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    The IncluderEpisode 6Help Room

    by Andrius Kulikauskas
    October 26, 2008

    The
    Includer gives way to the Help Room. The more intensely we work
    offline, the more intensely we engage each other online. I share my
    proposal to the Knight News Challenge. The deadline is November 1. I ask for $180,000 for this three-year project.

    The Minciu Sodas laboratory includes an online chat room. (Our new domain is: www.helproom.org)

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    We wish to staff our chat room around-the-clock as a central venue to:

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    Help Room organized by Minciu Sodas

    In three years we wish to run our chat room as a sustainable business. We will develop independent income streams to support:

    • 1 full-time business developer
    • 1 part-time software developer
    • 3 full-time organizers who attract participants in different time zones
    • 16 part-time chat coaches who engage and help all who come
    • 64 volunteer hosts who lead regular chats to advance team projects and related business proposals

    We will staff our 24-hour chat room in:

    • Africa and Europe
    • the Americas
    • Asia and Australia

    We will
    do outreach in the United States, Latin America, India and China. We
    will chat in English but also other languages, including Lithuanian, Kiswahili, Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian, Spanish and Chinese.

    We work publicly, in the Public Domain.

    Our chat
    room will be the central hub of a social network of 10,000 online
    participants who actively help each other to help 1,000,000 people
    on-the-ground.

    How will your project improve the way news and information are delivered to geographic communities?

    In 2008, Minciu Sodas was the online world’s most responsive network for helping Kenyans during the post-election turmoil. At our chat room, we coordinated the flow of news from SMS and Skype and letters to wiki to Ushahidi and blogs and reporters. We organized response.

    Lithuanians helping Kenyans, January, 2008

    Our chat room is an entryway where we greet people. We ask them what they value, investigate, wish to achieve? We embrace people with marginal Internet skills and access. We sign them up for discussion groups and our Ning social network. We teach them to use wikis. We help every person be newsworthy.

    We wish to help everybody who wants global response, whether to a personal concern or a regional emergency.

    How is your idea innovative?

    We propose to organize around our chat room as the center of our social networking world.

    We live
    in a world that is 90% business and 10% charity. Instead, we seek a
    world where 90% is helping each other for free and 10% is extra paid
    work.

    Our chat
    room is all purpose for all people. We engage each person as an
    independent thinker of universal interest. We foster a culture of
    sharing, inclusion, Public Domain, working for free alongside working
    for pay.

    Our
    culture attracts helpful thinkers in Africa and Eastern Europe who
    staff our chat room for modest stipends from sponsors (such as
    churches) and business opportunities (such as translation). Our chat
    room organizers offer global teams for emergencies and strategic projects.

    What experience do you or your organization have to successfully develop this project?

    In 1998, Andrius Kulikauskas founded Minciu Sodas as an online network for independent thinkers. We have 200 active and 2,000 supportive participants. We have written 30,000 letters in 30 working groups, and 4,000 wiki pages, in the Public Domain.

    In April 2007, we finished work on My Food Story for Unamesa Association. For $24,000, we organized 100 workers in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Palestine, Lithuania, Latvia, Serbia, India and the USA to collect 2,000 food stories.

    Sasha Mrkailo of Serbia. A friendly virtual assistant!

    Sasha Mrkailo of Serbia then staffed our ARSC Chat room and taught people how to use our wiki. Andrius customized the software. We have had 85,000 lines of chat.

    Every first Thursday, Pamela McLean leads a chat to link poor-bandwidth Africans and rich-bandwidth Westerners so that we learn from each other. We chat to build teams, engage groups, welcome newcomers and coach activists. We chat as we work online.

    In 2008, we organized the Pyramid of Peace of 100 helpers online and 100 peacemakers on-the-ground to avert genocide in Kenya. We coordinated our leaders to overcome tribal anger, engage gangs and open roads for food, medicine, fuel and refugees. We contributed and distributed $25,000 to about 1,000 volunteers who helped about 10,000 people directly and 100,000 people indirectly. We shared mobile phone credits as an emergency community currency. We saved lives.

    kenyanidpscollins.jpgKenya’s Internally Displaced Persons, February 2008.
    Photo courtesy Collins Odour of Repacted

    We can embed our organizers from East Africa and Eastern Europe in other time zones such as inner city Chicago, rural Missouri, Silicon Valley and Oaxaca, Mexico. We have contacts in India and China. Andrius can organize in Spanish and Chinese.

    We have a vibrant gift economy. St.Benedict the African parish choir in Chicago is sponsoring Fred Kayiwa of Uganda to staff our chat room on Saturday mornings, 10:00 am Chicago time, 4:00 pm London, 6:00 pm Nairobi.

    Thank you for your comments!

    Tagged: kenya Virtual assistant
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