1. matthewkeys: Trying to save the newspaper industry.

    (A “newspaper” is the Internet that editors print out for you every day)

  2. Never Underestimate Mom

    Grassroots R&D

    Many diseases are so rare that few people have heard of them. Even the government only gives a fraction of its scientific research money to fund research into these nearly unheard of disorders. Focused on making an impact for as many people as they can, government research funding is relegated to well known diseases that afflict many people.

    But that doesn’t mean these lesser-known diseases are any less important, especially if you are one of the people who are suffering from a rare disease. Yet, without the financial support for research and development, there is very little that the medical world can do about difficult rare diseases. 

    Mom to the Rescue

    Ainsley Evans was born with Angelman Syndrome, or AS as it is known, which is a rare neurological disorder. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s alright, not many people have. Because it is so rare, it has not been given the kind of attention, funding or research needed to combat its effects. Until now, that is.

    Ainsley’s mother Paula refused to accept the findings of the doctor that there was no cure and Ainsley would be forced to deal with cognitive disabilities and devastating seizures her entire life. Paula decided to take the initiative herself and set up what essentially became a production line to research and develop drugs and therapy that would aid her daughter. In fact, so little research had been done in mainstream medical science on AS, that her initial foray into what was known about AS and its genetic underpinnings led her to believe that with proper genetic research and development, it might actually be curable!

    Funding the Grassroots Way

    Money is the key, and Paula needed to tap into crowdsource funding, charities, volunteers and even celebrity fundraisers to get the needed seed money for research. Paula created FAST, the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics, which is one of the most energetic fact-finding enterprises that has ever been launched into a rare disorder like AS. So far, her success in gathering some of the best and brightest minds in the search for a cure, has led to an antibiotic that has quashed the symptoms of AS in mice. Clinical trials on humans finished in 2013, and although still being studied, Paula says that brain scans show that the area of the brain which has a role in AS seizures have come back normal after treatment.

    Making a Difference

    Paula has stepped up on behalf of her child and filled in the blanks for the medical world where AS knowledge is concerned. She has shown that by using the tools that are available to us all, like the Internet, the telephone and being involved in charitable organizations, a person can make a difference, even if it is on the cutting edge of scientific research. Her “never give up” attitude may yet find a cure for a disorder that no one had ever heard about, and that would be the greatest gift that any mother could ever give to their daughter on any level.

  3. Hot Rods and Hot Roads

    Powering the Country with Solar Panel Roads

    It is becoming more common to see solar panels powering homes and buildings.  These glass panels, mounted on rooftops or inside of ground-mounted frames, are beginning to make a considerable difference supplying sustainable electricity to consumers throughout the U.S. But when you think about it, the largest frame network are the billions of miles of roadways comprised of asphalt and cement that lay in the sun day after day.  What if instead of asphalt or cement, these roadways were paved with solar panels? Well, in theory, they would produce enough usable power to supply the entire United States, and that’s exactly the thought that crossed the minds of entrepreneurs Scott and Julie Brusaw.

    This is Not a Pipe Dream

    Solar panels are made of glass, and most of us think of glass as fragile and breakable. The reality is that glass can be made as tough as concrete, just think bomb proof or bullet proof glass here, and you get a clear picture of how tough glass truly is. The surface could be textured to provide traction in even the worst weather, and a type of clear tough glass could be laid down over solar panels that have been embedded into a roadway. Instead of just soaking up the sun’s rays, as every road does now, these solar panels would be producing electricity that can be siphoned off and sent into the local power grid. The panels themselves could power small heaters within each panel, so there would never be any snow or ice build-up in the northern climes, making them safer than regular roadway material. And, if you connected billions of these solar panels together across the country, there would never be a need for manufactured electricity ever again.

    Many More Advantages

    Since the entire road is wired, if a panel quits working, the others around it can give off a repair signal. In theory, a panel can be replaced in about 5 minutes by just unplugging it and plugging a new one in its place. Parking lots and rest areas fitted with these panels could supply enough power for electrical power stations to charge electric cars, and in fact, as the technology grows, it is believed that electric cars could be continuously charged directly from the road as they drive. That would mean the end of electric car range anxiety, and theoretically, you could drive non-stop across the country in an electric vehicle. 

    The Solar Roadways Project

    The Brusaw’s have taken this idea, called The Solar Roadways Project, to Indiegogo for crowdfunding.  A working prototype is already in place, and they are hoping to raise $1 million dollars to refine the product and begin installing the panels in parking lots and smaller roads to prove their viability. Once that step is taken, it may be only a matter of time before parking lots and streets near you will be producing sustainable and environmentally friendly electricity from an idea that changes roadways to electrical generators every time the sun shines.

  4. Tiny Homes Restore Security and Dignity

    Wisconsin Aids the Homeless

    Wisconsin has taken to sheltering the homeless to a new level. The Occupy Madison volunteer group first conceived and then built the first tiny home in Madison, Wisconsin in a “put up or shut up” moment to the city board. Many initiatives were on the table to help the homeless, but this was the first time anyone took the initial step to plan and execute a solution.

    Peace, Love, Occupy

    For someone used to sleeping on benches, on sewer grates and constantly looking for shelter, a tiny home like this is a game changer. Former homeless person, Betty Ybarra, who fled her home because living on the streets was better than being in an abusive relationship, is the first person to get a tiny home all her own. She helped build the miniature structure, which totals 99 square feet, has a composting toilet, running water, an alcove for a bed and a place for a microwave oven. It is made of recycled materials and heated by both solar and propane, making it very inexpensive to heat and eco-friendly to build. She is so grateful for her tiny home.  The signs on her walls, which say Peace, Love and Occupy, tell the entire story.

    The Tiny Home Initiative

    Madison plans to have a tiny home community, that will be built on donated land around the area, and has begun selecting those people that are most in need.  Two more tiny homes are nearing completion, while nine more are planned, but as land becomes available, this will only be the beginning.

    Across the nation, in places like Newfield, New York and Austin, Texas, tiny home plans are in the works to build villages that will house hundreds of people on donated acreage. In most cases the material to build these homes costs less than $5,000 dollars if purchased outright, and with donated materials, the cost is reduced significantly.

    The First Real Solution

    Homeless people are the forgotten population.  There are countless reasons people become homeless.  Giving each individual security and a roof over their head so they can stay warm and dry is done without judgment of their circumstances.  Without help, they have nowhere to go except to live on the streets. But the tiny home idea and implementation to help the homeless people off the streets has become the first real solution that brings back dignity, a sense of worth, and peace of mind to those that are in need.

  5. Sense Promises to Help You Sleep

    There’s a new device coming onto the market that promises to help you sleep better. Sense, the newest invention by former Thiel Fellow James Proud, is designed to monitor your sleep and help you understand how to make your nights easier and more restful.

    “Technology has enriched our lives in many ways,” says Proud. “But it has its downside, and sleep is one of its biggest victims.”

    Statistically, as many as two-thirds of us are either not getting enough sleep or not getting the right kind of sleep. Technology has quite literally made our lives brighter: computer screens and smartphones are made to mimic daylight, and our streets and homes are lit to keep away total darkness. Phones beep and chirp, car alarms go off, and our partners snore through the night—everyone has something that keeps them from getting complete rest.

    Sense is hoping to help manage all of those things: A sensitive microphone will pick up on noise disturbances from anything like that pesky car alarm outside to sleep talking. Sensors will pick up on the amount of light in the room, the temperature and humidity, and the presence of pollen or dust in the air. And a monitor that attaches to the user’s pillow will track how often they toss and turn in the night.

    All of this data will stream into a smartphone app that gives a daily sleep score from 0–100 based on the number of disturbances that occur throughout the night. Users can track their data through the app, listen to any noises that might have disrupted their sleep cycle, and get ideas on how to better their rest.

    The system even offers soothing sounds like white noise, pink noise, and raindrops to help ease users into restful sleep.

    An alarm system based on the user’s sleep cycle is also built in, designed to wake them at the right moment. According to Proud, “We all have a natural sleep cycle, but a normal alarm will wake you up regardless of when’s best for you. Sense’s Smart Alarm knows the right time to wake you up, so you will feel alert and refreshed… If you want to be up by 9:30, but you’re already half awake at 9:15, then your alarm should go off then, not wait for you to fall deeper into sleep and force you awake later feeling terrible.”

    If you think this invention sounds good, you’re not alone. In less than two days, Proud’s Kickstarter page managed to raise $470,000—four times the initial goal of $100,000. The overwhelming success of the Sense system in its initial stages backs up what the statistics are saying: as a whole, people are not getting enough sleep.

    If the success of the Kickstarter campaign is any indication, Sense won’t just hit the market next year, it will explode onto the scene. If you want to grab one now, there’s still time to become a backer. Wait until next year, and you might find that they’re flying off the shelves. 

  6. Young Inventor Creates a Device to Help End Infant Car Deaths

    At eleven years old, Andrew Pelham of Nashville, Tennessee, invented a device that might help prevent car deaths in infants.

    An average of 38 children die each year in the United States from heat stroke associated with being stuck inside a vehicle. This doesn’t just happen in hot states, either. Even on a mild or cloudy day, a car starting at 70 degrees can rise as high as 100 degrees within an hour.

    When the story of a local woman losing her ten-month-old baby to heat stroke reached Pelham last year, he knew he wanted to do something to help. “I couldn’t get it out of my mind,” said Pelham. The result was his invention, dubbed the EZ Baby Saver, which acts as a reminder to parents who might otherwise leave a child in a hot car.

    You might wonder how a parent might forget their child. It may seem like a problem with an obvious solution, which is why parents are usually told to just not forget their children in the backseat of their cars, but the truth is that memory doesn’t work that way.

    In instances where a child is left in a car, parents are often on autopilot; their basal ganglia has taken over. Usually the basal ganglia is a useful part of our brain. It’s what allows us to do simple or repetitive tasks and think about other things at the same time. If you’ve ever driven your morning commute without any real recollection of the turns you took or the view from your car, that’s your basal ganglia hard at work. For the most part, this section of the brain works in harmony with the other sections, but in times of stress—like being a new parent—that balance can be lost. That’s when the basal ganglia goes into overdrive, leaving memory behind, and when young children are most at risk for being left in a hot car.

    Pelham’s invention, the EZ Baby Saver, taps into that autopilot part of the brain. Using rubber bands and brightly colored duct tape, Pelham created a simple bungee-type cable that hooks to the back of the driver’s side seat and then onto the door handle. For the driver to leave the car they have to physically unhook the cable, reining that basal ganglia in and reminding the driver that they need to check the back seat. In the absence of rubber bands and duct tape, an actual bungee cable will also work, but the concept is the same: create a barrier that the driver has to physically disconnect in order to leave.

    Pelham won second place for his design in the Rubber Ban Contest for Young Inventors, but he doesn’t want awareness for his invention to end there. Simple instructions to create your own EZ Baby Saver are posted on his website (http://www.ezbabysaver.com/p/how-to-make-ez-baby-saver.html).

    When asked whether he considers his invention a success, Pelham has specific criteria: “I just wanna save one life, and then I can say my idea was successful.”

  7. Life Under the Big Lights

     New Approach to House the Homeless 

    Housing the homeless has become a rallying cry for many social groups around the globe. Restoring dignity to the homeless by securing them permanent residence not only cuts expenses used for shelters and food, but also gets them off the streets and into a warm, safe place where they can start to put their energies toward things other than how to stay warm and dry.

    But homes take up space, and space for new housing — no matter how small the houses are — is not always readily available. Housing is possible if new usable space can be found.  People have found creative ways to repurpose space for housing, including converting old containers and train cars.  One of the most recent and unique ideas for building a home is utilizing the space between billboards.

    Billboard Homes

    Many billboards face oncoming traffic in both directions. This design forms a natural triangle of space to allow the billboard facades the correct orientation. What no one had ever considered before was to build out that space between the billboards to create a small and comfortable home. Two walls of the structure are already in place.  They are formed by the billboards themselves.  By adding a third wall, a roof and a floor, you have a complete home. 

    The Gregory Project

    DesignDevelop, an architectural firm headquartered in Slovakia, came up with a unique vision to give homeless people a place to live, called the Gregory Project. They built a concept billboard home that could be partly funded by the advertisers themselves.  

    Since billboards are already wired for electricity, power is readily available.  Compost toilets could be installed, and even solar panels could be used to provide free power.  This clever design was built in Slovakia, but it could be done virtually anywhere where there are billboards.

    Open Source for Open Minds

    Open source funding and volunteers would be the least expensive and most expedient way to get these structures built. Open minds could design structures unique to the needs of the area, like considering weather, placement and overall functionality. Many billboards are within easy access to a large city, so billboard homes could be nestled next to large communities, and allow the people who lived in them, easy access to stores, shops and health care. 

    This new approach to house the homeless provides a home for someone who might otherwise be sleeping without a roof, a bed, proper facilities and a warm, secure place to call home.  Being able to heat up your own soup instead of relying on soup kitchens for a hot meal is a big step — and a big deal — for someone who has very little. It is one way to restore dignity to the lives of homeless individuals and help to solve a social issue that plagues many communities.  

  8. Three Foundations to Product Launch

    In every successful new product there are three components that are considered the foundational keys to success.  Other intangibles like marketing, cost, availability and other things may cause a product to succeed or fail, sometimes before it even gets off the ground. But if you have the three keys that lay the foundation to success, regardless of anything else, your new product could be well on the way to market.


    If your product brings something unique and useful to market, you are off to a good start. Whether this means it’s a lower cost to a similar product, a new decorative option, a new way of doing something that takes fewer steps or is more convenient, that’s what innovation is all about. When investors look at business plans and product positioning, they are focused on a very short list of things, including intellectual property which legally sets your product apart from the competition, and the Unique Sales Position (USP) offered by your marketing strategy.  Both of these speak to the innovation of your product and show forethought in how you plan to penetrate the market.  If your product and/or plan is not innovative enough, you will have to compete head-on in your market vertical with established products, which is almost guaranteed to be a losing proposition. Investors will not back any product that doesn’t present a winning path to profit.


    Let’s face it, you can have the most innovative product in the world with the best marketing backing it up, but if it does not perform as advertised, people are going to look for something else. Consumer frustration is one of the biggest problems with product success.  And in the modern marketplace where people rate and post product ratings instantly for everyone to read, getting it right the first time has never been so crucial.  Consumer ratings tell the tale about how a new product stacks up.  Even if you receive one rating of 2 stars because your product does not function as advertised, your product may not make the cut for the tens, hundreds or thousands of potential customers who read that review. Conversely, if you get 4 and 5-star ratings, the reviews can certainly add to the sales.  Just make sure your manufacturing is up to speed so you can ride that wave of crowd favor! 


    Modern aesthetics can make or break a product. Unfortunately, consumers look at product design with emotion.  If your design does not appeal to their tastes, no matter how good the innovation is or how well it functions, chances are it won’t sell. In essence, you need to wrap your product in a design that is appealing to consumers.  Depending on what it is that you create, your product should feel, look, taste, smell or simply move well relative to what is already available. The first thing anyone notices when they look at a new product, is the design. If it is a new tool, does it feel good in someone’s hand?  If it is a new energy drink, does it taste good?  If it is a new vacuum, is it smooth and easy to push?  If it is a new type of shoe, is it comfortable and good looking?  If the design is good, the consumer will want to know more about it, and that’s the most important step in targeting someone so that they purchase your product.

    Innovation, function and design are the three gateway keys to a successful product launch.  Get those three things right, and you are on your way to success every time.

  9. The Nonprofit Conundrum – Growing or Giving

    Entrepreneur, author and humanitarian activist, Dan Pallotta, gave a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) speech about the nonprofit conundrum of growing or giving. Pallotta, the author of Uncharitable - How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, brings experience and insight into the nonprofit sector, and when he talks, people listen. He compared the two camps – the growers and the givers – and explained each one, sharing his views on which way is the best way to for nonprofits to succeed.

    The Givers

    Nonprofits are based on the premise of giving. They raise money for a cause and then give the money away to the people, community or organization in need. On the face of it, that is a very noble and charitable thing to do. As soon as the money is raised, it goes back to the people who need it. It’s a simple and effective distribution of the funding.

    The problem lies when this is applied long term. Since the funding goes out as quickly as it comes in, if the funding dries up, so does the humanitarian effect. In essence, by relying solely on the continued flow of funding – something that they do not have control over – the nonprofit organization has just donated itself out of business. Once this happens, it can no longer help anyone and unless other types of funding are found, it must close its doors.  At the very least, by simply being a “giver”, a nonprofit organization allows its future funding capabilities to be dictated by outside circumstances, leaving their mission and their employees – not to mention their beneficiaries – in a compromised, dependent and vulnerable position when economic or other circumstances shift.

    The Growers

    Nonprofit growers still give back to the people or community who need the help, but instead of giving as much away as they can, the growers give less to the cause and more towards securing the future of the organization by marketing, innovation and growing of the organization. Fewer people might be helped in the short run, but the creating multiple ways for a nonprofit to survive through lean times for funding, the longer it stays around to help and retains a substantial position of strength in the community.  Ultimately, growers can create more a sustainable impact over the long run. Essentially, a nonprofit that markets itself to gain more funding is set up more like a for-profit business than a strictly nonprofit business, which creates an image that does not necessarily “fit” the traditional charitable organization profile.  This is what has generated controversy in the nonprofit community.

    The Conundrum

    Givers argue that the true mission of a nonprofit means only minimal funding dollars goes towards administration, program development and marketing, making sure that most or all of the funding goes directly to the cause. It is a short-sighted, yet traditional stance that makes donors feel like their money is really working directly to benefit those that the nonprofit organization targets.  If things never changed in the exchange of funds, this business model would work fine.  However, all things change, and the landscape for charitable organizations has become crowded and competitive.  Donors might take a fancy to a new cause and decide to pull their funding, leaving the “giver” organization to scramble to make payroll and cover rent, NOT help others. 

    Growers argue that by allocating some funding to achieve sustainability for the organization is critical to serving their clients while staying committed to their mission. When nonprofits develop marketing programs to get more funding, they may be able to get a 3 to 1 return on that investment. That means, over time, there would be more funding dollars available for everyone, and therefore, more people or communities would be better served.  Additionally, if certain funding sources suddenly dried up, the organization can function for a longer period of time while it secures new funding.

    What’s the Best Way?

    Pallotta believes that the best way to run a nonprofit is to run it like a business. In other words, turn it into a “grower.” Use some of the funding to grow the nonprofit and the services available. The marketing and feedback can become a tool to show success and grow interest from potential new donors. In this way, the funding may never dry up, and the nonprofit organization would remain viable for a far longer time than if all of the initial funding was given away. By being viable longer, it has the potential to help more people over its lifetime.  And for Pallotta, that is the sure path to success for a nonprofit enterprise.

  10. The Internet Levels the Field – Bob Donaldson, Comedy Writer

    Some of us have heard this great story in whole or in part. It is a good one to share again.

    Like many of us, Bob Donaldson — Central Illinois native, tech guy, family man, regular guy with a regular job — used Twitter for rants, raves and comic relief. No big deal.  He would air out his feelings and frustrations, usually with a comedic tone, and pass it on to the world over the Internet. 

    For example, posted under his Twitter handle, @TheNardvark, here is one of his entries from 2013: “My wife and I use the pull-out method of birth control where we pull out our phones and ignore each other every night.” Quips like this and others like it got him 40,000 followers, with up to 1200 retweets and 2500 favorites.

    Auditioning for a Job

    Alex Baze is the head writer and producer for the television show, Late Night With Seth Meyers. Baze got wind of @TheNardvark and began following Donaldson’s Twitter account, more for kicks than anything else, but also because of his forward thinking that there might be someone out there who could be a fit for the show as a comedy writer. On Baze’s recommendation, producer Mike Shoemaker and star Seth Meyers began to follower @TheNardvark too. As Meyers explains, “He just made us laugh.”

    Donaldson had no idea at all that this was going on, and kept tweeting about his life in his own funny way while working his nine to five shift. He never realized the implications of his tweets, and that he was actually auditioning for a job.


    Baze was so taken by the way Donaldson incorporated comedy into his tweets that he sent him a personal message about flying out to New York for an interview as a comedy writer. This was very peculiar to Donaldson, who was happy with his life, and couldn’t imagine what Baze saw in him.  He also didn’t see relocating his family out to New York on a pipe dream like this. But Bob’s wife told him that this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  So in October of 2013, Donaldson flew out to New York to meet with the producers of Late Night With Seth Meyers.  


    Baze, Shoemaker and Meyers all met Bob Donaldson and gave him a 15 minute interview. That was it. The interview was so short that Donaldson thought he blew it. By the time he got back home, he pretty much decided that it had been a one-off meeting and that they weren’t interested. 

    “It was so short that I thought they’d decided they weren’t going to waste any more time,” Donaldson explains.

    Amazingly, a few weeks later Baze called Donaldson at work and told him he was the new comedy writer for the show.  On December 2nd, Donaldson officially became one of the 11 writers for Late Night With Seth Meyers, his family has moved out to New York, and their home in Central Illinois is on the market. 

    Leveling the Field

    The internet is many things, from information highway, electronic newspaper, mail provider, social network and much more. But it also levels the playing field by getting people noticed who would otherwise go unnoticed. Bob Donaldson being discovered and becoming a comedy writer, might be an extreme case, but it never would have happened had Twitter not provided an outlet for his comedic ramblings. But now everyone, including television producers and stars like Alex Baze and Seth Meyers, can readily tap into the information super highway, read what’s posted, and act upon it in ways that could never have happened before. And for Bob Donaldson, all it took was a Twitter account and his natural gift for comedy writing to turn a hobby into a dream job.

  11. Less Is More Proves that Time Isn’t Money with Their Upcoming Tour

    When Brian Spencer decided to teach himself guitar three years ago, he probably did not expect to be embarking on his first national tour so soon. But this September, Spencer and fellow Less Is More bandmate, Jane Finkel, will begin a three-month whirlwind adventure through eighteen states as they begin their Time Isn’t Money tour.

    On the surface, Less Is More is taking this journey to kick off their debut album Amid the Flowers, available August 22nd. But at closer inspection, the tour is actually one of charity: At each stop the band members and their crew will be donating time and music to various organizations throughout the country. According to their Kickstarter for the tour, “the Time Isn’t Money tour is about the music, but it’s even more so about reaching out to people, inspiring people, and getting down to the grassroots to remember what connects us all.”

    And their music reflects that sentiment. With Spencer on his guitar and Finkel playing the ukulele, the duo creates an upbeat sound that is reminiscent of Winterpill’s ethereal feel and Feist’s early recordings; Amid the Flowers is meant to take its audience on a musical journey much like the band itself will be doing for three months this fall.

    This tour isn’t unique because the band is still fairly young in its formation but because it’s not backed by anyone other than the band itself and a few donors. With no studio to produce their album and no manager to book their shows, Finkel and Spencer are doing most of the work on their own. They create their own merchandise, fliers, album art, and schedule, and they find their own venues—all with as much professionalism and drive as a studio-backed tour.

    But in all of that work, the pair won’t be alone. The band includes a crew of two—Brittany Holt, copywriter and blogger, and Alex Essex-Carmona, videographer—who will be recording the entire tour and lending a helping hand. Essex-Carmona will be filming and producing a documentary about Less Is More’s experiences on the road between September and November of this year, and Holt plans to write about the tour on her Meanwhile in Brooklyn… blog to keep curious fans up to date on their progress.

    The Kickstarter campaign was created in hopes of supplementing the funds the team has saved on their own with money from backers who want to support their goal of a national tour and the time they plan to donate to charities and programs across the country.

    Although they’re already halfway to their goal of $4,500.00, they still have a way to go until their Kickstarter ends on August 31st. Backers can expect to receive a thank-you note at the lowest donation tier ($1) and a live in-home performance after the tour closes at the highest tier ($1,500), with merchandise and a look at Essex-Carmona’s documentary filling in the middle. Donations toward their goal can be made at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/427869459/time-isnt-money-tour where a detailed list of backer gifts can also be found.

    And if you live in any of the eighteen states the band will be visiting this fall, be sure to support them in their exciting adventure!

  12. “Bee” Aware of this Michigan Crowdfunded Project

    Patrons of the Capuchin and Forgotten Harvest soup kitchens in Detroit may soon be eating vegetables grown by the students at Ladywood High School in Livonia, Michigan. That is, if the funding comes through.

    Following the recent trend in small project financing, Ladywood High School is using crowdfunding to power its initiative for a vegetable garden, pollinator’s garden, and rain garden. The gardens will teach students about their community while adding practical experience to the school’s curriculum. Sound good? It gets better: the garden’s harvest will be donated to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and Forgotten Harvest in the form of soups and salsas made by the students and the honey would be donated to Capuchin, giving students at Ladywood the opportunity to fulfill a community need directly.

    With the community garden completed, the school is already seeing a small harvest. The current campaign, Bee Friends for Education, is hoping to fund the addition of bee boxes, which would expand their yield through pollination and the addition of a honey harvest. Students would continue their community involvement and learn the art of beekeeping along with the importance of the bee population to sustainable farming.

    To pay for this project, Ladywood is going through the popular Kickstarter website. Kickstarter and similar websites have been used to fund a number of initiatives in the last few years, and its popularity is only growing. From 2011 to 2012, revenue for small projects gained through crowdfunding nearly doubled. In 2013 nonprofit revenue doubled again. And if this year’s response to crowdfunded community projects is anything to go by (remember the overwhelming support of Levar Burton’s Reading Rainbow campaign?) there will be more opportunities of funding for the greater good.

    So what exactly is crowdfunding? It’s a lot like traditional networking backed by the power of the internet. Many communities are too small or lack the resources to create initiatives that would provide necessary support. Traditional fundraising can involve a number of costs that simply can’t be met by communities most in need, cutting funding off from people who would benefit from running initiatives themselves. Websites like Kickstarter provide a unique opportunity for these groups by cutting out most of the overhead. Run well, a little Kickstarter page can fund big ideas and reach millions of people through word-of-mouth advertising and social networking—a feat that would take thousands of hours and a large initial investment to make possible in a traditional setting.

    And while the internet makes the seemingly impossible possible, it also offers nearly immediate response on the viability of a project. Small projects designed to benefit others may learn within days or weeks the response they might expect from the community—something that they would otherwise learn after months or even years of hard work.

    The students of Ladywood High School are about to learn about the viability of their own community project as they wait for funding through their Kickstarter campaign, which ends on August 27th. Pledges are coming in, but there is still a ways to go before the project is fully funded. You can support the Livonia student community and Detroit soup kitchens today by going to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1291400649/bee-friends-for-education

  13. True Nutrition for the World

    Changing the World with Soylent

    The next time you reach for a snack or prepare yourself a meal, you’ll have a hard time not thinking of Soylent after reading this article. That’s because the food company is literally looking to change the world with its new product, Soylent.

    Everything the Body Needs in a Glass

    The idea came from a man named Robert Rhinehart, though it’s technically nothing new. He essentially wanted to find a quick and easy way to get all the nutrition his body needed, but in a manner that was also affordable.

    Coming from an engineering background, Rhinehart knew how to achieve his goal. He set out to discover what the human body actually needed every day as far as nutrition was concerned. He then went about reverse engineering these necessary nutrients into one simple source. The result was a powder called Soylent. Mix it with water, drink it down and your body has everything it needs for the day.

    Food for the World

    But that’s far from where Soylent stops in terms of its potential. When you think about it, yes, Soylent is plenty convenient for those constantly on the go who don’t have the time to stop and prepare an ideal meal as much as they’d like. It’s also great for those of us on a budget, as Soylent only costs around $10 a day.

    However, one of the most compelling reasons to get excited about Soylent is that it could be the key to ending world hunger.  For a fully nutritional meal, it’s incredibly cheap.  Much of the world’s hungry populations are fed meager rations of grain-based gruel that is the nutritional equivalent of eating cardboard.  The gruel stops the hunger pangs, but those bloated bellies on stick-framed people convey not just hunger, but malnutrition!   

    Another benefit is Soylent’s shelf life.  Unlike other options, though, Soylent can be transported all over the world without the need to be frozen or kept at a certain temperature. It’s essentially a non-perishable food item, which means transports can take their sweet time getting to the intended recipient. Once received, those who need it can also store it for weeks or even months without fear that it will go bad.

    Nutrition for Every Need

    Soylent was designed to meet the nutritional needs of both men and women, meaning there isn’t a different product for each gender. Furthermore, the product is vegan, so anyone can eat it without fear of their dietary restrictions being violated. Their old blend does come with fish oil in it, but this can be left out for vegans who provide their own vegan friendly oil to the mix.

    While it was an idea born out of convenience, Soylent may have what it takes to truly change the world.

  14. A Niche For News

    Get to Know Monocle

    Without expansive and reliable news coverage, the world around us can feel incredibly small.  Anything outside the perimeter of word of mouth could be experienced as foreign. Oddly enough, in today’s world of globalization, the world outside our comfort zone has never seemed so far away for many. This is due in large part to the fact that the majority of our “news” comes from biased, commercial sources that can’t do their topics justice.  Infused with speculation and conjecture as well as flat-out personal opinion, reporters of the “news” today lack any semblance of objectivity that greats like Walter Cronkite were known for.

    A New Kind of News

    And that’s where monocle comes in. They’re different for a number of reasons. For one thing, Monocle is available around the clock. You can check out their website for a news ticker that will continue throughout the day or listen to their radio coverage, which also goes on 24/7.

    The other cool thing about Monocle is how they present so many of their important news stories. Instead of simply providing commentary with a few clips for dressing, Monocle actually has their reporters craft short films that serve as educational documentaries. They’re not only more interesting to watch, they can also actually do their subject matter justice.

    Nonetheless, Monocle is still printing the news as well. Every year, they produce 10 issues.  These are not fragile little periodicals. Monocle creates magazines that are almost more like books; they come in full color and are crafted in such a way that they’re almost collectibles.

    With their global presence, Monocle has also produced a series of travel guides for others who may want to see the world. They figure that news is one way of learning about the world, but so is travel. So they have over 50 of these guides, many of them covering rare cities of choice like Verbier, Trancoso, Muscat, Forte dei Marmi and Marrakech. Their titles are split into resort and business works, 25 for each, so you can choose both the city you’re interested in and your reason for being there.

    About Their Staff

    For an independent news organization with such ambitious goals, Monocle is actually fairly well staffed. The company has more than 30 correspondents spread out from Milan to Beirut and from Singapore to Washington.

    Though the news may seem like a fairly well-covered topic, Monocle proves there is still plenty that can be done. This innovative brand has found a new way for its subscribers to get to know the world around them.

  15. Volunteering for Debt Relief

    Finals are wrapping up in colleges and universities across the nation this week, and students are breathing a sigh of relief. But that smiling grad in your life has more to worry about now that school is over than what to wear with their cap and gown. Statistics show that seven out of ten graduates in 2013 left school with student loans averaging at around $30,000 each, and it’s only looking worse for the 2014 crowd.

    With the weight of student loan debt and the discouraging career prospects offered in today’s troubled economy, many young people are putting off life events normally associated with being twentysomething: getting married, buying a first home, and starting a family. Debt is stilting the future for Millennials and creating changes in the way our society looks at transitioning from youth to adult.

    While student debt was growing into one of this year’s hot-button topics, some people were coming up with creative ways to pay off their education. One such group is a small non-profit called SponsorChange.org, which is harnessing the power of volunteerism to help graduates pay their debts while giving back to their communities.

    SponsorChange.org works by matching donation money to volunteers who offer their time to causes within their community that have enrolled in the program. Donors give money to SponsorChange with the knowledge that they will be helping both a cause and a graduate, and non-profits get free work from trained people looking for opportunities and experience. Volunteers get money paid toward their student loans based on donations and the amount of work they do.

    Potential volunteers can sign up in cities where SponsorChange has offices. Normally, co-founder Raymar Hampshire says, “we match a graduate to an organization, and they actually live in that city.” Currently, there are only a few cities where opportunities are available—Chicago, Pittsburg, and Washington, D.C.—but the program coordinators are working to expand into other cities and into something they call “virtual volunteerism.” “We’re trying to figure out what type of projects can be done at a high-quality level” remotely, says Hampshire.

    Volunteering virtually can be anything from designing a web page to grant writing. Volunteers can sign up to work remotely for causes that aren’t necessarily in the city where they live, broadening the options for volunteers and the pool of people to choose from for organizations. While the people at SponsorChange prefer to have volunteers investing in their local communities, they acknowledge that for some volunteers, it’s just not possible.

    There are already a number of programs offering debt relief to recent graduates in exchange for volunteer service. AmeriCorps and the Peace Corp. are two popular choices, but few opportunities exist that don’t also ask graduates to put their lives and careers on hold for a period of time. With mounting debt and young people starting career jobs later in life, programs like SponsorChange might be the key to providing much-needed relief and experience for this year’s newest graduates.