Idealist Community


Staff Spotlight: Meet Derek the Dev

Did you know Idealist builds and maintains our own website, and has since 1995? We asked Derek Hurley—a software engineer known for his calm demeanor, red headphones, highly-developed cupcake-eating technique, and masterful martial arts skills—to tell us about life as a “dev” in Idealist’s Portland, Oregon office.

DerekH

Q: So… We’re coworkers, but I’m not very techie. What would you say you do here?

A: I’m a software developer. Basically, I write code that goes very close to the browser—I work with the things you interact with on the website, like buttons and menus. I also work with our designers on layout and color decisions, and sometimes with data… But really all of it comes down to aspects of presentation and interactivity.

Q: Okay, I think I get that. How did you find your job at Idealist and what attracted you to us?

A: I had a classmate my senior year of college who worked at Idealist; he said it was great and suggested I come by the office one day to introduce myself. There was no job posting or anything, but I stopped by and the management team was interested in meeting me. The more staff members I met, the more it seemed like incredible people worked here. Often in this field you find smart people, but people who are funny and friendly and humble, too? And when I learned more about what Idealist is trying to accomplish, I became even more interested. I was hired to work part-time for the last three months I was in college, then started full-time right after.

Q: What does the word “idealist” mean to you?

A: To me, an idealist is someone who always looks on the bright side of life, forgive the Monty Python reference. Someone who thinks people are generally good or want to do good, but that things arise that keep them from doing so. An idealist thinks, ‘Of course everyone wants to live in a better world,’ but they also understand that there are a million different facets to that agenda.

Q: Idealist is all about turning good intentions into action. Can you tell us about a good intention you’ve acted on in your life outside of work?

A: A personal interest of mine is helping homeless youth connect with resources that can help them. I was a resident assistant in college and more than once had to deal with transients in our dorms and hallways. I learned that there’s a whole social class out there—especially in Portland—that I think represents a lot of wasted potential. But between places like Outside In, Sisters of the Road, Virginia Woof... there’s a lot of help out there if people know where to look.

For me, coming up with the right approach has been one stumbling block. I don’t want to come across as intrusive, or like I’m telling them to do something or advertising for a particular place. I just want to start a conversation and then give them something to take away, like a note with an address on the money I give them, or a meal voucher they can cash in. I’m also not looking to start another organization—there are already lots of people who are providing these services well. I just want to help bit by bit in the course of my day.

So far, the people I’ve talked with about this intention have been really supportive; the Idealist community in particular has given me suggestions I didn’t know about before. Now it’s up to me to keep taking that first step—during my walk to work to turn and face these kids and have a conversation. I find they’re usually just grateful for the fact that someone stopped to talk, which helps me stay in that mindset of not having weirdness about just going up to someone and conversing with them; just saying hi.

Do you have a question for Derek the Dev about technology at Idealist? Or maybe you’ve done something to improve the lives of homeless youth and want to share your advice? Send him a message on Idealist.

 

Tags: , , , ,



Interested in creative consulting, engineering, or art? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

You already know that you can come to Idealist.org to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people?

There are thousands of people working for social change on Idealist.org and they’re all right at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing.

Here are just a few of the many Idealists who want to connect with you. Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile too. It’s super easy to sign up.

19872183-34bb-4340-8019-dd2a0913f238-mAfter studying political science and obtaining her Master of Public Affairs, Nikki worked as a crime analyst in Arizona, combining her love for design, analysis, research, and community service. She then transitioned into creative consulting, helping small businesses and nonprofits with branding, grant writing, and creative content. While working on one particular oral history project with a local community in Tempe, Nikki discovered a passion for storytelling, documentary photography, and the exploration of other cultures. If you’ve been bitten by the same community-oriented, creatively minded, storytelling, travel-hungry bug, send Nikki a message. She’d love to talk, learn, and connect with you!

 

7b96ffde-f57e-4fa3-b4a6-2d89d7fdffbb-mDhane currently resides in Kathmandu, Nepal where he volunteers in a small school and works with the Sahara Foundation. An American expat, Dhane has made his way to many corners of the world. He served in the Navy in the Philippines, South Korea, and the U.K. After returning and traveling throughout the U.S., Dhane attended college and graduate school for South Asian Studies and Community Health. Over the years, he’s taught in Thailand, China, Mongolia, Taiwan, South Korea, and Nepal. In Thailand, he founded a small home for children with the help of worldwide volunteers, and now he’s working on establishing a children’s shelter and education center in Kathmandu. Want to talk about setting up centers and nonprofits abroad? Or are you simply interested in travel, education, Asian studies, or what it’s like to find your home so far away from home? Contact Dhane to chat!

 

e6ca1dfe-e97d-4fcb-bfa9-d0de45693be6-m

Roberta has obtained degrees in Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, Neuro-engineering, and Business Administration. Career-wise, this has translated into research for a Neuro-engineering lab, product development for medical devices, and advanced development concept work for commercial products. What diversity! As she continues onward, Roberta hopes to find a position that will allow her to use her multifaceted background to help people directly and indirectly with technology, engineering, and project management. Contact Roberta if you want to talk about one of her many interests! She would also love to hear from anyone with technology ideas for water sustainability, infectious disease, reduction, or science education.

 

fd6f7bd9-7d67-45a2-ab70-32e1fa831cba-mDedicated to news, journalism, and information, Avalon works in San Francisco as the Editor-in-Chief and Operations manager of Umano, a mobile application that turns compelling news articles into sound files users can listen to. Avalon’s commitment to journalism reaches further into, but also beyond, the field itself; leading up to Umano, she was a journalist and editor for Berkeley publications, worked as a research and PR coordinator for a documentary on civil rights issues, and served as a paralegal. Avalon also studied history and international development in college while competing on the Cal Women’s Varsity Rowing Team. Send Avalon a message to exchange thoughts on community development or how we discover and share information in the modern world.

 

083be541-45c7-4f3c-9c25-22c255451841-mA Londoner by origin, David moved further south to Lisbon, Portugal, where he lives and works as an artist and community arts organizer. David dabbles in many art forms: he illustrates, paints, draws, takes photos, and writes. He describes his art as having a quick, spontaneous style. You can see some of his work on his blog. In addition to making art, David sets up art workshops to bring people together. He founded a community art group Chill Out Community Arts (CHOCA) with the main goal of encouraging people to simply ‘do’ art. Write to David if you want to discuss making art, community organizing, or spreading the concept of ‘do’ art!

 

Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people can find you on the site. Happy connecting!

If you don’t have one already, create a profile to offer your expertise to the community, and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. When you’re done, send a link to your profile to nandita@idealist.org, and you might see yourself on our blog!

 

Tags: ,



Ask Ero: Answers for baffled and confused Idealists

Ero is Thoughtful Adjusted Cropped3

In this series of blog posts, I’ll try to answer all your questions (regardless of how ridiculously unqualified I am to answer them.) Consider me sort of a tech-literate, bearded, Ann Landers, or a work-safe Dan Savage.

In the last installment of this series, I answered a question about being a older jobseeker in a world of entry-level jobs. How was my answer? I hope you’ll tell me. Now, on with this installment’s question!

Lately, as I apply for jobs, I’ve been noticing that many nonprofits rely heavily upon corporate donors.

How can we reconcile the reliance that some nonprofits have on corporations whose actions are the very antithesis of the compassion, cooperation, and ethical behavior that most of us in the nonprofit sector are trying to promote?  — Elena

Some years ago a very wise person I know, who founded a successful nonprofit and who now works at a prestigious foundation, referred to her work as “the revolution.” I thought at the time that this was ridiculous and pretentious. To me, “the revolution” meant activists in the streets, not liberals working on fine-tuning grant proposals. But I’ve begun to understand what she meant.

The world often seems like it’s run entirely by the visible and violent hand of the market: multinational corporations squeeze communities dry, war profiteers rain bombs on the less fortunate, and only the rich truly succeed. Capitalism isn’t all banditry and the might-makes-right, but it often seems as though it were.

But the human experience is much more than just grasping for power and status: we’re here on this earth to love each other and help each other too. So how do we express that in our daily work?

The nonprofit world is one answer to this. At its best, this is a new and different order than any other; those of us in the sector are participating in a different kind of marketplace, one driven by conscience and funded by the act of giving. We do our work because we believe in it, and we’re paid because someone else believes in it too.

There are considerations of supply and demand, as there are in the larger society, but the fundamental economics are very different. And they should be different. Because of this, working in the nonprofit sector really is a (slow-motion) revolution: we’re creating a new model of work, that operates by different rules and has different values.

But we’re not an island, and the nonprofit sector is inextricably involved in the larger society’s compromises and corruptions. As you point out, well-meaning nonprofit organizations often act, wittingly or unwittingly, as public relations maintenance for truly disreputable corporations. If an organization’s charitable work is funded by a company whose profits consist of making assault rifles or addictive substances, is that organization really trustworthy?

There’s a utilitarian answer: because it’s better than the alternative. Because it’s better to do good in the world. Because nothing happens in this world unless someone starts to take action, and the nonprofit sector offers a million great ways to do good right here and right now.

I think I do speak for Idealist.org when I say that I believe that nearly everyone has good intentions, and that if we work together we can make those good intentions real, despite all the obstacles and compromises. We’re all in this muddled world together.

Have questions about anything I’ve said? Or about anything else (and I do mean anything)? Ask me.


Ask Ero anything (anything anything anything) at ero@idealist.org.

Tags: , , ,



Interested in travel, design, or video storytelling? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

You already know that you can come to Idealist.org to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people?

There are thousands of people working for social change on Idealist.org and they’re all right at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing.

In honor of Idealist’s North Carolina campaign, here are just a few of the many Idealists in NC who want to connect with you. Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile too. It’s super easy to sign up.

 

Lauren JenningsAfter studying fashion design at Parsons, Lauren worked as an associate designer in New York City. Two and a half years later, she “took the plunge out of the corporate design world into the creative idealist world”. She moved back to North Carolina and decided to travel to all the places she wanted to see but didn’t think she’d have a chance to. By working on farms, she made it to Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, and Qatar, recording her journey with photos and words. Now she’s back in North Carolina, working as a creative consultant for a fashion start-up out of Africa and as an interior design consultant for local businesses. If you’d like to talk travel, design, writing, photography, or plunge-taking, send Lauren a message!

 

Pete Bell

Pete, an Emmy-award-winning documentary producer, director, videographer, and editor, has also done quite a bit of traveling. He went to Central America to shoot travel videos for National Geographic Expeditions and to remote parts of Alaska to work on a documentary project. His most recent feature project was the award-winning documentary “High Sierra – A Journey on the John Muir Trail.” Pete currently works as a broadcast videographer and editor for the North Carolina Center for Public Television. You can see some of his work on his vimeo channel. Are you a fellow storyteller, multimedia magician, or someone who wants to collaborate to create, in Pete’s words, “life enhancing multimedia projects”? Well then, Pete’s your guy–get in touch!

 

Megan BerryMegan currently studies Exercise Science, Nutrition, and Spanish at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Apart from her academics, Megan’s also a student of the outdoors; she loves to be outside (whether running, hiking, or exploring), and she recently served as student coordinator for Earth Week at ASU. After graduating, Megan hopes to get her degree in occupational therapy and to travel the world working with special needs children. If you share Megan’s passion for the outdoors, health, or meeting people and sharing stories, send her a message–she’d love to hear from you!

 

Kiran Sirah

A man of many trades, Kiran has made a career of the arts, human rights, teaching, social justice, culture and religion . . . and more! He focuses primarily on building peace and developing community, addressing the barriers that often keep people from connecting with one another. He has established award winning national and international arts, cultural, and human rights programs in the UK, and has led other arts projects to battle poverty, gang violence, and modern-day slavery. Currently, Kiran resides in North Carolina as a Rotary World Peace Fellow, where his work revolves around the folklore of the homeless and ways to foster international communities. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Kiran if you want to connect over the arts/culture, social justice, public folklore, or how to create peaceful, multicultural societies.

Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people can find you on the site. Happy connecting!

If you don’t have one already, create a profile to offer your expertise to the community, and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. When you’re done, send a link to your profile to nandita@idealist.org, and you might see yourself on our blog!

Tags:



“Whoops! How did that get there?” Mistakes we’ve made at Idealist

If you’re a human being, chances are you make a mistake sometimes. And if you’re a celebrity or work for a website, your mistakes automatically get beamed straight to the public eye—d’oh!

Here at Idealist, we strive to make our website as clear, up to date, and mistake-free as possible, but of course we’re human too, and sometimes a little something falls through the cracks.

Take this pull quote I found while thumbing through one of our info centers the other day:

 Put

Whoops! I might not be Shakespeare, but I’m pretty sure that editor’s note was not supposed to take center stage here. I’ll take that down now.

Hey, nonprofit celebrities—before you call Bloopers with your own amusing gaffes, why not send them to us? Shoot an email to april@idealist.org and we’ll post the most mistakey of the mistaken.

Tags: , , , , ,



Ask Ero: Answers for confused and baffled Idealists

Ero is Thoughtful Adjusted Cropped3In this series of blog posts, I’ll try to answer all your questions (regardless of how ridiculously unqualified I am to answer them.) Consider me sort of a tech-literate, bearded, Ann Landers, or a work-safe Dan Savage.

In the last installment of this series, I answered questions about editing for brevity, solving big problems, and listening to music. How were my answers? I hope you’ll tell me. Now, on with this installment’s question!

After recently losing a job, I’ve almost given up hope. I’m not getting call-backs, and it might be due to my age- I’m not fresh out of college anymore. When I do get calls, they’re for entry-level jobs. I’m also an artist, and appreciate a flexible schedule, so how do I know if I should be looking for freelance work or a full-time job? -Margo

This is such a great question that it deserves an entire post all by itself, so here goes!

First of all, why limit yourself to one kind of work or another? You may not want the commitment of a full-time job. But keep your eyes open for that anyhow, and apply for what sounds appealing. You can even go to an interview, get a job offer, then decide to turn it down.

But you won’t know what’s out there unless you’re looking for it. Your dream job might be just where you least expect it. It’s not unheard of, after all, to work part-time or contract gigs, and have a low-key small business on the side. Unorthodox work is pretty common for artists of all kinds, so I’d advise looking for everything at once. Your solution may be a combination!

Now, keeping your morale up is hard, especially after losing a job. It gets even more frustrating when you’re highly skilled and experienced, and the only call-backs that you do get are ridiculously low-paid. Low compensation can be a problem in the nonprofit sector (though compensation is a complex issue). But although you may not be seeing them now, well-compensated jobs exist. Keep up the search and don’t get discouraged.

As for age discrimination, this can be a serious problem, but usually there’s not much you can do about it unless you see it happen. When first applying for a job you can’t affect the behavior of people who read your resume– but you can adjust how you present yourself. Make sure your cover letter and resume really represent what you have to offer specifically for the job you’re applying to, instead of just showing years of experience.

Discrimination happens, but you may also be missing opportunities because you don’t seem like you really want a position. This is not at all to say that you should hide your age. But you want to be sure you’re presenting your strengths properly.

After all, what you really want is to find work that values you for what you are: skilled, experienced, and not at all entry-level. Plenty of other folks out there are in the same boat: it’s an aging workforce, and some will see you as a talented youngster who’ll liven up the workplace with your crazy youthful enthusiasm.

There’s also a truth that isn’t often expressed, which is that the jobs ecosystem is not a bag of rice, it’s a bag of extra-chunky granola.

Every single job is a different size and shape.  Some are startlingly well-paid, some poorly paid. Some need decades of experience and advanced degrees, some want someone with strange new ideas. Some want specific odd types of experience, or unique individual skills.

During the course of my work day I see a lot of job listings – Idealist.org has 10,470 right at this moment! – and almost all of them are surprising in one way or another. They vary a lot! 

You’re the obviously-just-right candidate for at least one of them. As a jobseeker your task is to find that opportunity, and then make sure to make your obvious-just-right-ness clear.

After all, you’re looking, not to succeed with all jobs…just ones that are right for you.The right work for you will come along if you keep looking, and keep putting yourself out there. (You can find lots of useful tips on our blog).

I believe in you. You can do it.

Have questions about anything I’ve said? Or about anything else (and I do mean anything)? Ask me.


Ask Ero anything (anything anything anything) at ero@idealist.org.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,



Interested in design, social justice, or economic ethics? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

You already know that you can come to Idealist.org to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people?

There are thousands of people working for social change on Idealist.org and they’re all right at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing.

Here are just a few of the many Idealists who want to connect with you. Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile too. It’s super easy to sign up.

 

Zoraida

 

Zoraida in San Francisco describes herself as “a maker of things visually tickling.” With skills in graphic design, illustration, and layout management, Zoraida wants to connect with other makers, designers, techies, and simply good people. Need some design help or want to discuss ideas for visual projects? Send Zoraida a message!

 

 

Susana After obtaining her Law Degree in Mexico City, Susana went on to study Environmental and Sustainable Development, all the while working as an investigator of alleged human rights violations. In 2008, she founded a law firm based in Mexico City and moved to Seattle to continue her legal work. Now Susana is a law clerk who also proudly serves as the President of the Board of the Seattle Latino Film Festival. If you’re a film-lovin’ Seattle resident, contact Susana about getting involved with the festival! Or, no matter where you live, send her a message if you’re intrigued by media, human rights, social justice, and connecting generations.

 

ChristianChristian studied social welfare and international public administration in New York, and  would like to contribute to any cause that helps create positive community environments. As an LGBTQ person of color, he is especially interested in working with others from similar backgrounds and using his past experiences to help and support disadvantaged youth. If you share Christian’s passion for building, nurturing, and strengthening community, start a conversation with him–he’d love to hear from you!

Raffaela

Raffaela is a photo editor who also works as a photographer and writer, specializing in alternative travel stories. Currently in Milan (though open to traveling), she’d love to volunteer her skills to help with interesting projects. Over the past 15 years, she’s worked with many different photographers, publications, photo agencies, nonprofits, and blogs, giving her quite the range of experiences! Raffaela’s favorite part about her job is finding the hidden and bringing it to light; contact Raffaela if you want to photo-talk or have an idea that could use a photographer’s eye!

 

Jason

Jason’s got a knack for combining the unexpected, evidenced by both his interests and experiences. He studied philosophy in Utah, then got a Masters of Public Administration, and has recently just submitted his dissertation on conceptions of poverty in Buddhist social and economic ethics. In addition to his studies, Jason has taught philosophy, business management, and ethics courses and worked for places ranging from adult literacy nonprofits to refugee resettlements to microcredit organizations. Interested in poverty relief, microfinance, religion and development, or interfaith . . . or more? This guy would love to connect with you!

 

Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people can find you on the site. Happy connecting!

If you don’t have one already, create a profile to offer your expertise to the community, and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. When you’re done, send a link to your profile to nandita@idealist.org, and you might see yourself on our blog!

Tags: ,



Staff Spotlight: Claire Hansen, graphic design, and Guyana

In this series, we’re highlighting Idealist staff members who’ve made their ideas happen. Today’s spotlight is on Claire Hansen, our New York-based graphic designer who knows a thing or two about sisterly collaboration, working long distance, and navigating a culture outside your own. 

IMG_0361

Tessa and Claire in Guyana in 2007.

In 2007, Claire took a two-week trip to Guyana to visit her sister Tessa, who at the time was a Peace Corps Volunteer with the Red Cross in the capital city of Georgetown.

Tessa wanted to revamp an educational children’s coloring book about inappropriate touching titled “Your Body is Yours!” which was being used in the Red Cross’s “Be Safe! Guyana” program. The content was basically good, but the images looked outdated and didn’t reflect Guyanese people or landscapes. For kids to get the most out of the book, Tessa reasoned that the design and illustrations needed to be redone.

“The original coloring books were actual books,” Claire further explains. “We wanted to redesign them to be easily photocopied so each kid could have their own. And since a lot of the child abuse issues the country was struggling with were family-related, we wanted kids to be able to take the books home, so their parents and siblings might also see.”

Claire set to work researching the fashions, pastimes, and terrain of Guyana and re-illustrating and designing the book, also tweaking some of the language along the way.

“It was an interesting road to walk—between being representative and stereotypical,” says Claire. “As an illustrator, I wanted readers to feel familiar with the images but not appear to be reducing their culture to its symbols, or seem racist.”

When she finished all 24 pages, she made about 40 copies of the book back home in New York and sent them to Guyana to be distributed. The Guyana Red Cross then solicited donations and had more than a thousand copies of the book produced and distributed through their branches in coastal towns and more remote, indigenous areas. From beginning to end, the process took about six months.

Advice

cover

Claire’s redesigned cover.

1. Know your expectations.
“I don’t know if it bothers me that I wasn’t around to see the books in use, or that I’ll never really know the impact they’re having—though of course I hope it’s good,” says Claire. “Mostly, I was just happy to attempt the project. But if the outcome of your work is a bigger concern to you, you need to consider how you’ll be able to track the results: is the org you’re working with organized enough to really give your project legs, for example? Will you be able to track the results of your efforts over time?”

2. Seek professional help.
“If I did it over again,” she says, “I’d try to get advice from a publisher, or someone else who’d done this same thing. If you don’t have all the skills or knowledge you need for your project, find someone who does, rather than trying to learn everything on your own. If you do that, you’ll only wind up with ten percent of what you need to know.”

3. See what technology can do for you.
“Now there are all sorts of great online print-on-demand options for books, and ways to track how many you publish and distribute,” says Claire. “If I were doing it again, I’d look into using tools like that.”

4. Keep calm and carry on.
“I got so caught up in being excited to do it that I didn’t spend much time dwelling on the negatives,” says Claire. “If you know it’s going to be a long, slow road, just reconcile yourself to that fact and try not to get upset about it.”

Have you been involved with a project like Claire and Tessa’s? Have insights for others? Share your experience with our readers below. Or feel free to reach out to Claire through Idealist if you’d like to ask her advice.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Interested in photography, public health, or teaching English? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

Welcome Idealists!

You already know that you can come to Idealist.org to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people?

There are thousands of people working for social change on Idealist.org and they’re all right at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing.

Here’s a sampling of some of the people who want to meet you. Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile too. It’s super easy to sign up.

 

Mohamed

 

Mohamed is a skilled photographer and videographer who grew up in Cairo. He’s interested in volunteering to document activities related to the social impact sector such as human rights and the environment. Check out his work and send him a message if you are interested in collaborating with him!

Emily Davis

 

 

Emily left the United States in 2009 to teach English abroad in Japan and Spain. She’s returning home this August and wants to meet other Idealists with international experience. She’s a great source of knowledge for anyone thinking about teaching English abroad, so get in touch! Also let her know if you have any great recipes for ramen.

 

Jordan Kifer

 

If you’re an artist and looking to connect with someone who shares your interests, talk to Jordan! She recently graduated from the University of Michigan and believes that everyone has some form of art to offer the world. Besides her experience in photography and qualitative research, she studied Spanish and Latino/a Studies while in college.  ¡Conéctate!

Andreas Fischer

 

 

Andreas is a social scientist from Germany and recently completed a round-the-world trip where he visited Nepal, New Zealand, and South America, among other places. After working as a Project Coordinator in Mannheim for four years, he has experience in the field of Public Health and wants to meet open-minded and creative people from across the world.

 

 

Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people can find you on the site. Happy connecting!

If you don’t have one already, create a profile to offer your expertise to the community, and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. When you’re done, send a link to your profile to matt@idealist.org, and you might see yourself on our blog!

Tags: ,



Ask Ero: Answers for confused and baffled Idealists

Ero is Thoughtful Adjusted Cropped3In this series of blog posts, I’ll try to answer all your questions (regardless of how ridiculously unqualified I am to answer them.) Consider me sort of a tech-literate, bearded, Ann Landers, or a work-safe Dan Savage.

In the last installment of this series, I answered questions about Google Voice, finding a career path in an unusual field, and the meaning of life. How were my answers? I hope you’ll tell me. Now, on with the questions!

I am writing you from the library of a renowned university, and I have cried my eyes out. I am a doctoral student, and need to know how I can cut five thousand words from a proposed chapter for publication, while still adding more information. Is there a trick to radical editing? St. Hildegard said one should lick sapphires to clear a dull mind. I’ve done this with the ring that my husband gave me for our tenth anniversary, and it did help me cut another 300 words. But I can’t keep licking sapphires from now until my deadline. Or can I?
-Your Friend Flora

Editing is much harder than writing! I think you have what’s known in the writing world as “too many ideas.” Whether you’re writing a chapter like yourself, a grant proposal, or a Kickstarter plea, what a beautiful problem to have.

The unfortunate truth is that what’s really important in writing is the ideas themselves, not how they’re expressed. Being understood often means using as few words as possible. Your goal here is the simplicity and austerity of a children’s storybook.

It’s never easy. But you can try to take a sadistic pleasure in destroying your own beautiful words. Repeat to yourself: “The more I delete, the better writer I am.” All those pretty metaphors, all those decorative phrases and moving examples and colorful asides are going to have to go. All of them.

Keep an untouched copy of your text so that you don’t have to feel like you’re losing everything. Then, in your new copy, be absolutely brutal. Reduce a paragraph to a sentence. Then another. Then another. Before you know it you’ll be left with ugly, bare, bony sentences that say nothing except tiny little ideas. This is your best writing.

You’ll have created something rare and perfect and you’ll be glad for all the struggle that got you there. I hope your ring will still be okay.

l have some substantial ideas for solving this healthcare crisis, and it does not involve ObamaCare. How should I try to promote it? It involves attempting to save Medicare and Social Security, for future generations, so I thought some might be interested in looking at the proposals.
Jamesmmm

Hi Jamesmmm! I’m glad you have substantial ideas. Ideas are important and powerful, and they’re how we start to change the world. (You can’t make an idea-list without them). There are a lot of great ways to share your ideas with others: you might, for instance, attend a Sunday Soup Potluck. Or an Ignite event. You might even find someone who’s an idea collector!

Now, the healthcare crisis is complicated, and a lot of very smart people have worked on it over the decades. You also mention Medicare and Social Security, which are big, complex institutions that aren’t much like each other. So your ideas must be pretty powerful.

What we really love at Idealist is people who take good ideas, and make them real, by finding ways to take action. Otherwise ideas aren’t worth very much, and you may as well just write blog posts, like me.

If you want to really make a difference, do things. There are 446 volunteer opportunities listed on Idealist.org right now that involve healthcare. Maybe you’re an expert in government planning, or maybe you’re a financial wizard who understands long-term budgeting. There are plenty of financial planners, economists, and budget experts needed in this world, and our site is full of organizations that need your help!

So please, make your ideas real, and take action to help people in your community. If you’ll do it, so will I; and we can start making this world a little better.

Top 5 albums you’d prefer to be stranded with (with a listening device)?
-Christina

How’d you know I’m a fanatical music listener? Well, I don’t really believe that one person’s recommendations are better than any other’s. Music is one of the best ways to make sense of the world, and so it’s very specific to who each of us are and what we need.

This list totally misses all sorts of other things I love, but if I was really going to be stuck listening to only five albums, these would certainly do the trick:

  • Midnight, by Pandit Pran Nath. An amazingly rich document of Hindustani classical vocal. Listening to this album is like praying.
  • Bach Cello Suites, by Pablo Casals. Much of the beauty of European classical music is here; a belief in a divine order, in mathematics. But it’s balanced against the rustic, almost earthy, sound of the cello, and there’s repetition and sequential iteration that reminds me of raga.
  • Daydream Nation, by Sonic Youth. Noisy and punk-rock artsy and intellectual.
  • Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues, by Charlie Patton. The foundation of Mississippi blues, and thus: rock and roll, jazz, blues, R&B, funk, and, well, most everything else afterward. And impossibly beautiful.
  • Monk’s Dream, by Thelonious Monk. This was one of the first albums I ever bought, and that crackly record, with its strange rhythms and inexplicably haunting chords, still sounds like everything I could ever hope for from good music.

That’s all for this installment. Have questions about anything I’ve said? Or about anything else (and I do mean anything)? Ask me.


Ask Ero anything (anything anything anything) at ero@idealist.org.

Tags: , , , ,