What’s better than a 6,000-person snowball fight? A 12,000-person water balloon fight!

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Camp Korey kids getting ready for water balloon madness.
(Photo via setarecord on Instagram)

In January of this year, we wrote about Snow Day, the world record-breaking snowball fight that raised $50,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Seattle’s King County.

The event was a tremendous success, but it left its lead organizer and founder, Neil Bergquist, exhausted and burnt out. In the days leading up to the event, he was putting in 70 to 80 hour weeks while maintaining his full-time position as director of SURF Incubator, a start-up supporting technology-focused entrepreneurs.

Neil wasn’t thinking about doing another event, but a perfect storm of circumstances (including the cancellation of the much-loved Blue Angels air show and the possible cancellation of the fireworks display over Lake Union—two local summer favorites) led him to spearhead Party Camp.

On Saturday, August 17, 12,000 Seattleites will throw water balloons at each other in an attempt to raise $75,000 so that kids with serious medical conditions from the city’s Children’s Hospital can attend Camp Korey for one week of summer camp.

While they’re at it, they’re hoping to set a new Guinness world record for the world’s biggest water fight.

Applying lessons from Snow Day

Neil and his team wanted to do another event because they learned so much from Snow Day, and it would have been a shame to let that learning go to waste. They also knew they could raise even more money this time for another worthy cause.

From Snow Day, they learned a great deal about the logistical challenges of pulling off such a large event. Despite a four-hour registration window, for example, most Snow Day participants showed up during the last 30 minutes of registration, overwhelming the systems Neil’s team had put in place.

So for Party Camp, Neil’s team is building in increased capacity and more activities leading up to the event to disperse the demand immediately before the record attempt. They’ve also tripled the team’s size.

Neil points out that, while some things are easier this time, their ideas have gotten bigger. They’re building a 3,000-person beer garden, for example. They have a concert-quality sound system. And the coolest thing? They’re constructing a 40-foot treehouse.

Going big seems to be Neil’s m.o.

For Snow Day, Neil became an expert in the manufacture of snow. For Party Camp, he’s working with the world’s largest patent-holding company, Intellectual Ventures, to design water balloon-filling and tying technology that will allow them to efficiently load the 300,000 water balloons necessary to secure the world record.

 

“I don’t know how to do these things, but I know how to find the people who do,” Neil says. “It’s incredible what can happen when you bring people together and inspire them around a central cause and mission.”

Want to get into the world of charity events?

Now that he’s nearly finished with his second major event, Neil has some insight into the world of fundraising for charity.

“If you want to raise a lot of money, I’d recommend recruiting a well-connected fundraiser to get corporate donations or high net worth individuals to donate, because you’ll raise more money doing that,” Neil says. “But if you’re more focused on building awareness for your nonprofit, and building an experience that everyone’s going to remember, while raising money, then I would recommend this model.”

He also recommends starting small, and scaling up. “The first event I did was for 275 people. It raised $3,000. The next year I did it again and raised $9,000 at a 500-person event.”

Snow Day was next, raising $50,000 and engaging 6,000 community members. Party Camp will engage 12,000 people and raise $75,000 for charity. “What I learned in that first event I’ve taken to each of the others. You learn a lot in those early stages.”

So: think you have what it takes?

“It’s all about your comfort with risk, and your ability to perform in those situations,” Neil says. “You have to have a steady hand as an event planner.”

Want to get involved? If you’ll be in the Seattle area on August 17, sign up to volunteer at SeattlePartyCamp.com

Follow Party Camp on Twitter: @setarecord.

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Throwback Thursday: Live from Argentina’s “Crazy Radio”

Did you know we used to create podcasts? Listen to one our favorites. 

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The staff and contributors of Radio La Colifata.

On the outskirts of Buenos Aires, tucked away from the ubiquitous tango clubs and steakhouses, is Hospital Borda, the largest and oldest mental hospital in Argentina.

But this isn’t your typical psychiatric ward. In the middle of its courtyard stands a small, bustling building full of recording equipment and unbridled energy, where each Saturday patients gear up to take the mic. This is Radio La Colifata, the first radio show in the world to be broadcast from a mental hospital.

This podcast follows Idealist staff member Celeste Hamilton Dennis, a transplanted New Yorker, and Cecilia Gil Mariño, a native Argentinean, as they give us an intimate glimpse as to why everyone from taxi drivers to famous musicians can’t get enough of Radio La Colifata.

We hear from staff and patients, or colifatos, as they like to be called, about how it all began, why it’s lasted almost two decades—and why this innovative form of public therapy has spawned 40 similar radio stations all over the world.

To listen in English, click here.

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Stitching art, community, and conversation

A 9-year-old Durhamite picks her favorite words from Stitch's list at an event. (Photo credit: Alex Maness  www.alexmaness.com)


A 9-year-old Durhamite picks her favorite words from Stitch’s list at an event. (Photo credit: Alex Maness www.alexmaness.com)

The idea

Last November — at the tail end of a year devoted to hosting 40 conversation-focused events across the country — designers Dipika Kolhli and Akira Morita were left with a seemingly simple question: Can community-driven discussions translate visually?

With a goal to gather insights about the city’s future from the couple’s own community of Durham, NC, Dipika and Akira answered this question with a unique community-saturated project, Stitch.

“One night, while I was brainstorming, I found myself staring at a bunch of sticky notes, all with just a word or two on them—my notes,” says Akira. “And then it came to me. What if we collected just one word from people across Durham about where they wanted the city to go, and then had local artists bring them to life?”

Soon the pair were stopping folks on the street, at farmers market’s, and at local events to jot down local’s single-word hope for the future. From “durable” to “doggy,” “walkable” to “weird,” they quickly gathered a healthy heap of 276 inspiring words from across the city.

“Once people heard what we were doing, they came to us to share their word,” says Akira. “It was great to see the community’s enthusiasm.”

Then, they pinned down local artists to use their craft (whether it be song, photography, poetry or jewelry) to embody select words to share with the community and sell to supporters.

But the next steps, they found, wouldn’t be as easy.

3 things they wish they did differently 

1.  Had a more specific agenda.
“A lot of artists dropped out of the project once they found out there was no specific end goal,” says Akira. “We just wanted to start a tangible discussion and let others take it elsewhere. I learned that even artists are scared of the unfamiliar.”

After losing a third of the originally committed artists, Akira realized that he needed to be more cautious and clear in his approach.

“I have to take baby steps,” he says. “Not everyone can be on the same page as me right off the bat. It’s important to be clear from the start.”

2. Networked more with supporters, artists, and the community in general.

Time, of course, plays a big role in gathering cemented support. Akira admits that he and Dipika needed a stronger initial network of interested people to get their project off the ground. After the fact, however, it brought a spotlight on the small design team and helped usher them into new innovative and creative circles in the community.

3. Was more realistic about funding, the ever-predictable (and frustrating) roadblock for new projects.

Akira and Dipika used Kickstarter to fuel their project and sell the artists’ final pieces, but didn’t reach the hefty $12,000 goal by April 29. However, the $6,799 they did raise was enough to help many artists turn their word-inspired idea into reality.

Again, Akira says that having a stronger network of support from the beginning would help solidify funding down the road. But the pair still remain positive about the funds that did give Stitch the push it needed.

“No, we didn’t quite reach the target,” Akira writes on a recent update on Stitch’s Kickstarter. “And while I can’t say I’m not disappointed, I am more in awe of the support we did get from you.”

Moving forward

Despite the challenges, both financial and social, faced by the duo behind Stitch, Akira and Dipika are anything but discouraged for the future of the project and their further conversation-sparked pursuits.

Now, leaving the tools in the hands of the Durham artists, the pair and their three-year-old son are leaving for a 24-month stint across Asia, in hopes of bringing similar word-based projects to other villages and cities

“Our aim remains the same: create spaces for conversations to happen. Everywhere, with everyone,” says Akira.

But, he remains humble in their efforts, calling the idea more of an “open sourced idea” that can be replicated by other communities with ease.

“The role dialogue plays in our communities is key to where we are going and how we can advance civilization,” says Akira. “We just want to help it get there.”

Want to bring Stitch’s idea to your community and get advice from Akira and Dipika? Send them a message at hello@orangutanswing.com.

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Try This! Host a Summer Commune

 

SummerCommune

The idea

Josh Heller and Nicole Kelly tried an experiment last summer. What would happen if they got their friends to descend on a small town in the U.S. as part of an intentional, temporary community?

“Cities are really expensive and it’s crazy to think that someone who is a struggling artist or creative should have to spend half their income on rent,” Josh says. “The thing is that less affordable places are less desirable. The idea for Summer Commune was that we could make a place desirable by bringing the people we think are cool.”

Josh, a travel writer for Matador Network, and Nicole, who was a grad student at UC Irvine for fiction writing at the time, were perfectly poised to lead the project. Avid travelers by nature and community builders by default, the couple already had a list of people they knew they could reach out to.

So they got to work. They read books about communes past, deciding that in the age of Craigslist, people could simply sublet their own apartments. They set up a Facebook group, website, and Tumblr blog. They called it Summer Commune, and at the beginning of June, rolled into the city of Moscow, Idaho to find their faces on the front page of the local newspaper.

“Moscow was a perfect place. It’s this unique city that is close to Washington, has two major universities, and there’s only several hundred thousand people. So it’s pretty remote and isolated, but you still have artists, intellectuals, and old hippies. A lot,” Josh says.

What happened

Before they arrived, Moscow residents ranging from farmers to Buddhist professors were waiting to welcome them with open arms. Those who came from other places—thinkers, comedians, designers, and other creatives, some of which Nicole and Josh knew and some of which they didn’t—were at a liminal time in their lives and excited to connect and explore. What started out as an initial way to live cheaply became something much deeper.

“A lot of people who came were looking for an alternative. People wanted to test out another way of life, another way of having community, another way of doing things. They were open-minded and curious,” Nicole says.

Over the course of the summer, Nicole and Josh held weekly open meetings at a nearby tavern for the core group of 10 Communers and the 60-plus interested locals to commingle. They also hosted literary readings, salons, a variety show, and a Pecha Kucha night at other venues throughout the city.

“The mayor told us that the tourism initiative we put together was something she had tried to pay for and it had not come out so well. Our grassroots efforts had really stimulated the local economy during the summer,” Josh says.

When Nicole and Josh weren’t orchestrating events, they and other Communers were hanging out with punk and bluegrass bands, dining with aging hippies, making friends with the coffee shop and co-op crowd, hanging out on a farm, and volunteering at the city’s Artwalk. They fell in love with Moscow—and with an alternative way of living.

“For me personally, it made me be more open to living other places and seeing other parts of America I was less interested in before,” Nicole says.

3 things they wish they did differently

From the beginning, the two wanted Summer Commune to be a model that anyone anywhere could take and copy. If you want to create one of your own, here are three tips to keep in mind:

1. Be clear about who you want to target.

They initially pitched the idea just to artists, but realized halfway through that Summer Commune would’ve been great for anyone who worked remotely or wanted to, like freelancers, small business teams, etc.

2. Write a manifesto.

While Summer Commune was always an exploratory project which they wanted to give room to breathe, having principles of community framework from the beginning would’ve helped. “We wanted it to be collaborative, but I realize now that was unrealistic,”  Nicole says. “I think people wanted a structure but they didn’t want to help build it. A lot of people felt, ‘We’re happy to be here, but what do you want from us?’”

3. Email the mayor.

Nicole and Josh were so focused on amassing a crowd to go with them that they unintentionally forgot about local outreach. When they saw how responsive Moscow was, they realized they could’ve easily gotten in touch with local government, city council, and more much earlier, possibly tapping them for budget and infrastructure help.

Nicole and Josh are currently back in California, and are taking a break from communing this summer. But for them, it was an experience that changed how they relate to the world and their place in it—not to mention boosted their confidence in moving from intention to action.

“It was cool to see something come to fruition. I’m now more excited by having ideas and actually building them out,” Josh says.

“When people would ask, ‘What are you doing with your life?’ that would’ve stressed me out a year ago,” Nicole adds. “Now it’s fine. I know now opportunities will present themselves and that I can make my own things.”

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Of course, Nicole and Josh did many things right and would love to share their tips on choosing the right place, branding, and more. Get in touch by emailing hello@summercommune.com.

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Want to be more inclusive? Try creating unisex bathrooms

Each June, millions gather worldwide in parades, rallies, festivals, and more to celebrate LGBT pride. In honor of this movement, this week we’re shining a spotlight on the LGBT youth community and the myriad of ways you can get involved. Today’s story is about how something as simple as a sign has helped transgender students in an Oregon high school.

In high school—a melting pot of teenage angst, drama and growth—any added stress to an already strained schedule can be the breaking point. For 17-year-old Scott Morrison, a transgender senior at Portland, Oregon’s Grant High School, this stressor came in the form of something seemingly harmless: Using the school bathroom.

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Photo via Shutterstock.

Born female, Scott identifies as male, but feels uncomfortable using either a men’s or women’s restroom due to other student’s reactions. And he’s not alone in his discomfort.  In February, Grant counselors spoke with the school’s administration about the stories they’ve heard from multiple transgender or gay students of discomfort and anxiety triggered by using gendered bathrooms.

Their solution? Unisex bathrooms.

“When I heard that students were uncomfortable, and realized that what we had was not working, I knew we had to do it,” says Kristyn Westphal, Grant Vice Principal and main instigator of the bathroom change. “It was simple, really.”

So simple that the only change, once the cooperative building manager changed the building code, the entire project cost under $300—the price of changing locks and signs on the doors of once-gendered bathrooms.

Now, three months since the idea was raised, Grant is now home to six bathrooms—four for students, two for staff—that welcome all genders, in addition to its remaining gendered facilities. And the public response couldn’t have been more receptive.

“It really is a non-issue,” Kristyn says. “Students that need them use them. We haven’t had any conflict or negative responses.”

Emily Volpert, reporter for Grant’s school paper (and who broke the original story on the bathroom switch), echoes Kristyn’s outlook.

“Most students at Grant were very accepting and understanding of this request,” Emily says. “While there will always be people who choose not to accept others for their differences, high schoolers at Grant tend to be very progressive.”

This factor likely played a role in the program’s success. Already a campus with out and supported transgender students (and an established Gay-Straight Alliance club) in a city known for its liberal ways, Grant may have a step up on other schools facing the same issues. But, Emily says, the environment of a high school campus remains universally alike—no matter where you’re trying to fit in.

“In high school, there is enough pressure that students face from grades, peers, and figuring out who you want to be,” Emily says. “For the transgender students, it’s another big problem on their plate. The installation of unisex bathrooms is really an equity issue.”

And other schools are taking note. Kristyn says that since news of the bathrooms spread, school administrators and students across the country have contacted her for advice. One California high school student even hopes to make the switch his senior project.

“It’s great how interested communities are in bringing this to their schools,” she says. “It really seems like something people need.”

Want to bring unisex bathrooms to your school, workplace, or general community? Connect with Krisytn at kwestphal@pps.net for tips and support.

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Meet the dad who started an alternative Boy Scout revolution

This post originally appeared on good.is, a global community of people who give a damn.

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Scouts from Missouri’s 10th Daniel Boone Scout Group. (Photo via Baden-Powell Service Association.)

Over the past year, alternative options to the Boy Scouts of America have spread across the U.S. like wildfire. From Portland, Oregon’s 55th Cascadia Scouts, clad in homemade kerchiefs (and named after the kitschy camp troop in the Wes Anderson movie Moonrise Kingdom), to the 5th Brooklyn Scouts in New York, building forts in Central Park as part of their wilderness survival training, the new troops are primarily formed by families fed up with discriminatory policies.

But these troops would still be up a creek without a paddle if it weren’t for one frustrated father: Missouri dad and Cub Scout leader David Atchley, the humble computer programmer who reintroduced “traditional” scouting to the U.S., and in the process, furthered LGBT and gender equality.

Six years ago, David attempted to dodge the Boy Scouts’ commitment to excluding female and gay would-be participants by asking them to let his troop be all-inclusive. Instead, they threatened to take away his pack’s membership.

So he took things into his own hands. He turned in his Eagle Scout badge (the black belt of scouting), severed all ties with the Boy Scouts of America, and began crafting the country’s first all-inclusive scouting alternative.

But he didn’t have to start from scratch. In David’s search for other scouting options, he found Europe’s Baden-Powell Service Association (the original scouting model that the U.S. Boy Scouts was founded on in 1910) and was quickly hooked by its no-nonsense approach. With straightforward, loophole-free rules laid down in 1907, the association stressed outdoors-y goals and an all-inclusive atmosphere.

After convincing some of his current scouts and local families to join forces, David started the 10th Daniel Boone Scout Group, officially igniting the BPSA U.S. program. The goal? To bring scouting back to its roots. “Sure, the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policies made me leave the program, but that isn’t the focus,” says David. “It’s time we bring back traditional scouting.”

To him, this means swapping “programming” and “computer game design” merit badges for those scouting was founded on, mainly outdoor survival and navigation. David agrees that youth tech education is important—it’s just not part of the scouting platform.

“Scouting is supposed to be focused on two things: outdoor skills and public service,” he says. “These seem to have been forgotten over the years.” David’s own troop reflects these values by spending weekends cleaning up trash alongside the Missouri River and honing their campfire cooking skills on camping trips.

Soon after his troop got off the ground, he began hearing from interested parents and ex-members across the country. There are now 24 BPSA-chartered groups, from New Hampshire to New Mexico, empowering scouts and leaders of all ages, sexual orientations, and genders. David’s been the national commissioner since 2009, both arranging national events and connecting interested scouts on a local level, thanks to their site’s handy Scout Finder application.

Still, he remains modest about his program’s achievements and long-term effects on gender and sexuality biases.

“I just wanted to find another alternative for my kids, one that focused on equality and traditional scouting,” he says. “But it wasn’t a new idea. I was just the first to make the move.”

Interested in starting a local BPSA troop or know a community that’s looking for an alternative to the BSA? Contact David Atchley at david.m.atchley@gmail.com or look for nearby members on the Scout Finder.

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How to build a collaborative (and happy!) shared nonprofit space

In November last year, five Colorado nonprofits moved into a free-flowing, bright office as part of the Denver Shared Spaces Project. Think the nonprofit version of The Real World: five (somewhat) strangers, picked to work in an office together, to find out what happens when people work side-by-side towards the greater good.

Unlike the drama-laden show, these “roommates” in the Colorado Collaborative for Nonprofits get along famously. (No pulling hair or name calling here.) If your organization is thinking about doing something similar, here are their tips on how to make the most of it:

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The colorful hallway of 789 Sherman. (Photo credit: Alyssa Kopf.)

1. Plan. Thoroughly. 

Sally Hallingstad, Director of Events & Marketing for Metro Volunteers: Define expectations ahead of time. What’s the purpose of the partnership? What are the potential ways to collaborate, beyond space, and how far will it go?

Alyssa Kopf, CEO of Community Shares of Colorado:  Bring in an organizational anthropologist to learn what kinds of organizations will be in the space and what they value. And try to gauge ahead of time as best you can if you’ll all play nicely together.

Renny Fagan, President and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association: Staff participation at all levels is key, and the long process of inclusion and communication is well worth it. “When you include people in change, they want to make it work.”

Dace West, Director of Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships: Be aware that collaboration is a tricky thing, and that you’ll most likely be looking at a “marriage of organizations with very different needs.” There’s also the complexity of real estate, timing, and priorities to consider, which makes it especially important for partners to be thoughtful about how they’ll work together, and what their shared vision will be. After all, it’s more than just a space and a place to be.

2. Be patient, and adjust accordingly.

Melinda Higgs, President/CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center: Even when you plan, you may need to plan (again) – especially when you don’t get your first choice of space. “We ended up focusing on the space planning and then, once the space planning was essentially complete, we moved onto the program planning.” In other words: be flexible!

COLLABORATIVE

Besides this map in the breakroom of who’s who, other ways members of the Collaborative are getting to better know each other include bbqs, brown bag lunches, and more. (Photo credit: Alyssa Kopf.)

Sally:  From kitchen duties to shared printers, it takes time to figure out what works. The domesticity of a shared office space – like, what to do with six microwaves? – can make for an adjustment period.

3. Imagine working beyond desks.

Sally: A shared space is designed to promote collaboration, and it helps to keep that in mind. At the Collaborative, for example, some organizations have their staffs spread out, sitting side-by-side with other organizations. The eventual hope is that the first floor training center will someday host programming they can work on together.

4. Think toward the future.

Alyssa: A process like this demands long-term thinking. “Going through shared space planning is a great opportunity to broaden your thinking about your mission, the lifecycle of your organization, and how you want to contribute to collective impact.”

Have a question for a member of the Collaborative? Feel free to contact an organization via their Idealist page, or leave a comment here.

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Girl brightens street, one balloon at a time

ShelbourneRd

Photo via pea green girl.

Recently, I participated in GOOD’s first annual Neighborday. We invited our neighbors over for milkshakes and sat on our lawn and talked with them about everything from what our block used to be like to tips for toddler sleep to how to entertain visiting family.

The turnout was smaller than I’d hoped for, but it was still nice to stop for a moment and focus on the people who lived around me. So when I came across Zoe Green‘s little project of brightening her UK street with balloons and nice notes for one day, I couldn’t help but think, “Yes!”

She writes:

From my perspective, Shelbourne Road is just another long, fairly anonymous Bournemouth street. Nothing really happens here.

Other than the occasional social gathering in the corner shop, we go about our daily routines side by side and yet our paths never seem to overlap. I only really know my next door neighbour Paul and his dog Foo. I don’t know who lives opposite, or two houses down, which really makes for quite a sad state of affairs.

So how can I make a difference? One smile at a time.

I don’t intend to change the world. but I know that if you brighten one person’s day they are highly likely to brighten someone else’s. Happy Street Day took place on Monday 15th April 2013. It was my personal mission to bring some unexpected cheer to my fellow Shelbournians, encouraging them only to stop for a moment and talk to one another.

This project was about inspiring people. So take my ideas and share them with your community.

Go on, spread a little joy.

What are some other ideas to make YOUR street a little bit cheerier?

Join GOOD’s Fix Your Street day on the last Saturday of May. 

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Try This! Pedal unused food to those in need

Boulder Food Rescue volunteer Kim Abcouwer picks up food at a local Whole Foods (photo credit: Cliff Grassmick http://www.flickr.com/photos/boulderfoodrescue/8538484344/in/set-72157632757809202)

Boulder Food Rescue volunteer Kim Abcouwer picks up food at a local Whole Foods. (Photo credit: Cliff Grassmick.)

The idea

It’s no news that America is one of the largest waste generators in the world—just take a look at a Portland, Oregon dump a day after Christmas to refresh your memory.

But how far have we gone? According to a March 2013 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. wastes around 40 percent of all edible food. While a big chunk of this waste is generated by private homes, restaurants and grocery stores across the country add a hefty contribution (86 billion and 43 billion pounds, respectively, in 2008).

These alarming numbers—paired with population of those going homeless and hungry in the states—are the leading reason 25-year-old Hana Dansky decided to co-found the country’s first food “rescue and redistribution” nonprofit, Boulder Food Rescue.

“After learning about the national problem with waste, I did research locally,” says Hana. “There was enough food thrown away in Boulder County to feed the county’s entire homeless population—which was crazy. So we did something about it.”

Hana, along with two other friends, started talking to local grocery stores and homeless shelters in 2011 to see how they could connect the two. Soon the small team began pedaling trailer-toting bikes between multiple grocery stores, cafes, shelters, soup kitchens and residents for at-risk community members. They had become the missing link.

“It’s great how willing most store managers were to contribute and how badly the community needed their excess food,” Hana says. “Filling that gap makes all the difference.”

Now, 150 volunteers, 16 regular donors and a 501(c) 3 certification later—and the thriving Boulder Food Rescue is ready to share their model with other communities in need.

Why you might like to try this

  • Shrinks waste. Sure, this is an obvious one, but the national statistics alone make it a convincing reason to kickstart your own food rescuing system. Why toss a shelf of day-old bread or a box of barely wilted lettuce in the trash when others are pinching pennies to make a sandwich?
  • Supplies those in need. Hana says that a recent survey done by Boulder’s largest shelter revealed that 66 percent of its dining hall’s produce comes directly from Boulder Food Rescue. “It’s amazing to positively influence the diet of so many people who need it,” she says. “And the need is definitely out there.”
  • Strengthens community. Since the food rescue got off the ground, a handful of community members have offered their varied help to keep it rolling. “Not only have we connected food to those who need it, we’ve seen this community open up as a resource, offering skills and their passion for others without a second thought,” says Hana.

How you can replicate it

  1. Build donor trust. Hana says that create strong and trusting relationships with grocery store and restaurant managers is the trickiest part of her work. She avoids major chains, based on their overarching restrictions on donations, and focuses primarily on local food sources. “Usually,” says Hana, “we can sit down with the store managers in person and talk about our mission and process—specifically how they aren’t responsible for any of the food after its picked up.”
  2. Know your rights. Many potential donors shy away to avoid potential conflict with FDA regulations. But, Hana says, the national 1996 Good Samaritan Act—allowing businesses to donate food to nonprofits without claiming any responsibility—strengthens most donors’ interest. Plus, nonprofit donations benefit businesses when tax season rolls around.
  3. Follow a method. Boulder Food Rescue now offers a straightforward and relatable online guidebook to creating a food rescue program in any community, with tips on everything from money management to grocery store relationships.


Want to bring a similar model to where you live? Hana encourages anyone interested in starting their own operation to get in touch with them directly at info@boulderfoorescue.org.

Learn more about Colorado month at Idealist!

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It’s a bike! It’s a car! No—It’s Peatónito, Mexico City’s masked defender of pedestrians

With Cinco de Mayo coming up this weekend, we’re shining a spotlight on one social innovator from Mexico City mixing both brawn and brains to make change. 

Peatónito halts traffic at a crosswalk in downtown Mexico City (Photo credit: Peatónito)

Peatónito halts traffic at a crosswalk in downtown Mexico City (Photo credit: Peatónito)

In sweat pants, a long black cape, and a traditional luchador (or Mexican wrestler) mask, 26-year-old Jorge Cañez easily stands out in the congested hubbub of downtown Mexico City. And that’s exactly what he wants.

Jorge, or “Peatónito”—the name of his masked alter ego, has taken it upon himself to bring pedestrian safety back to the streets of a city known internationally for it’s high pedestrian fatality rates. Stationed at high-traffic intersections across town, Jorge acts as an intrepid traffic cop, signaling cars to stop at crosswalks and valiantly guiding pedestrians to the sidewalk.

“People ignore the importance of pedestrian safety in this city, and it’s deadly,” says Jorge, who says that Mexico City sees at least one pedestrian death daily. “I’m trying to make a change by making it fun.”

Peatónito (a derivative of the Spanish word for pedestrian, peatón) has been an active character in the streets of Mexico City since last June. After winning over city transportation officials and community members alike, Jorge’s persona has trigged a transformation within the city’s inner workings.

“I think I’ve helped incorporate the speech of the pedestrian with the department of transportation,” he says, adding that while the city has recently show great interest in bicycle infrastructure, they’ve all but ignored the needs of pedestrians. “Now they actually have an real agenda and are creating public policies to improve pedestrian facilities.”

However, getting to this point took a heap of commitment and drive from Jorge’s end.

A political science graduate and past consultant for Mexico’s Institute of Transportation and Development, Jorge originally advocated for pedestrian rights with a group of local activists, stealthily painting impromptu crosswalks and placing cemented benches in pedestrian-heavy areas downtown. While these acts were essentially illegal, the police who caught Jorge and his team in the act would usually see the good in their intentions.

Peatónito helps an older couple cross the street. (Photo credit: Peatónito)

Peatónito helps an older couple cross the street. (Photo credit: Peatónito)

“Every time it’s the same: We explain to the police what we’re doing, and there’s never a problem,” says Jorge. “They know it’s helping.”

But Jorge still wasn’t convinced that this level of advocacy was enough to make a substantial shift in driver’s (and official’s) ways. So, he took a page from the book of one of his own heroes: Antanas Mockus, the past mayor of Bogotá, Colombia.

“Bogotá used to be one of the more dangerous cities in the world, especially for a pedestrian,” says Jorge. “But Mockus fired the corrupt transit police and hired 400 mimes to police traffic. He made it fun, and things began to change.”

Now, people are turning to Jorge to learn from his work and promote his actions, including local political parties. But the caped crusader remains committed to his original cause.

“Sometimes I get calls from [political] parties asking me to join them,” says Jorge. “But I don’t have a party. I don’t have any side alliance. I am simply an ally to all pedestrians.”

Interested in pedestrian activism or want to learn more about bringing a similar movement to where you live? Send Jorge an email at jorge.canez@itdp.mx or check out Peatónito on Facebook.

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