RandomKid December 2007 Newsletter

RandomKid is an organization that my daughter has been involved in for about a year. I wrote about the organization here.   It is a unique organization because it is focused on kid initiated, kid directed projects.  Check out the project page of their website.  These aren't adult projects where kids can participate. These are projects that kids have thought up, and through the support of their parents, families, friends and RandomKid, are either making a difference or a looking for the funding to start.

Here is their latest newsletter. I post it to bring encouragement and opportunity. Share it with kids that you know. Maybe one of them has a project idea that RandomKid can help them start.

RandomKid NewsletterRk_logo
National Task Force Visits the Gulf

Watch NBC Nightly News This Sunday, December 23*for a Special Report on RandomKid's Water Project. 

December 2007

I’m really excited for you to read what we have to share with you in this newsletter. RandomKid’s National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf, a group of 10 kids from around the country, had the opportunity to visit the largest chapter of Habitat for Humanity, tour and volunteer in the gulf, thanks in large part to a grant from Target Corporation and a kind invitation from the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of Habitat for Humanity.  Our mission was to witness the progress that’s being made, the work that still needs to be done, and report back to kids across the USA to encourage continued support.

There are still nearly 60,000 people living in FEMA trailers over two years after Hurricane Katrina.  Faith has helped them all get through a tough time. It is a message we hear from everyone over and over again. They also are being helped by Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army and the countless volunteers that go down there to rebuild homes. But none of this can happen without money. We can’t allow ourselves to be tired of the story because it’s old news and we want to move on to something new. We have to commit to helping every last hurricane survivor back on their feet.  It is the patriotic thing to do, and our human responsibility to help people who can’t help themselves. We need to show them that the power of their faith can also be seen in each of us, their fellow Americans who care.

All but one of the articles here were written by the RandomKid Task Force kids.  One column was written by our newest Board Member, and dad of one of our Task Force members, Ed Brenegar.  Please take a moment to see the gulf from a kid’s point of view.  We hope you’ll help.

Happy Holidays!

~Talia Leman, 12-year-old CEO, RandomKid

“The Gulf trip was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life! I got to meet new people and help out in the Gulf.  After being there, I’ve come up with a new idea on how to children in that area.  I LOVE being a part of RandomKid!” –Task Force Member, 10-year-old Emma

Having Hope and Faith on the Gulf CoastRk_shelby_2
By Task Force Member Shelby of North Carolina

Nasheka Chatman and her three children met with the RandomKid Task Force on a warm Fall day in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Chatman has been living in a FEMA trailer with her three small children and her husband for over two years now. The FEMA trailer that the Chatman family is currently living in is 10 feet by 40 feet, or about the size of your garage.  They are very cramped and there is not a lot of privacy. When Nasheka was asked how she has gotten through everything over the past two years, she replied, "with prayer, lots of prayer." Chatman says she has had lots of support from family and friends. Of all the things that this family lost, what they miss most are family pictures. She wants other people to know that Habitat for Humanity was "sent by God. The people were sent by God." Nasheka's children, ages 4,6 and 7 have put lots of thought into what colors they will paint their new bedrooms.  The family is moving into their Habitat house on November 12th and they are going to celebrate by making a sign for the front yard that says, "Thank You Jesus for our new home." Chatman reminded us that, "People on the Gulf are doing okay. We still need you're help, but we are okay. People here are strong in their hearts." When asked what other Katrina victims should remember, she thought for a moment, then added, "Don't give up on your dreams [of getting out of a FEMA trailer and into a new home]."

“They will remember this trip for years to come.  So will I.   Nicholas is already brainstorming new ideas.  He can’t wait for the next conference call!” –Task Force Mom, Kelly

Leaving LouisianaRk_nicholas
By Task Force Member Nicholas of Massachusetts

As the jazz music dies; the scent of beignets disappears; the wrought iron architecture ends; and the skyline of the French Quarter blends in with the horizon, the memory of the destruction comes back to mind. The bus rattles and shakes along the highway. We pass abandoned homes and empty lots – painful reminders of the past. I can’t help but think of everything lost during the storm. There are so many still left with so little. It makes me feel like I need to do more. Money is really necessary to help others. I am reinvigorated. I am inspired to take up the task where I left off. I will once again look for new and creative ways to get others interested in the Gulf Coast disaster. So many have forgotten. But not me. I want to help the poor people of Mississippi and Louisiana. And I will.

Click here to DONATE  to RandomKid’s “Rebuild the Gulf Fund.”  100% of your donation will go to our “Rebuild the Gulf” program, 90% of which goes directly to building a Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi, MS.

“Being a RandomKid parent has been an amazing experience!  I feel blessed and renewed as I see our children...our FUTURE... at work, giving so selflessly of themselves and their time!  I feel like I’m along for the ride of a lifetime as I see what these children are able to accomplish through their hopes, dreams, and energies!”  -Task Force Mom, Eldonna

A "Taste" of the GulfRk_task_force_2
By Task Force Member Emma of Iowa

(Editor's Note:  These are reflections written after a day when the task force got to experience many of the wonderful, unique things about the Gulf  Much of their time was spent in the New Orleans area on this day, and Gulf Port / Biloxi the other two days.)

Our day started with a LONG bus ride!  During the ride we rode on the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain.  It was really scary because the bridge went on and on for miles over nothing but water!  It was a funny feeling!

When our ride was done we ate brunch at Court of the Two Sisters in New Orleans!  It was really good food, and they had a jazz trio playing that was fun to listen to.  I tried crawfish for the very first time (I don't think I'll try it again for awhile!), and I also tried grits (I'll pass on those next time too!).  But the omelets were super, and so were the desserts!

After brunch we went on a ferry ride across the Mississippi River.  It was really cool! Even cars could drive right onto the ferry so they could cross the river! That was a strange sight!

After the ride we went to the Swamp Fest at the Audubon Zoo.  It was neat seeing al those animals!  It's hard to believe that alligators can be so dangerous because they looked really lazy and didn't even move a muscle!

Next we went to Cafe du Monde (that's where the picture of the task force above was taken), and ate bengiets.  They tasted like funnel cakes at our State Fair, only better!  I ate three! We then had about an hour to walk around in the French Quarter and do things. It was really fun.  My mom and I had a street artist draw our caricature!  We look kinda funny in it...he gave us real big heads and big teeth!

Then we went to the "old" Brock Elementary in Slidell that had been destroyed by Katrina.  We interviewed the principal, Rose Smith.  The school was all boarded up, but they're working on the inside and hope to be in by next school year.

We then saw the current school the Brock students are in.  They all have double-wide trailers for their classrooms.  It was neat seeing all the things they've been through and knowing that they have never given up hope.  Their trailer classrooms were actually very, very nice and big.  It was a nice feeling to know the kids can have good classrooms until they get back in their real school.

At the end of the day we ate at the Southside Cafe.  It was really good food...I had fried oysters!  I like oysters anyway, and these were yummy!

After that we went back to our stadium and went to bed.  It was a good, busy, and tasty day!

“We are honored to be hosting these children here in the gulf. They have proven to be a driving force in bringing awareness to our gulf rebuilding efforts, and we hope that their reports from the gulf will inspire many more children around the country to continue to help rebuild the thousands of homes that were destroyed by the 2005 hurricanes.” ~Kent Adcock, Director of Business Development & Community Relations for Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Carabiners:  A Kid’s Idea and a RandomKid “Micro Loan” are Catalyst to Gulf TripRkcarabiners
by Talia Leman, RandomKid CEO  and Task Force Member 

It all started with our carabiners. You know, those cool clips you can stick on your backpack, key chain, and just about anywhere else (They make GREAT GIFTS—HINT HINT!!   Click here to buy some!). Click here to read backstory on carabiners.

Kent Adcock with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of Habitat for Humanity received a carabiner at Habitat for Humanity’s “1000th Home Celebration.”  He thought they were pretty cool, and called us up to see if we’d partner with them to sell carabiners with their logo and our logo on them at a big event with professional golfers in November.   Next thing you know, he invited the task force to come!  But we still had a big hurdle:  How to pay for everyone to get there.  That’s where Target Corporation comes in.  Hooray for Target! They helped the entire task force come together in the gulf.  The Task Force has worked  together for over a year, and finally met in person for the first time.   We stayed in the Salvation Army’s VolunteerVillage in Biloxi, MS.  The Salvation Army ROCKS!  We met a really great kid named Conner there.  He and his family moved to Biloxi to help the Salvation Army after the 2005 hurricanes, and they’ve been serving volunteers in the MS Gulf Coast now for a year and a half.  I am happy to say that Conner is the newest member to our task force!

In Closing

by Anne Ginther, President of RandomKid

There are many more stories to tell.  "RandomKid National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf" members met kids who had to swim through their house to get to safety, parents who lost everything.  Can you imagine having survived such a disaster and then living in temporary housing for over two years, knowing that there may be thousands ahead of you on the building list? 

GOAL:  Break ground on a  RandomKid / Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi in 2008 = $25,000 needed!

The children on the Task Force were so moved by what they saw, that they have decided to set a goal to raise enough money to break ground on a MS Gulf Coast Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi in 2008.  These kids have already raised a lot of money with their entrepreunrial ideas.  They need to raise $25,000 more to be able to break ground on a house.  Please help these kids make their goal, and help a family into their home.

Please click here to donate online using any major credit card, or make out a check to

"RandomKid - Rebuild the Gulf",

and send it to: 


P.O. Box 2064

McKinney, TX 75070.

In the coming months we'll share more of stories, photos and video from the Task Force trip.  We'll also introduce you to the new things they are doing to help our fellow Americans in the gulf.

We thought we'd close with some favorite quotes from Task Force member Shelby:

*Be the CHANGE you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

*A big shot is a little shot that kept shooting.-Unknown

*You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however. -Richard Bach

Thank you for not only helping the gulf, but helping KIDS realize their power to help others.


The RandomKid National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf:

Ellison, Tiron, Shelby, Tonisha, Sarah, Talia, Lanna, Emma, Tonisha, and Conner

Anne Ginther, RandomKid President

RandomKid Quick Links


Other RandomKid Projects

About RandomKid

RandomKid Services

RandomKid Impact

The Kids on the Task Force

Join Mailing List

Comment: I written about RandomKid previously here .   You are going to hear more from me about RandomKid. I've just joined their board. I believe in their mission. I endorse their - our - mission because it is about the Kids and their ideas, and their leadership and their impact.   

Your financial support will help kids make difference.  I hope you'll consider making a donation.  You are not only investing in the future, but making a difference today.

Capability meets Competence in the Generous Web

The advance of technology and humanity have never been in tandem. They have been in relationship to one another. When a inventor creates a new technology, the affect upon people is not immediate.  We humans have to adapt, catch up, master all its new dimensions.  This is no more true than with the advent of computer technology and the Internet.

All sorts of cool applications have been developed that enable those of us who are woefully inadequate in so many areas to find a way to overcome our limitations.  As a pack rat of information, I think the computer hard drive is a God-send.  And I mean that in all its spiritual implications.

That said, it is true that we have a long way to go to catch up with the opportunities that the ubiquitous web provides us.  Ron Burt in the introduction to his new book, Brokerage and Closure - No, it isn't a sales book for stock brokers - writes,

“Technology has expanded our ability to communicate across geographic and social distance.  Our ability to coordinate across markets has expanded accordingly.  “Global” is the word of the day.  The limited scale of yesterday’s organizations is today inefficient.  We removed layers of bureaucracy and laid in fast, flexible communication systems.

Ask the leader of any large organization about the most difficult barriers he or she has to manage to harvest the coordination potential of our communication capabilities.  They inevitably talk about people issues, culture issues.  People continue to work the way they learned in legacy organizations, in yesterday’s organization silos.  We are capable of coordinating across scattered markets of human endeavor.  We are not yet competent in how to take advantage of the capability.

In this period of competence trying to catch up with capability, authority in the formal chain of command no longer provides the answers it once did.  Matrix structures have people reporting to multiple superiors, which weakens the authority of each reporting relationship.  Efficiencies gained by removing layers of bureaucracy shift control from vertical chains of authority to horizontal peer pressure.  Work once defined by superiors in the formal organization is now negotiated between colleagues who have no authority over one another.  People are more than ever the author of their jobs, not told what to do, so much as expected to figure it out.  Feeling that someone must be at fault, people blame one another for problems created by the capability-competence gap.  … Then as now, technological capability exceeds social competence and we blame one another for failure: “…if only we put in more effort and pulled together as a team.”

I see the Generous Web meme that Bill Kinnon discusses frequently at Achieveable Ends as a step along the path toward narrowing the gap between capability and competence.  The technology of old organizational systems is rapidly being displaced by flatter structures that require more personal initiative and character by members of the organization than in the past. 

This is why I see what I term the Circle of Impact as a helpful guide to understanding the relationship between people, purpose and structure.  In other words, the structure was the relationship in the past. Now relationships are on a more equal footing with organizational structures, and therefore how we conceptualize both relationships and structure becomes important.

Everyone of my clients has a need for better communication.  Is this simply a mechanical problem requiring better newsletters? No, I think it is a human relationship problem masked as a communication problem. To solve that problem requires people to no longer look to the organization to communicate to them, but rather that everyone has the responsibility to take the initiative to communicate with others.

So the dramatic change that most organizations need is not technological, but a human one.  If people do not change, then their organizations will decline. If they do change, like embracing the idea of the Generous Web, then we will see a dramatic improvement in the performance of their organizations.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Why don't people participate?

First Posted May 26. 2006, updated for today.

Have you ever been involved in an event where no one showed up?

This happened to me recently and it was embarassing to the hosts.  While I would have loved to have had a full room, the one guy who showed up more than made up for the lack of participation.

The question of why people don't participate in events is an important one.  It is also hardly ever discussed.  As a result, it is hardly ever understood.  Therefore there is little that a group can do to address the problem.

I've asked a few people their thoughts about this, and generally they think people don't participate because they don't understand the benefits.  That may explain some people, but certainly not 20 or 30 people, who were expected to attend. Some may have forgotten, and some may have had better things to do, after all it was a beautiful Saturday morning.

Here's my conclusion.

The reason for non-participation is not based on a personal cost-benefit analysis.  Rather, it has to do with the social context of the event. It isn't rational, but emotional.

Let me describe this one situation, generalizing it somewhat, to illustrate my point.

A group holds an event with a speaker or trainer.  If that person is not a "big-name",  then the reasons for showing up change.  Something other than the fascination with the "big name" has to emerge as a compelling reason to attend.

If the group is also not well known, then there exists some ambiguity about who these people are.  So, for a person to attend an event like this requires them to cross an undefined social boundary.  They have to venture into an unknown environment. 

I've encountered this before. Here are two examples.

Years ago, working at a small college, part of my job was to establish a student leaders program.  The idea was to attract the top leaders on campus and provide them a development program.  For three years, I tried, and it didn't work.  What I ultimately came to understand was the power of social connection.  Our response was to create two new service opportunities.  I went to campus organizations, residence halls and sports teams to ask them to participate as a group.  They jumped at the chance.  What I learned is that people are willing to try something new when friends join them in doing it.

A second event was a multi-community event focused on a specific community issue related to children.  We had a nationally recognized speaker who was well-known within a very select circle of people.  We formed a commitee of four who each represented a very distinct community of people, interests, occupations and location.  We made it very personal. Meaning we worked at making every event over the two days a gathering filled with people who were personally invited to attend.  This worked for most of the smaller events we hosted. The two community wide events filled the seats because the topic was compelling.  But it wasn't advertising that made it happen.  It was the word-of-mouth of people sharing with their friends that made it happen.

The lesson?  Pay attention to the social context. Seek to understand how the social bond between people can be used to create an event that is personal for everyone who attends. Remember comfort in new or strange settings is an emotional issue, not a technical one.

So, how does this translate to the issue of participation?

If there is no natural social connection between those whom the event planners want to attend, then they have to create it.


1. Identify groups of people where there is a social bond and invite the leader to bring his or her group.  Within the planning group, each person needs to identify people that they know well enough go to them and ask them to bring a group.

2.  Make the event personal for each person.  This means that members of the host organization have to recruit on a personal level. Invite them, pay for their registration fee or their meal.  They have to decide in their mind that this is an event they will share together.

3. Make it easy to cross social boundries to meet people. One way to do this is to highlight the "networking" value of the event. Come meet people, share with them your work or passion.

4. Create an environment of contribution. Give potential participants a way to contribute to the success of the event. Do this in your advertising. This means that the event needs to be about more than a presentation, it is about create a social environment that may last beyond the event itself.

5. Use social media technology to connect people before the event. The idea is that the event starts the moment that announcement of the event has been made. It you wait to create a social environment at the schedule evented, then you've lost the oppotunity to foster a environment of conversation that helps people feel comfortable in participating.

Social Capitalism

FastCompany has begun to feature social capital businesses with a ranking system. According to FastCompany, social capitalism is an entrepreneuriam movement that is focused on solving social problems.

There is a wealth of information that is valuable at this site.

These companies are graded for their-
* Social Impact
* Aspiration
* Entrepreneurship
* Innovation
* Sustainability

It is amazing what these people are doing.