When I launched TheDoGooder.com, I had the mission to modernize the way schools fundraised and connected with their community. Schools face unprecedented budget cuts, but many parent organizations and fundraising booster clubs use antiquated models to bridge the gap and come up empty handed. I believe schools face 21st century problems with a 20th century tool chest. For liability reasons, kids can't go, as I did, door-to-door and sell wrapping paper, chocolates or magazines to tally sales and garner a prize. Yet, the strategies haven't updated to the times and usually fall on the back of a few parents. The methods are labor intensive and don't yield the profits they once did.
We started to revolutionize the education space through technology with the launch of our DoGooder Deals. Schools asked their supporters to create a free profile, and in return, they were given 40-60% discounts on a variety of products and services throughout the year. Every time a supporter bought a DoGooder Deal, they were getting a discount and portions of the profit went back to their school partner.
TheDoGooder Workspace was the second way we used technology to modernize how schools function daily. The workspace is an all-in-one group sharing and communications platform. It allows classrooms and school groups, like parent associations, sports teams and clubs, to reach their full organizing potential. The free and private space offers virtual meeting places, conference calling, group texting tools, instant polling, shared calendars and folders that are always backed up and protected. Our hope is to accommodate users' busy lifestyles and provide them with a way to connect with each other and foster greater mobilization.
Needless to say, modernizing the school sphere has not been an easy task. I underestimated how slow and resistant many schools are to change. It has required a lot of work on our part to educate our participants on how technology can make their life easier and lead them into 21st century practices. Our motto: you must embrace technology today or be left behind tomorrow.
Since this real life lesson is so central to me personally, I loved it when two different DoGooder Spotlights featured organizations that shared and embraced this same truth:
The nonprofit, iEARN, is an organization that empowers teachers and young people all over the world to work together online. Successful businessman, Peter Copen, founded the nonprofit in 1988 when he linked 12 schools in Moscow with 12 schools in New York State. Through the New York/Moscow Schools Telecommunications Project, Copen enhanced education through telecommunication technology to improve global understanding and show that young people could engage in online collaborative projects.
Since 1988, iEARN has expanded their presence from two to 130 countries, creating a network of over 30,000 schools reaching 2 million students each day in a variety of collaborative projects worldwide. Tina Habib started at iEARN in 2002 during the launch of a post-9/11 initiative called Building Respect through Internet Dialogue and Global Education (BRIDGE). This particular program sought to ease tensions and misconceptions after 9/11 between the Middle East and other countries throughout the world
Recently, iEARN launched the World Youth News program where students become accredited World Youth News reporters through a self-guided course. When they graduate, the reporters source stories from their countries. "The youth reporters upload stories in an article format to the World Youth News website where the articles are downloadable to anybody," clarifies Habib. "The website will be like an Associated Press of youth from all over the globe, and [readers] get to hear about these events from a perspective at the ground level."
Even technologies originally designed as entertainment are helping sick children recover from serious accidents and illnesses. Child's Play is a nonprofit dedicated to improving children's lives in hospitals through the power of play and video gaming and was also a DoGooder Spotlight:
In 2003, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, who ran a video gaming media company, became frustrated with the media's negative stereotyping of gamers. Krahulik and Holkins resented gamers' portrayal as lazy and apathetic. In response to the unfair bias, they organized the gaming community to donate toys during the holiday season to a Seattle Children's Hospital. Within a week of announcing the initiative, their garage was packed with donations. Today, the organization has raised 10.5 million dollars to change the lives of countless sick children.
Studies show that children who play video games while undergoing painful procedures request less pain medication. "Technologies like the Kinect and Wii Balance Board are changing the way kids are healing and handling injuries, illnesses and treatments," explains staff member Jamie Dillion. "The games help in two main ways: distraction and compliance. Children are more likely to comply with an uncomfortable treatment if they have a game to take their mind off the pain."
Motion sensory games are also changing physical therapy for kids. "Physical therapy is the same motion over and over again. It's boring and painful," says Dillion. "If a kid plays a dance game to beat their previous score, they are thinking of beating their score and not about the pain. The physical therapy becomes play for them."
Both stories teach us what good can come from embracing technology. Yes, change can be unsettling, and it's hard to keep up when technology seems to change daily. Yet, it is imperative to adapt because it will not only bring you efficiencies, but also make you competitive in the 21st century. If schools and other government institutions don't innovate, they will become dinosaurs in an ever-evolving world. Innovation and technology should be at the forefront of every organization, whether in the private or public sector, to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive and tech-savvy world.