Something amazing happened yesterday at Ed Camp BLC. It was one of those moments that simply cannot happen during a traditional professional development experience. The session, led by Jeremy Angoff (@mytakeonit), was entitled “Save the World in 60 Minutes. Go!”
When I decided to attend this session, I assumed that Jeremy was going to present on a project done by students, perhaps a public service project. In fact, even Jeremy didn’t know what this session was going to produce. Jeremy challenged the group of educators in the room with the task of coming up with a way that we could, in the short period of time we were meeting, do something positive for the world. Not only did we have to come up with an idea, we had to set it in motion so that something positive would happen before we left the one-hour session. There were no constraints. There were no guidelines other than we needed to make an appreciable difference in some way.
We started out with brainstorming. In fact Jeremy encouraged us to try to throw our worst ideas on the table as a way of getting over that fear of wondering whether or not our ideas were good enough or not. Our table, fixated on the idea that something needed to be done quickly, tended to come up with ideas related to our own experiences or those of our students. As a result, tended to toss around what could be termed as first world problems. As time went on we were encouraged to think about second and third world issues. After about only 10 minutes, the combined groups had a fair number of ideas to sift through.
We decided to make our immediate goal to participate in micro-lending through an organization called kiva.org. Kiva works with local organizations to provide small loans to people without traditional banking options, usually to fund small business or agriculture endeavors. New members who respond to an “invite” receive a free trial – a $25 credit to put toward their first loan – courtesy of one of Kiva’s sponsors. You can follow my “invite” via this link: http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/diana2409 There are a limited number of free trials.
Our goal was to have everyone sponsor a loan through using their free trial and then contribute additional funds to the loan of their choice. With 25-30 people in the room, we would have $625 – $750 loaned just using free trials. If everyone chipped in $25 of their own money, we would double that amount.
In order to make a true impact we needed to move beyond just those in the room. It was amazing to watch a group of people, many who had never met before that session, spring into action. A quick inventory of skills allowed a loose division of labor. Some participants began to work on a website, www.flashloan.org. A Facebook page was attempted but then abandoned as the service was being difficult, possibly due to our wifi connection. A Twitter hastag, #flashloan, was initiated and tweets sent out with links to Kiva and the new website. Twitter users with large followings were contacted in hopes that they would tweet or re-tweet the cause and registrants of the greater BLC conference were tasked with promoting the project there. Meanwhile, a group of participants started sifting through some of the loan applicants to select those where we thought we could make the greatest difference. We decided to focus on loan applications that were nearing the finish line as a way to create a bigger impact, tipping those loans to full funding.
Cheers went up around the room as various participants helped various loans reach their 100% mark. The challenge is on. How many people can we get to help out both through using their initial $25 free funding and adding $25 (or more!) of their own money to help others?
I don’t think Jeremy knew where this was going when he started. But from a small spark something much larger grew. It just goes to show how with one idea and a lot of collaboration great things can happen.