Inspired by a good idea recently? Tell us about it.

Girls Rock Camp is one of the awesome, replicable ideas we’ve profiled. I can’t wait until Hattie performs with them someday. (Photo via Flickr user emilyaugust)

In the beginning of November I gave birth to my daughter Hattie. For the past three months, I’ve been knee deep in miniature clothing, parenting blogs, and really, really bad TV that helps me get through those long nights.

Now I’m back at Idealist. And while I miss talking in a high-pitched voice on a daily basis, I’m excited to again have adult conversations, think about social innovation, and revive the Idea File.

From our first Idea File post in April 2010:

At Idealist, we believe the world is full of good ideas that don’t spread quickly enough. The Idea File is a new feature where we’ll give quick glimpses of ideas that seem fun, powerful, and potentially replicable — plus some things you might want to consider if you decide to take on a similar project.

I’ve missed you, dear Idealists, and all of your good ideas that make this world we live in better. After all, it’s ideas like Question Box and Failfaire and Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls that will impact Hattie as she grows up.

So tell me: What ideas of late have inspired you to Facebook, tweet, pin to Pinterest, tell everyone you know about them, and more? We’d love to help spread them on our blog.

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Participating in National Volunteer Week? Film your project!

A school made of plastic bottles in Guatemala. Blind woodworkers in Boston who are defying odds. A firsthand look at the recent protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Intrigued? Check out our Making Good Ideas Travel channel on Vimeo to learn about all this and more.


Right now on there are 500+ video- and film-related volunteer opportunities. Photo by Marcin Wichary (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Since it’s National Volunteer Week, I’d thought I’d highlight some volunteering-related gems:

The Lowestoft Christmas swim
‘Tis not the season, but I found this video so charming I had to share. It highlights 250 bold Brits running into the ocean on Christmas day to raise money for a handful of charities. It’s full of great music, superhero costumes, and interesting twists on the Santa getup. Maybe it will spark some ideas for other holidays.

Flying Colours
Akhona is a young student and mother who wants to go to college. Siyabuelela is studying business at the university and volunteers his Saturdays to tutor youth like Akhona. Their two stories are linked by IkamvaYouth, a South African nonprofit that helps learners lift themselves out of poverty. The film gives an intimate glimpse into their lives and highlights the good work the org is doing – and will make you want to go to South Africa right now.

Picking up America
This short documentary follows a group of twentysomethings walking across the United States and picking up roadside trash. A movie featuring garbage across the country’s most ignored areas may not sound all that appealing, but the youthful, idealistic energy of the volunteers is inspiring.

National Volunteering Week ends tomorrow! Have you picked up a camera to film any festivities?

Inching its way toward 1,000 subscribers, the Making Good Ideas Travel channel has 153 videos and counting. We welcome submissions not only about volunteering, but all things social change: nonprofits, community involvement, and good ideas. So if you have a short video that’s reeling to be shared with the world, message us or post a link to our Shoutbox and we’ll be sure to take a look.

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Idea List: Plastic boats, pop-up homes, and more

My job at Idealist is to see how the collective “we” can get more good ideas into the brains of more people.

What do I mean when I say “good ideas?” Sometimes you just instinctively know. Cell phone: good idea. Vibrating bra? Bad one.


Image by Arthur Buliva under CC-SA licence (via Afrigadget)

But lately I’ve been studying solutions or projects that are proving to work, and that might be replicable around the world. Here are some I came across recently that made me want to clap my hands and do a little dance:

  • A man in Kenya uses tourist’s discarded plastic bottles and old slippers to construct a boat (AfriGadget)
  • Valentine’s Day phantoms spread love throughout a city in Maine (GOOD Magazine)
  • H.I.V. clinic in Canada allows drug addicts to inject themselves under nurse supervision (NY Times)
  • A Virginia company creates pop-up mobile homes to assist seniors with family managed health care  (Springwise)
  • Pink sari clad vigilante women in India crack down on men who’ve abused their wives (Women Make Movies)

Did you read, see, or experience something lately that you think deserves more attention, and maybe a copycat or two? Leave a comment below so we can add it to the next idea list!

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[Idea File] Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls

This week’s successfully replicated idea:


The Haunted Skinny Jeans band before their performance in Portland, OR this summer. Photo by Band Manager Laysa Quintero.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls (RnRC4G) is a nonprofit that empowers young girls and women through music. Originally founded in 2000 by Misty McElroy as part of a women’s studies project at Portland State University, there are now 30 affiliate camps all over the world from Oakland, CA to London. It’s no surprise that the idea has taken center stage in so many places; I volunteered there this summer and can attest to its overall awesomeness.

I interviewed sts—drummer, zinester, filmmaker, and the nonprofit’s current Program Director—to learn how RnRC4G has grown and amplified its impact.

Tell us about how the idea for Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls was conceived.

Inspired by Ladyfest and the Riot Grrl movement, RnRC4G was founded to address a lack of feminist resources for girls, especially in creating and performing music, and playing instruments such as the drums, electric guitar, and turntables. We have also always provided self-defense classes to every camper.

Why do you think the idea caught on in so many places?

This mission of the RnRC4G is so inspiring! So many women, feminists, and musicians deeply connect with our mission and core values, and they want to see it happen in their own communities, which is incredible. Rock Camp is a great place to explore teamwork, conflict-resolution, creative experimentation, and performance in a supportive environment surrounded by amazing female mentors. It’s fun, exciting, and very positive. I think the magic is in the mission: to put self-esteem and life skills development first, and use music creation and instruction as a tool to help our campers practice being leaders, resolving conflict, working as a team, and putting aside relational-aggressive behaviors in favor of supporting one another. This is a great environment for almost everyone, including the instructors, coaches, and counselors.

How exactly did the other camps come into existence?

It totally varies from camp to camp, but it seems that in the beginning, touring musicians, summer camp volunteers, and other women involved with our programs were so excited about their experiences here that they decided to bring the mission to life in their own cities through opening up their own camps. Most organizers are volunteers who have day jobs. They start the way we started — by gathering support from local feminists, musicians, businesses and other community supporters; borrowing gear; getting donations; and getting campers and volunteers to come together for a week of summer camp.

The Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA) now has about 30 affiliate camps, continually inspiring new camps all over the world. We are not a franchise. GRCA is in place to help network like-minded camps and offer a means of skill sharing, networking, and institutionalizing our programs and mission.

If I wanted to open up a Rock Camp in my town, what would the general step-by-step process look like?

Go to GRCA and see if your idea matches with our mission, statement of purpose and core values. If it does, the next step is to apply to become a pending affiliate organization, and try to attend the annual conference in March each year. Its only $20 to join, and there’s financial assistance to get at least one organizer to attend. We offer workshops on how to start a summer camp, become a nonprofit, organize and train volunteers, fundraise, as well as work with donors, parents, and your community.

Or, get a space, put on a benefit show, and spread the word that you’re starting a Rock Camp and see what happens!

What advice would you give to others looking to replicate this idea?

I tell people that the first things they need is a powerful mission statement and a website. Self-esteem in girls looks different to many people, and in different cultures. Try to get as much community support and input as possible and find out what the needs are in your community. In Rock Camp world, making music in a fun and supportive environment can mean something different for everyone.

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