Hmm.. looks like this never got posted so I’m posting it late. Is that cheating? Probably!Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. The great news about going to NTEN is that I get to go. The crazy news is that I’m insanely busy getting ready for it!
Oddly though not too busy to check out the new game Urgent Evoke. Don’t know what it is? Think game for change. Learning through playing which is a fantastic way to learn something new…. learning should be fun. My first mission was to read a blog post and post my own blog. I did that and you can check out the game and the actual post I did here but because I think there’s enough important stuff in this I’ll post the text here too. Funny how a game can inspire thought eh?
“Innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)”
I loved this post as I’ve found that to be true in the nonprofit I’ve started, Seattle Free School (www.seattlefreeschool.org). We don’t take cash donations from anyone ever (and it’s not because we’re rich and funding it ourselves. Our total out-of-pocket cost is about $10 a year for website domain registration).
While it might seem that running this way would create a ton of problems it has, in fact, done just the opposite. By forcing us to be creative the entire act of running the school without money has become a learning experience in itself. One that we’ll be talking about, teaching and sharing at the upcoming Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp event in Berkeley http://www.craigslistfoundation.org/events/index.html
My favorite answer to “how do you run without money” has become “what do you need money for?” Sadly, most people don’t see it as a question to cause thought but as something offensive. Of course you must have money to run.
• You have to pay for marketing or no one will know who you are (we’ve been in virtually every major print publication in the city of Seattle including both big glossy magazines – we’ve never paid for marketing).
• You have to pay for space because you can’t find it for free (we’ve never paid for space and in our first year alone we had over 70 different classes).
• You have to make people pay- no one will show up to a class they didn’t pay for (our largest class thus far was 125 people).
• Most importantly you have to pay for people to run the thing because no one works for free (no one at Seattle Free School has ever made a penny doing it and there are lots of people teaching, posting classes, spreading the word, working behind the scenes, printing flyers at home and hanging them in their neighborhood).
In fact we all suspect that because we don’t take cash donations people are even more willing to help than they might be if we did (there’s no proof for this… we didn’t do a control group of Seattle take-donations school). So often people come to the facilitator class, the class you take to learn how to teach with Seattle Free School, not even knowing what they want to teach, just knowing that they want to give back. That’s pretty amazing. And over and over again we’re always impressed with what can be done without money.
Can this work for everything? No, of course not. People need to eat. Some organizations need equipment. And indeed the places we use have to support the spaces we’re using (when people insist on giving us money we instead tell them to give to the places we use to support them… just cut out the middle man and give to the places who need the cash). But it can work for anyone to get started with something, and if nothing else starting with this sort of mindset keeps you very creative and very good at knowing what you should pay for and what you can get without a huge expenditure. Often it’s more than you’d expect:
Our website is hosted for free by a friend from Second Life that we’ve never met in person.
Our new website was designed by a local community college (Seattle Central Community College) after they came to us and asked to redesign our free site.
We’ve had people offer server space for an email listserv when our email program broke due to too many followers (we’re at over 1200 currently).
We’ve had people come out of the woodwork to do scripting and website help when we couldn’t figure something out.
People care. People are powerful. Don’t believe anything else.
To check out more about gaming and learning just watch this