After years of chronicling the human experience as a senior writer for People, Susan Schindehette is using her storytelling skills to connect philanthropic efforts to the world's needy via her MiWorld portal.
Schindehette wants the newly launched site to humanize the links between large corporations and nonprofit organizations and the beneficiaries of their good deeds. Companies can highlight and leverage their altruism -- from providing school supplies, food and clothing to donating free shipping and transportation. MiWorld will augment the work of major news reporting and assistance agencies by injecting a human element into the process.
"As we've seen in a catastrophe of the magnitude in Haiti, individual human storytelling is still the best way to convey the reality of what's going on and stir action," Schindehette says.
"We want to let people from all around the world see and hear each other as individuals -- including the three to 5 billion people in the developing world whose names and compelling stories seldom appear in newspapers, magazines, television or the Internet," she says.
To remain viable, MiWorld is targeting paid advertising partnerships as its primary revenue stream. They will allow corporations to make their wholesale goods and services available for "one-click." Partners will benefit, she says, from direct sales revenue as well as a presence in emerging markets and favorable socially conscious brand positioning.
Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, the VII Photo Agency, the Acumen Fund, the Skoll Foundation and the Gates Foundation have expressed initial interest in MiWorld, says Schindehette, who has been presenting her plans at various conferences, such as the Clinton Global Initiative.
Although she calls MiWorld a hybrid -- "not for MY profit" -- business model, it hopes to tap some of the $220 billion in annual charitable giving in the U.S. that has been strained by the economic recession. Schindehette is seeking $2.5 million in start-up funds from a philanthropic consortium and has outsourced MiWorld's IT operations to Blue State Digital, architects of candidate Obama's Internet fund-raising operation.
For now, MiWorld functions thanks to Schindehette, who has invested more than $50,000 of her own money to establish the MiWorld site as a story-driven interface between those who provide and receive assistance. It chronicles a trip that Schindehette and a team of volunteers made to Guatemala last year. Images were captured on site using MiWorld-branded Flip Mino digital recorders that work independent of any country's technical infrastructure.
Schindehette also has created modules using photos and text from friends demonstrating how MiWorld outreach would work in places such as Peru, Kenya and Pakistan.
Although the field of multimedia social outreach is getting crowded, she considers MiWorld's approach unique; a kind of global People online for the common good. Entertainer Bill Cosby and Northern Virginia philanthropist Earl Stafford recently announced a new Internet-based effort encouraging Americans to volunteer by showcasing good deeds. Volunteer and donation information is available on the Doing Good: The People's Project on The Stafford Foundation Web site.
"Haiti is going to be in trouble for a long time. Sooner or later, we'll see a wave of "disaster fatigue" on the part of the public. That's why we need MiWorld -- to present not just horrific stories of disaster, but to continue to tell remarkable stories of ordinary people who will somehow manage to survive and rebuild," she says.
"Imagine a fifth-grade class in the U.S. using MiWorld.com to partner on projects with a grade-school class in Africa or China. Imagine the power of bringing those people and their stories together, supported by organizations with the resources to help," adds Schindehette.
"It's our job to make the world a little smaller, one story at a time."