Collaborating for Good Through Games: co.lab

12 Dec Co.lab opening

There are a couple areas of social good that are becoming more and more intriguing these days: gamification and education. So when something launches that is a cross-section of the two, it’s exciting to share!

Recently such a new opportunity came up. I had the chance to talk with Zynga.org‘s executive director Ken Weber about a new joint venture between Zynga and New Schools Venture Fund: co.lab.

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The idea behind this incubator for startups involved with educational games is simple, yet ambitious. Zynga.org provides access to gaming best practices, Zynga staff, offices, tools and expertise, as well as playtests and feedback from both Zynga and schools (including students and educators). The startups provide their education technology products (apps and games), creative ideas, enthusiasm, and a burning desire to change the world for the better, just like the two supporting partners of the program.

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Zynga employee Nick leads students from San Francisco’s Balboa High School through a game design workshop. Creating excitement for STEM learning is part of the idea behind many of Zynga’s initiatives. Photo courtesy of Zynga.org

This new program was started just this fall. The application process for co.lab’s second cohort will open in early November. If chosen, co.lab provides for-profit or non-profit startups using technology products to help improve academic or social outcomes PK-12 with help in several keys areas of developing more effective ed tech products. These include developing learning game apps (content), measurement and evaluation tools (M&E), educational platforms that distribute games and apps (distribution) and/or other educational services that are looking to learn from best practices in commercial gaming to improve distribution, retention and engagement (gamification).

First-round cohorts include Kidaptive, LocoMotiveLabs, Motion Math, Pluto Media, and Edmodo. co.lab is a venture philanthropy initiative; the primary aim of co.lab is philanthropic: to generate a social, not financial, return.

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Ken Weber, Executive Director, Zynga.org; Mark Pincus, Founder of Zynga; Esteban Sosnik, Executive Director of co.lab; and Ted Mitchell, President and Chief Executive Officer of NewSchools Venture Fund. Photo taken at the co.lab opening; courtesy of Zynga.org.

The idea is, as Weber explains, “to harness the power of all the good gamers out there and channel it into solving education and social problems in fun, engaging ways.”

To this end, innovative products, ideas or prototypes that demonstrate significant promise for producing transformative effects on teaching, learning and/or education in general receive preference. Each approved startup will house a team at Zynga’s offices, receive up to a $50,000 stipend and benefit from the the knowledge and talent of one of the world’s largest online gaming companies. Zynga is investing $1 million into the first year alone.

NewSchools Venture Fund provides co.lab with operational oversight and guidance, coordinates partnerships and playtesting with educators and schools and includes co.lab companies in activities with a larger network of of edtech entrepreneurs.

Volunteers from the game industry, including Zynga employees, are also a key part of co.lab’s approach to sharing best practices and advice on product development, marketing and distribution and other related topics.

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Like many companies, Zynga combines creative online social good opportunities with in-person community events to raise overall engagement, as well as to give back both globally and locally. Photo of employees building a community garden courtesy of Zynga.org.

Internally, Zynga see its involvement in co.lab as a win/win opportunity. Not only does it inspire their own employees, who also are heavily involved with “offline” volunteering like community projects, but it also draws awareness and excitement to a huge burgeoning field online: gamification for education and social good. Additionally, it creates excitement around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs and how STEM skills can be used for a wide range of interesting passions.

Passions that even — or especially — can change the world.

If you would like to be notified when the application for the next co.lab cohort is open, contact info@playcolab.org.

We Need YOU! Team #NoKidHungry Holiday Give-A-Thon 12/3/13!

27 Nov NKH Photo

We need you! Join us for our annual Team No Kid Hungry Holiday Give-A-Thon!

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Childhood hunger affects more than just the 16 million kids going to school hungry—it affects us all. We can put an end to that. In order to end childhood hunger, Team No Kid Hungry needs to continue raising critical funds to put programs in place that provide access, education, and awareness.
On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the annual Team No Kid Hungry Holiday Give-A-Thon will be taking place in conjunction with #GivingTuesday, a movement and day dedicated to giving. This is a one-day social media blitz with the goal of raising $25,000 for No Kid Hungry. And this year, Tyson Foods will match the donations—dollar for dollar—giving us the potential to raise $50,000 in a single day, providing hungry children with access to 500,000 additional meals.
Here’s how you can you help Team No Kid Hungry reach our goals:

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WHAT: Team No Kid Hungry Give-A-Thon on #GivingTuesday

WHEN: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 9 a.m.—9 p.m.
• Sign up for the Thunderclap to spread the #NoKidHungry and #GivingTuesday message simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
• Make a donation—and encourage others—at www.nokidhungry.org/givingtuesday. Not only will you be doing good, you’ll have a chance at some awesome prizes!
• On Twitter:
• Follow @NoKidHungry and @TysonFoods, and retweet messages about the Give-A-Thon from both accounts.
• Use the hashtags #NoKidHungry and #GivingTuesday in all your tweets.
• Sample tweets:
• Join @nokidhungry & @tysonfoods for the Team #NoKidHungry Give-A-Thon! Change kids’ lives on #GivingTuesday. http://bit.ly/16sKOzB
• No kid should go hungry. Donate to the Team #NoKidHungry Give-A-Thon today with @nokidhungry & @tysonfoods! http://bit.ly/16sKOzB #GivingTuesday
• Join #NoKidHungry & @TysonFoods Holiday Give-A-Thon! Can we provide 500K meals to hungry kids in US? http://bit.ly/16sKOzB #givingtuesdayOn Facebook:
Like the No Kid Hungry page.
• Join us on Facebook all day on 12/3 and share ourposts about the Give-A-Thon with your Facebook friends.

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We can end child hunger in America. Just $1 connects a child to up to 10 meals. When we reach our goal of $25,000 and Tyson Foods adds in their generous match, we’ll provide hungry children with access to 500,000 additional meals.

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Please join us. We hope to see you on #GivingTuesday for the Team No Kid Hungry Give-A-Thon!

3 New Emerging Technologies for Good

9 Oct

This is a guest post by Missi Winterburn.

3 New Emerging Technologies for Good

New technology is constantly being developed to solve all kinds of problems, from making our everyday life easier to truly revolutionizing the way we interact with the world around us. Social media is undoubtedly one of these developments, and when harnessed in the right way can offer excellent reach and communication for non profit organizations and charities. Because communication is so fundamental to organizing and impacting positive change, it’s important that we share some of the newest, most promising technological developments that could impact our quality of medical care, long term sustainability and access to clean water.

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Technology is continuously allowing new solutions to appear that can help solve problems.

The Nanotube Sponge

Developed last year, the carbon nanotube sponge has some very interesting properties, and huge potential for limiting environmental disasters such as oils spills and providing access to clean drinking water. The sponge itself is made of carbon nanotubes which are essentially sheets of carbon rolled into cylinders. The sheets themselves are only an atom thick. Being made of almost pure carbon, the sponge naturally repels water, but attracts oil. As a result, this material could prove invaluable when it comes to cleaning up oil spills, and elegantly simple approach. Furthermore, the sponge itself is magnetic, which offers some options as to how these might be deployed in a large scale, and recovered. Additionally, the sponges are extremely durable and resistant to burning, which makes them have a long life span. It is also being explored as to how this technology might be further developed to allow the filtration of microbes and harmful bacteria from unsafe drinking water. Currently, this is being explored by coating more traditional polyurethane with carbon nanotubes, and additionally with silver nanowires. The sponges then form a very good conductor, and can cleanse contaminated drinking water with a very low voltage input.

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Nanotube sponges can solve challenges like cleaning up oil spills, and cleansing drinking water.

Robot Doctors

One of the major problems that medical staff often face, especially doctors, is having enough time to get around and visit all their patients. Robot avatars have been developed to enable doctors to interact with patients and do their rounds while being somewhere else entirely. There are currently around seven hospitals in the US making use of the avatars, and one hospital in Northern Ireland is also implementing the technology. This enables doctors to focus on attending to patients from any point in the hospital, while still retaining the advantage of face to face contact and direct communication, in essence. The avatar, developed by iRobot, is still relatively new, but is likely to see more widespread use in the future. Additionally, the advantage of using the avatar is that the doctor has access to volumes of medical documents and information while communicating with the patient directly, but it is not the only new medical technology being developed. According to Licensed Prescriptions, along with some of the other advances in the field, we could see the way we receive care in hospitals become much more efficient – and this could lead to better, faster diagnosis and result in saving more lives.

3-D Printers

The concept and development of 3-D printers has been around for a few years now, but the current advances and implications are staggering. While the basic technology has in fact been around since the 1980s, recent developments have led to major breakthroughs in efficiency and practical application. One of the most fundamental aspects of 3-D printing is that it generates zero waste, and when paired with sustainable materials truly offers a fantastic option for ecologically sounds manufacturing. Not only that, it could completely revolutionize the way we manufacture anything and everything. Currently, 3-D printers can make just about anything you can imagine, from chocolate to glass, titanium to nylon. Once the technology becomes widely available, we could see a huge reduction in manufacturing waste and energy usage, not to mention that almost anyone will be able to print extremely complex and detailed products.

These are just some of the truly innovative and potentially groundbreaking technologies that are becoming a force for good in the modern world. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we can expect to see many more in the coming years, whether in the form of ‘hard’ tech such as robot avatars, or innovations in accessibility to communications and social platforms. All of these offer us great potential to help shape the world into a better, fairer and more sustainable place.

How To Accept Credit Card Donations for Your NonProfit

21 Sep

Whether you’re running a charity or a non-profit organization, it pays to give your contributors and backers as many options as possible to donate their hard-earned money toward your cause. While many companies accept credit card payments despite the fees attached to them, these companies are happy to take on the cost, because they provide their customers with the easiest way possible to spend their money. Online credit card processing is the most convenient method one can offer their supporters to make donations with their credit and debit cards through your website. Let’s look a little deeper and better understand what goes into accepting credit cards online.

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Capture the enthusiasm of donors who want to give right away with credit card payments. Photo courtesy of LyndaSanchez on Flickr.

Credit Card Processing Fees

With plenty of different options, it can be difficult for a charity or NPO to choose the best one for their needs. However, knowing the right option for your organization can have a substantial impact on the amount of each donation your organization keeps. Many charities have turned to PayPal for their credit card processing needs, largely due to it being one of the most recognizable names in merchant services. However, there may be other services available that can offer your organization better rates. If you’re running a charity, you want to find low rates to ensure a contributor’s donation goes to your cause.

Many companies have sprung up in an attempt to enhance the types of services PayPal offers, so there are plenty of options, even in areas we may not expect them. If your organization is already using Intuit software, for example, you can also accomplish credit card processing with QuickBooks. However, if you don’t use accounting software at the moment, options such as WePay also provide you with significantly reduced rates compared to the 4% PayPal typically charges per transaction. With PayPal, a $100 donation becomes $96 of useable spending money for your organization after fees. But with other services offering fees between 1 and 3%, you can quickly see how these fees add up and can detract from your received donation.

How it Works

Before you pick your merchant services provider and sign a contract, you need to fully understand how the process works. By acquiring a merchant services account, your organization will be able to decide just how long the donation process works. Merchant services allows an organization to create an online payment/donation gateway that will allow your supporters to provide their credit card information directly to your website. This is a perfect solution to increase donations if you’re already in the midst of a marketing campaign that is driving additional traffic to your site.

If your charity is in dire need of increased donations, the options your merchant services provider can offer are much more advantageous for you than you might think. Donations will be sent to a secure website that will then be passed along to your merchant services account. You will then be able to withdraw the money from your service provider, or have it wired to your organization’s bank account. As an additional bonus, some service providers will allow you to accept donations from a supporter’s bank account instead of their credit or debit card. What’s the bonus of this? Well, for the most part, merchant services providers charge a significantly smaller percentage when you receive a donation from a supporter’s bank account. These fees are usually around 1% of the total donation, meaning your organization is truly gifted with nearly the entire donation made.

In the end, your goal should be to make it as simple as possible for anyone to donate to your organization. If you’ve ever tried to donate to another charity, or have even attempted to make an online purchase, only to have your experience end in immense frustration, you know how dire it is for your organization to be fully-functional. Don’t allow one more donation to pass you by; do the necessary research and find the right merchant services provider to allow your charity receive as many donations as possible.

This is a guest post by Bradley Derringer, a blogger for TechBreach, giving you the latest on all things tech. 

How #Volunteering Can Help You Stand Out from the Crowd

1 Jul
If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
~ Booker T. Washington
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This is a contribution by How2Become

When you’re desperately looking for that next job, working for free may not seem like the next best thing at all. But, volunteering can seriously help you to stand out from other applicants and can help you to get that next interview.

Show that you are a proactive person

Volunteering for three months looks a lot better on a resume than a long gap between jobs. It shows that you have kept your brain active, that you have been determined to improve the lives of others and that you were not content to sit at home and order a pizza.

It’s not all about money

It shows a great level of dedication and loyalty to stick at a volunteering post for a few months without being paid. Volunteering demonstrates that there is more to your motivation than just money. Employers will like this as they will see you as a person who wants to do their job well for the sake of fulfilling your own personal goals rather than it being all about the money. Somebody who really wants a job for reasons other than financial ones will be much more appealing to employers.

Learn key skills

Many volunteering posts require many of the same skills as a paid professional job. For example, fundraising for a charity requires good sales and negotiation skills in order to get people to donate. Similarly, working with children with learning difficulties or teaching English as a foreign language require excellent communication skills.

Network with influential people

Many larger charities have paid jobs higher up. Whilst volunteering you may get to meet people who have the power to hire and fire employees in these positions. After a few months of volunteering for a larger charitable organisation you may even be offered a permanent paid position. You will be amazed at the variety of different people who volunteer. Even if they themselves are between jobs or out of work, they may have friends and relatives in the industries in which you wish to apply for jobs. It never hurts to get talking to people with contacts.

Gain Work Experience

There are a huge number of volunteering opportunities out there. You are bound to find something relevant to the career you want to pursue. If you want to go into marketing then why not help a charity to design posters for free? If you’re looking at events management then ask if you can help to organise a charity dinner or a fundraising event. You can tailor the type of volunteering you do to perfectly demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to enter your desired field. These kinds of opportunities would not be given to you in a paid job until you climbed quite high up the ladder in a larger corporation, so volunteering can give the perfect platform to prove you have what it takes.

Get further, faster

Since volunteers don’t get paid, there are few people who can afford to stick at it for a considerable length of time. If you manage to stay for a few months, you may see yourself become one of the more senior and experienced volunteers. You may even get your own team to lead; an opportunity which you wouldn’t be given for years in the corporate world. Relish the opportunities and make the most of them. Managerial experience will look amazing on your resume and will show that other people have had faith in you to perform to a very high standard in the past.

Richard McMunn is a writer for  How2Become, a leading career and recruitment specialist for public sector careers. For the last 8 years How2become has helped numerous people prepare for and pass tough recruitment processes and assessment centres in order to secure their dream job. 

57 Easy, Free Ways You Can Make Someone’s Day

9 Jun

This article originally appears in The Huffington Post.

57 Simple Ways to Make Someone’s Day

Amy Neumann

Social Good and Technology Devotee; Director SEO/SEM/SMO at Cleveland.com

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and start with the person nearest you.” -Mother Teresa

Recently, I ran across something that got me thinking again about the beauty of a simple kindness. And about the astonishing power and positive impact even the smallest kind word or deed can have on someone’s day — or life.

The story has been repeated countless different ways for ages, and here is one version.

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Photo courtesy of Amy Neumann

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!” The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.– adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

Are you looking for ways to make that difference to one person today? Or for a few simple ways to spread kindness anytime?

Here are 57 ideas to get you started:

1. Smile at a stranger
2. Put change in an expired parking meter
3. Send someone a hand-written card
4. Hold a door open for someone
5. Volunteer virtually for a few minutes or hours: Sparked.com
6. Give a friendly wave to a neighbor
7. Do a simple, free, quick kindness for a charity — eight examples here
8. Tell a friend you appreciate them
9. Plant a tree

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Spend time in nature yourself, and maybe later, plant a tree to share with others.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo courtesy of Amy Neumann
10. Walk instead of driving and absorb the wonders around you
11. Teach a group in your community about something unique you do or enjoy
12. Collect books to give to a school or shelter
13. Drop off dinner or groceries to an elderly friend who can’t get out much
14. Start an affinity group to share a hobby with others — MeetUp.com
15. Mentor someone, a child or an adult
16. Create a blog for someone who loves writing but isn’t technical
17. Help someone get set up with social media
18. Call your family just to say hi and find out what they’re doing
19. Invite a friend you haven’t seen in a while to the movies or coffee or…
20. Find a fun project to volunteer for: VolunteerMatch.org
21. Sign up for an unusual class at a community college and see who you meet
22. Read a book on something new to gain new perspective
23. Make a Top 10 (or 25 or 100) List of things you’re thankful for and share it
24. Give a plant to someone
25. Ask someone for a recipe of theirs that you love
26. Ask a wise person for insight
27. Talk to elderly people and listen to their stories to learn about life
28. Give a stranger a sincere compliment
29. Say “Thank You” often
30. Do pro-bono work for a favorite cause: Catchafire.org
31. Say “I Love You” often
32. Organize photos in a virtual or paper album for a host/ess as a thank you
33. Ask someone how their day was, and listen attentively
34. Invite someone you admire to lunch to hear their ideas and insights
35. Speak on a topic you know to a community group who wants to learn
36. Buy a charitable magazine subscription and send it to a nursing home
37. See the positives in a tough situation
38. Sell some cool stuff online and give the proceeds to charity: KarmaGoat.com
39. Read these 25 amazing social good blogs for inspiration
40. Share inspiring quotes and stories online
41. Donate your airline miles

“Wherever these is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”
-Seneca

42. Pick up an errant piece of trash and throw it away, just because
43. Offer to babysit for a single Mom or Dad
44. Run an errand for a busy friend
45. Donate event tickets to local charity organization
46. Recycle anything, correctly
47. Give a gift of housekeeping service to a new parent
48. Set aside a bit more than last year for charity and add a new one to your list
49. Tell someone you see regularly at a business how they make your day
50. Be appreciative and gracious for compliments
51. Be patient under pressure and use compassion as a guide for disagreements
52. Smile just because
53. Dance in your car even (especially!) with people watching
54. Learn how to tell a few great clean jokes
55. Create a blog post about a few people you admire and why
56. Share something without being asked
57. Compliment a job well done, or a kindness

Amy Neumann is a passionate fan of social good, and is dedicated to leveraging technology to change the world. Check out her Charity Ideas Blog and follow her on Twitter @CharityIdeas.

Follow Amy Neumann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CharityIdeas

Tech for Good: Online and Mobile Safety, Privacy, and Security

1 Feb

January 28 was Data Privacy Day, an internationally-recognized day all about creating awareness and action around something we might all benefit from knowing more about:  staying safe online.

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These days we are often connected anytime, anyplace, on a mobile device (or two, or three.)   It’s become second-nature to jump onto Wi-Fi for a few minutes on a laptop or tablet.  We hardly think anymore about how we’re doing what we’re doing while we’re doing it…  Who might be watching, or what they might be seeing.  We’re accustomed to granting access for this and that, barely giving privacy a thought.

A recent article in ReadWrite.com by Adam Popescu titled Data Privacy Day: Painful Growing Pains, highlights some important areas where tech can do a lot of good toward keeping things safe, secure, and private.  Whether we’re emailing, shopping, looking for information, banking, updating our social networks, or anything else, safety is a concern.  Specifically, there are some things you can do to increase your safety and security.

A few standout points:

  • Read privacy policies, and learn more about them through places like PrivacyCamp and its #PrivChat privacy chat on Twitter 

  • Prevent unwanted tracking with services like FixTracking.com

  • Stay protected and anonymous on public Wi-Fi with VPN encryption services like AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield

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Image from ReadWrite.com

Simple things like being aware of security and privacy issues and taking quick, easy steps to prevent trouble can make a big difference in keeping things safe, secure, and private online.

You can read Adam’s article in its entirety HERE.

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