Current Events

December 1 is World AIDS Day

Since 1988, when the United Nations declared December 1 as the first World AIDS Day, people worldwide have paused each year to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with the virus, and commemorate those who have lost their lives to AIDS.

A quarter-century since the first World AIDS Day, amazing progress has been made, but enormous challenges remain.


IAVI colleagues stand their ground.
(photo courtesy IAVI)

AIDS-related causes have killed 36 million people and continue to kill more than 1.5 million each year, including more than 250,000 children. Some 35 million people live with HIV today. While the number of new HIV infections is slowly declining, there were 2.3 million more in the last year alone. In sub-Saharan Africa, more young people report that they’re using condoms, but overall HIV/AIDS knowledge levels remain low. Even in the well-connected and aware United States, more than one million people live with HIV, one in five of them without knowing it.

Seven million people who need HIV drugs cannot get them, including nearly three out of four children with HIV. Many children have lost one or both parents to this epidemic, putting their access to education and healthcare at risk.

The global AIDS community stands behind the ambitious UNAIDS goal of “three zeros by 2015”: zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination. We have our work cut out for us. Barriers of stigma, prejudice, healthcare access, and economic and social inequality remain very high.

Those living with HIV need attention, quality healthcare, and social support—and we need to do more to prevent people from getting infected in the first place. Many public- and private-sector scientific, health, and humanitarian organizations are working to expand the current HIV “toolbox,” which includes such biomedical, structural, and behavioral interventions as antiretroviral treatment, community-based health education, condoms, voluntary medical male circumcision, and protocols to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

But these tools remain out of reach or of limited effectiveness for many who need them. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 70 percent of the world’s cases of HIV, women and girls often remain less educated than, and socially and economically dependent on, men. They are often unable to insist that their partners use condoms, or to seek counseling and treatment in confidence. New tools that empower and enable women to learn about and take care of their own health are critical to changing this picture.

A preventive AIDS vaccine would be a powerful new tool. Modeling studies show that adding an AIDS vaccine with even limited efficacy to the HIV prevention arsenal could dramatically impact the infection trajectory. But finding and developing a vaccine against HIV/AIDS continues to pose one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time.

At the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), we strive to ensure that an effective and accessible AIDS vaccine becomes a reality. A nonprofit public-private research and development partnership, IAVI collaborates with more than 50 academic, industry, and government organizations around the world to accelerate the development of AIDS vaccines, and to advocate for the HIV prevention field.

As IAVI president and chief executive officer Margie McGlynn said in our World AIDS Day statement:

“There has been tremendous success in treating millions with HIV over the past three decades, but a great deal of continued commitment, innovation, and persistence will be needed to realize the vision of a world without AIDS.”

Ensuring the development of a safe, effective AIDS vaccine for all is a mission each of us at IAVI takes personally. Please visit to learn more.

Are you interested in joining the fight against HIV and AIDS? Search Idealist for almost 10,000 ways to get involved through a career, volunteer work, or an internship.

Tags: , , , ,

More ways you can help the Philippines

Survivors stand amidst debris in the city of Tacloban.
(photo via Erik de Castro/Reuters)

Over the weekend, Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines. The death toll is estimated at 10,000 in the Leyte province alone, and there is widespread infrastructure damage.

The Huffington Post and CNN have posted roundups of organizations that are sending supplies, people, and more. Here are some other ways to help:

  1. Donate. The all-veteran disaster relief organization Team Rubicon is raising funds to send its vets to help with search and rescue efforts and medical assistance.
  2. Donate. The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) is currently accepting donations for community aid.
  3. Tweet. Micromappers is asking people to be strategic about tagging typhoon tweets so the UN can gain a better understanding of the situation.
  4. Hack. Geeklist is looking for developers, designers, and other techies for good to get involved with a hackathon for various projects, including building a relief coordination and survivor check-in app.
  5. Report. The social news network Rappler needs help reporting critical information such as flooding, road or building damage, or those who need rescue or assistance.
  6. Work. Merlin, a UK-based disaster relief organization, is looking to recruit emergency staff who can help long-term (three-to-six months).

Check your local Filipino-American groups or associations and the Super Typhoon Haiyan – Yolanda Recovery Facebook group for more ways to help. Please also leave a comment if you know of more opportunities.

Tags: , , , ,

Want more than a day of service? Consider a public-service fellowship

Each year on Martin Luther King Jr Day, people across the country volunteer in their communities to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of service. But what do you do after the day is over?

 There are tons of fellowships and programs to help you get more involved in your community while pursuing a social-impact career, but how do you find these opportunities?  What challenges might you face in your journey? To get a better sense of what it looks like to cultivate a public-service career, we asked Ryan Wilcox, an AmeriCorps Alum and Mentoring Specialist for Whetstone Boys Ranch, to share his experiences.

By Ryan Wilcox


Photo via Ryan Wilcox

My desire to serve others has always been driven by my faith. In high school, I went on several mission trips with my church, including to Rio, Bravo, Mexico—where I was part of a work team that built a cinder block house for a family. These mission trips were my first experience with true poverty. Later, in college, I served as camp counselor at a camp for teenagers with epilepsy. I credit these initial experiences with shaping my passion for missions and service I hold today.

After graduation, I was looking for a job in the non-profit industry. Like many recent graduates, I struggled to find a job right away. After an extended search, I investigated public service programs, and AmeriCorps stood out to me. AmeriCorps offered much of what I was looking for: a 9-month to 12-month commitment; an opportunity to leverage my Advertising/Public Relations degree; and potential placement in my community. I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA, a program that requires a 12-month commitment, and focuses on fighting poverty by building the capacity of the host non-profits.


Gaining life-long skills

During my 12 months as a VISTA, I served with Cornerstone Assistance Network, a non-profit that works with people below the poverty line, in danger of becoming homeless. As a VISTA, my primary focus was communications and outreach: I helped establish and manage Cornerstone’s social media presence, and was a key member of Cornerstone’s website development team. In addition, I worked to manage and recruit volunteers, attending recruitment fairs at local colleges. These responsibilities helped me develop skills in managing people, building relationships and establishing goals. As a mentor, I use these skills to encourage the boys at Whetstone to grow.

I also learned, inevitably, how to live on a tight budget. I received a small stipend, at the time about $800/month. My VISTA position did not offer housing, but it was close enough to my home that I was able to live with my parents during my service year. I deferred my student loans and elected to receive the Eli Segal Education Award at the end of my term, instead of a cash payment. As a recent graduate, I had student loans, so I appreciated the help!


Coping with challenges

While I learned a great deal in AmeriCorps, some challenges did arise, primarily with transitioning out of the program. I wasn’t prepared for the end of my term, and did a poor job of planning my exit. I didn’t begin job searching seriously until it was too late. As a result, the end of my service arrived, and I didn’t have any prospects for full-time employment.

After leaving AmeriCorps, I took a series of part-time and contract based jobs. The experience was a lesson in perseverance, and a chance to seek guidance on my career direction. I accepted a part-time position with an after-school program. This job gave me the skills I needed to be effective in my current role. It also showed me that I have a heart for mentorship.


Tips for you

Dr. King once said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” I wouldn’t trade my service year for anything. I gained pride in serving my country and community. It also changed my perceptions on poverty, a big social problem facing the United States.

Are you ready to serve? Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you want to pursue AmeriCorps, or any public-service program.

  1. Figure out what matters most: Do you want to travel outside of the country? Do you need to make a certain amount of money? Are there skills you want to develop? The answers to these questions will determine what public service program is right for you. For example, while I chose AmeriCorps, I also looked at the Peace Corps. I knew I wanted to stay close to home and commit for one year, instead traveling abroad for two years.
  2. Do your research: It becomes easier to find programs to get involved in once you know what you need. I attended a Peace Corps information session before deciding that AmeriCorps was the better choice for me.
  3. Plan ahead: AmeriCorps provides resources to help with your transition. However, I’d advise you to begin to plan for life after AmeriCorps early in the service year. This applies to both graduate school research and job searching. If the end of your service year arrives, and you don’t have a job or graduate school offer, consider serving another term.

Good luck!

Connect with Ryan on twitter and on his blog.

Tags: , , ,

Opportunities and events on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


This Monday, January 21st, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Since 1994, MLK Day has been a national day of service for people willing to take a “day on, not a day off.” If you’d like to invest some time helping a good cause this weekend, perform a quick search on Idealist and explore the dozens of organizations hosting events. To help you get started, we’ve put together a few opportunities below:

Wherever you live and whatever you want to do MLK day, Idealist has you covered. If you want to stay up to date on what’s new, just set up an email alert based on your favorite search. Have a great long weekend, and enjoy your day on!

Are you 50 or older? Check out these tips from on how to make a difference on MLK Day.

Tags: ,

Opportunity Spotlight: Human Rights Day

Come together to create a better world (Photo credit: cobalt123, Creative Commons/Flickr)

December 10th is Human Rights Day, commemorating the UN General Assembly’s 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of its first major achievements. This year, the theme is how to ensure that all people make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.

Want to get involved? Get started by taking a look at our introduction to human rights work.  Then check out Human Rights Watch, an organization investigating human rights abuses and bringing international attention to injustices worldwide, challenging those in power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. They’re currently seeking interns to work on diversity initiatives, a London film festival, and their Middle East and North Africa research. They’re also seeking full-time help in their Health and Human Rights division and in their research on Mexico.

To get involved in the United States, take a look at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. They’re looking for a Senior Program Officer in Arlington. Or check out the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been fighting for individual rights since 1920 and needs people to fill forty positions ranging from attorneys to executive directors to project managers in New York, DC, San Francisco, and St. Louis. If you’re interested in LGBT rights advocacy, visit the Human Rights Campaign. They need someone to develop their online properties and social media presence, so if you’re got some web development chops, check out the position they have open right now.

And if you’re looking to keep your job search on theme for this year’s Human Right’s Day, take a look at the Texas Organizing Project. They make sure that the voices of low-income Texans are heard in the political process. Get on board as their new Director of Voter Engagement.

If you’d rather volunteer, take a look at these great opportunities to make a difference. And if you’re still curious about human rights work, shoot a message to one of these folks to chat about their experiences.

There are lots of ways to fight for human rights around the world and around the corner. No matter what your skill set or interests, there’s a human rights opportunity out there for you. Are you looking for a position defending human rights? Or are you already deep in the trenches? Tell us about it!

Tags: ,

Opportunity Spotlight: Election Day Edition

As Election Day draws closer, Idealist is brimming with related events, jobs, and volunteer opportunities. We’re bringing you a small sampling of what’s currently on the site, but just search for keywords like “poll”, “vote”, or “election” and you’ll find plenty more!

Photo Credit: boxer_bob, Creative Commons/Flickr

First off, if you’re reading this blog post and just remembered that you never registered to vote or receive an absentee ballot, you should immediately head to Chances are, you’re too late to vote this year, but for the next cycle Turbovote can help by sending you all the required forms and keeping track of deadlines. It will even send you a reminder texts and emails!

If you are ahead of the game and have already sent in an absentee ballot or have free time on Election Day, why not be a polling monitor? You can volunteer in Washington, D.C. with the ADC (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) or in Chicago with the Asian American Institute.

After a hard day of civic engagement, Bostonians can unwind at the Election Night Viewing Party arranged by SoJust Vote. If your candidate wins, you can celebrate in the company of other people! If they lose, you won’t want to be alone when the depression hits.

After the ballots have been counted, try to make sense of the results by attending the panel “What Do We Do Now?” at the University of Pennsylvania on November 19th. Hosted by the National Constitution Center, the panel will discuss how the recent election results will change the political landscape. It features a Congressman, a U.S. Ambassador, and a bestselling political author.

Finally, if in the past few months you’ve found yourself engrossed in every poll and analyzing every speech, perhaps you should consider a career on voting and elections. A quick search with the keywords “election” and “vote” brings up a campus organizer position in New Jersey, an elections policy analyst job in New York City, and a political data manager post in California.

At Idealist, we’re proud that we have such an engaged community. So, remember to set time aside on Tuesday, November 6th and vote!


Three ways to make a difference on Halloween

Photo Credit: Pedro J. Ferreira, Creative Commons/Flickr

Happy Halloween! While today is a fun time to dress up and indulge in candy (no matter how old you are), there are still ways we make a difference in our communities.  Check out the resources below for ideas on how you get involved.

Attend a haunted house for charity

Many nonprofits put together haunted houses that give kids a chance to have fun while raising money for the organization. What Gives? and the Nonprofit Quarterly have put together a list of haunted houses taking place around the country. Don’t see one near you? Start thinking about your year-end plan to donate to an organization you love.


Many communities are using today to come together and help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. We’ve listed a few ways to get involved. If you live in New York City, check out the Brooklyn Community Foundation, NYC Service, and Time Out New York for ongoing opportunities. There are also a variety of Halloween focused volunteer opportunities on our website.

Dig into to smart candy

This Halloween, try making your own candy for homemade and healthy treats. Or purchase organic chocolate that’s earth-friendly and delicious. The Daily Green and Green Halloween have ideas and resource to explore to help you get started.

How else can we give back on Halloween? Feel free to share your ideas, resources, and tips in the comments!


Helping out after Hurricane Sandy

Photo credit: jowiki, Creative Commons/Flickr

Although Hurricane Sandy is moving out of the Northeast, there is plenty of work to be done. Whether helping people rebuild their communities or sharing information, there are various ways we can get involved.

If you have any other resources or opportunities to share, please include them in the comments.

To everyone who has been affected by the hurricane, including our neighbors in New York City, you are in our thoughts. Let us know how we can help.


New ways to think about, fund, and inform social change: notes from the Social Capital Markets conference

Earlier this month, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, investors, and foundations convened at the Social Capital Markets conference (#SOCAP12) to discuss how to direct more capital towards social change. What emerged from the conversation were new ways to think about, fund, and inform social change so that organizations can increase their impact. Christine Egger attended the conference and shares the lessons she learned below.

posted by Christine Egger

The Social Capital Markets conference brings together entrepreneurs, nonprofits, investors, and foundations to explore “the intersection of money and meaning.” Photo by @tipitai via Storify

Until recently, the SOCAP conversation has focused almost exclusively on the kinds of capital that offer a return on investment: how do we bring market-based solutions to the task of addressing the problems of poverty? of environmental stewardship? of civic engagement? What do those success stories look like, and how do we replicate them or take them to scale?

This year, though, the discussion broadened in ways that fully engaged with the philanthropic sector — not just as a resource to turn to when markets fail (or are nonexistent), or as a community of practice that could learn a few things about how to measure social impact, but as a valued partner in seeding and strengthening a social market that has yet to realize its full potential.

Working across sectors

The most common visual used to help attendees think about how the full range of philanthropic and non-philanthropic resources come together was a single line – a single spectrum with grants and donations (what I’ve come to think of as “no boomerang attached to those dollars”) at one end, risk-adjusted rates of return (think venture capital and traditional business loans) at the other, and zero-interest investments (like Kiva-type loans) in between. That single line served as a baseline for thinking more creatively about how to design and fund non- and for-profit businesses in new ways.

Graphic by the Omidyar Network

New ways to think about the entire social change market: The Omidyar Network presented three subsets of a “social good delivery” market, two of which include nonprofit activity: those building market infrastructure, aka new ways to combine social and financial returns; those creating market innovations, aka new enterprises based on those combinations; and those scaling the market, aka bringing proven enterprise combinations to new or expanded customer bases. They’ve outlined this in more detail in a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review blog series, calling specifically on the philanthropic sector to fund the market’s infrastructure builders and innovators.

I had a chance to attend a session that highlighted an example of a foundation and its grantees “playing” with these categories in new ways. The Knight Foundation’s John Bracken explained how they’re shifting their practices from a “funding only” paradigm to “financing, facilitating, and futurizing.” Two of their grantees, Zeega and Public Media X, talked about how that broader paradigm opened up a much broader range of business model options they could use to fulfill their mission. For example Zeega (an online platform for new forms of interactive storytelling) began as a 501c3 supported by grants and the founding team’s consulting services. With Knight’s support, they’ve transitioned to a C corporation supported by private investors (and, over time, revenue from subscription services). The 501c3 continues, having received preferred stock in exchange for the intellectual property it transferred to the C corp.

New roles for funding: The Monitor Institute spoke to the need for enterprise philanthropy, funding the impact investing infrastructure as well as early, high-risk enterprises that are innovating new ways to deliver market-based solutions. Impact investing, Katherine Fulton argued, simply cannot realize its potential – cannot address the world’s social needs at scale – without philanthropic capital. The Monitor Institute’s recent report, “From Blueprint to Scale: The Case for Philanthropy in Impact Investing,” goes into more detail on what foundations and donors can do, and on what early enterprise philanthropists have learned so far.

New attention to information sharing: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the financial firm LiquidNet announced a new campaign to improve the information infrastructure across the entire spectrum. Markets for Good aims to catalyze those improvements so that everyone – beneficiaries, service organizations, donors and investors, and entrepreneurs – are equally contributing to and benefiting from a virtuous cycle of information that improves services, meets needs, and informs smarter funding. The campaign will continue for at least a year or two, capturing and sharing ideas about what that robust information infrastructure looks like. I’ll have a chance to share more about Markets for Good in a second post here.

At heart

It’s important to note that equal measures of optimism and humility infused these and the other discussions that made up this year’s conference. There were constant reminders of how hard this work is, and of how important it is to hold at its heart – whether we come to it first from a non- or for-profit direction – the desire to better care for and about each other and the world we live in.


More SOCAP video highlights:

  • Paul Polak on creating markets to ethically serve 2.6 billion people living on less than $2/day
  • Joy Anderson on changing the rules of the economic game
  • Jackie VanderBrug on the value of bringing a gender lens to social change
  • Sylvia Earle on protecting and learning from the world’s Blue Economy


Christine Egger works at the intersection of mission-method alignment, enterprise design, open data, empathy, and learning (about what might be real, what might be known, and what might be done). She can be found online at and @cdegger.

Tags: ,

How communities around the world are promoting literacy and the joy of reading

The piece below was translated and edited from the original  Spanish version on the blog of our Spanish site Idealistas. The links below also go to Spanish websites. Check them out!

This week is banned books week in the US, where a variety of institutions like schools and libraries, come together to explore what books are challenged and why.

However, while we continue debate what to read, it’s still a great time to share the power and importance of reading. Around the world, communities are coming up with innovative ways to promote literacy.

Books by the pound in Madrid

Photo from “The Butcher Shop,” selling second-hand books by the pound in Madrid.

A former butcher shop now sells books for 10 euros per kilogram (about $6 per pound at the start of September 2012). It’s an ingenious way to keep second-hand books in circulation and brighten up an older city marketplace with the beauty of literature.

Mini libraries in Bogatá

Photo Credit:

In the capital of Colombia, Bus Stops for Books in Parks has operated for nearly 10 years with a clear mission: to encourage literacy for the entire nation. Every day, volunteers participate in staffing these miniature libraries where they lend books, read aloud, offer activities for children, and create opportunities for people to engage in conversation. There are 47 of these bookstops in the city of Bogotá and a total of 100 across the country.

Book exchanges in phone booths

Photo credit: Graceful Spoon

Thanks to the growth of cell phones, many of the phone booths in NYC go unused. New York City architect John Locke has found a creative opportunity to re-use these spaces as improvised book exchanges, where passers-by can leave or find books. New York follows Westbury-sub-Mendip in the UK, where a phone booth has served as a local site for exchanging books since 2009.

‘Bicicloteca’ in São Paulo

Photo Credit: Green Mobility, Creative Commons/Flickr

And lastly, from Brazil, this unusual library on wheels carries books to people who are unable to check them out, usually homeless people as they often lack the documents necessary for getting books from the library. Additionally, they use solar panels, which allows the Bicicloteca (a blend of Portuguese bicicleta + biblioteca) to access the Internet.

Do you know of another initiative where people are getting books to people who need or want them? Share in the comments below.

Tags: ,