncomfortable drivers waiting for the light to change (hurry light!… don’t make eye contact!). I’ve committed to helping Mobile Loaves and Fishes in any way I can apply my hands and heart and possibly socialweb and collaboration know-how to helping their cause. We are cooking up a fun project for SXSW called “Twegg.” Details are still being worked out, and I will be blogging on that shortly. Be sure to plan to attend Jon Lebkowsky’s Plutopia Monday night, March 16, which will showcase a large part of the initiative. Information on Mobile Loaves and Fishes (MLF) is available on their web site. Please considering donating.3. I met Tina Williamson over a year ago at her Christmas party. Tina has launched a program called, “Women Worldwide.” Women Worldwide has as its mission to enable women to help other women around the world. She recently returned form a trip to Mali in Central Africa. You can hear Tina’s story about what her team did there and the inspiration for Women Worldwide over on vimeo. I’m helping Tina leverage social media to raise awareness for her initiatives.4. I’ve become a student of poverty and am particularly interested in generational poverty issues. I picked up three books on poverty and have set aside time to read each one. I’m currently reading, “Nickel and Dimed” by a wonderful writer, Barbara Ehrenreich. She also wrote, “Bait and Switch” which has a lot of relevance for today’s economic downturn, as it focuses on white collar unemployment. A book I bought for the shock value of some of the demeaning language is “Bridges out of Poverty.” More on that one when I read it all the way through. I’m also subscribing to the Poverty in America blog on change.org. Learning a lot there.It was @timoreilly who motivated me to “work on something that makes a difference,” while we’re navigating through the vagaries of economic turmoil. Even though in his most recent posts on the subject he wasn’t advocating pure charity work, it forced me to look carefully at what I’m going to commit my time to. My goal is to help my non-profit friends to learn how to leverage the social web to make their work more productive and rewarding.Finally, the trailer from “Happiness Is.” Enjoy.