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Last week I had the privilege of representing Jolkona at the White House Summit hosted by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, and where people such as the Founder of Meet-up, Change.org and representatives from Rock the Vote, Echoing Green, Code for America (to name but a few) gathered to help the Administration answer the question: What should the blue print for citizen innovation look like and how can the White House best support it.

In its essence, the goal of this invite-only summit led by the Director of the Administration, Jonathan Greenblatt, was to understand from top innovators working in the sector how their administration can best help social innovation scale. I was honored to be a part of the first of hopefully many more discussions to help our country move forward through social innovation and civic engagement.

Here’s five of my top take-aways from the summit:

  1. It is our moment to drive innovative social change to make our country better. Can’t agree more with this theme. We need people, especially young people to step up and support social change so that we’re all better off.
  2. The importance of non-profits for a healthy economy. The non-profit sector is growing and today makes up about 10% of job force.
  3. The importance of participating in civil society with regards to networking, building job skills, trust, community, and ultimately a greater level of economic growth. Networking and being an engaged citizen leads to more opportunities, jobs, and thriving communities.
  4. There seems to be a lack of civic engagement in our country and the biggest challenge is how the White House can help spread enthusiasm and passion to make action more infectious.
  5. It’s possible to do well and do good at the same time, and social enterprises are for-profit models of making change that exemplify this.  In addition, the idea of citizenship is not purely altruistic, but one of self-interest too.  It leads to stronger communities and economic growth if properly executed and understood.

We ended the day with a great discussion on the ways the White House can solve these issues, and here’s a few of my favorite ideas:

  1. Sharing stories of new citizens.  40% of Fortune 500 companies are started by immigrants or children of immigrants. We need to hear more of these stories so everyone can truly embraces new citizens in this country.
  2. Sharing positive stories of citizenship and social innovation around the country. Every day we hear stories of failure and are disillusioned by the power individuals wield. We need to share more positive impact stories to help inspire and re-engage people to get involved.
  3. Leveraging the power of the White House to convene by hosting summits like this around the country to empower local leaders to spread civic engagement in their communities.
  4. Funding should not only be available for evidence-based programs, but we need to take risks and provide more funding for new innovative approaches that have potential to scale and make larger impacts and create more jobs.

We ended the summit energized with the idea that we must all re-commit to building up our citizenship muscle. After an inspiring day with amazing leaders in the non-profit and social innovation space, I left pondering what I could pledge to do to help spread the idea of civic engagement and this is what I decided:

One of the common themes discussed was the power of storytelling and collective action – two things that are absolutely to Jolkona’s mission and model of giving. Sharing powerful stories inspires and engages people to action they would have otherwise not taken part in. In addition  to our featured donor and volunteer posts that share the stories of how individual donors and volunteers are making a huge impact, I’m committed to showcasing stories of how each partner we work with is changing lives with the support of our community. We’ll start featuring two partners a month to really showcase the power small actions and funding can truly make. Hopefully this will inspire even more people to get involved with Jolkona or any other cause that they feel passionate about.

To follow tweets from the summit, search for #WHsummit and #socialinnovaton and tweets my tweets at @nadiamahmud or @gl_weekend who helped facilitate the summit.

To bring a little light to the recent June Gloom, we would like to take a moment to recognize Nancy Xu as this month’s featured volunteer. Nancy is a program manager at Microsoft for the Widows Design Studio and first got involved with Jolkona through the giving campaign events we planned at Microsoft in 2010. She has been a volunteer ever since. Over the years, Nancy has worked on several projects for Jolkona, including partner trip coordination and creative storytelling. However, most recently, Nancy has been working tirelessly with two other stellar volunteers: Punit Java, and Pavan Potaraju on building our first Windows phone app called Change by Jolkona – an innovative mobile app that lets you track the progress of a habit you wish to change while making a positive impact in the world through Jolkona’s diverse range of partner projects. Nancy was in charge of the app design and some of the management behind it. The app will be going live shortly so stay tuned!

Before working on the design for the Windows mobile app, Nancy volunteered on several video projects for Jolkona, including our most recent production for our Hulu PSA. Prior to that, she also helped produce and direct our Kids Give Back video and our short video Why Give. Nancy is a tremendous example of how young professionals can use their passion and professional skill set to give back. By pursuing her passion of storytelling, over the years she has helped Jolkona tell our story and those of our partners. She embodies what volunteering should be about: aligning your skills and passions to make a positive impact and further an organization’s mission.

Here’s what some of our volunteers have said about working with Nancy:

“Nancy is a wonderful volunteer for Jolkona. She has so much passion for her work and has helped develop amazing media campaigns, such as spearheading the new Jolkona PSA spot for Hulu. Despite having a full-time job at Microsoft, she pledges much of her time actively volunteering and participating in so many events and partner visits. Nancy is an indispensible asset and Jolkona is lucky to have her on the team.”
Rekha Ravindran

“Nancy is a priceless asset to Jolkona. She has boundless passion for Jolkona and we have always been able to count on her to get the job done – and how! She is a big reason for our successful partner visits in East Africa and South America in the last 2 years – it would not have been possible without her! Her significant contribution to our Hulu video, other video editing projects, and the case study (in business club style) she did with the students at Generation Rwanda in December 2010 exemplify her extraordinary ability to take on a challenge and do it well!
Working with Nancy over the past 2+ years has been an incredible experience. We are lucky to have her as part of Jolkona!”
Pavan Potaraju

“Nancy is super passionate about her video/media work for Jolkona. I had the opportunity to travel with Nancy to South America, especially in Peru where it was just the two of us. She is deeply understanding and respectful of other cultures, as well as compassionate. She is also delightfully friendly and blissfully easy to get along with. When we interacted with a Partner in Peru, Nancy was exceptionally well-prepared, exploring all angles of their work with her intelligent and well-thought out questions – I was most impressed!”
Chi Do

One of the things I’ve come to admire and respect most about Nancy over the years is her fastidious organization and supreme ability to execute on projects, which I’m sure she’s garnered from her Program Manager position at Microsoft. These skills have been clearly demonstrated on all the Jolkona projects she has volunteered with. Jolkona is remarkably fortunate to have the dedication and support of so many amazing volunteers, and Nancy is no exception. Thank you, Nancy, for being one of our rockstar volunteers and a stalwart advocate for Jolkona.

Are you in interested in volunteering? Do you want to use your passions and skills to help build a new generation of philanthropists? Find out more information by emailing us at contact@jolkona.org. You can also keep up with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

 

While it seems every week is volunteer week at Jolkona, we couldn’t let this week go without a BIG shoutout to our AMAZING volunteers since it is National Volunteer Week. At Jolkona, we have over 40 committed volunteers who support our work, helping with anything and everything to support our mission, including things like writing for our blog, running our social media, PR, building mobile apps, conducting surveys, graphic design, event planning and more! In addition, we have an incredible volunteer board and advisory board who help provide guidance and support to Jolkona and who we can’t thank enough.

In case you didn’t know, National Volunteer Week has been around since 1974 and is all about inspiring, recognizing, and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities—and what better way than by volunteering, right?  This week is about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, in unison, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.

National Volunteer Week is also about taking action, encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change—discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to foster positive transformation.

We feature volunteers on a monthly basis at Jolkona as well as at the end of the year, not only to recognize them for their efforts and contribution to Jolkona and society, but also to help inspire others to volunteer as well. I truly believe that often times by volunteering the volunteers get more out of it then they’d imagine.  So many friendships have been formed through our volunteers and I think volunteering with anything you feel passionate about adds more purpose and substance to your life.

We started our volunteer program out of necessity because of our limited budget to hire people.  And what we found was that there are so many people who want to volunteer more than just their time, but they really want to offer their skills to make a difference.  So at Jolkona our volunteer program is all skilled-based and lines up with people’s skills and interests.  I hope to continue to see Jolkona work with such passionate volunteers and that volunteerism grows more and more every day.

What sort of volunteer work do you enjoy?  If you volunteer with Jolkona, what do you enjoy the most about it?

Check out some of our past featured volunteer posts for more reasons why you should get involved in volunteering in your community.

Happy National Volunteer Week everyone!  And a special THANK YOU to all the Jolkona volunteers – past and present – that have supported us over the years.  We truly would not be here today without your support!

 

I first met Melinda through one of our other volunteers back in 2009 when Jolkona was still being run out of my kitchen. Melinda loved what Jolkona stood for and immediately started off volunteering on a few projects, and then quickly jumped into joining the leadership team as the Director of Events. During her time in that role, she was in charge of overseeing a brilliantly successful Microsoft Giving Campaign, played a key part in the structure and direction of Jolkona as an early decision maker on our leadership team, and helped coordinate some of our partnered events that year. She then joined the communications team as our Marketing Communications Content Manager where she employed her laser sharp editing skills to help with content creation and marketing. This year she has mainly been working on a project to help our website tell the stories of our partners better, and we are excited to start intrdoucing updates in the next few months that she herself spearheaded. Melinda recently relocated to DC so we’re sad we don’t get to have her physical presence around as much; however, she is still a strong part of the Jolkona team and community and continues to volunteer remotely on several marketing and content projects for us.

Melinda also played a major role in some of our partnerships with Waggener Edstrom, including our pro bono ideation session and two matching campaigns. What I personally love about Melinda is her passion for making a difference, her organization skills, and her irresistibly charming and light-hearted personality.

Here’s what a few of our volunteers had to say about their time working with her:

“Melinda is a tremendous asset to the Jolkona team. She stepped up and took the role of Director of Events in 2010 and provided invaluable direction to the team. She always encourages new ideas. She is very meticulous and organized. It is a delightful to work with Melinda on any project – she just knows how to get the job done perfectly and on time. To sum it up, if I had to make a list of people I would like to work with on a project, Melinda would definitely be on that list!” – Pavan

“Melinda is one of the most dedicated and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. She pours her heart and soul into every project for Jolkona and loves to make a difference for her partners and the organization.”
– Aaron Alhadeff

“Working with Melinda is always incredible – she has an extraordinary knack for developing compelling stories that resonate with our donors and audiences and also is aware of how to work within the limited resources of a start-up NGO. She brings a wealth of information and experience to her volunteer work at Jolkona and we are lucky to have her as part of our team.” – Seema

Thank you Melinda for your passion, leadership, and contribution to Jolkona over the last few years.  Jolkona couldn’t be where we are today without you and we are honored to have your continued support and dedication to our cause. We hope you have gotten just as much out of volunteering with as you’ve given in.


Have you volunteered for a non-profit? Do you think you get more or less out of what you put in?

GET INVOLVED!