Are dreams more important than needs?

On Tuesday, March 11, Idealist will launch a new network to help practical dreamers all over the world connect and take action on the issues that concern them. Preparing for the debut of this imaginative new effort has gotten us exploring the many facets of dreams: what are their purposes, their powers, their opposites?

Welcome to Dreams Week on Idealists in Action.



We’ve written a couple of times lately about wants superseding needs in a social good context: Sonia Manchanda’s DREAM:IN project asks people from Bangalore to Brazil about their hopes and dreams instead of what they think their community needs, and Anne Koller’s TAPIN art collective asserts that the best social good efforts come from a place of personal passion, not a feeling of obligation.

To be sure, helping people to meet their basic needs will always be a noble goal, but are there times when prioritizing their desires over the bare essentials might be the greater service (ie: buying a homeless girl a doll instead of a toothbrush)? Or, in the grand mix-up of the human condition, are wants and needs really so separate? And if they are different, how do we define them? Is food a need, but love a want?

Turns out this topic is on a lot of people’s minds right now. Here’s a smattering of current conversation:

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What are you doing on September 11?

By Julia Smith and Diana Hsu.


The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is just one venue seeking volunteers. Photo via (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Earlier today, we tweeted, “Wondering: How are you spending September 11th?” Replies ranged from interning at a hospital (@dva136) to supporting a fundraiser in Portland (@GeezerGallery) to attending a film festival in NYC (@thepete).

What about you? Maybe you’re opting for quiet reflection this year. Maybe, like Baratunde Thurston, you’ll celebrate a birthday. Maybe you’re leaning toward volunteering in your community.

If that last idea has been on your mind, here’s one thing to consider: This year, to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, MyGoodDeed and HandsOn Network are organizing the largest day of service in United States history.

Below are just a few of the events and volunteer opportunities listed on Idealist for this weekend. For more ideas, visit, the official website of the September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance.


Volunteer opportunities

For more ways to get involved this weekend and beyond, search And please let us know how you’re planning to spend the weekend.

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