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Feature Article: HABESHA Inc.

Posted by: The Albireo Group

Helping Africa By Establishing Schools at Home and Abroad is the name behind the nonprofit HABESHA. What started nearly a decade ago as a summer enrichment program has grown into an international organization with an array of programs and chapters in both Baltimore and Atlanta. From researching their roots with educational excursions to Africa, to learning the science and practice behind organic farming and healthy living, the youth involved in HABESHA truly partake in a transformative process.

Today, the organization offers three primary programs:

Black to our Roots is a youth leadership and rites of passage program.  Before embarking on an awareness-raising (arguably life-changing) voyage, students prepare for one year by raising travel funds and completing a community-service and cultural education based curriculum.

Watch the dynamic video below to hear about Black to our Roots from the participants’ point of view.

Sustainable Seeds targets the youngest of the community, working with elementary school students. It is an after-school program at Rosa Burney Park, where students learn math and science skills–as well as health and nutrition-related information–by maintaining an urban organic garden.

HABESHA Works is the newest addition to the programming. This job training initiative focuses on preparing participants for jobs in urban organic agriculture and agro-business. In addition to site visits, the class and lab sessions impart skills like how to plant and harvest crops and how to develop business models for selling and distributing produce.

So, now that you know a bit about the basics, there’s something else to know. HABESHA is not your “typical” youth development organization. During this decade, they have stayed true to their Pan-African values and created a platform for young people to explore the complexity of an African-American identity. The website’s video gallery–with clips ranging from silly to serious–is proof of the powerful role of media in such an endeavor. The video “Who are U?” tackles some stereotypes and truths behind being black in America, while “Are You a Slave?” is a new look on the notion of modern day slavery.

If the young people featured in these shorts are any indication of the dynamic kinds of participants involved in HABESHA’s programs, it’s high time to take notice of this organization and to offer support. It seems HABESHA has a recipe for creating the kind of kids our world needs: inquisitive, informed and involved.

Albireo is proud to partner with this organization and blog (rather, boast) about their good work in our community and around the world.

BTW, if you like what you’ve read, there are many ways to get involved. HABESHA hosts many community-centered events in the Atlanta area. The monthly Movies in the Garden event offers free film-screenings alfresco at the HABESHA Gardens. And, every Sunday, from from April through October, there is a Garden Party. The big-deal event that doubles as a fundraiser for the organization is the Annual Organic Garden Fest. This year, the festival will take place on June 25th.


Model of / Foundation for Success

Posted by: The Albireo Group

Every now and again, a website succeeds in being simultaneously informative and inspirational. Such is the case for the virtual address attached to The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. With a track record of success, the foundation’s work can speak for itself. Perhaps that’s why their site is succinct, yet powerful in its simplicity.

That this award-winning community foundation would be a model for other organizations is no surprise–they are in the business of bringing out the best in others. By linking philanthropists and public leaders with nonprofit organizations, the foundation is able to grant more than $75 million a year to help hundreds of organizations make maximum impacts at home and around the world.

Green Champion Convening

© The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. From their Flickr photostream.

Whether arts-related, health-oriented or cultural, the foundation offers many kinds of grants. Among those most relevant to our readership are: Grants to Green–a grant-making eco initiative that helps nonprofits become more energy-efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound organizations; the Common Good Funds, which provide nonprofits with organizational and professional development resources or general operating support; and the Neighborhood Fund, which “empowers community members to positively impact neighborhoods at the local level”.

In addition to a wealth of experience and knowledge, the foundation seems to truly be built upon bedrock composed of care. If you are a grant-seeking organization based in the Atlanta area, visit the site to see what possibilities this community foundation has to offer.


A Chosen Neighborhood: Rebuilding for the Future

Posted by: The Albireo Group

Everyone has heard of the prestigious HBCU community in Atlanta, comprised of Spelman, Morehouse and Clark. But, non-Atlanta natives are sometimes surprised to learn that these elite universities have historically been surrounded by some of the most depressed neighborhoods in all of Georgia.

For more than a decade, Atlanta has been transforming public housing into mixed-income communities. Destroyed in 1996, John Hope Homes (as shown in the montage below) was among the first to be revitalized.

Follow this link to see before and after photos of Atlanta’s transformation.

Indeed, a bona-fide revival is underway, with much work yet to be done. Fortunately, the city of Atlanta has national support. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Initiative recently awarded a $250,000 Planning grant to The Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA). These funds will help AHA—in partnership with Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and others—to plan and realize the rehabilitation of the University Center neighborhood and its environs. Their initiative involves much more than building new homes. This dynamic group of actors seeks to create safe and mixed-income communities, boasting good schools and equal opportunity.

Visit the Housing and Urban Development website for more information. Or download this document for details.


MXit: the social networking underdog or unsung hero?

Posted by: The Albireo Group

In many countries around the world, computers are a luxury. Access to the Internet is more luxurious still. In South Africa, the youth are connecting in mass to one social network via mobile phones. The network is MXit, a ‘free online mobile chat, and a multi-million user social network’. With 40% of South Africa’s population subscribed, some argue that it is more popular in the Rainbow Nation than Facebook.

One thing is certain, MXit offers some things that Facebook does not. For example, when South Africa faced teacher strikes in August and September of 2010, the application Dr. Math connected student users to real-live tutors who answered math-related questions via text message.

MXit seems to have a handle on helping the people do more than just socialize. Gregory Ferenstein wrote on February 15th on FastCompany.com: “MXit…has an aggressive corporate social responsiblity program that U.S.-based social networks could learn from. In addition to live educational, drug, and suicide-prevention counselors, MXit recently added a civic responsiblity app, SmrtCitizen, that facilitiates civic and community involvement.”

As AlbireoGroup bloggers mentioned in our March 8th post, social networks focused on social responsibility are not new. Yet, as Ferenstein pointed out, few of the other networks seem to have an approach as hands-on as MXit.

The accessible, practical and socially responsible MXit. It is available in the United States. So, why aren’t we using it?


Going Green

Posted by: The Albireo Group

The environmental movement has been infused with flavor. People of color, youth, women, and residents of low-income communities have become the voice and face of the movement. In contrast to the seemingly inaccessible and elitist environmentalism of yesterday, the leaders of today come from the communities most adversely affected by environmental degradation.

The daily to-do list of an environmentalist is intense. Awareness raising, advocacy and building a green industry are among the tasks identified by the national organization Green For All. Through their Fellowship and Academy Program, they have enlisted the help of hundreds. The Green For All Fellows, working nationwide, are among the most dynamic and influential actors involved in the modern green movement.

Community-owned alternative energy projects, environmental education through music and the arts, and urban organic farming represent the robust landscape of the environmental movement in the United States today. Together these initiatives are strengthening the capacity of communities, improving health and empowering people to rise out of poverty with green jobs.

While hybrid cars, eco-friendly products and carbon offsetting remain options for the environmentally-conscious with fewer financial limitations, the strategies proposed by the Green For All Fellows require getting dirty hands and breaking a sweat for the sake of the environment. Luckily for everyone, the youth are involved.

Are you involved in the green movement? Contact us to share your story!


Spotlight on THE CENTER

Posted by: The Albireo Group

An outstanding model for collaborative decision making and dialogue, The Center facilitates community preservation, planning and development in Newton County, Georgia. Located in Covington, this non-profit organization serves as a neutral and well-equipped space for conferences and community meetings, providing “an environment for learning and sharing creative solutions”.

Recognizing that growth in the county is inevitable, the key players behind The Center seek to bring together informed citizens, engaged partners and funders in pursuit of graceful growth—noting that: “Politicians, developers, leaders and ordinary people all have an effect on growth and change. Get involved! Great things will only happen if each one will step up.”

With links to local government sites, active non-profit organizations in the area, healthcare, educational and other resources available to citizens in the region and beyond, even the website helps to support the mission of the organization.

Learn from The Center. How effectively does your website convey and support the mission of your organization? Do you bring together all the actors in your community to further the mission of your organization?

The Center of Newton County is another example of the remunerative and creative use of real estate/space. Refer to our recent blog about Nuçi’s Space.

Should you diversify your online portfolio?

Posted by: The Albireo Group

If you use only Facebook and Twitter, perhaps you aren’t connected enough. Jumo could be what’s missing.

Launched by one of Facebook’s founders, Jumo connects organizations working for global change with individuals who want to be involved. With groups like The Global Fund already adhered, this site has the potential to be a raging success.

Maybe your organization could benefit from networking through Jumo, or another similar site.

Changents (started in 2008) features the profiles of individuals and teams active in the fields of environmental sustainability, social enterprise and others. The site links change agents with backers who rally assistance by spreading the word about the work. Changents is unique in that many of the featured projects are small-scale initiatives. Plus, users can respond to volunteer requests and get immediately involved in worldwide actions for social change.

Another site, primarily focused on fundraising and philanthropy, is Crowdrise. Written in cheeky language, the tagline for the site is “If you don’t give back no one will like you”. Luckily for those who want to be liked, Crowdrise rewards people for giving. Users of the site earn points for raising or donating money. The points can eventually be cashed in for prizes like bikes, clothing or gift cards. Talk about getting something for giving back!

In addition to the sites above, Global Giving, World Eka, Bring Light, and Razoo and are all examples of how to use social media for social good.


Save as WWF

Posted by: The Albireo Group

“Save as WWF, Save a Tree”. That’s the idea behind the new green file format recently developed by the World Wildlife Fund Germany. As of November 2010, the almost fifty-year-old organization behind the fight for environmental conservation is now responsible for an innovative initiative that could change the way we use paper.

A WWF file is essentially a PDF file whose print option is blocked. While some critics argue against removing the right to print, the result is an effective tool intended to prevent waste and raise awareness about the destruction of forests for the production of paper.

The free software is currently available to download for Mac, with a Windows version in the works. Once downloaded, the software enables users to start saving and sharing environmentally friendly documents. Plus, old files can be converted. Each WWF document is accompanied by an additional page with a message (provided in German, English, Spanish and French) that reads, “The WWF format is a PDF that cannot be printed. It’s a simple way to avoid unnecessary printing. So here’s your chance to save trees and help the environment. Decide for yourself which documents don’t need printing – and save them as WWF.”

So, do your part to preserve trees by using this green file format. And, if you are not motivated by saving trees, remember that WWF files can cut costs on paper and printing. WWFs are a cost-effective and sustainable solution that could positively affect your bottom line.

Nuçi’s Space

Posted by: The Albireo Group

In this unstable economy, many non-profits are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. For one Athens, Georgia based organization, a long legal battle threatened to make matters worse—until recently.

In early November 2010, Nuçi’s Space won a state supreme court case with wide implications for the nonprofit sector. This organization, named in memory of musician Nuçi Phillips, seeks to prevent suicide by providing mental and physical health services for musicians. While its primary purpose is to provide a safe space for musicians to play and listen to music, relax and access free resources, Nuçi’s Space generates revenue by renting rehearsal rooms and equipment. The commercial use of their space for parties and other events is what called their tax exemption status into question.

Was Nuçi’s Space subject to taxation? The Athens-Clarke County Board of Tax Assessors essentially argued “yea”. However, the Georgia Supreme Court found in favor of the non-profit, noting that although their property is not used solely for charitable pursuits, the funds raised from rentals are exclusively used to further the non-lucrative mission of the organization. Nuci’s Space won the case with a close 4-3 decision.

What can your organization learn from the Nuçi’s Space score? How could you benefit from creatively using existing space or acquiring new properties? Erika S. Williams of The Albireo Group suggests taking advantage of the economic downturn by purchasing real estate assets and generating income through real estate while maintaining a tax exempt status.

To find out more about how the court decision could affect you, click here: http://www.gcn.org/files/Nuci_Supreme_Court_decision.pdf. And, to find out more about Nuçi’s Space, visit their site at: http://www.nuci.org.