Engaging the Kids in Your Life
During the holidays, many of us look for ways to share our passions for making a difference with the children in our lives—whether they are our own, nieces or nephews, or even children of friends. It's never too late to start a new tradition encouraging young people to learn about allocating resources and the warm feeling that comes from thinking and acting for others. Here are two suggestions that you might find useful:
- Adopt a family in need: many different organizations (churches, schools, nonprofits, etc.) offer holiday giving opportunities to needy local families. Look for a family that resonates with your family members and use the occasion for your family and/or friends to bond as you shop together and talk about the importance of giving back to your community. An added bonus? It's an excellent tool for a little bit of math and budgeting training as you discuss the choices that need to be made when working within a budget.
- Create a "You Choose" letter for each child: type up an official-looking document that identifies half a dozen or so worthy charities that you think the kids might be interested in. Specify a donation amount you are gifting to them to gift to others. Then ask the children to choose the charity with which they'd like to invest their holiday donation. Encourage their active participation in the check writing or online donor form completion.
Who knows? You may start a new holiday tradition—one that helps others and sets the kids in your life on a healthy path to joy.
Worth a Moment of Thanks
On Thanksgiving Day, the Elfenworks team received a special shout-out from New York-based band A Moment's Worth. The 2011 winners of the Elfenworks Social Justice Prize from the College Battle of the Bands wanted to thank Elfenworks for helping them recover after their band trailer was unceremoniously stolen from their studio driveway (see story here). It turns out that A Moment's Worth deserves some serious praise of its own. As New Yorkers, they were keenly aware of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. As young people with a heart and a can-do attitude, they wrote a new song about perseverance and hope—Neil Armstrong's Dilemma—to benefit those whose lives were devastated by the storm. To listen to and download a copy, click here. We at Elfenworks were so touched by how the band is using music to help others, embodying the spirit of our social justice award. Thank you, A Moment's Worth, from all of us.
Empowering Change -
The 7 Pillar Tour
In September, following the publication of her book, Intelligence and Compassion in Action, The Seven Pillars for Social Entrepreneurs, Dr. Lauren Speeth traveled Down Under to lecture at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. A few weeks later, she taught a class closer to home, at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), where the book served as the basis for the class final project. Students were asked to research one of book's "seven pillars," then interview a nonprofit administrator, and discuss how the methodology might apply to their efforts. Dr. Speeth's enthusiasm and words of encouragement were well received by the students. Students commented that Speeth "made me feel empowered," and "exemplified a boldness to say that yes, I can make a difference..." In 2013 Speeth looks forward to guest lecturing again at CSUMB, and other universities. We are committed to empowering others—especially students—to be successful in making lasting, measurable, positive change. So, if you teach social entrepreneurship or are involved in campus college planning and would like to foster student engagement through such a guest lecture, contact Elfenworks.
Hope shone brightly on October 4th, as Elfenworks celebrated the extraordinary achievements of three ordinary Americans who have committed their lives to making real and lasting change. The evening ceremony, held at Burlingame's historic Kohl Mansion, marked the sixth year of the In Harmony with Hope Award. The 2012 winners were selected for their innovation and leadership as creative and successful social entrepreneurs. Their passion and dedication to making this country stronger are exemplary.
Elfenworks CEO Dr. Lauren Speeth reminded us of the power of hope that night: "Just a little light—just a bit of hope—changes the entire landscape, and our entire perspective. I wonder what it's like for a firefly? Is a firefly aware that there's no need to be a perfect, unwavering light? It acts that way... It is within each of our abilities to be such a firefly. To reject the question 'who am I to try to make a difference in this dark landscape' or 'I'm so small.' And to ask instead, simply, where shall I shine my light? Because when you do this, hope alights."
The 2012 In Harmony with Hope Award, which was accompanied by a $25,000 grant, was emceed by David Jackson. Wells Fargo Bank generously helped sponsor the evening's activities. The award was given to Rafael Alvarez, founder of Genesys Works, Maurice Lim Miller, founder of Family Independence Initiative, and Gary Oppenheimer, founder of AmpleHarvest.org. More information about each of this year's honorees can be found below.
Meet the 2012 In Harmony with Hope Honorees
Rafael Alvarez, founder, Genesys Works, Houston, Texas
In 2002, business executive Rafael Alvarez created Genesys Works to create a pathway out of poverty. The program, which includes a summer intensive in soft skills and technical training to bright and able high school students and then engages these newly trained workers into large Fortune 500 corporations for substantially less than the going rate, is expanding across the country. In 2011, more than 600 seniors caught in a generational poverty loop that doesn't provide access to living wages, started on their paths to professional careers. School cooperative education provisions allow for internships to be combined with senior year academics. Another ingenious part of Alvarez's model: 75% percent of the nonprofit's budget comes from earned income.
Maurice Lim Miller, Founder, Family Independence Initiative, Oakland, California
In 2000, Maurice Lim Miller conjectured that providing incentives to the working poor might help them to a more stable financial future. His Family Independence Initiative (FII) is a national center for innovating new strength-based approaches for economic and social mobility. FII operates under the assumption that most low-income families are capable of taking tangible steps towards establishing control and choice in their lives. FII has partnered with 3,500 individuals, placing them in peer support groups that meet monthly, challenging them to come up with their own solutions. FII incentivizes monthly reporting of data that provides each family with small amounts of extra capital. By investing in their strengths and initiative, FII is able to deliver powerful, sustainable, and cost-effective outcomes: on average, participants report a 23% increase in earnings and a 240% increase in savings.
Gary Oppenheimer, Founder, AmpleHarvest.org, West Milford, New Jersey
Gary Oppenheimer conceived of AmpleHarvest.org, a nationwide campaign to enable America's 40+ million home gardeners who grow food to be able to easily share some of their harvest with local food pantries, in 2009. At its core is a web portal, connecting enrolled food pantries (which are often tiny operations largely hidden from view) with gardeners nearby. In just three years, more than 5,000 pantries have been enrolled on AmpleHarvest.org. The simple but effective solution, in which gardeners type in their zip code, view the listing of nearby pantries, and drive their excess bounty to the proximate pantry, moves information as much as it moves healthy fruits and vegetables to the 50 million Americans who don't always know where they're going to get their next meal.
A Whole Lot 'o Rippling Goin' On
Even in the Great Recession, which hit our country hard, there are many stories of hope and healing. Here is one from Saint Mary's College of California and the students there whose dreams were in peril when the economy turned sour more than four years ago—young people who were just starting on their paths to independence and bright futures. As parents lose jobs or nest eggs, future dreams are sometimes shelved. But at St. Mary's College, more than 100 young people of promise have been able to stay in school, thanks to an idea originated by a member of our team and strongly supported by the college's Board of Regents, and later by many generous donors—including members of the faculty, and students. The idea? Provide seed funding for a President's Emergency Fund—a discretionary fund that can help students whose college career is jeopardized by an unexpected financial hardship. At a recent St. Mary's event that raised $50,000 for the fund, we learned that the fund has provided nearly $350,000 in help to students. Does your alma mater have such a fund? Feel free to borrow and share this idea. That way, the ripple can extend even further!