Friday, November 20, 2020

Feel Good Friday - The Hunger Project

The Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. makes me grateful for friends, family and food. It’s also a reminder that this is a great time to highlight an organization fighting hunger. That why today’s Feel Good Friday is focused on The Hunger Project.


Founded in 1977, The Hunger Project (THP) is “a global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger.” They work in 23 countries on a mission “to end hunger and poverty by pioneering sustainable, grassroots, women-centered strategies and advocating for their widespread adoption in countries throughout the world.”


Of the 690 million people around the world chronically undernourished, 60% of them are women and girls. That’s why all of THP’s programs are built on the same three pillars:


1.     Start with women

2.     Mobilize communities

3.     Engage local government


The foundation of their work is Vision, Commitment, and Action workshops that take place at the village-level. Here people create their own vision for the future and commit to a 3-month project that uses local resources to achieve the vision. THP provides these leaders with skills trainings in literacy, numeracy, nutrition and local laws. Then they organize people into self-help groups so they have a stronger voice. Finally, THP partners with local governments to hold them accountable to the people and to lobby for state and national law changes.


The work doesn't stop there. While the name of this organization is The Hunger Project, they recognize that “ending hunger starts with people.” That’s why they have programs that address: hunger, poverty, gender equality, environment, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, local democracy, empowering girls, education, self-reliance and social cohesion. Whether that’s providing women with access to microfinance, preventing electoral violence in Bangladesh or promoting sustainable farming practices, all of these programs rely on an innovative, holistic approach that meets local challenges and opportunities.


The work of The Hunger Project reaches 16.5 million people worldwide in 13,600 active communities. There are 464,000 women participating in leadership trainings and the ripple effect of their work reaches into their families and communities. Read details on THP’s impact here.


If you would like to make your own impact by supporting the programs of The Hunger Project, you can do that with a donation and by amplifying their work on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @HungerProject.


I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Wildlife Conservation Society

Friends, the 2020 election is over! While there are still some ongoing shenanigans, I am moving on and fulfilling my blog promise to dedicate today’s Feel Good Friday post to animals. In particular we’ll look at the animals protected by the Wildlife Conservation Society.


Founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was one of the first conservation organizations in the U.S. Their mission is to save “wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.”

In order to maximize their resources for the greatest impact, the programs of WCS focus on conserving “14 intact regions on land and in the sea, while reversing the decline of six priority species groups: elephants, apes, big cats, sharks & rays, whales & dolphins, and tortoises & freshwater turtles.” 

Solutions focus on partnering with governments and indigenous communities to protect wildlife, wild places, oceans and fisheries. The team of scientists at WCS share information with other organizations to help combat climate change and wildlife trafficking. They use their expertise to investigate and prevent diseases that move between people and animals, advise on wildlife management, and to influence international policies that will benefit both wildlife and wild places.


In addition, in the 125 years WCS has existed, they’ve “supported governments and communities in the creation or expansion of 268 national parks and protected areas.” They also manage four zoos and an aquarium in New York and provide educational experiences and programs that connect people to animals and inspire an interest in conservation. If you’ve got a favorite animal, whether it’s the African elephant, Siamese crocodile or Siberian tiger, you can search through the WCS website to get information on specific conservation efforts.


To learn more about the history of the World Conservation Society, you can watch a 16-minute film created for this year’s anniversary celebration. You can also support the work of WCS with a donation and stay current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TheWCS. #StandforWildlife

Friday, November 6, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Election Integrity Partnership

I was looking forward to posting a variety of Feel Good Friday topics again but, given that the election isn't over yet, we’re going to stick with the voting theme for another week and highlight the work of the Election Integrity Partnership. 

As they explain on Twitter, the Election Integrity Partnership is “a coalition of research entities focused on detecting and mitigating attempts to prevent or deter people from voting or to delegitimize election results.” 

Created in July of this year, the EIP consists of “four of the nation’s leading institutions focused on analysis of mis- and disinformation in the social media landscape: the Stanford Internet Observatory and Program on Democracy and the Internet, Graphika, the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, and the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public.


The researchers at these institutions work with election officials and other stakeholders to find instances of election-related misinformation, analyze reports from public sector and NGO partners and send their findings to the appropriate partners and agencies to mitigate the impact. The EIP website includes a page with detailed policy analysis and a rapid response section that addresses issues such as how the media is handling Trump’s false claims of victory.


In this November 1st NPR story with one of EIP’s researchers, they advised that we might not have election results on Tuesday and emphasize the uncertainty is expected and does not mean the process is illegitimate. Since then, researchers have been hosting multiple briefings each day to share rapid analysis and resources on the election. You can find links to those recordings and read their latest tweets on the EIP home page. If you’d like to get their updates with the rest of your social media, follow them on Instragram and Twitter @2020Partnership.


Here’s hoping this election comes to a fair and peaceful conclusion and next week we can focus on animals. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Vote Smart

It’s the last Feel Good Friday before the election and here’s something to feel good about – Vote Smart.


Vote Smart is a political research organization that has been providing non-partisan, unbiased information to voters since 1992. Their mission is “to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to ALL Americans.”


How does it work? As explained on the website, over 7,000 volunteers spend time “researching the backgrounds and records of thousands of political candidates and elected officials to discover their voting records, campaign contributions, public statements, biographical data (including their work history) and evaluations of them generated by over 400 national and 1300 state special interest groups.” There are multiple ways you can find the information you’re looking for. Watch this 4-minute video to get details on the programs or keep reading.


I Spy is a collection of information on over 40,000 politicians that includes their bios, votes, positions on the issues, ratings from special interest groups, speeches, tweets, and funding sources. All you need to do is put in the name of the politician you’re interested in and start reading! You can trust the information on the site because Vote Smart posts a BULL icon by comments that have been proven false by, PolitiFact or the Washington Post.


Political Galaxy is a flashy and fast way to select a politician and an issue then find out where they stand by viewing their special interest ratings, votes and speeches. You can also get this information on the mobile app, On Point. With millions of facts at your fingertips, you really will be able to vote smart. 


Finally, you can use the very engaging Vote Easy resource to determine which candidate most matches your views on the issues. Go to this link and either “click on a candidate’s sign to see their positions on key issues OR compare your issue positions to those of all the candidates.” While you probably don’t need this to make your decision on your vote for president, it may come in handy for the congressional races. It’s also fun to use. 


If you’d like to support the work of Vote Smart, there are several ways you can help out. Put your researching skills to work by becoming a volunteer, make a donation or share these resources by liking the Vote Smart Facebook page and following them on Twitter @VoteSmart.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Vote Save America

Only two Feel Good Fridays left before election day so it’s time for more voting resources. Today, we’ll focus on Vote Save America.

Vote Save America is a project of Crooked Media, the team that brings you the Pod Save America podcast and many others. As explained on their website, Vote Save America is “a website, an initiative, and a community to help guide you with each step you need to take throughout the year to have the impact you want.” Provided the impact you want to have is a more progressive national agenda and a new President.


Like many of the organizations we’ve been sharing in recent weeks, Vote Save America’s site includes information on registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot and important deadlines for every state and US Territory. For example, you can find everything you need to know about California here.  


There are also resources to learn more about the records of the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees and their stands on issues including: coronavirus response, healthcare, economy, education, foreign policy, climate, criminal justice reform, guns, voting rights and election reform, immigration and reproductive rights. Even if you know who you’re voting for, these pages are worth a look. In the coronavirus response section, policies listed under Biden include “enacting a universal mask mandate” and under Trump say “being a dick to Dr. Fauci”. Actual policies are included too.


Last, Vote Save America provides creative ways to volunteer, including becoming a poll worker or partnering with Fair Fight as a hotline volunteer or poll observer. You can also Adopt a State and get resources to help organizers, volunteers and candidates in six key battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin.


If you’re reading this blog, I’m confident that you’re voting in this election. If you want to step up your participation use the links above to find the right volunteer opportunity. If you’ve got more money than time you can donate to one of Vote Save America's targeted campaigns: Get Mitch or Die Trying (elect key Democratic Senators and flip the Senate) or F*ck Gerry(mandering) Fund (flip state legislative races so new, fairer maps can be drawn in 2021). Last you can spread the word on social media by joining their Facebook group and following them on Twitter @votesaveamerica.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Democracy Works

As we count down to election day, we’re keeping the voting theme going. Last week, we shared the story of TurboVote. In today’s Feel Good Friday we’ll talk about their parent organization, Democracy Works.

The vision of Democracy works is to “make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election.” It’s the brainchild of Seth Flaxman and Kathryn Peters who, after missing several elections when they were graduate students, were inspired to build a reminder system. In 2010, they launched this system under the name TurboVote

As explained last week, TurboVote is a tool that provides voters with information they need to register, details on where and how to vote and reminders about important deadlines. Democracy Works also collects and standardizes election data that is used to produce polling place and ballot data. That data is then used in Google searches and by election officials, universities, organizations and companies who want to embed an interactive tool on their own sites.


Finally, Democracy Works helps election officials “build new tools and share technology, as well as best practices, so they can best serve their voters.” That includes adding intelligent bar codes to mail ballots so they can be tracked and providing a reporting tool that feeds directly into the USPS to help escalate concerns related to election mail.


All of these programs help Democracy Works achieve their mission of serving voters, powering elections and building a better democracy. If you want to be a part of it you can support Democracy Works with a donation and by amplifying their message on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @demworksinc. And for goodness sakes, #vote!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Feel Good Friday - TurboVote

Hard to believe that Election Day is finally less than a month away! Let’s celebrate with a Feel Good Friday post highlighting the work of TurboVote. 

A program of Democracy Works, who we’ll profile next week, TurboVote is “a tool that helps you vote, no matter what.” Since 2012, TurboVote has helped 9 million voters keep track of voter registration, absentee, and vote-by-mail rules for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


TurboVote’s website includes a page titled How to Vote where you can look up information for your state. Resources on how to register include instructions and links on who can vote, how to register, how to check your status and a list of key dates and deadlines. For example, in California the online registration deadline is October 19th but you have until November 3rd to register in person.


Once you’ve got your registration taken care of, you can research how to vote. TurboVote explains where you can find your polling place and what you’ll need to bring with you if you vote in person. They also provide tips on voting by mail and resources to find your ballot measures online.


Best of all, if you sign up with TurboVote, they’ll send you text and email reminders about registration deadlines, upcoming elections and where to vote!


So how do you get involved? Research information on voting in your state, get reminders by signing up with TurboVote and stay in the loop by liking the TurboVote Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TurboVote.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Black Voters Matter Fund

It’s Feel Good Friday and we’re continuing our voting rights/election theme with the Black Voters Matter Fund.


Headquartered in East Point, Georgia, the goal of Black Voters Matter (BVM) is “to increase power in marginalized, predominantly Black communities. Effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny.”

BVM works to achieve this goal while keeping five core beliefs in mind:

  • Respect and support local infrastructure
  • Black voters matter every day
  • Black voters matter everywhere
  • Messaging must be authentic and speak to the issues
  • Leadership of Black women must receive recognition and investment


Their work focuses on increasing voter registration and election turnout. BVM also advocates for voting rights and access issues such as expanded early voting, resisting voter ID and strengthening the Voting Rights Act. Last, they work with other groups to help them develop infrastructure, provide staff training and network development.


The BVM website has a voting toolkit with information and links on how to register, request an absentee ballot, check your registration status and get election reminders. There are also state-specific resources for people living in FL, SC, TN, GA, LA, NC, PA, AL and MS. Most fun, the Black Voters Matter “Blackest Bus in America” is currently on the road as part of a national voter outreach initiative. Watch a short video pinned on the BVM Twitter page to see where the bus will be next.

If you’d like to support the work of Black Voters Matter, you can volunteer for an activity such as phone banking, writing post cards or fundraising. You can also make a donation or raise awareness by wearing some BVM merch, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @BlackVotersMtr.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Vote Forward

As promised, I’m spending the next few Feel Good Fridays focused on voter education and election-related organizations. For all of us feeling sadness, fear or anger right now (or for the last four years), I have a lovely antidote – action. 

Vote Forward is a nonprofit organization that builds tools “to enable Americans, wherever they may be, to encourage fellow citizens to participate in our democracy.” Their mission is “to empower grassroots volunteers to help register voters from under-represented demographics and encourage them to vote.”  

It began in 2017 as an experiment by Scott Forman during the special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama. Using a randomized, controlled trial he found that turnout among people who received get out the vote (GOTV) letters was 3.9 percent higher than for turnout in the control group. That was a big enough success for Scott and some friends to build the Vote Forward platform. As he explains, “we believe our democracy depends on everyone participating, so we volunteered our time and expertise to achieve that goal.


So how does it work? You can watch this short video or keep reading.


Start by going to the Vote Forward website and clicking the link to “send letters”. Fill out a short form and get approved within 48 hours. Once confirmed, decide whether you want to send 5 or 20 letters (you can always go back for more) and either let the randomizer send you names or pick a state to target from this list of social campaigns.


I chose the randomizer and now have the names and addresses of 20 registered voters in Florida! Next step is to print out the letters (or go to your local copy shop), add a personal note and wait until the send date of October 17th to pop them in the mail. If you’re wondering why October 17th, Vote Forward found there is a sweet spot for GOTV letters, not too soon and not too late. You can read the full explanation and get mailing tips here.

Are you ready to join me? Vote Forward set a goal of sending out 10 million voter turnout letters in 2020 and the current count is 8.23 million. I got my list of voters on Thursday and I already feel better even though all I’ve done so far is print out the letters and buy stamps.


If you don’t have time to write, please consider a donation to Vote Forward and help them meet their goal of 10 million letters by spreading the word on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @votefwd.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Voto Latino Foundation

With US elections coming up in less than two months, we’re going to spend the next few Feel Good Fridays focused on voter education and election-related organizations, beginning with the Voto Latino Foundation.

Started in 2005, Voto Latino is “a grassroots political organization focused on educating and empowering a new generation of Latinx voters, as well as creating a more robust and inclusive democracy.” With 32 million Latinx people eligible to vote in 2020, Voto Latino has a goal of registering 500,000 new voters before the November elections. As of this posting, they’re halfway there!

The Voto Latino website is full of resources, and starts by answering the question, why vote? Vote to elect candidates that care about the same issues you do, to get Latinx representation in politics and to create an inclusive, accountable government. And if those reasons aren’t enough, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would like a word. Watch AOC here.


Once inspired, Voto Latino helps people get ready to vote by providing information on registration, early voting, mail-in ballots and voting rights. They also explain why knowledge is power. “In addition to knowing your rights, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with common voter suppression tactics. Remember – if our votes didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to silence us.”


Once registered, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the issues. Voto Latino has detailed information on the following topics: healthcare, police brutality, paid sick leave, environment, gun violence prevention, immigration, fair pair, reproductive justice, education, student debt, voting rights and the census. Whew! I’m going to bookmark this page for my own voter education.


If you’d like to support the work of Voto Latino you can get involved by organizing a virtual event, registering friends and family to vote or becoming a volunteer. You can also make a donation and spread the word on social media by liking the Voto Latino Facebook page and following them on Twitter @votolatino. 


Let’s all get registered and ready to vote!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Feel Good Friday - National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

As I write this Feel Good Friday post, there are hundreds of fires burning in the western United States and thousands of firefighters working to contain them. Given this situation and the fact that it’s September 11th, it seems like a great day to profile the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.


Created by Congress in 1992 to lead a nationwide effort to honor America’s fallen firefighters, the mission of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) is “to honor and remember America’s fallen fire heroes, to provide resources to assist their families rebuilding their lives, and work within the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries.”


Fire service programs provided by the NFFF include a set of initiatives to prevent line-of-duty deaths called Everyone Goes Home, a community risk reduction program that encourages the public to be proactive in fire safety, and a network for fire chiefs to support each other and share information.


Resources for families of fallen firefighters include virtual support groups and self-care and wellness videos. Full family programs range from bereavement camps for children to financial assistance for post-secondary education and access to the fire hero family network.


To honor and remember fallen fire heroes, every October, the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland hosts the official national tribute to all firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year. This year, in lieu of an in person gathering, a National Tribute to Honor America’s Fallen Firefighters will be broadcast on October 4th at 10:00am EDT. 


Other events that support National Fallen Firefighters Foundation include golf tournaments, racing events and 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs that honor the FDNY firefighters who gave their lives on September 11th, 2001. Today’s event is virtual, and the money raised helps the NFFF create and maintain the programs that support fire service survivors. 


If you’d like to support the work of NFFF you can make a donation, shop for gear and share the love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @NFFF_News.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Feel Good Friday - 9to5 National Association for Working Women

It's the Feel Good Friday before Labor Day so we're celebrating an organization that supports women's labor, the 9to5 National Association for Working Women.

As summarized on their Twitter page, 9to5 is “building a movement for economic justice by engaging directly affected women to get their issues on the public agenda.” Founded in 1973 by a group of female office workers in Boston, 9to5 is “one of the largest, most respected national membership organizations of working women in the U.S.”

There are four 9to5 chapters across the country (California, Colorado, Georgia, Wisconsin) and a national network with members in every state. While chapters focus on specific initiatives relevant for working women in their states, programs on the national level fall into one of four areas:


Equal opportunity - On average, women earn only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men and those numbers are lower for women of color. 9to5 is fighting for fair pay laws, equal opportunity policies and protection against workplace harassment. 


Work family flexibility - 9to5 believes there should be jobs that allow women the flexibility they need to care for their families. That’s why they’re advocating for paid sick days, more accessible family and medical leave, and equitable pay and benefits for part-time workers.


Family supporting jobs - Women need jobs that provide living wages so they financially support their families. 9to5 champions affordable childcare, affordable housing and unemployment insurance policies that protect low-wage workers.


Power of participation - 9to5 envisions “full and equal women’s participation and representation in the workforce and local, state and national governing bodies.” They work to educate and empower voters and encourage women’s participation in elections. 


All of this organizing and participation has paid off. Some of the major national policies 9to5 has worked for and won include: the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.


9to5 won’t stop until they achieve their vision of full economic equality for women. Ready to join the fight? Make a donation and spread the word on social media by liking the 9to5 Facebook page and following them on Twitter @9to5org.


And since it’s been in your head the whole time you were reading this… here. You’re welcome.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Black Lives Matter

People, it's Feel Good Friday and Black Lives Matter
As you've seen in the news, this week police in Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times. Although he survived, he's paralyzed from the waist down. As long as police keep shooting Black men and women, I'll keep profiling groups that support racial justice.

Previous blogs focused on groups that support Black lives such as Showing Up for Racial Justice, Color of Change, and the Movement for Black Lives. I realized, however, that I've never highlighted the official Black Lives Matter organization, so I'm doing that today.

Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 by Black organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer, George Zimmerman. As they explain on the website, "Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities."

Today the project is a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters across the US, UK and Canada. Their mission is to "eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes."

In addition to organizing direct actions, Black Lives Matter has a variety of resources, programs and social media campaigns. You can download a series of toolkits that address healing justice and direct action, conflict resolution in the chapters, and guidance for white people to #TalkAboutTravon and issues of racial justice. The Provocateurs is a series of videos featuring artists who create within a politically radical framework and #WhatMatters2020 is a campaign to bring BLM supporters and allies to the polls in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. Watch a short video on that effort here

If you want to support the work of Black Lives Matter you can do that by making a donation, shopping for and wearing merchandise (including masks) and following their social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Blklivesmatter.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Feel Good Friday - 5 Calls

After watching the Democratic National Convention this week, I'm all fired up to spend Feel Good Friday sharing an easy way to participate in our government. Make 5 Calls!

Founded by a husband and wife team in San Francisco, 5 Calls is an open source project to make advocacy accessible. A team of volunteers researches issues and determines which representatives are most influential on which topic. Next, they collect phone numbers for those offices and write a script that articulates a progressive position on the topic. All you have to do is spend 5 minutes to make 5 calls.

Calling members of Congress is more effective than emailing or ranting on social media because staffers tally the calls and give the count to your representatives. You can learn more about it by reading the articles linked on the 5 Calls website.

If you want to get started but aren't sure who to call or what to say, fill in your location to get a list of active issues. When I input Oakland, the top issues were related to the USPS, mail-in voting and demanding an extension to collect census data. 

If you're not interested in what shows up, you can view the list of all 74 active issues. Topics include: appointments, civil rights, consumer protection, criminal justice, digital rights, environment, foreign affairs, government oversight, gun reform, healthcare, immigration, LGBTQ, police reform, voter rights, women's rights, and workers' rights.

Clicking on a specific issue brings up a summary of the situation, the name and number of the politician to call and a script to follow, or use as inspiration. You can see the script for calling your Governor to demand ballot drop boxes at this link. Your call will be answered by a staffer (or voicemail) and should only take a minute. I'm writing this on Thursday night and am excited to make some calls tomorrow and report back in the comments.

You can support the work of 5 Calls with a donation and if you want reminders to participate, you can sign up for the 5 Calls Weekly Newsletter. Other ways to stay involved? Connect with their social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @make5calls. And for goodness sake, make 5 calls!