Can a Social Pact Help Us Keep Giving to Charity?

The 52x52 project asks participants to commit to donating to a different charity for every week of the year. Can a social pact help remind us to give?

Social media can often devolve into an echo chamber of self-promotion. Many influencers with large followings care more about crafting a personal brand or selling a product than convincing someone to donate to a worthy cause. A call for donations on Twitter, for example, can fade into the background (which is why the GOOD community took on a creative microphilanthropy challenge this month).

Brooklyn-based designer Jessica Hische noticed this problem throughout her digital networks, so she wanted to come up with a way to encourage social influencers to use their digital capital for good. Her new web project 52x52 asks participants to pledge $52 (or as much as they can) to a different charity for each of the 52 weeks of the year. Participant will receive a weekly email revealing the charity of the week with a link to donate. "I had the idea probably last year when I was doing my taxes and realized how little I had given to charity," Hische says. "Whenever people put the information in front of me I always try to give, but the problem was I wasn't thinking about it enough."

So Hische came up with 52x52 to take advantage of her network's "power to crash websites"—she has more than 32,000 Twitter followers—toward promoting charitable, not personal, work. Hische announced the site in mid-October at the Brooklyn Beta conference, but the project began after Thanksgiving. Now it's week three, and if the project's 145 participants have stayed faithful to their pledge, they've already given to water-safety organization charity: water and the anti-malaria nonprofit Nothing But Nets. More than $157,000 has been pledged so far.

Hische posts the Twitter avatar of each participant on 52x52's website next to the amount that they're committing to the weekly challenge. "I'm hoping that if people are not seeming to stay with [their pledges], they write me back and say 'I haven't stuck with it,'" she says, so she can take their photos down. "If you're up there, you feel the pressure to continue donating. People do things for so many reasons, but guilt is for sure one that makes people stick to things."

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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