Olivier Kamanda wants to blow something up in the news, not to incite the latest moral crusade because reporters are the worst. He wants to blow up people’s perceptions of volunteerism and engagement. He wants to eviscerate these things to bring out a good response to bad news.
“When I think volunteer, most people think of someone who shows up at 5 o’ clock in the morning to work in a soup kitchen or a senior center or help to clean up a school,” he said.” When the reality is there are so many different ways to engage an issue that really make use of a person’s skills.”
“To the extent that there are any number of professions in the world, there are that many ways to help and use those skills for an organization or advocacy group.”
Ideal Impact brought in $17,000 on Indiegogo last week and will be a mobile app, web browser plugin and embeddable widget designed to tell people exactly how they can make a difference, no matter the topic.
Ideal Impact will combine crowdsource user ratings like the kind you find on Yelp with nonprofit ratings agencies like Guidestar.
In addition to a plugin, Kamanda and the Ideal Impact team want to put a badge at the bottom of every story right next to social media sharing buttons, giving people the immediate option to be more than clicktavists.
“That’s the value of expanding and essentially blowing up our concept of civic engagement and forcing people to reimagine the way engagement is happening.”
Ironically, Kamanda’s work in a soup kitchen is what inspired Ideal Impact.
Just before the launch of a campaign for Miriam’s Kitchen in D.C., Kamanda said city leaders told them they needed to be shown that people care about the issue of homelessness. Shortly after came “Invisible Child,” a five-part New York Times series about a homeless girl and her family. In response to the report, the nonprofit saw a surge of people who wanted to end homelessness.
“Spending a lot of time myself knocking on doors, engaging people, trying to get my friends to donate to different campaigns or nonprofits or advocacy functions and just thinking there’s got to be a better way, particularly using technology that’s out there,” he said.
Connecting people who want to affect change with change makers may also cut down on the inefficient amount of hours and money nonprofits spend trying to find volunteers, he said.
Kamanda is currently a fellow at the Halcyon Incubator and the Truman National Security Project in Washington D.C. Before that he was a speech writer for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Adams Morgan area of Washington D.C.
Though he has a background in government and politics, Kamanda says Ideal Impact is not designed to have any political leaning or affiliation. In other words, Ideal Impact does not plan to become a tool to mobilize voters ahead of the 2016 presidential race.
“This really isn’t about politics or business,” he said. “The platform that we’re trying to create is, at the end of the day, essentially it’s a social impact platform”
“When you’re reading a story that really touches you or inspires you that urge is almost visceral, right? Like the feeling that you can contribute something which is totally independent from politics. So our role really is to tap into that and I wouldn’t even bipartisan, it’s a sort of nonpartisan platform.”
Ideal Impact’s desire to supply more solutions to news may also be beneficial to the business of journalism.
Solutions journalism, also called constructive journalism, isn’t just social awareness. Perhaps contrary to popular belief, solutions journalism can be incredibly popular among readers, David Bornstein with the New York Times Fixes blog told journalism.co.uk.
Bornstein is also co-founder of Solutions Journalism Network, who released their free Solutions Journalism Toolkit last month.
Jeff Jarvis from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism believes that bringing a social element to journalism changes the value of news. The center’s new social journalism masters program at City University of New York began this semester. Unlike Bornstein who says solutions journalism should remain objective, Jarvis thinks social journalists can be community activists.
An Ideal Impact pilot campaign is scheduled to begin in Washington D.C. this spring.
Ideal Impact is scheduled to become available for news outlets and nonprofits in summer 2015.