Handmade To The Streets

HTTS Website

You know those brisk fall nights when you’re camping in the woods with family or friends, and you burrow into your sleeping bag but just can’t seem to get warm enough no matter what you do?

 

Could you imagine feeling that way every single night?

 

Ashleyann Burnett had this very thought one day when she noticed a man on MLK Boulevard in Portland, Oregon sheltering himself with only a sheet. After witnessing him attempting to make himself comfortable over and over she knew she needed to help him. This small epiphany quickly spawned a much larger idea when Ashleyann realized that there are hundreds of thousands of people in this same situation all across the United States. Thus, Handmade To The Streets was born, and Ashleyann along with her husband, Tyler, set out to provide versatile, handmade blankets to as many people experiencing homelessness as possible.

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Handmade To The Streets’ blankets are made to be warm, compact, and durable to be as best fitted to the lifestyle of someone living on the streets as possible. Each blanket is wrapped in a strap with a handle so that they can be slung around one’s shoulder and easily carried.

Currently, Handmade To The Streets is a small, two-person operation with Ashleyann and Tyler doing as much as they can on their own. So far, they have been passing out blankets as well as ‘street kits’ filled with essential items that individuals living on the streets could gravely use around Portland. But Ashleyann and Tyler wonder why stop here?

Their goals, as stated on their Kickstarter page, include becoming a 501c3 nonprofit, applying for a design patent, and increasing their materials for larger production.

Ashleyann noticed something wrong with the world when she saw that man struggling simply to keep himself warm. More importantly though, she saw an opportunity where she could utilize her skills and resources to truly make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Now she sees that with the help of others’ skills and resources as well she can magnify her effort tenfold.

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 At Idealist we believe that ensuring great ideas like this one reach the people needed to bring them into full bloom is vital in creating positive change in the world. Too often good ideas with the ability to change the world never see the light of day due to lack of skills or resources needed to make them sustainable. We’re on a mission to make sure that great ideas like this one are able to reach people who not only have the means to help but the desire to do so as well. 

What’s a great idea that you’ve been wondering how to go about bringing to life? Share in the comments!



An Argument for Doing Something More

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“Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.”

 

So said Chuang Tzu, preeminent Taoist thinker, some 25 hundred years ago. Nonetheless, there is a whole industry catering to people who approach happiness as something to be hunted down in self-help books, courses, new age practices, and life coaches.

Via Giphy.com
 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many of us feel that our happiness is constantly bombarded with negative messages: angsty status updates from friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, awful news headlines, and advertising that plays on our worst insecurities. Our response: switch off, log-out, and block.

Universal via Giphy.com
 

How often do you read a bad-news article and feel powerless to help, disengaged from your community or from the larger world, or too overwhelmed by personal responsibilities to actively respond by volunteering, donating, or carrying on the conversation? Although in the short term, it might bode well to close the newspaper and focus on something you readily feel you can do — your job, your domestic tasks — it could be argued that shutting out larger world problems is actually a way of retreating further away from fulfilling your true potential as a person.

Senorgif.com via Giphy.com
 

Self-actualization is a term that has been manipulated and used in multiple psychological theories throughout time but was originally created by organismic theorist Kurt Goldstein. The idea is that by realizing your full potential you can reach some sort of enlightenment that allows you to actively live the best life possible for yourself. For the sake of this discussion though, let’s specifically reference the 19 Characteristics Of Abraham Maslow’s Self-Actualizer.

What Maslow’s theory entails are 19 unique characteristics he found to be consistent within each of his subjects that have been developed into advice on how one self-actualizes. The foundation of Maslow’s theory is that you not only must understand what is preventing your happiness but you need to face, and resolve, those issues as well. This notion suggests that by avoiding, or retreating, from the issues hindering your happiness you are merely prolonging the process. So, let’s go through each of the characteristics.

  1.     Perception Of Reality

The first trait is that of a superior relationship with reality. This means he or she understands that the unknown is a part of reality and not only is he or she comfortable with that but he or she embraces it with open arms.

Comedy Central via Giphy.com

  1.     Acceptance

The next is the idea that he or she simply accepts himself or herself unconditionally. So much so that the whole idea doesn’t even cross his or her mind.

NBC vis Giphy.com

  1.     Spontaneity

The third coincides with the first in that a self-actualized individual’s behavior is natural and it is not dictated by a forced agenda. In other words, he or she does not take actions simply for the reason of being a plot device that is meant to cause a specific reaction.

Fox via Giphy.com

  1.     Problem Centering

Self-actualizers tend to have goals and a mission in life. They have small things they would like to accomplish in the short-term and large overarching things they would like to accomplish in the long run.

Via Giphy.com

  1.     Solitude

Self-actualizers also tend to value their privacy and time alone slightly more than the average individual.

BBC via Giphy.com

  1.     Autonomy

The sixth trait is that of independence from the need for external accolades or praise. A self-actualizer has realized that inner growth and self-development are much more pertinent to life then these things.

ESPN via Giphy.com

  1.     Fresh Appreciation

Self-actualizing people are able to maintain the appreciation of a child experiencing something new even for the most basic experiences in life. They never allow themselves to feel like they are simply going through the motions.

Universal via Giphy.com

  1.     Peak Experiences

This is the groove that you get into when you are in your element and your focus has never been better. Self-actualizers allow themselves to reach this state more often than most.

Nickelodeon via Giphy.com

  1.     Human Kinship

The ninth trait is the characteristic of universal empathy. Self-actualizers feel as though everyone is family and they have a human connection with every individual they encounter.

NBC via Giphy.com

  1.  Humility and Respect

Self-actualizing people tend to be as humble as they come. They are able to befriend all types of people and could be described as unable to see the superficial differences that are often so important to the average person.

New Line Cinema via Giphy.com

  1.  Interpersonal Relationships

Though they have a connection with mostly everyone, self-actualizers often have small circles of close loved ones. The love they feel for these few is profound and unwavering.

Warner Bros. via Giphy.com

  1.  Ethics

Plain and simple, self-actualizing people have very distinct beliefs on right and wrong and they religiously do what they believe is right.

Warner Bros. via Giphy.com

  1.  Means and Ends

Self-actualizers are true believers in the saying “a means to an end.” They are fixated on ends and not preoccupied with the means.

Disney via Giphy.com

  1.  Humor

They are not amused by hostile, superiority, or authority-rebellion humor and don’t usually consider what the average individual finds to be funny to be funny.

Via Giphy.com

  1.  Creativity

Maslow simply states that this is a universal trait throughout all people who were studied. But basically, self-actualized people find an outlet where they can successfully exercise their creativity.

Via Giphy.com

  1.  Resistance Of Enculturation

Self-actualizers naturally resist enculturation and maintain a distance from the culture they are immersed in. Due to their non-bias nature in all facets of life it makes it difficult for them to be consumed by such a subjective matter.

Focus Features via Giphy.com

  1.  Imperfections

It is important to note that self-actualizers are not perfect. They have negative and mundane characteristics just like everyone else, but they are aware of them and use that knowledge to their advantage.

Via Giphy.com

  1.  Values

Self-actualized people have a strong set of values that they keep close to their heart. These beliefs tend to indoctrinate their lives so that everything they do fits within them.

Paramount via Giphy.com

  1.  Resolution of Dichotomies

The final trait is the idea that the line between selfishness and selflessness disappears because in reality every act is both selfish and selfless.

Via Giphy.com
Now, before you freak out and start to worry about having all of these traits yourself, remember that this was one man’s conclusion from one study. It’s difficult to say that all self-actualized people have all 19 of these traits all of the  time. After all, doesn’t trait number six claim that a self-actualizer wouldn’t be bothered by Maslow’s classification anyway?

The point is that all of these traits have one theme in common: they are all choices that can be made. You can choose whether or not to be terrified by the unknown, whether you want to be limited by society’s standards, limited to your daily responsibilities, or whether you want to take a little leap of faith and start doing something more. Instead of striving for immediate happiness, we might reframe our feelings of discontent in the face of terrifying new headlines and remember that we are part of it, we are connected, and there is someone, somewhere who we could lend a hand to in some small, manageable way.

Via Giphy.com
At Idealist we believe that happiness and doing something more are intrinsically linked. Once you know what you feel would make the future a little better for the world, following through, reaching out to people, nonprofits, and community groups and offering a little time or expertise or money is a tangible step towards achieving self-actualization. We’re on a mission to make sure that fewer opportunities to self-actualize and live happier, healthier lives pass people by.

Via Giphy.com
 

Idealist is currently one of the world’s preeminent organizations for connecting more than 100,000 nonprofits worldwide and more than a million people each month who can imagine a better future. Visit us at Idealist.org to find out more.

 



Which Area Of Focus Are You Passionate About?

Which area of focus did you get? Did you enjoy this quiz? Let us know in the comments!



Philosophical activism: For best results, start at the root

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Many of us feel the need to take concrete action, with the hope that our children may have a better place to live in. However, without contemplating the deeper reasons for our problems, activism can become a Sisyphean task – acting repeatedly, without making any real change.

Wangari Maathai, the late Kenyan Nobel prize winner, spoke about certain aid campaigns that completely missed their purpose. As an example she presented a problem they had with disease infecting mosquitoes. This problem was “solved” by the donation and installation of mosquito nets in the villages. The problem is that the nets will decompose in time, and again the humanitarian groups will have to come to the rescue.

She offered a better solution – educating the people so they can develop solutions on their own and not be dependent anymore on external aid. That is, teaching them to fish instead of giving them fish.

Contemplation or thought without action, does not change anything. However, action without thought or contemplation is as dangerous and futile, it will seem to be a solution in the eyes of spectators, but will not bring any long lasting change. It is necessary to search for the roots of our problems, and these roots are usually not in the visible, physical sphere, but within man.

For example, tooth cavities are a physical problem. But if we dig deeper we will find that it is a result of bad nutrition, “sweet-tooth”. If we dig even deeper, we may find emotional reasons for the unbalanced consumption of sweets. And digging deeper we may find even deeper roots – mental patterns which lead to these imbalances. Of course we would like to fix the cavity first, because it is painful. But if we will not treat the roots of the problem, we will eventually need to remove the roots of the teeth.

In the same way, many of our problems are symptoms of our cultural mindsets, of the way we perceive nature, the world, and ourselves.

We need to prevent the pollution of our environment, but first we need to uproot the mindset that has separated us from nature in the first place.

We need to fight against war, but how can we redirect warring nations, when we cannot even solve small conflicts with our friends, family or neighbors?

We speak about economical disparity, but are we innocent of the mindset that puts matter over values, gains over brotherhood?

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Therefore, the first step to understanding our problems, is to understand the human being. Real social change always begins with a change of the individual. The great philosopher and leader Mahatma Gandhi said that the Indian people are a bigger enemy to him than the English one, because more than just fighting the English people, it is crucial to educate the Indian people to believe in their right to freedom and autonomy.

He also said his biggest enemy is himself, because a person should be the change he wants to see in the world. That, actually, is the greatest and most profound challenge of every true idealist and philosopher.

We need to re-think Activism.

It is essential to integrate activism with philosophy.

We need to seek after the roots of reality, and to gradually change our perception, and as a result our behaviors as well. It is necessary to integrate action and contemplation and to bring to light a form of philosophical activism.

Gilad2Gilad Sommer is the director of the “New Acropolis” philosophy school in Chicago. “New Acropolis” is an international organization seeking to promote fraternity among people, comparative investigation and self-realization, through philosophy, cultural activities and volunteering.



4 Tips On How To Avoid Becoming Cynical

An unfortunate truth about law school is that it can be a real downer.

It’s expensive, demanding, and remarkably difficult. As a second year law student, I have spent the past two years watching most of my friends go through profound personal changes, often observing people I love spiral into cynical patterns of thought. I think those of us in human rights law have a particular tendency to fall into such cycles, and I’ll admit I have gone through phases of severe negative emotions myself.

As a bleeding heart and eternal optimist, I’d like to offer some advice to those going through a similar experience. This post is blunt and riddled with smidges of sarcasm, but it is also a true capturing of my experiences, and comes from someone who has found sincere happiness and fulfillment on the legal path (yes, there are a few of us!).

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It might be rough out there, but don’t let it wreck you.
(image courtesy Shutterstock)

1. Stay in denial

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I do think it’s important to remember the benefits of delusion. You can sit around all day thinking about the debt you’ll be in, the hard work your career in human rights law will entail, and the fact that you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and underappreciated for significant portions of your working life.

And why wouldn’t you? All of those points are true, right?

Yes, mostly they are. But there are other truths on the subject worth exploring as well.

Although learning to be rational and realistic is an important aspect of your legal career, sometimes the solution to stressful thoughts is simply not to dwell on them. Debt is scary, and examining world problems will inherently be an overwhelming experience. However, as a human rights advocate, it will be important to always remember the rewarding nature of your work and the satisfaction that comes with feeling good about what you do.

So don’t dwell on the negative. Focus on the positive realities of the field and ignore the rest as best you can.

2. Surround yourself with equally delusional people

The problem with law school is that it’s filled with lawyers—folks who spend their days reading and re-reading heart-wrenching cases as their debt radically accumulates (debt they’re incurring so they can afford to be hazed, broken, and scoffed at).

But here’s the good news. Law school is also filled with intelligent, passionate, and optimistic people. Sometimes they’re just hidden in the background of the day-to-day drudgery.

Law school gives you the profound privilege of connecting with bright, persevering individuals. Focus on those people—they’re the ones who will further your happiness and support you in your career goals, not serve as a daily reminder of the pitfalls of your future vocation.

It takes courage and skill to be happy during difficult phases of life. Don’t give up, and surround yourself with others who haven’t either.

3. Intern or volunteer at a human rights organization

Internships are an essential component of a legal education, and it can be terribly tempting to accept a position from the biggest law firm or most renowned judge who offers. Although people told me I was crazy and stupid for throwing away such opportunities, I knew that in order to make an educated professional decision, I had to experience human rights law as a student.

It’s a difficult fork in the road to encounter, and this choice is not for everyone. But I wouldn’t trade my internship experience for anything because it opened my eyes to the incredible things I could actually do with my degree. Furthermore, because it’s such a complicated division of the law, I now have experience in international law, United Nations protocol, immigration law, federal courts, business law, tax law, constitutional law, government law, legislation, policy work, political analysis, and many other fields that intertwine with the subject of human rights. I have met role models, made connections, and gained perspective on what I can do within the boundaries of my profession.

Currently, I work in a civil and human rights lobbying firm in Washington, DC, and I can’t imagine a better experience. Every day I am surrounded by optimistic people who radiate joy, passion, and hope. We have hard days, but our good days are so profoundly fulfilling, it makes it all worth it.

4. Remember what a treasure your education is

You might have heard the phrase “the world doesn’t need more lawyers,” but the truth is that the world does need more human rights advocates in all professional fields. Education creates many chances for personal improvement, but for me, it also opened doors to helping others.

My education is my most valued possession. It has been emotionally draining, financially difficult, and overall I expect it to be one of the most difficult things I will ever go through in my life. However, it has also equipped me with an unusual skill set and understanding, and has been the most important investment of my life.

Some days, I feel cynical, small, and overwhelmed. I want to declare my work a losing battle, throw my hands up, and walk away. However, that’s when I take a moment to step back and remember how lucky I am to have such an incredible opportunity. I have the chance to educate myself, understand the world, and use my talents to help others.

Who could have all that and stay cynical?

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Victoria Slatton is a second year law student at Pepperdine University and a passionate advocate for human and civil rights. She believes in justice, equality, and the true value of mischievous behavior.

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World’s First Communal Living Room

(From Connectors Malmö’s website)

Would you and your community benefit from a crowd sourced living room?

 

The Pop Up Space is literally just an empty room in the city of Malmö, Sweden where residents of the local communities are able to drop in and vote for what they’d like to see the room become. At the end of the week the votes are counted and one new feature is added to the room.

 

So, as it states on connectorsmalmo.com “Today, the room might be an empty room. But next week it might be filled with hundreds of pillows and a pizza oven.”

 

We caught wind of this story from Connectors Malmö’s Co-Director Julieta Talavera, who was a dedicated participant of Idealist’s Connector Initiative last year. Julieta became inspired by the idea of connecting social innovators so that they are able to collaborate and assist each other in bringing change. This inspiration, along with her own intention of bettering the world, sparked something in her that made her leap into action.

According to their site “Connectors Malmö is a community of people from here and there, doing this and that to make our city a better place.”

 

The Pop Up Space is part one of Connectors Malmö’s first featured project which they hope will lead to a prosperous career of positive change for their community and eventually the world.

Julieta explains “The neighborhood in which we are launching this space has significant social problems including unemployment, low integration and low community morale.”

 

The team over at Connectors Malmö says that the purpose of this experiment is to create a community-sourced hub that not only allows the diverse local community to work together in its creation but that will also act as a forum for people to think creatively with one another. They hope that once everything gets running this can be a comfortable place for locals to meet with each other, as well as social entrepreneurs from all around the world, to come up with unique solutions for local challenges.

(From Connectors Malmö’s website)

 

This is where Connectors Malmö’s second phase comes to play. If everything goes according to plan, Connectors Malmö plans to launch the Residency, or The Live-In Lab, at the end of the Swedish summer this year. The Residency will be a place where six to nine chosen individuals (the Residents) will live and work together. These individuals will be social entrepreneurs who are looking to use their skills in a way to help better both the local community and the world. The Pop Up Space is the common area where these individuals can collaborate both with each other and with the local community. This is why Connectors Malmö has rightfully dubbed it ‘The World’s First Crowd Sourced Living Room’.

 

This initiative is currently in what the team is calling ‘the pilot period’ and will be until mid-April. During this period, they have a number of backers who are willing to help them test the waters before going forward full-throttle with all of their plans.

 

Julieta and the team have thrust their vision into action with the launch of The Pop Up Space.  If this initiative gains traction, and the idea of communal living rooms begins to spread across the globe, participating communities would be building their own unique proverbial ant hills, where everyone puts their skills and resources together to construct a mutually beneficial utopia.

What’s an idea that you have that you would share in your community’s communal living room? Let us know in the comments!

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There’s money out there: 4 good fundraising angles for your passion project

On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.

Raising money for a personal project is seldom a walk in the park. But with corporate social responsibility in vogue and the Internet leveling the communications playing field, there’s never been a better time to give funding your passion project a shot. Here are four solid ways to approach the task:

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It’s not your lack of skill, it’s your lack of confidence… stupid!

On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.

The following post was translated from Elena Martín’s original on Idealist’s Spanish language site, Idealistas.

 

Much of your ability to do something is not dependent on whether or not you can actually do it, but whether or not you think you can do it. Someone with all the skills in the world but little confidence in himself will not get very far, while someone with less skills but true belief in himself will usually find a way to meet his goals.

Psychologists call this phenomenon “self-efficacy”—our belief in our capabilities to do what is required to achieve a given goal. Think about yourself: do you more often have the attitude: “I can get this project to work,” or “I can get this job,” or the opposite: “I don’t think I can do this,” or “I’m not going to get a call back”?

If you fall in the first camp, bravo! But if you tend to think more like the latter, don’t despair—for one thing, you’re not alone. Overriding self-confidence doesn’t come easily to everyone. You might be thinking, “Sure, I’d love to have more faith that I can do the things I want, but it’s not like I can just flip a switch. What can I do?”

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Who you gonna call? 3 online tools to connect you with experts

On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.

 

Sometimes you need to bring in the professionals. Image via IMDB.

Sometimes you need to bring in the professionals.
(image via IMDB)

Here at Idealist, we’ve written many times about harnessing the power of community to get things done. We can do more together, and tapping into the skills and knowledge of other people is a big part of why.

While finding collaborators with mad skills can be relatively easy if you’re already integrated into a niche community or have buckets of money, it’s harder when geography, time constraints, or lack of funding eat into your ability to find that special someone you just know is out there.

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources online that can connect you with talented people whether you’re looking for pro bono consultants, mentors, board members, volunteers, or creative partners.

We have to say, Idealist is a good place to start. By searching the profiles of other Idealists like you, you can find and connect with like-minded do-gooders in your area (and around the world).

Here are a few other options we think are especially handy-dandy:

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Book review: What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness

On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.

HERO-REVISEI’m kinda over the hero thing.

In contrast to their ancient origins in epic poetry and lofty myths, heroes and heroism today seem to have gotten wrapped up in our cultural view of altruism.

Although the meaning of “hero” is in that delicious group of highly subjective nouns that people love to debate, I tend to think it’s a bad idea to call those who engage in good and generous acts “heroes.”

Adorable child superheroes aside, when we conflate superhero stories with commonplace altruism, it implies that acts of goodness and giving are somehow extraordinary and outside the range of normal behavior.

In Elizabeth Svoboda’s new book What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness, the author tries to get to the bottom of whether or not this is true. Is it normal for humans to be generous? What would possess someone to rush into a burning building to save another person? Why would someone who lives in poverty donate money to a charity?

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