Friday, 15 April 2011

Ladies & Gentlemen, the doors are locked.

Twice in the past couple of weeks it has been suggested that I try my hand at public speaking.

Get people fired up about Ridealist, the non-profit sector, what we can do, and more importantly, what they can do!

So why not, I thought.

Now, this is where you come in.

You, dear reader, are my "focus group" as it were.

Be frank, be bold, be generous in your criticism - but do please contribute your thoughts.

Here are the bones, help me put some flesh on them:

Ladies and Gentlemen, the doors are locked.

I'm not joking.

We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.

You can just open your cheque books now and then happily make your way to the hospitality room where tea, coffee and some delicious snacks are being served.

Or I can stand here and sing Justin Beiber songs until you hurl your check books at me in desperation.

Either way, you'll be opening them. (I hope).

And not just because can, or because you should. But in about three minutes, you'll do it because you will want to.

With or without the Justin Beiber.

Many of you have probably sat through so many of these things, with someone standing here trying to convince you to part with your money or resources.

I'm no different, but the people I represent are different. You've never heard of them.

I'm not here for the household names that you are all familiar with, and probably generously include in your CSR budgets and other philanthropic activities.

The ones that get you great editorial copy in the newspaper, and your CEO's picture with glamourous Hollywood types who are lending their celebrity to a good cause.

The folks I work with are small, tiny - and for the fundraising and donor community - they are utterly and completely off the radar.

So why would you good people in the CSR, fundraising and philanthropic community be interested in them?

Because they count, probably more than you can imagine.

Let me put it this way. They are the smaller of the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises that most of you have also never heard of, but are the backbone of the economy, the engine of GDP, the major employers.

These small groups are the backbone of the non-profit sector, out there in the field, at the grassroots level - the volunteers and the organisers, often living cheek by jowl with the local population. In fact, they are in most cases, actually members of the local community.

But believe me, they do remarkable work with almost nothing. I could give you examples...

At Ridealist we try to give them the recognition they deserve, their 15 minutes of fame if you like. But you'd be surprised what that 15 minutes can mean to them.

A few more books, a solar panel, a couple of goats, a donation to repair the roof of the school, or buy mosquito nets. In more extreme cases, buy tonight's dinner.

If you give them the chance to get their head above water, you'd be surprised at how quickly some of them can learn to swim and become self sustainable, expand their operations, and even become net contributors or donors to other groups in their area.

At Ridealist we're not into the aid dependency scene at all. We're into development.

Give people the means, give them the dignity, and they'll get on with things.

Our photography, our video, helps to give them that gentle push in the right direction. That small but important moment in the spotlight.

But unlike the household name NGOs we talked about earlier, they are obviously in no position to pay the expenses of a Ridealist camera crew flying half way around the world.

That, my dear ladies and gentlemen, is where you come in!

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Monday, 11 April 2011

Together, yes, we can! (2) Tim Lindop's Story

In response to our recent efforts to attract some volunteer animators/motion graphics experts to our team, we received a remarkable email from a cameraman in Cusco, which is located in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range.

Tim Lindop told us he was intrigued with our programs and he wanted to learn more, and perhaps get involved with Ridealist projects.

Tim is among several people who have approached Ridealist with unique skills who are willing to offer their time on a volunteer basis to tell some remarkable stories.

And does he have some amazing stories to share:

"I can think of at least two non-profits that have my respect: One is run by a man I have known for 15 years educating and raising indigenous street kids in the Amazon. The other is a Catholic brother who is training, against all odds, including poverty, a group of indigenous girls in the Andes to compete in the 2012 Olympics.

Front and center is their poverty, which is extreme to say the least, and despite having won every competition they have entered regarded as the winnowing process for choosing Olympic Athletes, (The National competition in Lima, the South American Competition in Paraguay and the international races in Spain, where Brother Pablo hails) they still have to come up with their own money and chances are that won't change if they are selected for the Olympics.

Interesting sidelight, though, is that the Inca Empire had a system of relay runners who connected the Empire. These girls come from the same region in the Andes where the Incas recruited their runners, making them heirs to a great indigenous tradition. In effect, long-distance running is the family business.

Picture wise, there is great opportunity to shoot them in their villages with the Andes as a backdrop, helping their families by tending to llama herds, weaving clothing from Alpaca wool.

I think most documentary film makers would find it almost impossible to come up with a more worthy, timely, and potentially commercial viable documentary subject than this.

It is Tim's story.

The question is, how can we make it happen?

How can we put Tim in the position to get time away from his day job to spend weeks with the team, documenting their struggle to represent Peru and their ancient culture at the London Olympics?

Ridealist can handle the editing, graphics etc here in Hong Kong. For free.

So, as you can clearly see, the production costs would not be prohibitive.

Tim's story has all the elements of a compelling documentary. And it needs to be told.

So what are you waiting for?
Email Tim at : lindop.tim (@)

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Together, yes, we can!

We've finally got all the documentation together to apply for society status here in Hong Kong. However, it could take up to a month - assuming of course that we win approval!

In the meantime, we need to plan and get equipped for an amazing project in June or July.

We've been invited to produce a full-length documentary for Love Without Boundaries - a non-profit that brings hope and healing to orphaned children in China.

We've wanted to work with this group for so long, and now, our wish has come true.

We are looking at ways we can begin raising funds/sponsorship for this project that will be filmed over a two week period.

Assuming we are granted society status, we'd like to hit the ground running with various programs and initiatives - such as "donate" buttons on our webpage, donation walls etc...

Once again Ridealist is entering new and previously unexplored territory - fund raising for ourselves - so any kind and thoughtful folks out there who might want to share their experiences and suggestions - we are all ears and hungry to learn!

Once again, we'd like to thank everyone who responded to our efforts to find volunteer animators / motion graphics experts to help us on a couple of ongoing projects.

The response was terrific.

We are pleased to announce that the Uganda animation is now being done by a very kind lady in the United States, and we have offers to work on the SoulTalk animation by professionals in the U.S., Thailand, and a very good old friend of ours in Iran.

We first considered the idea of using animations because budget restrictions meant we could not go on location to film.

After consideration, we decided we couldn't do it - at least not yet. We don't have the necessary equipment and our graphics skills are pretty basic.

But then, taking a line from one of our client non-profits: "Asking for help is not a sign of weakness" - we decided to look for volunteers to undertake the work for us.

And now, we have them. The projects are getting done. The awareness they will raise and the benefits they will bring are incalculable.

So we've learned, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is just another way of saying "Together, yes, we can!"

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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Here at Ridealist we love twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn... they've proved to be invaluable in making some extraordinary contacts with amazing people and groups.

Our recent shout-out to animators and motion graphics folks was especially successful.

We're now talking to half a dozen people who might be able to help us with our video for the Ugandan orphanage, and then the upcoming project with a local non-profit.

I am sure there will be more projects like this in the future, so building on these contacts will help Ridealist grow and reach more people - way, way beyond our traditional geographical reach.

Our offer to donate our two-week annual vacation to do a more in-depth feature for a grassroots non-profit, sadly, hasn't met with the same success.

The offer, however, is still on the table. Two weeks in June, any location outside Hong Kong - we'll film, script, produce, edit etc all on a pro-bono basis. You just have to come up with (or find someone to come up with) the funds to make it happen!

In the meantime we've been busy.

Shirley has been applying for grants to film documentaries in China - best of luck to her! I never realised that grant applications could be so complicated and convoluted processes!

I did a few voice-overs for our friend Ayo Johnson - the least I could do since he is the voice behind our Uganda video!

And yesterday we were out filming for a new video for Hands on Hong Kong - the locally based coordinators for volunteers.

We've got a couple of other projects that are in the planning or negotiation stage, no filming dates set yet.

And we're still in the long-running process of re-redesigning our website.

We've said it before, we'll say it again... this could so easily turn into a full time job, there are just so many good causes out there!

But before we close on this week's update, we'd just like to again offer out our thanks to everyone who has re-tweeted us, followed us, shared our posts on FB etc, and offered to share their valuable time on our projects. Thank you, one and all!

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