The nonprofit world, which generally operates on low budgets and slim resources, often has to relay on friendships and networking to make things happen. When they do, the results are sometimes magic.
More than six years ago, my web site, TheCommunity.com, produced a private salon in Los Angeles, with Nobel Peace Prize winner and then President of East Timor Jose Ramos-Horta. It was a quiet evening, in the home of a Hollywood celebrity, with about 70 industry people involved.
Hosting the evening was one of our board members and a long time friend of Ramos-Horta, Bonnie Abaunza.
The guests included, among others, Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer.
Bonnie, Hans and others attending had school aged children. It was a school night so they could not stay up to attend the event. Bonnie's daughter Larissa, a sixth grader at the time and Youth Ambassador for TheCommunity.com, particularly wanted to see Ramos-Horta, who had been something of a mentor for her.
Bonnie called me a few days before the event and suggested that we have a special event beforehand, a "pizza party" for the kids to have the chance to sit and talk with a Nobel laureate. Ramos-Horta eagerly agreed, insisting that his pizza must have anchovies. We sent out a separate invitation to the kids, inviting them to have "Pizza with a Laureate."
Both events were a success. So much so that the next day Zimmer called Bonnie and said that his son had gone home and gotten on the computer to learn about East Timor. He had never seen his son so inspired, he said.
All of this happening in Hollywood, the inspiration of the evening gave birth to the idea for a tv or web series, giving teenagers a chance to sit and have pizza with their heroes. They would be in an environment they knew and felt comfortable in, and be given the chance to ask the kinds of questions they have also always wanted to ask these world-changing figures -- and they would learn through pursuing their own curiosity.
I have followed this series through its five year evolution. Major studios and cable tv stations have jumped toward the idea, only to disappear. Funding that should have come through didn't come through. Anyone who has tried to produce a tv show from thin air should be familiar.
But Bonnie Abaunza is from Amnesty. Bonnie knows networking and making it all happen on nothing. And she has a lot of friends who share her passions for human rights.
She never gave up. And she operated on what most of us in the non-profit world have come to know -- when it comes down to getting something done, the chances are good it's going to come down to you, sitting alone in your office on the weekend, on your computer and on the phone.
The result is what I think is going to prove to be worth every minute. Get a taste of it with the first episode here:
The days are gone where a few people make the decision on what airs on a handful of television stations. The Internet has equalized media production. Today you can make it happen with passion of purpose, networks, and a touch of magic. She brought all three to the project.
You can subscribe to the channel to get news and notifications of the next episodes. I know what they are but won't spoil the surprise. I'll let you find out for yourself.