Archives For justice

When Artists Come Around

Sam Mahlstadt —  November 5, 2010 — 1 Comment

So if you follow me on Twitter, you have heard my incessant invitations to everyone in the Des Moines area to join us at the Launch Partyfor the start-up non-profit that I am co-founding, The Move Project. The website just went live last night, check it out.

We are gathering people together to celebrate the launch of this organization, because we feel things like this need to be celebrated. Together. We are dealing with some daunting, enormous, societal issues, and we truly believe we can make a dent in these issues (food/water needs, modern-day slavery and homelessness) if we band people together and share stories. What better way to start our journey together than a party?

At the Launch Party, a couple local artists will have original work on display that represents their interpretation of The Move Project; a painter will have 3 paintings and a designer will have a limited edition poster. (I’ll let you know how you can own the art soon.)

The reason we called on artists to lend their talent is because we know we are dealing with some uncomfortable-to-deal-with social injustices. On top of that, people have been manipulated into donating to like-causes in the past. We don’t want that. We do, however, want to stir people to action. We believe that guilt is not the best way, so instead, we decided to use beauty. When artists come around a cause, it’s less doom and gloom. It’s less the crying child on the dirt road and the old man in the white beard asking for a donation. It’s more hopeful. It’s more inspiring. It’s more we can do this.

Beautiful artistic interpretations of the dream of The Move Project will go further than guilt-ridden calls to donate. Because when artists come around, it’s not the same old song. We hope to be a fresh, collaborative, pursuit of social justice fueled by our eye for beauty even in the darkest issues.

We’d love for you to join us. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Malcom Gladwell just recently wrote on article on the shallow reality of social media’s relationship to justice issues.

The main takeaway from the article was this: social media enables the illusion of involvement in causes for people who have no buy-in. They don’t actually care about the cause in which they are “supporting” online – an updated avatar or twibbon or Tweet/Facebook status update doesn’t mean someone is involved. It just means someone is mildly aware of a situation.

The article has caused me to ponder this concept a lot lately. As someone who is co-founding an organization that is joining the fight to alleviate local and global poverty (and exists solely on Twitter right now) I have some personal interest in the idea. And I have to say that while I don’t want to…I agree with Gladwell. Mostly.

I believe that being able to “like” or join a fan page, or follow on Twitter, or whatever other social media options are available for fans of organizations, creates the impression that the cause has more support than it does. In my opinion, more important than fans, followers and admirers are:

  • partners
  • volunteers
  • investors
  • advocates

What I think Gladwell may be missing is the power that social media can have when used well. If social media is only used to gain exposure for an organization, then he’s right – it’s shallow. But, if social media can be used to identify ambassadors, connect partners, and build relationships, then it is invaluable. We have experienced this with The Move Project; we have been represented by an amabassador at an entrepreneur meetup, connected with people across the country who want to partner with us, and in the process built relationships that will drive the future of the organization. All while we only existed on Twitter.

Since we are on the subject…feel free to follow TMP on twitter; @themoveproject to receive updates and partnership opportunities.

The Move Project is an organization I am co-founding with my brother. We will focus sharply on three things

  1. human trafficking
  2. food and water needs
  3. shelter

Through community involvement and a clear call to action, we plan on seeing sustainable growth in our efforts, reach and influence.

Right now, all the updates and information are being pumped out through Twitter (we are brand new) and soon a Facebook page will emerge. Then, we will launch our website and host a launch party* in Des Moines for everyone to come hang out and hear a bit more about our focus and mission.

*We are looking for some good folks to help plan and host the launch party. A desire to help end poverty is about the only requirement – that, and a smiling face. Email me, if you are interested.

Yesterday, I posted a review of Addition by Adoption by Kevin Hendricks. The book was a fast-paced, entertaining and inspiring read. I highly recommend you get a copy, and while you are at it, donate to his project to build a well in Ethiopia. Today, Kevin joins us to answer some questions about the book, his life after Milo’s adoption and his humanitarian inspiration.

When did you look at your Twitter stream and realize this could be a book?

It happened last year when people kept telling me that I needed to collect all my tweets about Lexi and put them in a book. Different people kept saying it and eventually I realized they were right.

Your daughter is hilarious, and you seem to have a humorous outlook on life as well. How has humor played a role in this addition to your family?

Life can be a little too overwhelming if you’re not willing to sit back and find some humor in it. That’s part of why I share funny stories about my kids—sometimes kids can drive you nuts and you need to remember the positive moments.

Laughter can keep you sane.

Your humanitarianism seemed to be amplified by Milo’s adoption and your time spent in Ethiopia. How did that trip to pick up Milo affect your view on international issues?

When Milo joined our family we became a multicultural, international family. We have roots that go beyond Minnesota—they go all the way to Ethiopia. They’re Milo’s brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters. How could I ignore the plight of those I’m so deeply connected to?
So yeah, my humanitarianism became amplified. It’s kind of a no-brainer. That’s why we’re trying to build a clean water well in Ethiopia.

I blogged about this after Haiti (, but our compassion is amplified when we have a personal connection. We need more and deeper connections. And this one is the deepest.

Why a traditional book consisting of content from a micro-blogging site? Had you thought of an epublication to present the material, or was it paper and ink all the way?

I wanted my Grandma to read it, so it had to be paper and ink. I’m certainly not opposed to a digital version (and I’m giving away PDFs to anyone who makes a donation to charity: water), but it seemed like less of a draw. Reading tweets on a Kindle seemed like a hard sell—you need the paperback.

But now that we have it published I am trying to explore the Kindle and iPad opportunities.

Share a bit about your efforts to bring clean water to those without, and how this book will help accomplish that goal.

My wife had been pushing charity: water before we went to Ethiopia, but while we were there it really hit home for me. I saw people gathered around muddy trickles of water with those yellow jerry cans. I got sick from the water. Milo came home with a water-borne parasite. The importance of clean water and the tremendous lack throughout the world became painfully obvious (literally so).

So last year we did the Bald Birthday Benefit and I offered to shave my head if we could give clean water to 30 people for my 30th birthday. In the end friends, family and strangers donated enough to give clean water to 130 people (more than $2,600) and I was bald.

When it came time to publish the book I wanted to give back in some way and water was a no-brainer. So we’re hoping to raise $5,000 to build a well in Ethiopia through charity: water. At least $2 from every copy of the book will go to charity: water (if you buy the ‘Awesome Edition’ a whopping $12 will go to charity: water). So far we’ve raised about $1,000, most of it coming from people making donations and not just from the book sales, so that’s pretty cool to see.

Water is such a simple thing—we don’t even think about. But in other parts of the world they spend hours gathering water that makes them sick. In Ethiopia it kills 300,000 kids every year. Water is the number one cause of infant mortality. How crazy is that? It seems like a small thing, but clean water means life.


Sam Mahlstadt —  May 27, 2010 — Leave a comment

Yesterday, mycharity: water, started by the great folks at charity: water, hit the $2 million mark in funds raised. $2 million serves 100,000 with clean water.


$2 million through individual campaigns, initiated and executed by people all over the world who desired to make a difference. This is powerful stuff and the Church needs to take note.

There are many valuable lessons for us to learn as we look at what charity: water pulled off yesterday, but I think there are a couple that demand our immediate attention.

A non-profit utilizes new media to further it’s cause exponentially. Here are a couple issues I think the church would be hard pressed to miss:

Continue reading here.