Posts from the ‘International Focus’ category

Is Talking About Spirituality and Social Change Taboo?

What shapes your world view? How does your world view influence your work to change the world for the better?

Growing up, we’re told we shouldn’t talk about two things: politics and religion. Yet these two things often help set the foundation of one’s world view. How do we go about changing the world for the better if we can’t talk about either? It’s not realistic–Is it?

“If I hear one more politician croak out the words that his or her faith is a private matter, I may just have to go smack them. That is so not reality. All of us have a worldview and that worldview shapes everything we think, act, or do.”  –Kay Warren, Saddleback Church

How does Spirituality + Social Change Add Up?

This post is prompted by two different events:

  1. Learning about the upcoming Justice Conference taking place next month, and
  2. Listening to a keynote address by Kay Warren at Pepperdine University’s 2010 conference, The Role of the Church in Doing Justice

The role of spirituality in social change has a lot to answer for–humans have a history of twisting one to achieve selfish desires and horrific acts. That said, does this mean that spirituality should not be a part of the social change dialogue? When you read social marketing texts or go to conferences, you don’t always hear a lot of chatter about mobilizing the network of the church or other faith-based organizations in efforts. Is it too taboo? How can we bring these two worlds closer together for good?

Mobilizing the Place “P”

The PEACE PlanIn 2009, President Obama created the Office of Faith-Based Organizations and Neighborhood Partnerships, but how can we challenge ourselves–as both practitioners and people with our own world views–to go a step further?

In social marketing circles, practitioners often look at the distribution network of Coca-Cola and ask how can we utilize the place “p” and mobilize it for good? Some, like ColaLife, are already a step ahead of many. In Kay Warren’s address, she discusses how the widespread distribution network that local churches offer can offer a sustainable solution to global health and international development efforts. To highlight the potential of this network, she shows how there are three rudimentary hospitals in Western Rwanda yet 726 churches.

Kay Warren goes on to present The PEACE Plan, a “hopeful response to the five giant problems in the world: spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy.” Kay and her husband Rick Warren (author of a Purpose Drive Life) created The PEACE Plan with the goal to mobilize a billion ordinary church members–or half of the world’s Christian population–to do normal tasks that make a difference in the world.

Who is the Hero?

One of the key points from Kay Warren’s keynote is the value and dire need for servant leadership, people who lead by serving others. This is a mentality and perspective we can bring into every meeting, every conversation and every interaction with others. No matter where you stand on whether or not spirituality is appropriate to discuss in social marketing circles, I personally encourage you to watch the video above. You’ll see common themes between that which we work to achieve in social marketing and the spirituality expressed.

What do you think? How does the spirituality fit into social change? Or, is it too taboo to discuss?

Activating The Global Health Trifecta

Image: PSI

Is foreign aid important to Americans? According to a recent poll, most Americans believe U.S. investment in foreign aid is 25% of the Federal budget, when the accurate figure is less than one percent. When asked what would be an appropriate percentage, the median amount shared was 10%. Yet–even that less than 1% is in jeopardy.

Earlier this week, ONE, USAID, FHI 360, PATH, Population Services International (PSI) and World Vision launched “The Power of 1%” campaign to highlight the economics of global health and the benefits U.S. investments overseas have for Americans at home. Having attended, I was reminded of the global health trifecta: what can happen when the power of 1%, the power of the media and the power of youth combine to influence and inspire good.

The Power of 1%

When it comes to emphasizing the true power of 1%, it’s important to not only look at the positive impact it has on the individuals and communities it supports. It also serves to improve the economy here at home and help increase national security. In August 2010, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton announced the State Department’s Global Health Initiative, working to improve global health as a way to achieve diplomacy.

“We know that the health of people in any nation is inextricably linked to the growth of its economy and security,” said Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator for USAID, “We invest in the health of developing nations because it is the right thing to do, and because our economy and security is dependent upon it as well.”

Addressing global health is now a  part of the U.S.’ international diplomacy efforts as well as on our health agenda. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added global health as a new area of focus for its Healthy People 2020 initiative (disclaimer: client) which was released in December 2010. The Healthy People 2020 global health topic area looks to address five specific objectives to “improve public health and strengthen U.S. national security through global disease detection, response, prevention, and control strategies.”

Not only is funding critical to achieve these goals, but an important step will be enabling and empowering the global citizen to play an active role. Our world is growing (estimated to reach 7 billion by October 31) but it’s also shrinking. We are becoming more connected and more aware of the problems we face and the commonalities we share–mainly due to the next component in the trifect, the power of media.

The Power of Media

9 in 10 adults agree that digital technology can turn interest in a cause into a movement. Facebook has over 800 million active users and is translated in 70 languages. Six in ten Americans go online wirelessly using a laptop or cell phone. 86% of adults ages 18-29 use social networking.

We’ve already seen the power of media at work. Online fundraising raised over $20 billion dollars in 2010. Technology is saving lives and enabling communication. Community-funded journalism and citizen journalists are changing how the news is reported. Add to this innovations such as Random Hacks of Kindness, Code for America, Crisis Camps, Ushahidi, accessible health data and a slew of additional examples. And it’s not just digital technology and the mobile Web at work.

ABCNews was awarded for its global health coverage. In December 2010, ABC News launched a year-long effort to provide coverage on global health in the developing world with the help of a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Today, ABCNews continues its commitment to global health through it’s One Million Moms Challenge, which focuses on improving maternal health globally.

Media–no matter the form it takes–can help not only increase awareness but also inspire action.

The Power of Youth

“More than 60 percent of the world’s population is under the age of 30,” said Ronan Farrow, Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues,  at a High Level Meeting on Youth, in the U.N. General Assembly this past July. “And that demographic, increasingly empowered by the new technologies that we’ve discussed…is increasingly a potential driver of great economic and social reform.”

Farrow, a dynamic speaker with genuine assertiveness in his belief in youth, also acknowledges that the “[youth] demographic can be one of the great threats to national, international, stability and security.” Data shows that 86% of all nations with new outbreaks of civil conflict have significant majorities under the age of 30. This is one reason why the U.S. State Department has created  its new Office of Global Youth Issues which Farrow leads.

“The United States is focusing on economic empowerment, through programs around the world that educate, create employment opportunities, and foster entrepreneurship for young people,” continued Farrow in his remarks. “We are launching initiatives that encourage civic participation, create local leadership opportunities, and develop linkages between young people and their governments.”

This is a call to action not only in our work abroad, but also here at home. How are you empowering youth in your community and in your work?

Start Today

At the event, organizers took video testimonies of what the power of 1% meant to attendees. To me, the power of 1% reminds me of how the heart of a person can inspire the power of a community for good. Funding and politics aside, one person can make a difference–and that’s what the campaign inspires. Somedays–it’s easy to forget the power you hold. Don’t doubt your purpose or question your mission. You were called for a reason.

Our Purpose is So Much Greater

My favorite word has always been hope. I find that in hope, there is belief, faith, excitement, and a sense of purpose. Over the years, hope and I have become good friends–she’s been a shoulder to cry on, a friend to share life’s greatest moments with and an ideal to hold onto. Thus, it was my surprise that while in Guatemala, I learned something else about my good friend hope.

Hope is not what we expect. It is a dream much bigger.

Along our journey, we met a number of people who know the greatness of hope. Meet:

  • Hugo and Susannah: Two missionaries living and working with the villages in Northern Guatemala. The villages they work with often have no running water, no electricity, and little opportunity. However, the are bringing light (hope) in the hearts of those they serve.
  • Pastor Saul: Runs the Church by the Dump in Guatemala City. The Dump is one of the largest landfills in Central America. Our team got to walk amongst the people who live and work, literally, in the dump. It was extreme poverty at its saddest. Residents (400 families) register for a permit to scavenge through the dump for one item (i.e. tire parts, blue plastic). As they go through the trash, the trash is moved so that more people can move into the dump and do the same work. Thus, many are left with aluminin, tarp and dirt as their “home.” Kids run through the stream of sewage barefoot and make a playground from the rolling heaps of trash that surrounds them. Pastor Saul is working to bring hope to this area by building a community city to serve the people of the Dump.
  • Mother Tita: Tita founded a school in La Limonada, a slum of about 60,000 people, where five different gangs runs and owns the streets. Today, with her courageous teachers and volunteers, La Limonada now has two schools. The goal: To keep the kids off the streets and hopefully, away from gang life. Tita is literally a Mother Teresa–thus those she serves call her Mother Tita.
  • Kate, April and Kerry: Each of these women are teachers at Tita’s schools in La Limonada. They all left their lives in America to tirelessly serve the La Limonada community. They are young. They are fearless, and they are hopeful.
  • Evelyn: In the trip to the mountains, Everlynn basically summed up how social marketing can be applied and used within the church. Before hearing about “social marketing,” she described to me how she is working to identify benefits and barriers to holding certain values (i.e. honesty) and how she is developing a self-evaluation checklist and how she wants to plan for the short term as well as the long term in working to ignite sustainable change in her community. She is an amazing, talented and inspiring woman.
  • Peggy and Dwayne: The founders of the Amistad Foundation, they are the liaisons between the missionaries and the service organizations they help in Guatemala. They give with their hearts, minds and hands.
  • Janet: Is an American who came to Guatemala years ago to play volleyball–and has never left. Instead, she runs a soup kitchen in one of Guatemala City’s most dangerous areas. In fact, the night our team was there to help her and serve the people, there was a shooting right outside the soup kitchen. The man shot had just finished his meal and had just left the center.

How many of us have expectations? We make plans and stress if they don’t turn out right or question them when there’s a bump in the road. Those expectations fog the path. If we let go of what we expect, then we can prepare for something much bigger and greater…in our work, at home and in our lives.

What would have happened if Tita, Janet, Hugo and others held onto their own personal expectations? What wouldn’t have happened? This is what I learned in Guatemala—> Let go of your expectations. Something bigger is waiting…you just need hope by your side.

PS: More pictures coming soon!

The One Post I Hope You Read

Three Generations + the Opportunity of a Lifetime

My Mom and Grandmother

Who inspires you? For me, it’s the heart of service that my family has lived for and stood for that inspires me everyday. This is why, I am so thankful, humbled and hopeful that later this month, my mom, my grandma and I are joining a group of good-hearted and high-spirited individuals on a service trip to Guatemala through the organization the Amistad Foundation.

On our trip, we will visit Guatemala City, La Limonada (see picture below) and some of Guatemala’s villages. We will be working with the Guatemalan people to help them develop skills to grow and develop sustainable businesses and relationships. From helping their crop program to teaching them business skills, basic communication and motor skills, as well as administering eye exams and mainly–sharing love and support.

The Guatemalan Situation

Image of La Limonada

La Limonada--The Largest Slum in Central America

Guatemala has recently been served a triple blow: 1) The Pacaya Volcano erupted spewing lava, rocks and debris just south of Guatemala city; 2)  This past Sunday, a sinkhole in the middle of Guatemala City swallowed a whole three-story building; and 3) Tropical storm Agathe hit parts of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras causing 150,000 people to evacuate due to heavy flooding and landslides. Adding to the situation, the United Nations recently reported that:

  • An estimated 43% of Guatemalan children below the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition, one of the worst rates in the world.
  • Guatemala has been hit by one of the worst droughts in 30 years, causing their worst famine in 30 years with 2.7 million people requiring urgent aid.

#loveroofs: 7 Roofs, 7 Families, 7 Days

Where do you turn during the rainy seasons in your life? For me, it’s home–it’s family. There are families, in one of the villages (vagueness is for security reasons) we are visiting that don’t have a safe place to go when the torrential rain comes. We want to help provide them a safe home by providing them roofs over their shelter–what I call #loveroofs for they will be funded and built with love to support the growth of love. The cost to do this is about $157 per home. Our goal is to raise $1,100 to provide seven roofs to seven families within seven days!

While there, I will be able to capture photos of the people in the village and help us all connect and enjoy in this journey together. Upon my return, I will share the pictures and insights with you so you know your money went to a good cause.

How You Can Help

Can you help us raise $1,100? I’ve been looking into ways to go about this so that we can all see the progress while being transparent at the same time–and I discovered CrowdRise. I’m a first timer, but I hear good things about the platform and will be able to report to you about how it all goes. All funds donated will be donated to the Amistad Foundation who will work with their contacts on the ground in Guatemala to make this happen (and I’ll provide images and updates as well). THANK YOU


Go to, and give what you can. Our goal is to raise $1,100 to provide seven roofs to seven families within seven days!

Trust me when I say that both my family and myself understand the economic times–for us, this is truly a trip based in love and faith, so know that I understand if you can’t give–but we’ll take encouragement too. I plan on sharing this post with all those on the trip–so please leave a note of encouragement below. =)

Michael Jackson & Iran: Music to Your Ears

I’m no expert on the Iran situation. But, I do know when a video has that extra powerful “umph.” Talk about responding to current events (Michael Jackson), harnessing in on emotion, and making a statement through visual storytelling.

Have you seen this video of the events in Iran set to the music of Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” yet? What are your thoughts?


(One more tip: Jocelyn Harmon, in her latest post, also talks about how the Sierra Club recently leveraged ‘timeliness’ in one of its new initiatives as well.)

Bloggers Unite for Refugees United

Bloggers Unite

Today, over 10,000 bloggers from around the world will unite to raise their voices on behalf of more than 40 million voiceless refugees.

Some have wondered about the potential of blog awareness days and what their potential and impact may be beyond raising….[wait for it]…awareness. However, awareness can lead to action. To be honest, before Bloggers Unite announced it’s “Bloggers Unite for Refugees United” initiative I was not that connected with the issue. However, due to BU + RU efforts, I am now more engaged. And that in my book, is a direct result of Bloggers Unite.

As the BU resource page says, “Knowledge can bring change.” Though it may not be a direct correlation, change begins with individual action, and individual action must be born with passion and knowledge. (Some of my social marketing friends will argue there is much more involved in behavior change. I concur. This being one of the reasons I encourage the study and application of social marketing.)

Because I concur, Bloggers Unite brings the issue before us. The challenge then, is how will we respond? On the BU resource page, they offer a number of resources to begin with, including:

UK Refugee Services

Lutheran Refugee Services

Aotearoa-New Zealand Refugee Services

United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrant Children

Church World Service Immigrant & Refugee Program

Women’s Commission for Refugee Women & Children

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Disclaimer: In my professional life, I currently have a working relationship with Bloggers Unite for an upcoming project that I am looking forward to share with SB readers in the very near future. =)

Join the Pledge for a Humanitarian Lion at Cannes

Awhile back, I wrote about a video that surfaced on YouTbue that was sending a message to Cannes to create a Humanitarian Lion at Cannes. The video has always been featured on my Events page. Now, I am excited to report that the video has turned into an official campaign.

We support the Humanitarian Lion

Join us in sending a message to advertisers and clients everywhere: we want to elevate the good and generate a shift in the way we do business and increase our reputation as an industry. I just signed the pledge today, at did the folks over at Osocio.

The Cannes are a worldwide event, so this movement can be a worldwide effort.

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