John Gerzema: Random Hacks Of Kindness

Through a volunteer community who use open technologies, CrisisCommons’ founders hope to create all sorts of relief projects that can be tested in one crisis, refined, and deployed again when the need arises.

CrisisCamp promotes what its supporters call “random hacks of kindness.” Used this way, the word hack describes any creative adaptation of a technology or social strategy for the purpose of helping others. When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in early 2010, CrisisCamp Haiti convened experts around the world to develop Internet-based tools to translate Creole and English. CrisisCamp volunteers also created a service called “We Have, We Need,” which paired organizations with resources to offer with people in Haiti who needed those goods and services.

Through a volunteer community who use open technologies, the group’s founders hope to create all sorts of relief projects that can be tested in one crisis, refined, and deployed again when the need arises. “At the end of the day there may be systems that are being created, but they’re all open sourced and someone will be able to utilize them for the next disaster,” says co-founder Heather Blanchard. “The Internet is the global communications platform. The structure allows people to self-organize. We’re able to give them projects that they can easily train for.”  (Currently a volunteer community has mobilized to help the victims of the floods in Queensland, Australia).

If all goes according to the design, CrisisCommons (the enabling company for the camps) will be the place where a universe of people can express their highest values. “All people around the world want to help people that need help,” she says. “Providing a constructive way for people to do that will make all the difference in the future.” For volunteers who like the feeling of contributing in a small way to a group effort that can make the world a better place, Internet communities like CrisisCommons offer the perfect outlet. Given the low cost of starting these types of organizations, the number and variety of them should blossom in the new economy as activists and entrepreneurs seek to fill every imaginable niche. If they don’t exist already, we would expect to one day learn of services that invite people to form helpful communities around everything from wildlife protection to the preservation of old subway cars. There’s a community for everyone and a cause we can apply our talents toward.

CrisisCommons is one of fifty companies interviewed for the Wall Street Journal best-seller: Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell and Live.

John Gerzema (@johngerzema/twitter) is president of Brandasset Consulting and Young & Rubicam’s Brandasset Valuator, the world’s largest database of consumer behavior, attitudes and values. Michael d’antonio is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, author and reporter

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