This post was written by Christina Gomez on behalf of Changents.com.
Remember Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes? Ed McMahon (may his soul rest in peace and his former million-dollar mansion always avoid foreclosure) would drive up in a white van to the front door of some lucky winner. He'd step out with the balloons and a great, big check. The winner would be shocked (tears streaming, spouse screaming, McMahon beaming). And then the question... Oh that dreaded question.
"Now that you've won (insert dollar sign, one and a bunch of zeroes here), what are you going to do?" And the response, "I'm going to buy a car for my mother, go to Disneyworld, and than help the world."
In reading about Google's Project 10^100 winners earlier this week, my head was filled with images of yesteryear's ticker tape celebrations of sweepstake winners headed to Disneyworld bumping up against today's crowd-sourcing competitions to award our most promising change agents millions to help the world -- quite literally. Whether its Google, Pepsi Refresh, American Express Member's Project, Chase's Community Giving, or Ikea's just-announced Life Improvement Project, crowd-sourcing competitions to find people who will save our world has become, dare I say, run of the mill.
What perplexes me is what happens after Ed McMahon or Sergey Brin (I know, sounds like an oddball mash-up for Sundance Channel's Iconoclasts) turns over the check? What then?
If our corporate do-gooders have tapped the wisdom of the crowd to find and bank roll our next generation heroes, why don't they help us crowd-source a public wave of support to help these freshly minted superstars execute their missions. Surely, this world-changing gig is not a one-man (or one-woman) show.
They've been given the money to bring their project to life, but as citizens of the world, how do WE help THEM?
And so, I setout to get in touch with each of Google's Project 10^100 winners -- all five of them -- to ask that very question. In our social media driven, get-in-the-game-of-changing-world culture, there must be something that you and I can do to lend our talents, skills, connections, resources, etc. to helping these extraordinary people. You know, crowd-source help for them.
Here's where I stand as of now:
• Khan Academy: No phone number. I emailed the general inbox. No response.
• FIRST: I emailed. No reply. I called and am waiting to hear back.
• Public Resources: "Media person" say's they're too swamped to talk about it.
• Shweeb: No reply to my email. They're in New Zealand.
• AIMS: Sent email to two different addresses. Interview in the works for next week.
But I am a determined gal. After all, these people inspire the heck out of me. And so, below is my take on each winner based on what I can glean from his or her Internet presence. Following each description, I've listed a few ideas for how we crowd-source support for them. In the meantime, hopefully they'll call me back -- I just want to help. If they do, I'll update what they tell me would be most helpful in the comments section of this blog.
Shweeb is a concept for short to medium distance, urban personal transport, using human-powered vehicles on a monorail. This is really cool! Imagine bicycling your way to your destination, but not having to worry if it's raining or snowing or too hot. You're encapsulated in the hybrid pod of a monorail and bicycle. Think flexibility and comfort of a car without a carbon footprint. Geoff Barnett has all the bases covered with this concept, but I bet he'd appreciate some networking action:
1. Email Shweeb's idea to decision makers in your town:
• Local city councils -- for public transport systems
• Local government -- for major tourism routes
• Local universities -- for intra campus travel
2. Upload the picture below to your Facebook page with a status update that reads: I want Shweeb in (insert your town)!
The Khan Academy is a social enterprise that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. Remember what the foci of an ellipse are or what happened during the French Revolution? Well you can find it all through the Khan Academy. I bet Salman Khan (the change agent behind this cool initiative) needs more than money (no offense, Google).
1. Are you social? Organize a Meet Up to pick local organizations that would benefit from The Khan Academy.
2. Do you speak a foreign language? Perhaps Salman sends you digital copies to translate.
3. Know good design? Tweet an idea to @khanacademy to help improve the site. I hear he's planning a redesign.
4. Got tech chops? Help with SEO and application development. Khan Academy on mobile?
5. Moviemaker? If you're an expert, ask Salman if he'd like a video on the subject.
FIRST inspires young people to be science and technology leaders by partnering them with professional engineers and scientists in real-world competitions. They have robot programs for children ranging in age from six through 18. For the younger kids, it's Legos baby!
1. Tweet? With $3MM from Google but only 390 followers, these guys need you @firstweets.
2. Know your way around Legos? Start a First Tech Challenge Team.
3. Your school have a Facebook page? Post this to the wall "Get FIRST in our school. Check it out. If you agree, "Like" this.
Public Resource.Org provides online access to public government documents in the United States...(wonder why Google would get behind this ☺).
1. This site is calling for a redesign! If you are a designer, email Carl your resume and make a few suggestions. Carl, Check your inbox!
2.Tweet @carlmalamud "Congrats on the Google cash. What does Public Resource.org do exactly? Here to help!"
Neil Turok's vision for the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town, South Africa is all about expanding Africa's scientific and technological capacity by providing advanced training to exceptional African graduates. Their track record is outstanding, with over 95 percent continuing to Masters and PhD degrees and the vast majority remaining in Africa to apply their skills locally.
At the end of the day, it's not just money that makes a difference. It takes people like me and you to help these change agents and others like them. Six degrees of separation yesterday has become two degrees of separation today. Google's Project 10^100 winners shouldn't have to figure it all out on their own.