Helping People Design Video Games

Helping People Design Video Games

Dec 07

Video games have become a huge business, bringing in billions of dollars each year. But it’s also an industry that’s really hard to break into. Even though there have been a number of very successful independent titles made on shoestring budgets that garnered massive audience appeal, there are still many, many more that never break out, even if they’re really well made. This is where a Minnesota based nonprofit called Glitch comes in. Glitch is basically an arts charity, only instead of helping fund artists who paint or sculpt, they’re helping people get into the gaming industry. Finding and making the kinds of connections that can land prospective game designers jobs in the industry can be difficult, but Glitch pairs young designers up with established professionals to mentor them. It helps young designers develop games that they can showcase and, ideally, use to get into the industry. So far they’ve helped designers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas in the six years that the organization has been around. While helping people design games may not seem as important as, say, saving an endangered species or protecting civil rights, one could argue that it’s at least as important as funding a symphony. Perhaps even more so. 60% of Americans play video games and most of them are between the ages of 18 and 35. But the most popular games tend to be the most available, and those tend to be the same tried and true game over and over. More and more people are branching out and looking for new and different gaming experiences, but those can be hard to find, especially when the big companies aren’t interested in anything that can’t rake in millions. But organizations like Glitch help bring in new, unique designers interested in making games that explore something other than the standard white male power fantasy, and getting more diverse games out there is certainly a good...

The Nonprofit That Uses Scavenger Hunts to Test Life Skills

The Nonprofit That Uses Scavenger Hunts to Test Life Skills

Nov 30

Room to Read is a nonprofit that has been largely focused on global literacy since it’s inception. But since the year 2000, they have also developed a strong focus on girls’ education in countries like India, Cambodia, and Zambia. They operate programs in nine countries around the world, and they’ve come to realize that life skills such as negotiation, self-confidence, and persistence are important for girls who might have to struggle to keep their education going. To that end, they’ve developed a study to test their students for those skills. The study is actually built around a three-day scavenger hunt. The idea is that, by having each girl get at least 10 of 30 listed items, they can gauge where she falls on a number of these skills. Getting a toe-ring, for example, illustrates negotiation and trustworthiness, because for women in some parts of India, toe-rings are the equivalent of a wedding band. It’s a novel way of doing things. But by choosing items that wouldn’t be too easy or hard to find, they think they’ve struck on a system that will inform them about what level these girls are at in these critical life skills. Self-reporting by answering questions doesn’t always give an accurate accounting of something as ephemeral as self-confidence, especially in girls aged 11-13 who don’t necessarily have the life experience to gauge that. But by assigning tasks that use the skills in question, they can more accurately measure those skills by looking at the end result. The study involved 2,500 girls at 60 schools. The study will be repeated again in 2018 in order to build off the baseline data collected in 2016. Hopefully, it works as expected and becomes a tool that Room to Read can use to help instill these skills in their students. Maybe it will even allow the girls to continue their education after they age out of the nonprofit’s...

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Nov 21

“We envision a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity and a sustainable world.” That’s the vision as quoted from civil rights organization Showing Up for Racial Justice. As the last decade in the United States has shown, this country still has a long way to go before achieving social equality. That’s why we need organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice. Founded in 2009, Showing Up for Racial Justice has grown to become a national network of activism groups across the country. The goal of this specific organization is to help get white people involved the fight for racial equality. The organization operates on the belief that those who are privileged can use their position of power to be an advocate for the disadvantaged. By creating this large scale network of multi-racial people with a passion for equality, citizens can band together to improve the country “through community organizing, mobilizing, and education.” The advantage of having a network like this is being able to unify and orchestrate protests when injustices do happen. As the old saying goes, “There is strength in numbers.” The organization wants to make it very clear that white people don’t have to be the enemy; they can be allies. The organization seeks to lead by example by being inclusive, not divisive. Put in their own words, they want to “call people in, not call people out.” It’s inspiring that the leadership of Showing Up for Racial Justice has taken several steps to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions. They work closely with other organizations to make sure that their activities and endorsements are in line with the values and beliefs of their mission. Their transparency is a leading example of what honesty and integrity looks like in the nonprofit...

Goodwill Omaha Proves Communication is Key

Goodwill Omaha Proves Communication is Key

Nov 09

Recently, it came out that Goodwill Omaha is paying a number of its board members over $100,000 a year and that CEO Frank McGree is making $250,000 a year. It’s a $30-million-dollar organization that has over 600 employees, so those salaries aren’t too crazy, considering. But there is also evidence that they pay many of their employees, namely those with disabilities, less than minimum wage. The World-Herald report that brought all of this to light makes Goodwill Omaha sound like an organization that borrows too much inspiration from the for-profit world. And the responses from both the CEO and the board have made it look like nobody in the organization knows what anyone else is doing. In short, they weren’t able to answer tough questions from the press. The big mistake that Goodwill Omaha made is that they didn’t answer questions asked from the World-Herald. As Nonprofit Quarterly points out, investigative reports that get stonewalled tend to turn mean. The whole thing is an abject lesson in the importance of communication. People who read the report are justifiably upset with what seems like some pretty shady practices by Goodwill Omaha. Whether these allegations prove to be true or not, it’s going to hurt the organization. But it’s their own fault because even if they’re not doing anything wrong, they still failed to communicate with the press. The lesson to be learned is that you have to be able to communicate with reporters and others outside of your organization if you want to put forth a good public image. The other lesson is that you need to have clear communication within your organization as well. It really does seem like, regardless of the truth of the allegations, Goodwill Omaha didn’t have good enough internal communication to either prevent unethical actions or to simply respond to allegations of them. Neither of these scenarios is good, especially in nonprofits, where public trust is an absolute...

The Nonprofit That Raises Service Monkeys

The Nonprofit That Raises Service Monkeys

Nov 01

Helping Hands is a very special nonprofit; it’s the only organization of its kind to provide service monkeys to the disabled. Founded in 1979, the organization trains capuchin monkeys to assist with everything from opening doors to fetching items. The monkeys themselves are pretty small. According to BioExpedition.com, the average capuchin monkey is anywhere from 12 to 22 inches tall and weighs between 2-3 pounds. They’re cute, they’re small, they’re helpful, and they’re also highly intelligent. Helping Hands chose to train monkeys because of their dexterous hands and remarkable fine motor skills. Monkeys are able to perform a lot of tasks that traditional service dogs can’t; they can turn pages, insert straws into cups, open containers, turn on buttons and switches, and even reposition limbs on a wheel chair. Also of note is that the monkeys can live anywhere from 30-40 years. They’re also hypoallergenic, since they have human-like hair instead of fur. The reason monkeys make such great service animals is because they have a natural hierarchy within their species, meaning that they have a strong desire to take care of their leader. But the relationship is a two-way street; monkeys also love to be cuddled and nurtured. Therefore, those who want a monkey assistant must be willing to provide them with the type of environment they need. For those who want to apply for a monkey, be aware that the process can take anywhere from 3-6 months. Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements, which include being at least one year post-injury or post-diagnosis. Eligible applicants also cannot have any young children living at home. Helping Hands states that children under the age of 12 can be “unpredictable and make it difficult to maintain the structure that monkeys need.” Before being given a monkey, a representative from Helping Hands will visit the applicant’s home to go over roles and responsibilities. The organization takes great care to ensure both the monkey and the applicant are good matches for one another. Helping Hands is based out of Boston, MA and can be reached at (617)...

Meet the Nonprofit that Serves 74,000 Meals a Year

Meet the Nonprofit that Serves 74,000 Meals a Year

Oct 11

The Los Angeles LGBT Center is one of the top queer nonprofit centers in the world—it offers almost every service anyone could ever need: medical and psychiatric care, affordable and homeless housing, legal services, employment services, a charter high school, advocacy services, and cultural events. It even has seven locations across the city. Additionally, they also feed the public. Everything from soup kitchens for homeless youth to food pantries and meals on wheels for seniors. They feed the needy of Los Angeles to the tune of 74,000 meals a year. More than 200 meals a day. And they want to double that. One of their centers to be, the planned Anita May Rosenstein Center, will have as many as 200 units of affordable housing for senior citizens and homeless youth, and central to the whole thing will be a professional-grade commercial kitchen. It will feed the residents and also serve as a fundraising space, a place to host charity dinners with rooftop dining. Central to these plans is Susan Feniger, a board member of the LGBT Center and a well-known chef. She founded Border Grill and had a run on the TV show Too Hot Tamales as well as Top Chef. Another key player is Arlita Miller, the center’s dietary coordinator. She works in the long term transitional living program, giving LGBT free housing and training in her kitchen. That training is at the level of budgeting kitchens and cooking for themselves, things many homeless youth never had an opportunity to learn. With the new kitchen, she hopes to ramp it up to serious culinary training, preparing them for high-value jobs in the restaurant industry. The new center and kitchen are expected to open in early 2019, giving plenty of time for preparations to be made for the new...