It is a feeling of unbelievable joy. We have all felt it, at one time or another. For me, it is at its most palpable in a concert or a sports event with tens of thousands of fans. Initially, everyone is milling about, chatting, texting, a thousand unconnected specks. Then there’s a moment capturing everyone’s attention – a touchdown, a band jamming with pure, raw energy – and, in an instant, everything changes. Those specks converge into a single, connected, joyous crowd. Differences, stress, arguments, angst, worries fade away.
Social media has figured out how to harness this ineffable power, now called crowdsourcing (share a task – check out Ushahidi), crowdfunding (share funds), even crowdwisdom (share knowledge – check out MIT’s EdX). I am utterly smitten by its power. Already it has been used in disaster relief, from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the tsunami in Japan. Universities are being swept away – or will be soon – by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
You’re probably wondering about that $10. Think of it as one of those specks. It can be blown away in the wind, a will-o’-the-wisp. But it can also converge with other specks forming a beautiful mosaic. Most crowdfunding sites work this way, for the ambitious entrepreneur (think Kickstarter, for supporting human rights (Justice International) or jump starting an ambitious science project.
Turns out my “Turn $10 into $5,000 in Less Than One Month” might even be an underestimate. Crowdfunding raised $1.5 billion in 2011, supporting more than one million campaigns. Our University has tipped its toe into this exciting venture, by posting a campaign to support at risk youth in Newark, New Jersey, a program called Par Fore. We raised 30% of our goal in four days, and this is only the beginning. Think of the impact that this could have, one life at a time, preventing gang violence by giving kids a new path to learn discipline, manners and how to respect one another. Par Fore could be one of those programs that makes sure that the Wes Moore in each of those kids does not turn into the Other Wes Moore:
Two kids with the same name living in the same decaying city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and a business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder.
You can be part of our crowdsourcing venture here ; I’m not asking you to donate, although that would be great; I’m asking that you share this link as broadly as possible, to help those specks converge to transform lives.