PayPal App: Not just for bills, but for donations too.

Earlier this week PayPal added a donation feature to their iphone app. It lets people donate to more than 23,000 charities in the U.K, U.S. and Canada.

Their aim is to simplify the donation process to allow charities to reach more donors.

Will it open the doors to a new segment of donors? Or are people either givers or not, regardless of how easy it might be for them to open their digital wallet? An interesting one to keep an eye on. Good work PayPal.

Emergency Response 2.0 – Tweet it & they will come.

From large scale natural disasters such as Haiti, to neighbourhood  the-girls-are-stuck-in-the-drain scares, social media is changing the way we communicate in times of emergencies.

We all know twitter is a real time source of communication – exactly what is needed in an emergency response when every second counts. Social media not only facilitates a mass communication outlet for a victim of an emergency but also allows individuals to become part of the emergency response itself.

In a recent study conducted by American Red Cross the majority of online users said they would use social media to seek help for themselves or others during an emergency. And then almost 3 out of 4 people said that they would expect help to come less than an hour after they posted their call for help on twitter or facebook.

Governments and aid organizations are attempting to step up and put resources behind strategies to monitor this valuable online chatter. But whether they currently have the means to effectively use the information coming in is up for debate. Organisations are pushing us back to traditional forms of communication when an emergency strikes, and encouraging the public to use the emergency phone lines for the first point of call over relying on twitter or facebook to instigate a response.

Not only are there questions of monitoring the content, but also the standard authenticity and privacy issues that are tripping up the authorities. (Is little Jimmy, really little Jimmy, and did he fall down the well?)

“The social web is creating a fundamental shift in disaster response – one that will ask emergency managers, government agencies and aid organizations to mix time-honored expertise with real-time input from the public,” said Gail McGovern, American Red Cross president and CEO. “We need to work together to better respond to that shift.”

There is no doubt that social media is an invaluable resource for local emergency teams, governments and international aid organisations. And the more reliant that we as the public become on the inter-web for day -to-day comms, the heavier the reliance will be on it during a time of emergency. But how the public and the experts can work together to leverage the benefits of this live feed of situation updates is the question.

Would you expect some-one to respond if you posted a call for help on twitter?

24,000 mothers will lose a child today.

We take access to quality health care for granted. Even if you refuse to pay for private health cover, and complain about the waiting times in the public system, you still have medicare and a qualified doctor is never too far away.  You can also pick up the phone and chat to a qualified nurse about a weird stomach cramp at any hour free of charge or do self-diagnosis via google. Accessible medical assistance does save lives, and not everyone is privy to such a service.

Every year 50 million woman in the developing world give birth with no professional help and 8.8 million children and newborns die from easily preventable or treatable causes. 24,000 mothers mourn the loss of a child each and every day.

If these woman and children had access to health professionals millions of lives would be saved. And then if these trained health professionals had access to technology… well the ripple effects would be remarkable. As discussed in the PSFK Future of Health Report, recent advances in technology could dramatically decrease the barriers to medical advice in less developed markets.

The State of the World’s Mothers Report 2010, ranked 160 countries based on mothers’ and children’s health, educational and economic status. Norway ranked number 1, Australia 2, the U.S. 28 and Afghanistan last.  The differences between Australia and Afghanistan are so severe, they are not even comparable – check out the table below.

Australia Afghanistan
Average years of formal education a woman receives 21 4
Number of children that die before the age of 5 1 in 166 More than 1 in 4
Risk of maternal death 1 in 13,300 1 in 8
Average female life span 84 44

The varying level of access to qualified health professionals corresponds directly to the level of health of woman and children in particular.

Trained health workers are present at pretty much every birth in Australia, in comparison to only 14% of births being attended to in Afghanistan.

Over the last 20 years certain developing countries have shown that through investing in training of female health workers lives are saved. Bangladesh has reduced its under-5 mortality rate by 64% due to tens of thousands of female health workers who have promoted family planning, safe motherhood and essential care for newborns. Nepal has achieved similar reductions in maternal and child mortality as a result of training 50,000 female community health volunteers in rural areas.

The role that technology could play in expanding the network of health workers in developing countries, and strengthening their skills and impact is enormous.  Through ideas such as HealthPal, employing a universal health language and making live videos of health workers– all proposed in response to the PSFK Future of Health Report – the gaping health disparity between countries such as Australia and Afghanistan could begin to be diminished.

Check out the short flick below from Save the Children UK about their campaign to make Africa fit for mothers and children.

Who would you give $10 to?

Acts of generosity are contagious. Giving breeds giving. Water the tree and it will give you perfect apples… or was it a plant and flowers. You get the idea.

One man is putting our child hood dreams in humanity to the test. A Year of Giving.

One man. Giving $10 to a different person every day for a year. Simple. He is writing about each person he gives to over on his blog. He is not trying to change lives with $10. Only to inspire the act of giving. You can’t argue with that.

I have been following his blog. He is now up to day 219. Great place to go for some inspirational reading and to re-light your there-are-good-people-out-there fuse.

On the other end of the scale. Someone ran into my car while it was parked outside my house the other day. No-one left a note.

Karma is a bitch.

This is not a sob story

Priyani lives on $2 a day

Priyani has been living on $2 a day for the past month

Today I met Priyani. A young girl living off $2 a day in Melbourne.

She’s sitting at fold-up camper table in the middle of Bourke St Mall.

It’s 1pm, lunch rush-hour in the CBD. The pretty Indian-looking girl is sitting in between two giggling friends, eating rice from a tupperware container.

Shyly, they offer me a small bag of rice. This will be the 27th day Priyani has had rice for lunch. And she’ll have another bowl for dinner tonight.

She’s not homeless or broke. In fact, Priyani works 40 hours a week in a restaurant.

The rice (and oats for breakfast) diet is part of a campaign to help raise awareness in Australia of extreme poverty.

Live Below The Line in Bourke St

Living below the poverty line on Bourke St

Around 1500 Australians are joining her this week for the official Live Below The Line campaign, which runs from 2-6th August.

So what’s it like to live for $2 a day in Melbourne?  She tells me she constantly feels tired, and her memory has gone. Such are the symptoms of malnutrition. For the full experience, check out her open diary.  She’s aiming to raise $500 toward education programs.

Onto the campaign.

Live Below the Line logo

Live Below The Line is a good example of making the most your ‘flag-wavers’, those like Priyani who are active participants in your cause. By helping them to be as connected as possible – to their online friends and to other participants – you start to build a strong web of support. Traditionally, online sponsorship  models like Everyday Heroes only allow individuals to interact with their supporters.

All the content on the is share-friendly; from venting about your hunger on a hosted-blog, discussing the drama with fellow faminers on the forum, to sharing out to other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  It’s easy and integrated.

There’s a genuine community here, heavily populated by Gen Y’s.  It’s like a pimped-out 40-hour famine mashed up with the 2.0 picnic-challenge.

Lesson for short-term awareness campaigns: set up a challenge that’s both relatively achievable and relevant, and provide your participants with the right tools to share their common experience.