Poverty is affecting society. The enormous hole left by possibilities that go unrealized becomes even greater with our discomfort in acknowledging the gap. The rapid aging of the population in the Western hemisphere and the failing of public systems contribute to increasing demands on individuals. Many of us are called upon to assist our families in two directions for the future - children and parents.
As well, there are 36 million people (spotlight on poverty) in our communities (interactive map of the US that shows poverty levels) who are struggling to make ends meet. The chart you see up there is a global map of poverty created by Maplecroft. If you go to the site, you will see what the symbols mean, but I think you can get an idea just visually. There are case studies and analysis in the interactive maps.
Can we change the conversation on poverty with action? How can we tie our personal goals with helping others? What can we offer the world?
The map here depicts digital inclusion around the world. The lime green denotes high connectivity with the blue wifi symbols signaling businesses that have made connectivity possible in various areas. The regression then goes to light pink, dark pink, and red. The black wifi symbol means hotspots and the yellow one shows improvements. When you view the map at the site, you will be able to roll over and learn more on each.
If we cross reference the areas of highest connection with the listing or grouping of blogs, for example, we will see that Japan, many parts of Europe, Australia, and North America have more. Lest one thinks this is all talk we do on blogs, I beg to differ. In the third year of my personal blog I am planning to share more case studies and lessons learned from doing. Many of the professionals who are active in social media are also passionate doers.
Today many join in by speaking up for their communities, sharing about their professional contributions, donating and microfinancing, and informing their readers.
Three Areas of Involvement
There are at least three areas where one can help their community, especially in today's economic climate:
I have met most of the people with whom I connected in the last two years at least once face-to-face. In fact, there is a higher likelihood of someone volunteering physically when they mobilize online. Online volunteering is a strong opportunity for development in the coming years (see research on online volunteering).
Let's put two of the most-used words today to good use: collaboration and community. How can we make the impossible possible?
2. Mentoring - I've talked about my involvement with students in the past. Are you using your influence? Social media promises to become important for fulfilling this promise as well. If people can take online courses for credits, reading blogs, learning from professional peers who act as facilitators, and getting the opportunity to do virtual internships are all great ways to do that.
There is one area of mentoring that is especially dear to my heart - and that is teaching children how to read. A while back I wrote a forward to The Age of Conversation, where I talked briefly about my work with brain-injured children.
One of the books I like to give away to expecting parents is How to Teach Your Baby to Read. I used this methodology to teach children Italian and I have seen it used successfully to teach brain-injured children how to read. It works even if you decide not to do it after you read the book, which is written for parents. It works because it changes forever the way you look at your child's potential.
There are still lots of kids who are not in school and are not working, too many.
Here we could put another couple of expressions familiar to social media participants to good use: learning and using your influence to do good (link love as in showcasing good work).
3. Giving - in a recent interview I did with a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer I talked about reaching out to your community and helping the elderly. I have lived 4,500 miles away from my mother for twenty years now. She lives very frugally because she has to - thanks to a broken system and her switching careers, she does not qualify for a full pension despite having contributed millions of Euros to the system.
She still works to supplement her meager share so she can buy groceries. I help as much as I can. One does not only need financial help. Sometimes she needs carpentry, plumbing, or electrical work done, for example. I am grateful for the friends she has over there who do help. Thankfully she is still young and capable of taking care of herself.
Giving does not mean only money, it also means time, support, and attention. Many of the people in my neighborhood are retired. The younger among us do look on them. They give back by being available for a delivery, etc.
Collaboration, community, but also crowdsourcing come to mind here.
There is a lot of advice for those who intend to begin conserving more. Frugality for self can also mean generosity for others. Who knows, we may find out that we are happier spending less. I have been on a "have less" drive for the past couple of years and it feels very good. There was an article in the recent issue of Reader's Digest about frugality and happiness. See also how to get a great deal on anything, if you are in the market for buying.
I saw a story on msn money about a family that tried to live on $25 a week. Imagine what it's like having to do that, or even less. I have always believed that helping people learn and believe in themselves, mentoring and giving of one's time go a long way to help communities raise themselves up and improve. What are your ways to help bring about action? Conversation is a first step.