Solve Some Real World Problems

needs Threading together some topics that have been on my mind lately, I wanted to bring something different to you for consideration. For all that I talk about social media tools and how they can help businesses, I wanted to look at some real world problems that some of you can help with.

I’m inspired in part by a conversation with Britt Raybould tonight, about how the tech community is fairly insulated in our little fishbowl, and that we’re not really looking at things we could be doing to make a difference.

This was also one of the themes of PodCamp Boston this year, that we needed to take what we learned and start doing something with it. Further, I believe it was Christopher S. Penn who shared/linked to a story by Heather Ryan about what it was like to take her family to a soup kitchen for the first time. I’m also inspired by the work of Beth Kanter, and how she got a bunch of geeks to send a Cambodian woman to college again!

There are real world things you can do to help others while doing social media things. Here are some starting points:

Money Never Hurts

Affiliate Marketers Give Back is a campaign by Missy Ward and others in the affiliate marketing space dedicated to helping fund charitable giving via the affiliate marketing community.

Christopher S. Penn recently posted his new public speaking policy and it involves getting his fee handled in scholarship points to support college education. is a microlending project, where you can fund several projects with great impact in other countries by giving a reasonably small amount of money in the form of a loan. My wife, Katrina, is involved with, and when I reviewed the projects she’d funded (Kat chose all women’s projects), I was impressed and moved by how much these loans could impact the people in need. Even $30 went a long way with certain projects in certain communities.

Or you could be Angel Djambazov and decide to send a good friend a few Flip video cameras for a generation-spanning project whose goal is only (only?) understanding between grandparents and kids.

There are other ways to help, too.

Startups to Solve More Pressing Problems

I came up with one idea where I feel a startup could make a difference, instead of trying to recreate the next Twitter killer yet again. Most modern grocery stores are all digitized. Every can of green beans is accounted for in a system. There are many people who receive financial assistance to support their food needs.

Could we build a system that automatically calculates the best possible food purchase choices, based on the amount of money available to spend divided by the number of people in the family, and built around the best possible nutrition choices? Could we print that list and even provide aisle/shelf numbers to make it even easier?

I saw an advertisement for a new show on Discovery called Project Earth. Essentially, it’s a science program, where they intend to do really big projects to attempt to impact various environmental issues. Too out there? Though it was a bit hokey and in the vein of reality TV, I give Discovery credit for education efforts via shows like Battleground Earth, where musical celebrities (Ludacris and Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee) perform eco-friendly challenges while educating us on how to make a difference in the environment.

Are there other ways we can use our technology and media skills that could benefit people in need?

It doesn’t always have to be a large gesture. Today, the effort with Beth Kanter cost as little as $10, and took up a few minutes of anyone’s time.

Want to see some other interesting and useful causes that could use your help in some small way?

Check out sm4sc– social media for social causes. This has lots of opportunities, especially for companies looking to get involved at a larger-than-individual level.

Check out this list from the nptech site.

So what can you do to help? What blocks us from taking action? How else might you share what you know in a way that would help others?

Photo credit, Joe M500

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