A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in an activity with my fellow CIDI experts in which we looked back on 2015 and recorded our favorite highlights. After that, we looked to the year ahead, imagined all that could be and recorded the most impressive achievements we could envision. Finally, we analyzed past successes and discussed ways in which we could do even better this year, like a bunch of athletes looking for that next PR. It was both humbling and exciting to look at areas where we have succeeded in sharing Smart Compassion ideas and messaging, whether through Diaspora outreach, volunteer training, PSAid campaigning, or through social media, and then dream about tripling our impact in 2016! I dream of Smart Compassion messaging reaching so many people, it enables relief workers all over the world to provide people with exactly what they need when they need it.




While doing this year-in-review exercise, I started thinking about the role visioning has in obtaining goals and dreams. To me, goals and dreams are similar. Goals are more immediate and short term and dreams are more long term. Goals are the expected results to which all of my efforts are directed; dreams are what I imagine a successful end result will be like. Goals give me a framework within which to focus my efforts and eliminate actions that won’t contribute to achieving those goals. I believe developing a clear sense of vision is the key to making dreams a reality.

Envisioning our goals and dreams allow us to see our achievement in perspective. We allow ourselves to peel back the layers of our success and analyze events that were influential in making it a reality. In this process, we identify where we are in the process of achieving our vision. Setting the necessary goals to success requires strategic vision. With activities like crafting a vision board, creating a year-in-review visualization, or even purchasing a new planner in the beginning of the New Year, we can record goals to keep us on track and accountable to our dreams.

When we are working to make a situation better, we can measure our progress by reviewing proven tactics along the way to achieving our goals. For donors who wish to have the greatest impact in the lives of people who suffer, we are happy to offer tips and tactics to maximize the good that donors want to do. Come vision with us!

2016 Goals for Giving

2016 Goals for Giving by CIDI Staff

“Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts were unnoticed.”

So if you haven’t heard, #GivingTuesday is all the rage around the holidays! Recognized globally on December 2nd, this day is dedicated to bringing communities, families, organizations, causes and students together for one common goal: to give.

There are so many ways to give back;  whether it’s done anonymously or intentionally, the warm feeling you’re rewarded with is indescribable. The holidays are a time where you are around people you care about the most and every memory is special and imbeds itself into your psyche. That’s what makes it the best time to start traditions; giving a reoccurring role for all to take on and share with their other communities and families.

Whether you choose to give your time, talent, or money, giving back can be done in any fashion. This day fits perfectly between Thanksgiving and Christmas time. So with one day encouraging you to give thanks, another infecting you with cheeriness and acts of generosity, and the one in between actively encouraging you to give, why not donate the best way possible?

Giving money assures that you’ve done your part, and the recipient, who knows the situation best, has comfort in knowing a need is about to be met. I think that is the most important position to view donating from: the position of the recipient. Maybe the need is food and not clothing? How much? What do people need or want to eat? These questions will circulate through the head of the giver who practices #smartcompassion, a giver who channels the desire to give back in the most effective way.

We’re no strangers to donating and giving back. Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts went unnoticed. I think giving money to a friend or family member and not expecting it in return is considered donating. To me, the act of giving itself is what is appreciated by the donor, the recipient, and everyone else.

If you stop and think about it, money travels faster than goods. Cash can meet any need and fill any gap in most circumstances. I think when giving cash, it feels just as good learning that I was responsible for helping build the infrastructure of the organization that feeds children after school as it would feel being responsible for the food they are eating.

With hash tags like #unselfie and #GivingTuesday, this holiday is an excellent way to help push social impact while also giving millennials a chance to be a part of something emerging before our eyes on the platforms we know and love! Great job New York’s 92nd Street Y.



Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

Safiya1

Greetings from CIDI headquarters in Washington, DC!

I am thrilled to be working with the creative, thoughtful team at CIDI, whose work contributes to making a positive difference in the lives of people affected by disasters around the world.
Prior to working with CIDI, I served as Executive Director of the George Mason University Institute for Immigration Research (IIR). I led an academic institution whose mission is to influence the passage of immigration reform in the U.S. by showcasing how immigrants provide vital contributions to the American economy and society of each city, state and the nation as a whole.

As a former refugee from Somalia, I have a deep, personal understanding of the critical role diaspora communities play in humanitarian response. I have witnessed diaspora, through outreach and partnerships, support donors and response agencies in providing essential relief to disaster survivors quickly and effectively. In the past 8 years, I have spearheaded diaspora engagement initiatives in a number of capacities including public-private partnerships and community development.

I am honored to lead another collaboration effort; this time between the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) and the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI). Please join me on Thursday November 12, 9am-12pm, on the George Mason University Arlington Campus for a panel discussion on “The Contribution of Immigrant and Diaspora Communities in U.S. Disaster Response Missions.” Reserve your seat now by RSVP-ing here
I look forward to seeing you at the panel discussion!





Safiya Khalid

When you read about or see video footage after a disaster do you feel overwhelmed? You know you feel compassion and a desire to help but the situation is probably more complicated than what you alone can manage.

There are plenty of things in this world that each of us would like to change. We want to make a difference for good, but the problems can seem so large that we are unsure where to start. As an Online Communications Specialist here at USAID CIDI, I have spent a great deal of time engaging in online conversations about the most effective ways to help communities after disaster strikes. Some of us don’t know what’s needed, some of us don’t know how to reach those in need, and some of us just don’t know where to begin. And the amount of money cited in appeals by aid agencies can provoke a case of sticker shock.




Want to make a difference in the world? Many times, small and simple is the best way to start. When I want to make a difference, I follow these 6 simple tricks to help people who need it:

  1. Plug into groups that share your interests: Chances are you aren’t the only one driven to help others. Nonprofit coalitions, like InterAction, track development and aid all over the world. InterAction’s members explore common dilemmas and seek solutions, building solidarity.
  2. Send cash to a trusted organization: Are you looking to connect with grassroots projects around the world? Log on and pick your interest! GlobalGiving can connect you with organizations working to educate children, feed the hungry, preserve our environment, build houses, train people in new skills, or do hundreds of other amazing things.
  3. Pictures and Videos Galore!: PSAid is our annual contest, open to the public, that attracts creative Public Service Announcements that encourage Americans to practice Smart Compassion when helping people affected by emergencies. Pick one that speaks to you and help spread the message!
  4. “Connect Before you Collect!”: One of my favorite CIDI phrases promoted by our director, Juanita Rilling, it’s easy to recite and even easier to remember. The next time you‘re participating in a canned food, coat or toy drive, just simply ask, “Have we connected with an organization who’s in need of these items to make sure they’re really needed?”
  5. Volunteer locally: Are you interested in volunteering your skills to help rebuild strong, resilient communities but don’t have any experience? No worries! With organizations like National VOAD, you can work with nonprofit organizations and volunteer your services in all phases of a disaster.
  6. Spread the word, Cash is Best: You can help after disasters by sharing within your community, schools, etc. about needs-based assistance and how Smart Compassion does the most good for the most people quickly! Use our Toolkit for Giving to convey the best way for your community to support international disaster relief.

Smart Compassion is all about making a difference by ensuring that your donation that has a positive impact on survivors and their communities – materially, economically and environmentally. For more information about making a difference in the most effective way, read more about USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information and be a force for good.

In the summer of 2005 I worked at a summer camp, earning enough money to purchase my school uniforms and excited by the prospect of riding Metro without an adult. When not working I was glued to the television, watching events unfold after Hurricane Katrina and related flooding in New Orleans . Thousands of moms, dads, children, and elderly people were in desperate need of relief. So many thoughts raced through my mind. What could they have done to prepare for this? What would I do in their situation? What can I do to help them? As days passed, I saw more and more initiatives to support the survivors of New Orleans, yet none of them inspired me to act.

Soon, I started high school; classes and extracurricular activities occupied by mind and time until one announcement thrust Hurricane Katrina back into my consciousness. All after-school activities in the gymnasium had been cancelled or moved to a nearby recreation center so the gym could shelter survivors of Hurricane Katrina who relocated to DC.. There were no ready answers to our many questions: how were they chosen, did they volunteer to come to DC, when would they arrive, how long would they stay, and will they have beds and supplies? This sparked a conversation with a girl in my homeroom who moved to DC following flood warnings in New Orleans. Her stories about how drastically her life changed left me sympathetic and scrambling to grasp that we are all at risk of life-changing events. How can we prepare for the unpredictable?

Preparing for emergencies within our families and communities is important and potentially life-saving. So is preparing oneself as a donor, being ready to give aid to people impacted by disasters. Are you prepared to help others in the most effective and efficient way possible? When disasters strike, many people’s first impulse is to collect food or clothing; it is not unusual for community and local groups to collect thousands of pounds of material – typically used clothing, canned food and bottled water – realizing only afterward that they do not know whether it’s actually needed, how they will transport it or who will distribute it. We all want to help affected families in difficult circumstances, and it is important to remember that material donations not specifically requested by relief organizations can actually slow the process of delivering essential supplies, as they take away precious space, personnel, time and other resources from life-saving activities. For those who want to send material things, it’s important to “connect before you collect” and identify a relief or charitable organization beforehand that needs and can distribute the collection. Charitable preparedness!

Being prepared is a skill and it can be a challenge. In light of National Preparedness Month, I am reminded of that summer before high school. There was little difference between what my classmate shared and what the news recounted after Hurricane Katrina; it was the same story from two different perspectives. Both of them inspired me to think hard about priorities in preparedness. As a donor, I may be tempted to donate clothes and other things I no longer have need for, but realized that the best way for me to thoughtfully express compassion starts with being absolutely positive that what I give is needed and requested.




That’s why Cash is Best! Cash donations to relief and charitable organizations working in disaster-affected communities can be used immediately to purchase supplies that are urgently needed, while supporting the local economy. Sending coats that don’t fit any more or out-of-season shoes to disaster sites can disrupt relief operations by taking up space needed to manage and distribute life-saving supplies. Therefore, it’s important for donors to understand that in-kind donations can be useful in the right circumstances but very harmful in others. For more information on donations and why cash is best, please visit: www.cidi.org.

Smart Compassion has recently been an important issue at the “Ocean State” of Rhode Island.  At the University of Rhode Island’s College of Business Administration, students of the introductory Operations and Supply Chain Management course – BUS 355, taught by Professor Koray Özpolat, have been offered an optional semester-long project called “Humanitarian Logistics Project”

Building on their logistics and supply chain training, teams of three to four students design public service announcements (PSA) to inform the American public about the most effective way to donate in response to the international disasters. These PSAs are then submitted to the national PSAid contest run by USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI).

The outcome has been fantastic. In 2012 and 2013, four URI teams were nationally recognized in this contest which created lots of buzz in the university and state media (below, see a PSA that was awarded the 2nd place in 2012). Not only the winning teams but many other students doing this project received satisfaction. A student evaluated the project as follows:

URI info

Educators willing to adopt a similar project may take a look at the Özpolat et al. (2014)* paper recently published at the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education.

Overall, contests, similar to PSAid, can successfully be integrated into syllabi of college courses as semester-long team-based projects. While only six PSAs are recognized annually, all contestants are actual winners because their entries are ever-green at the contest website serving the humanitarian relief community in educating their donors.

* Özpolat K.,Chen Y., Hales, D., Yu D., and Yalcin M. G., 2014. “Using Contests to provide Business Students Project-Based Learning in Humanitarian Logistics: PSAid Example”, Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 12(4), 269-285.

 

event invite

Join us as we host a panel discussion on:

Diaspora: who are they, why do they matter, and how are they impacting the economics of disaster relief in an increasingly globalized world? We want to take the mystery out of this very diverse, dynamic topic and engage with those who are active diaspora working in development.

RSVP here, from now until seats are gone, so hurry!

We’ve all heard of, or even volunteered for, popular non-profit organizations like United Way, Salvation Army, Goodwill, American National Red Cross, and YMCA to name a few. Non-profit organizations rally around a common principle, using profits to invest back in projects that address the organization’s interests. The ones we are most familiar with have a charity or a public service component. They welcome and enable people to contribute their time, skills, efforts, and money for a greater good. Organizations that do this play an integral role in the general welfare and economic and social interests of our communities – solving problems and enriching the community. Non-profits can work domestically or internationally on a range of issues, from addressing immediate hardships for people to preserving macro and micro aspects of cultures.

Do you have an interest in working for the greater good? Human rights, gender equity, environmentally sound development, assisting refugees – I bet there is an organization that exists to address what you care about! Are you interested in giving to or volunteering for a non-profit but you’re not sure what charities are nearby and who needs help? As part of my focus on the Back-to-School season, I’ve compiled a list of non-profit organizations, both domestic and international, that address some of the issues related to going back to school like access to food, books, and a well-rounded education. Thanks to websites like Global Giving and InterAction, we have the resources to explore and support trusted organizations that serve nearly every country and every cause in the world.

Here are some organizations and projects that I have learned about that might interest you:

Help 95 DC Kids Extend Learning After School: New Community for Children plans to serve students from Kindergarten through 12th grade and support them in reaching their full academic potential, preparing for college, and giving back time and talent to their communities.

Increase Graduation Rates In Little Rock: City Year, of Little Rock, Arkansas, is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for low-income youth. City Year’s Long-Term Impact goal is to ensure 80% of the students in the schools they serve reach the 10th grade.

The Lunch Box Expansion Project: Chef Ann Foundation believes by changing the way children eat and think about food, we are helping to create a future generation of informed consumers and parents whose food choices will support sustainable, healthy food systems.

Goods for the Greater Good: Good 360 transforms lives and strengthens communities by mobilizing companies to donate needed materials. The non-profit leader in product philanthropy distributes goods to a network of more than 32,000 prequalified charities, schools and libraries on behalf of America’s top brands.

Pact:Pact’s vision is a world where those who are poor and marginalized exercise their voice, build their own solutions, and take ownership of their future. Pact accomplishes this by strengthening local capacity, forging effective governance systems, and transforming markets into a force for development.

Donating money to a non-profit enables it to utilize the funds in a manner that best serves its goal. Donating your time and skills to an organization locally means you understand the importance of the cause and think it is valuable enough to your community for you to contribute. However you choose to start the year, I encourage you to donate your time, effort, skills, or money to an organization you believe supports the future you want to see.

Class is dismissed! You’ve successfully completed the final course in giving back for back-to-school. What did you learn? What do you plan to share? I want to make the final lesson more active than the previous two and hope that my reflections on the fundamentals in starting the school year encouraged you to reminisce as well. I have a couple of questions for you!

How important can a great foundation be for a student to succeed?

How do you define foundation?

What’s your favorite organization? Is it one of the non-profits we mentioned above?

Share with us below, on your Facebook, or on Twitter! We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

Going back to school always gave me mixed emotions. Not every year, but at every stage of my education, I felt like expectations of me were bumped up a notch or two. Like going to elementary school after being in daycare, I remember feeling that routine was everything and as long as I remembered how each day was ordered I would be fine. Moving on to middle school after elementary, my new routine included remembering my locker combination and the order and location of seven subject periods. In high school I balanced finding time for my social life while remaining steadfast in my studies. As for college, routine went out the window and time management took over as a preeminent skill to have. Actually, practicing time management in college enhanced lots of other skills for me, including critical thinking, weighing options, and strategizing. Ultimately I realized that while every school year would require an increasing level of life-skills, each year would also involve a lot of repetition.

I am thankful for the things I knew would ensure my success in school. Taking care of updating my immunization records, keeping a supply of crisp uniforms, and enjoying a hot breakfast each morning gave my parents confidence that I would succeed. New school supplies, new shoes, and a fresh learning environment gave me higher heights to reach. A new grade level, more friends, and increasing responsibilities made me feel like I was in a perfect position to excel. Looking back from elementary to undergrad I’m reminded of that old saying that “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. I understand now that repetition of familiar routines helped to ease my nervousness in each new environment, and each new success builds on prior successes.  Fortunately for me, I had familiar and new things to look forward to every year. But many of us don’t.

I can imagine the disappointment felt by a student who starts a new school year feeling unprepared and without many successes to build on. There may be concern for the health of a child who doesn’t have updated immunizations and records. There may be feelings of embarrassment for students who return to class with uniforms that have more wears than those of classmates. And I’m pretty sure it’s hard to focus on the lesson at hand when your tummy is rumbling. New school supplies and new shoes are so exciting to return to school with and many of us don’t fully appreciate how blessed we are to be able to have those things. Determined is the child who manages to complete each grade level, make new friends, and handle new responsibilities despite these obstacles.  Try to imagine the difficulty of not having these resources year after year. Repetition of their absence becomes disturbing over time. The repeated cycle of a lack of preparedness at each stage of your educational career can easily become disturbing. Disturbing and discouraging.

For me, the repetition has changed. This year isn’t about new uniforms or new grade levels, or even a hot breakfast when I’m battling the clock. This year is about new responsibilities, new dreams, new lessons, and maybe most important, new ways of compassion toward others. I’m learning that there are many nonprofit organizations that understand a child’s foundation of success in education goes a long way. They understand that without the proper tools for success children will have more distractions than just their classmates. The distractions hold them back from learning, which sometimes causes a lack of desire to learn.

Helping others and giving back is a substantial way to contribute to your own success, in education and otherwise. Instead of purchasing uniforms for myself, I could donate to an organization that provides uniforms for students who can’t afford them. I could donate to a back-to-school drive that provides students with the right course materials. Or even donating to a favorite health organization that gives free immunization shots could help.

Repeating something good over and over again can make it a habit. How amazing would it be to make a habit of donating to your favorite organization when the back to school season arrives? Cool right? Need help finding some?

Stay tuned for third period where we discuss nonprofit organizations who agree with the fundamentals of back to school.

Feeling sad that summer is coming to an end? That’s normal! Instead, think about all the memories you and friends will make and share during this school year. Or what about all the new faces you’ll soon learn to love? It’s not all that bad. Actually, it’s pretty great!

My name is Lauren Chatman, and I am the new Social Media Specialist for the Center for International Disaster Information at USAID. Although I am no longer physically in a classroom I am in a new, active learning environment every day. I live by the saying, “I have always loved school, and therefore, I will forever be a student.” Isn’t it amazing the effect that time has on your perception of things? Last year at this time, I was gearing up for the final semester of my undergrad career and now I am reflecting on the many contributions to my success in school, and hopefully, in life. Please join me in Part One of a three part blog series highlighting the “back-to-school” season

The  first day of school can forecast the rest of the year, depending on how you look at it. Put another way, your perspective of your first day in class can create your attitude about the upcoming year in a positive or negative way. What will you decide?

There are a number of things I found during my time at school that lead to a successful school year:

Getting enough rest: Getting 8 to 9 hours of rest helps you stay alert so you don’t miss anything vital on the big day . Being well rested can result in you boosting your brainpower and making better daily decisions.

Eating a healthy breakfast: Breakfast is also a way to recharge the brain and body causing you to be more efficient throughout the day. Eating a well-balanced breakfast in the morning ensures you’ll be able to not only concentrate but also perform better in the classroom . So not only are you well rested you’re pretty full too.

Preparing your clothes the night before: Whether you’re returning to class in uniform or in style, nothing helps to smooth the morning panic of getting ready like being prepared. This forces you to not only identify but eliminate any issues up and coming.

New school supplies: Having color-coordinated or thematic supplies or a fresh pack of pens and paper is exciting and functional! Having brand new materials can spark your enthusiasm and creativity and encourages organization . Not only does having your supplies help in confidence, but, colors also help establish familiarity, recognition, and symbolism.

Bright eyes and bushy tails:  School comes just in time to rescue us from the last days of summer, refreshed and renewed from the sun and the time off. You’re full of energy and eager for new adventures after a fun-filled, busy summer. Channel that energy!

With memories of undergrad studies fresh in my mind and back-to-school season approaching, I can’t help but to have some mixed emotions. As I look back on all the things I considered vital to a successful school year, not one was more important than another. They all can mold us into the successful students we want to be .

And not surprisingly, I’m finding that they work in the post-graduate world as well! Getting enough rest, well balanced breakfast, having the right materials, and so on are all essential to success in the wider world as well. Can you imagine how hard it might be to reach your full potential without doing one or two of the things listed? If not, lucky you, but I bet most people would agree. Stay tuned for blog post #2 where we discuss the importance of helping others where help is needed.

It was a pleasure meeting you– see you soon and best of luck to you in the new school year!