August 31, 2008

Gustav + Social Media = Better Than Katrina

With the impending Worst Deja Vu In History looming on the horizon, social media has attempted to come to the rescue. Over the last year or so, I have had many conversations with people about what it means to be part of the Nonprofit Sector (also; Social, Independent, Voluntary, etc.). Overwhelmingly, one of my favorite definitions was this: "Nonprofit organizations and voluntary actions take the responsibility of filling the gaps that the government and business sectors leave wide open." And over the last few days, I have seen this definition play out in goose bump-causing ways.

Sure, the Internet is responsible for spreading questionable "newsworthy" items at Fiber Optic Speed, but it also has some amazing potential for good. And it's now being tapped to help the victims of Gustav in ways that FEMA could only dream of.

Andy Carvin (@acarvin) has set up a Wiki for all things Gustav. The Gustave Information Center is chock full of up-to-date weather patterns, the latest related news, a flickr photo stream, videos from the area, and most importantly, ways in which you can seek or provide help. The site and its related pieces have the Twitterverse and other social media outlets abuzz. The coolest part about this endeavor for me is that it is 100% user-generated (read: the textbook definition of Web 2.0). The Federal Government didn't ask Andy to start this up, nor is he receiving any huge amount of grant money to undertake the project. In all likeliness, he won't even have to spend that much more time in the creation of the content. For the record, I'm sure tons of time went into the creation of the site, my point is that thanks to social media, the real meat of this project is going to be carried out by others. Users from around the country (and the world) now have access to everything they need to know about the storm, and the ability to alter that information as needed. Please take a moment to check the site out. It is well worth the visit.

The page for "Aid & Agencies" is currently being finalized, so in the meantime consider a donation to Mercy Corps, a disaster relief organization that is able to utilize at least 89 cents of every dollar donated to the earmarked cause you are giving towards.

One last thing before I let you go and take some action. Some of you remember our conversation about NoLA Rising, the art organization that was trying to lighten up the city a bit with creativity and color despite a few grouchy neighbors. Below is a letter from Michael that he posted on his blog today. Katrina was a difficult experience, but Gustav has now become a little more personal. Please keep Micheal and his brothers and sisters of NoLA in your thoughts and prayers as the long weekend continues.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters,

It is with sad regret that I have been convinced to leave New Orleans in hopes to avoid the impending second apocolypse of New Orleans. Hopefully, we will not suffer the same Federal Levee Failures that destroyed the large majority of our city as we did last time. The Federal Government has had three years to fix their mistakes, let's hope that along with the levees in New Orleans, they will also fix the other 125 levee concerns in 28 of their states!

Having said that, I sadly regret having to leave my home. I hope that I will have something to return to. I leave with a week's worth of clothes, a few canvases, and about a hundred dollars to my name. I don't know where I am going or what will happen to me once I get there. Hopefully, I will be able to return to New Orleans soon and be here as part of the positive change that the citizens of our city have been trying to make. It is the people that make New Orleans what it is and we will stay, we will return, we will rebuild and NOLA WILL RISE! Say it and spray it loud!

For those of you staying, I will see you soon and I hope for the best. For all of us spread out across the country right now, may we meet on the other side of this hell and have ourselves a carnival of food, music and art...

I love this city of mine!

Michael "ReX" Dingler

To take action:

Stay tuned to the Gustav Information Center

Donate to Mercy Corps

Donate to NoLA Rising

Come to this film with me on Saturday

"He that gives quickly gives twice."

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