By Rachael Chong
According to a 2009 study by BlogHer, 23 million women read, write or comment on blogs weekly. That's 4 million more than the entire population of Florida and 2 million more than serve in the military worldwide. That's some serious power and Jennifer James has figured out how to harness it for social good. Less than a year ago she founded Mom Bloggers for Social Good after creating the Mom Bloggers Club and Mom Blog magazine, the leading social network and news site covering the mom blogging industry. She is also a member of the ONE Moms Advisory Council and in 2011, she was named a top Twitter Moms of 2011 by Babble.com. Last April, she received a National Press Foundation Global Vaccines Fellowship.
How does Mom Bloggers for Social Good Work?
Mom Bloggers for Social Good is a global coalition of over 1000 mom bloggers representing 17 countries who care about pressing issues from maternal health and child survival to hunger and education. We work with our NGO and nonprofit partners to collectively spread the word about their latest news and campaigns via social media to amplify their messages to our networks.
The premise behind Mom Bloggers for Social Good is that sustained, purposeful, collective digital action affect measurable change and creates massive awareness about issues that some may have never heard of or don't fully understand. Through our work, mom bloggers are able to reach new audiences with issues that affect the world and the communities around them.
Select members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good are also members of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized team of 200 who blog and use social media to amplify maternal health, world hunger, and issues involving women and girls to their social networks and blog readership.
Why is it meaningful that it's powered by moms?
These women have spent years in some cases building their core audience and readership. It is through their digital generosity and commitment to being a part of a community of fellow mom bloggers who use blogging and social media for good that we can exponentially spread the word about important issues together effectively.
What was the moment you realized that there was power in moms coming together as agents of change? Can you describe it?
Last year around the holidays I felt the time was right for mom bloggers to come together as a large, cohesive community to use the platforms they've built for collective good. I am a longtime member of the mom blogging community and generally have accurate instincts about where the community as a whole is headed. For years, mom bloggers have worked well with consumer brands and I had a gut feeling that mom bloggers were ready to also connect as a large community for social good. I'm glad I was right about that.
You've created a masterful network and a pioneering mechanism for spreading the word. What advice would you give a writer looking to make positive change on amplifying the message?
She must be consistent in her approach and become as knowledgeable as possible about the issues she is most passionate about. No one can make positive change in a vacuum and no one can make real positive change without consistency. Furthermore, a writer cannot make positive change if she isn't truly immersed in the issue. In the case of writing for social change, knowledge is power.
Why is giving time different than giving money?
For most of us giving money has its limits. Many people cap their quarterly charitable giving, but still devote countless hours volunteering for nonprofits that mean the most to them. People can always find time to give, but they may not always have the money to donate. It's nice to always have options when it comes to giving.
Was there a moment that you realized your life would be dedicated to giving back, to giving more than you received? What was that moment?
I realized my life would be devoted to giving back when I started Mom Bloggers for Social Good and it took off. I knew I wanted to launch a huge digital effort to connect social good and charity with mom bloggers. When nonprofits and NGOs began contacting me and moms signed up in droves I knew instantly I had found my life's work.
What does generosity mean to you?
Generosity, to me, simply means giving without any expectation of receiving anything in return.
Please tell us the names and stories of three individuals who inspire you most with their generosity.
I am inspired by Mary Martin Niepold, the founder of the Nyanya Project, based in Kenya and Rwanda. A few years ago Niepold volunteered in Kenya and came back to the States with a burning desire to help fellow grandmothers like herself in Africa. She noticed the numbers of grandmothers who were caring for their grandchildren because their parents had died from HIV/AIDS. Now the Nyanya Project runs a preschool in Kibera, one of Kenya's largest slums. And, the Nyanya Project oversees sustainable agricultural projects in Rwanda where grandmothers are able to grow vegetables and become beekeepers to cultivate honey to sell to local hotels and resorts.
I am always impressed by how much Mary Martin Niepold is able to do with limited funding and when she asked me to join the board I was thrilled. I have learned so much from her about generosity of spirit and about always moving forward in spite of obstacles to help others who are less fortunate.
I met Theo Sowa, the CEO of the African Women's Development Fund, in Berlin this year and was immediately struck by her commitment to telling the story of African women to make sure their voices are heard and that they are a part of the global development conversation. I am inspired by the way in which Sowa continues to work tirelessly to ensure African women's voices are not drowned out nor forgotten.
Many people cite Melinda Gates as an inspiration for the work she does for women and children around the world. I am no different. When Melinda Gates launched her "No Controversy" campaign in April calling for more access to family planning in the developing world I was struck by her 30-year commitment to this effort. It signaled to me that creating long-term, sustained actions towards a goal should be lauded more often. In today's fast-paced climate where goals, actions, and results are demanded quickly I was heartened to see that it is okay to set goals that do not call for immediate results.
As a journalist and social media maven, how have your responded to Sandy? Where did you put your efforts?
As I watched and read the news about Sandy I knew that domestically the devastation and aftermath of the storm in the northeast were fully and adequately covered in the press. For me, it was important to report about Sandy's aftermath in Haiti because the damage would be more difficult to repair and far more long-lasting. Haiti is still recovering from hurricane Issac and the earthquake from nearly three years ago. In that regard, I believed covering Haiti was critical as well. I have covered Haiti's recovery efforts previously and believed that for consistency's sake I needed to also cover the devastation.
Come back Monday, November 26 for our next piece on Nicholas Kristof.
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.