Archive | June, 2011

Find Your Cause: Common Good

30 Jun

Meet Common Good

Common Good is a non-partisan legal reform coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America. By conducting polls, hosting forums, and engaging with leaders in health care, education, law, business, and public policy from across the country, Common Good is developing practical solutions to restore reliability to our legal system and minimize the impact of legal fear in American life. Common Good was formed in 2002 to restore the freedom to take responsibility. Making choices for the common good is impossible if everyone is tied up in red tape. Reclaiming responsibility requires a basic shift—where law sets boundaries for free choice instead of dictating choices for the lowest common denominator. For over nine years, Common Good has built broad support behind the need for new legal and government structures that allow Americans at every level of responsibility to act sensibly.How Common

Good Does Good

Common Good has developed practical solutions to bring reliability and balance to law in healthcare, education, and civil justice, as well as in areas such as children’s play and public employment. Common Good works as a think tank to foster ideas and produce sound policy suggestions. The organization then works to advocate and promote these ideas and solutions with like-minded policy outfits like Brookings, AEI, and Kauffman to advance these causes.

Common Good’s proposal for specialized health courts has been endorsed by every legitimate healthcare constituency, including by leading editorial pages like the Economist and David Brooks, as well as current and former government officials, including Bill Bradley and President Obama

Common Good’s Impact

Common Good measures its impact by its influence on public discourse and the winning favor for certain policies. Founder & Chair, Philip K. Howard,  a well-known leader of government and legal reform in America, has figured prominently in national discussion through his writings, advocacy initiatives, speeches, and reform proposals. He advocates for the Common Good’s mission with contributions to publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, and has appeared on numerous programs including The  Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Oprah, Charlie Rose, and Today. Check out his popular TED talk below.

Catchafire’s Pro Bono Impact with Common Good

Common Good is currently working with two Catchafire professionals. One professional is helping the organization with writing for its blog. Another is helping support the launch of the organization’s nationwide “Start Over” campaign, which seeks to change the agenda for the 2012 presidential election to include government overhaul. Start Over will use unconventional mobilization efforts to rally people behind the cause, including clever and artistic animation/production ventures. Catchafire’s motion graphics professional is helping to produce the first of these videos. Both Catchafire professionals are making sure that more people learn about Common Good and their solutions for reform.

Get Involved

Common Good is looking for a professional to help Crowdfunding. If that isn’t your skill, but want to get involved, please favorite the Common Good Page on Catchafire. (You need to be logged in to do this.) We’ll alert you as new opportunities to get involved become available. If you want to learn more about this great opportunity, email community@catchafire.org.

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Find Your Cause: The Future Project

29 Jun

Meet The Future Project

The Future Project is a new national movement to inspire America, starting in our nation’s public schools. The Future Project pairs students in urban public high schools with members of their community–college students, graduate students, and young professionals–and dares them to summon the energy and will to do whatever it takes to be a force for good for each other and for their world. These teams will each spend one year building a passion-inspired project that makes a powerful difference in their school or community. The Future Project will launch in Fall 2011 in four public high schools in New York City, Washington, D.C. and New Haven, CT.

How The Future Project Does Good

Future Fellows are students in grades 9 though 12 with extraordinary potential who currently lack the resources, direction, or personal advocate to realize that potential, in the classroom and beyond. Fellows will be carefully selected for their energy, open-mindedness, and eagerness to learn and grow. Above all, the Fellows will be students who are looking to dream big, think creatively, give back to their community, and build fun, purposeful projects with friends and teammates.The Fellows will be partnered one-on-one with a personal advocate who will help them dream big but also make realistic plans to get there. These partners will meet in a team of other students and volunteers that take on challenges and games together. Finally, the partners will create a passion-driven project that makes a difference in their school or community. Projects could be anything from a concert to a community garden to a new student-run advocacy group on education reform. During weekly, 90-minute meetings, students will also imagine and pursue inspired futures, whether admission to college or leaps forward in leadership or grades. Above all, both partners will discover what motivates them—and learn to channel it for good.

The Future Project’s Impact

When the Future Project launches in October 2011, they expect to serve at least four schools and over 500 students and advocates.

Catchafire’s Pro Bono Impact with The Future Project

As The Future Project prepares to launch this fall, one of their top priorities was to create a brochure to send to prospective donors, advisers, schools, students, parents, and others. In addition to general publicity, The Future Project knew the brochure could play a critical role in helping the organization acquire the funding needed to operate our program to its highest potential. The organization was just recently matched with a graphic design professional, who will help make sure this brochure translates the organization’s design principles into a valuable marketing tool which will convey pertinent information about the organization’s plans to make an enormous difference in many students’ lives.

Get Involved

The Future Project is looking for a professional to advice on its accounting system, to craft an online marketing strategy that is primarily email-oriented, and to design an explanatory motion graphics video. If these aren’t your skills, but want to get involved, please favorite The Future Project Page on Catchafire. (You need to be logged in to do this.) We’ll alert you as new opportunities to get involved become available. If you want to learn more about this great opportunity, email community@catchafire.org.

Find Your Cause: NYCRx

28 Jun

Meet NYCRx

NYCRx’s mission is to make safe and effective medications available at the lowest possible cost to all New Yorkers. NYCRx partners with health centers and hospitals in the New York City area to provide access to low-cost pharmaceuticals to New Yorkers, especially those who are medically underserved, and to support eligible safety net providers, in maximizing the use of federal drug discount program to reduce prescription drug costs and improve the health status of patients.

How NYCRx Does Good

NYCRx serves New Yorkers primarily by working with neighborhood clinics who in turn offer free or discounted care to patients. Secondly, the organization offers a discount card that lowers the costs of much-needed prescriptions for those in need. NYCRx’s major activities include managing 340B federal drug discount programs for 25 community health center sites in the New York City Area.  Through this program they give uninsured and under-insured patients access to greatly discounted prescriptions and generates revenue for health centers when used by insured patients allowing the centers to keep the difference between the discounted price and reimbursement from commercial insurers. So what exactly does that mean? NYCRx is helping the most vulnerable get what they need regardless of their ability to pay. The below video illustrates how this is done.

NYCRx’s Impact

To date, NYCRx has saved $3.9 million in prescription costs for New Yorkers in need of medical help.NYCRx is not just saving New Yorkers money but creating a solution to help sustain the clinics. By allowing the clinics to keep  the difference between the discounted price and reimbursement from commercial insurers, when patients are insured. Currently at 25 clinics with many more in their pipeline, they’ve created over $3 million in patients savings and clinic revenue and they have an ROI of 8.5. That means for every $1 spent on NYCRx there’s $8.50 in savings/revenue generated.

Catchafire’s Pro Bono Impact with NYCRx

Five professionals have already made an impact with NYCRx. Last fall, when NYCRx was launching a 100% free drug discount card for New Yorkers without prescription insurance, they needed help getting the word out. A Catchafire professional created a press release that made sure all of the details were accurately and clearly communicated to those who could benefit from the card. A few months later, the organization needed help, fast. They had secured new office space and needed help setting up new computer and phone systems so that the organization’s staff could move seamlessly from one office to the next. A Catchafire technology professional made sure this happened. Other tech professionals have helped the organization streamline its reporting systems and Salesforce database, overall increasing the organization’s efficiency. Most recently, a social media professional worked with the organization to help establish its online presence. NYCRx has seen the power of great word-of-mouth publicize the organization offline, and worked with their professional to amplify this effect through social media.

Get Involved

NYCRx is looking for a professional to help with a Social Media Campaign. If that isn’t your skill, but want to get involved, please favorite the NYCRx Page on Catchafire. (You need to be logged in to do this.) We’ll alert you as new opportunities to get involved become available. If you want to learn more about this great opportunity, email community@catchafire.org.

Find Your Cause: Behind The Book

27 Jun

Meet Behind the Book

Behind the Book’s mission is to excite children and young adults about reading. Working with low-income students in high-need New York City K-12 public schools, Behind the Book bring authors and their books into individual classrooms to build literacy skills, engage students, and develop a new generation of book readers. The organization designs individualized programs that fit the personality and needs of each teacher, classroom, and students. By doing so, the organization hopes to bring the joy of reading to those who may not have had the opportunity to discover it on their own.In addition to its visiting author program, Behind the Book also hosts a monthly reading series outside the classroom. The series hosts an amazing group of authors, and in the past has featured Joshua Ferris, Colson Whitehead, and Pulitzer prize-winner Paul Harding. The series gives supporters a chance to hear from some great writers and learn about those authors’ earliest influences, underscoring the organization’s belief that reading is crucial to the education and development of young people everywhere.

How Behind the Book Does Good

Behind the Book starts by working closely with each teacher to discuss classroom needs and interests. The careful selection of an author for a particular class, and the careful preparation of the students for the author visit are the keys to success and impact. The teacher first commits to incorporating the book and author visit into their curriculum. Behind the Book and the teacher design a schedule that suits the needs of all involved. After choosing the right book to integrate into the class curriculum, students are given copies of the book to allow time for classroom study and discussion before the author visits.

Additionally, a written assignment is developed to be edited after the visit and sent to Behind the Book for publication on the website. Interested students are recruited to become members of the advisory boards, and teachers are also invited to contribute to the website. In this way, Behind the Book hopes to develop long-term relationship with all students (and teachers) with whom they work.

Behind the Book’s Impact

In just this past year, Behind the Book has visited 28 classrooms and worked with 840 students from 11 different schools. From these visits, Behind the Book many students have discovered that reading is fun, and others have found a passion for a branch of particular literature, whether that means plays, novels, or comics. Behind the Book now works to provide these students with the support they need to follow their passion. Here are a few stories of the immediate impact inside the classroom.

A fourth grade class at PS 376 in Bushwick met with Alexander Stadler, author and illustrator of the Julian Rodriguez graphic novel series.  With the help of Mr. Stadler, who gave the class a lesson in “Comics 101,” the students created a set of comic strips that told elaborate tales of characters ranging from space dogs to princesses.

Juniors at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx got a rare treat, when they read Then We Came to the End, a New York Times best-seller and National Book Award finalist, by Joshua Ferris; Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks; and On Michael Jackson by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Margo Jefferson. All three authors visited the class to lead discussions on their books, listened to students’ interpretations of specific excerpts and talked about the process of writing each book. In their final project, students created marketing campaigns based on Mr. Ferris’ book, a critical response to Mr. Bank’s book and writing style, and written reflections on Ms. Jefferson’s book.

Catchafire’s Pro Bono Impact with Behind the Book

Behind the Book is currently working with two Catchafire professionals to help spread the good word about what they do. Behind the Book runs programs with world-class authors, but realized they weren’t reaching a broader audience. So, they sought help with a Strategic Marketing Plan to help tell the organization’s incredibly stories in a more compelling way. A second professional is currently helping to plan the organization’s fourth annual benefit. After successful events in the past, the organization wanted some fresh ideas and energy to represent their fun, friendly personality and mission while also raising more funds to support the growing program.

Get Involved

Behind the Book is looking for a professional to help customize their Salesforce database. If that isn’t your skill, but want to get involved, please favorite the Behind the Book Page on Catchafire. (You need to be logged in to do this.) We’ll alert you as new opportunities to get involved become available. If you want to learn more about this great opportunity, email community@catchafire.org.

Find Your Cause: Leave It Better

24 Jun

Meet Leave It Better

Leave It Better empowers people to share ideas on how to improve their communities and take action to green their neighborhood. Leave It Better does this in two ways. Through a documentary production company and video-based social network, Leave It Better shares stories about people who are actively providing environmental solutions. The Leave It Better Foundation runs programs that teach youth how to take environmental action and help them use video to share the story of their learning.Growing gardens. Biking to work. Installing solar panels. Composting. Using bio-degradable plastic. Drinking from reusable water bottles. Picking up trash. There are many things, both big and small, that we can all do to leave it better. Leave It Better highlights and shares some of the best practices we can each incorporate into our own lives and communities to better our world.

How Leave It Better Does Good

Leave It Better’s ReGeneration Project provides students with Flip Cams and gardens, teaching them the importance of healthy food, and empowering them with the tools to share the story of their learning. Over the course of the school year, students film each other as they learn how to compost and grow vegetables in their garden. At the end of the year, students harvest the vegetables and use them to make a meal, which everyone eats! A film is edited together of the school’s experience, using the footage filmed by students, and screened for all those involved in the program.

Other videos on the Leave It Better network offer a primer on the benefits and logistics of recycling, profiles on innovative CSA groups like the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, and an intro to eco-friendly, socially-conscious fashion at the Housing Works.

This summer, Leave It Better is set to release its first feature documentary, American Meat, which presents a solutions-oriented survey of the current state of the U.S. meat industry. Featuring Fred Kirschenmann, Joel Salatin, Steve Ells, Chuck Wirtz, Paul Willis, and other farmers across America, the film takes an even-handed look at animal husbandry. American Meat explores how America arrived at its current industrial system, and shows feedlots and confinement houses, through the eyes of the farmers who live and work there. From there, the film focuses on the current revolution developing in animal husbandry, led by the charismatic and passionate Joel Salatin. American Meat features farmers across the country who have changed their lives to start grass-based farms, and highlights tangible solutions that people can take every day to change agriculture in America.

Leave It Better’s Impact

Since 2008, Leave It Better has worked with 10 schools, and over 12,000 students. Through the program, each student continues to spread the word about greening their communities. As fourth-grade teacher Luisa Maysonet praised the program, she noted that it not only gave her students “the chance to plant, the chance to eat” but also gave them “the chance to teach others how to compost, how to plant, and how to become a better eater…this program is about bringing about lifelong changes.”

In addition to its work in schools, since its founding in 2008, Leave It Better has shared over 300 videos, spreading the word about green initiatives and best practices to thousands of others.

Catchafire’s Pro Bono Impact with Leave It Better

Leave it Better has worked with five Catchafire professionals on a wide range of projects. Rachel Signer helped Leave It Better publicize its ReGeneration Youth Film Festival held at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens on June 15, while another Catchafire professional helped with the actual planning of the event. While one social media helped spread the word about the festival online, another social media guru ran two crowdfunding campaigns for to raise funds for American Meat documentary and the ReGeneration Project. An accounting professional helped out with a budget to determine how much money would be necessary to promote the film and cover the costs of expanding the school garden programs. While working separately, all of these professionals have helped to make sure that a much wider audience will get to see inspiring films and videos about the great work individuals can do to green their communities. Additionally, more children will get to learn the basics of environmental action next year as the ReGeneration Project program grows.

Get Involved

Leave It Better is currently looking for professional to help prepare a Grant Proposal. If these are not your skills, visit the Leave It Better page on Catchafire and add the organization to your favorites. (This is only possible to do if you’re logged in) We will then send you updates and matches as they become available!  If you’d like to learn more about the project or organization, please email: community@catchafire.org.

Find Your Cause: Champion Access

23 Jun

Meet Champion Access

Champion Access gives low-wage adults in the food industry the management competencies and support they need to advance their careers and earn a sustainable living. While we live in a society where geography and race often determine one’s career trajectory, Champion Access hopes to create a society where hard work is rewarded with access to career opportunities, enabling individuals to realize their full potential. Champion Access seeks to unlock human potential and catalyze career advancement by providing underemployed adults with access to innovative business resources, individualized support, and professional leadership. The hurdles that exist for an individual born into a low-income community often lead to weak, long-term personal development. Early in life, many are forced to drop out of school to get a job to support themselves. From this point on, most individuals are never afforded the time or financial resources to pursue further self-development. Champion Access aims to shift the societal paradigm that predetermines a person’s career trajectory depending on where they went to school and where they grew up.

How Champion Access Does Good

Champion Access identifies talented, yet underemployed, adults and puts them through a rigorous personal development and managerial preparation program. Their focus is on talented underemployed adults (over the age of 21) whose potential is not being utilized. Any underemployed individual working in a low-wage job is eligible to apply to a training program with Champion Access (and employers can also apply on an employee’s behalf).

The selection process is rigorous, evaluating baseline requirements in math, problem solving, communication, and writing. Champion Access builds on these foundations to enhance self-esteem, soft business skills, and the technical skills necessary to transition students into their new careers in management. Personal and professional development are nurtured through lectures, group projects, interactive skills simulations, field activities, internships, and speaking events.

In late 2010, Champion Access piloted a six-week, 36-hour course titled “How to Deal with Difficult Customers and Co-Workers.” This program was developed with the help of progressive education experts and served eight employees who were selected from a pool of over 60 applicants from Manhattan-based Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants. This spring, participants from 1st & Fresh Catering (a subsidiary of Aramark) and Five Guys met every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon to attend classes on a wide range of topics including restaurant financing, store level economics, hospitality, persuasion and code-management will be covered. After completing Champion Access, graduates can gain higher-level positions with an increased income and opportunity for advancement.

Champion Access’s Impact

In less than a year, Champion Access has already worked with 20 underemployed people in NYC. On an individual level, their stories show the impact Champion Access has already had on their lives.

After daily fist-fights pushed him to drop out of high school in Bedford-Stuvyesant Brooklyn, Alfredo struggled to find work. When he finally secured a job at Five Guys, his managers soon recognized that he was one of the best guys on the grill. They told him that Champion Access could offer the skills he needed in order to move up and perhaps become a manager one day. Having now completed part of the program, Alfredo says, “I feel really good about myself. I’m on the managerial track, I make more money, I have better self-respect and I know that I am in control of my future. I feel like I can do anything…Champion Access has given me opportunities to expand my horizons in areas that I have been struggling with all my life.”

Another recent participant, Atiyfa, was raised by her aunt in Long Island City’s Queensbridge Projects. In 10th grade Atiyfa stopped going to high school in favor of working and hanging out with friends. She spent summers working with toddlers and then spent three years working at the Department of Sanitation. Now she’s part of the Five Guys family, and also a part of the inaugural Champion Access team. After her experience with Champion Access, she’s begun to think about the future more wants to become a social worker.

Giovanni left his father’s farm in rural Puerto Rico, first bartending in a larger town, then finally moving to New York City with his wife and daughter to start a new life. Two years after moving to the city, Gio is the fastest grill man at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. He is so good that he’s become salaried as a non-management crew member. That’s how valuable he is to Five Guys. If Gio wants to continue to grow within the company, however, he needs to learn English. Champion Access is now working with Gio to make this happen.

Catchafire’s Pro Bono Impact with Champion Access

Champion Access has worked with eight Catchafire professionals on projects including branding, public relations, overall organizational mission, a board member search, fundraising, and design. Founder & Executive Director of Champion Access, Andy Duddleston, first came to Catchafire looking for help with a public relations strategy. Andy soon found himself getting PR 101 from his professional, Mercy Ruiz, and found that with the materials she produced and trainings she provided, he was able to blaze full steam ahead to raise capital to reach the organization’s goal.

As other professionals have stepped in to help in other areas, Andy and the Champion Access team now have a more focused vision and mission, a clear fundraising strategy, and great plans to meet the organization’s goal of over 180 talented underemployed adults the opportunity to access jobs that pay at least $35,000/year in the next three years.

Get Involved

Champion Access is currently seeking a professional to help with Event Sponsorship. If that isn’t your skill, but want to get involved, please favorite the Champion Access Page on Catchafire. (You need to be logged in to do this.) We’ll alert you as new opportunities to get involved become available. If you want to learn more about this great opportunity, email community@catchafire.org

Find Your Cause: Prosperity Candle

22 Jun

Meet Prosperity Candle

Prosperity Candle is a social enterprise that unleashes the potential of women to catalyze economic growth, peace and prosperity in distressed regions. By connecting caring consumers to beautiful products that empower women as entrepreneurs, we are working to share the light and change lives.

Prosperity Candle’s mission is to partner with thousands of women who are rebuilding their lives with determination, by providing them with the opportunity, tools, and resources to start a successful business. Through their simple model of Shared Prosperity in which every entrepreneur can receive profit-sharing, each woman has the opportunity to earn well above a living wage, build her own enterprise, and provide employment and leadership in her community. Prosperity Candle currently helps women in Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, and women refugees in Massachusetts who have come from Burma and Bhutan.

How Prosperity Candle Does Good

Between March 2009 and June 2010, Prosperity Candle completed a pilot project in Iraq to field-test custom candle kits, and make sure the model would be both successful and sustainable. Prosperity Candle teamed up with Women for Women International to teach 4 Iraqi women in Baghdad how to make candles using the Prosperity Candle equipment and guide. These first “chandler-entrepreneurs” field-tested the kits and then trained 50 more women entrepreneurs.Throughout training workshops and practice at home, these women dedicated themselves to learning the art of candle-making, and acquired the skills to make high quality candles for local and export markets. In April 2010, the first Prosperity Candles were shipped to the U.S. to coincide with a Mother’s Day sales campaign, which offered beautiful, high quality pillar candles handmade by mothers and daughters of Iraq. Mothers throughout the world were thrilled to receive these thoughtful gifts.

Prosperity Candle’s Impact

To date, over 4,000 candles have been sold, and over 40 women in a place of conflict have been given the opportunity to start their own businesses. All will be able to earn an income that is above the minimum wage in Iraq, and some of the most skilled candle-makers have the opportunity to earn twice that amount (close to the average wage in Iraq) simply by investing in more candle molds. One woman, Nazahat, has already earns the equivalent of 3.5 times the minimum wage in Baghdad with her kitchen-based business.

Additionally, Prosperity Candle deeply believes that investing in women as business leaders creates the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous society. Women-owned enterprises play a central role as an untapped source of employment, economic growth, and social stability, especially in places where women are left to rebuild their lives and support families in the shadows of conflict and the aftermath of disaster. When a woman thrives, an entire community thrives.

Catchafire’s Pro Bono Impact with Prosperity Candle

Prosperity Candle has been matched with five Catchafire professionals, who have have worked on branding, public relations, social media, as well as market analysis. Having just completed their pilot program this past spring, things are very busy at Prosperity Candle, and a small staff must manage a large amount of work. Founding Partner Siiri Morley initially approached Catchafire, to find someone to help utilize social media to support the business and create a stronger sense of community among Prosperity Candle’s supporters.  Jackie Bivins, a marketing professional with many years of social media experience, was able to jump right in, offering advice not just on social media but on overall messaging. Prosperity Candle then sought the help of another professional to plan and launch their “4,000 Candles for Mother’s Day” campaign, which utilized Facebook and Twitter to create a grassroots sales strategy. The sales from this initial push then offered valuable data for a market analysis which the organization has been working on with another Catchafire professional, to help determine where to focus future marketing efforts. Working with Prosperity Candle, each of these professionals has helped support the organization’s mission, which in turn has translated to better lives for the women entrepreneurs working with Prosperity Candle throughout the world.

Get Involved

Prosperity Candle is currently looking for professionals to create a Motion Graphics Video and develop an Online Marketing Plan. If these are not your skills, visit the Prosperity Candle page on Catchafire and add the organization to your favorites. (This is only possible to do if you’re logged in) We will then send you updates and matches as they become available!  If you’d like to learn more about the project or organization, please email: community@catchafire.org.

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