What do you do after you've already created the world’s largest social network? Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes saw a community of people wanting to help victims of natural disasters. His vision—call it Philanthropy 2.0—was for an online conduit for people to identify social causes and build relationships with charities they care about before donating their skills, time or money.
Although similar portals already existed, including Causes, built by Napster founder Sean Parker, Hughes is pushing the idea further with his site, www.jumo.com. A word in the Yoruba language from Senegal in West Africa, “jumo” means “together in concert.”
Economists and poverty experts advised Hughes before he launched the site in 2010. Now, when you see the disturbing images of famine in southern Somalia, you can go to the site and personally take steps to help the 11 million people that are in need of food assistance in the region.
“Discovery and relationship-building—that’s our core,” Hughes says.
The only child of a paper salesman and a teacher from North Carolina, Hughes plotted his way out of small-town life by applying, without his parents’ knowledge, to an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. Next stop was Harvard, where his roommate happened to be a geek named Mark Zuckerberg.
Of Facebook, Hughes says, “We were just building a web site that helped us keep up with our friends.” The power behind that idea, he adds, is that it’s something everybody wants to do.
Hughes’ genius lies in being so empathetic that he can put himself in another person’s shoes.
After natural disasters on the Gulf Coast, in Haiti and Indonesia, Hughes “personally felt disappointed that the Internet and online technology hadn’t caught up with that social desire [to help], and hadn’t offered any opportunities for people to engage in a long-term and sustainable way. It’s about seeing obvious need.”
In March of 2012, at age 28, this new media guru announced he is purchasing an icon of old media, the New Republic, the nearly 100-year-old political magazine influential in progressive circles. He plans to increase the magazine's budget for reporting and analysis and serve as editor-in-chief. Hughes says he will place particular emphasis on tablet computers, such as the iPad; “Five to 10 years from now, if not sooner, the vast majority of The New Republic readers are likely to be reading it on a tablet.”
The lesson: Ask what obvious need your organization can fill.
— Adapted from “Game Changers: Social Worker,” Erik Jaques, CNBC Business.