by Lauren Drell
In our new series, The World at Work, Mashable interviews the faces behind the startups and projects that are working to make a global impact.
By harnessing the power of digital technology, these five companies have offered resources to citizens in need, helped to eliminate landfill junk and funded social entrepreneurs who will effect real change on a global scale. While the companies are diverse, they share a common thread — a passionate leader who’s devoted to improving lives.
Here’s a roundup of featured programs from the last week, including exclusive video interviews. To read more and watch the videos, click through to the full story, and follow the series to learn about more breakthrough companies.
1. Aunt Bertha
Big Idea: Aunt Bertha collects information on federal, state, county, city, neighborhood and charity programs and puts it all in one place.
Why It’s Working: There are thousands of non-profit organizations, government programs, charities and other services across the United States specifically working for people in need. But finding a program that fits a user’s particular situation and location (and the application process that follows) is not only difficult — it’s intimidating.
That’s where Aunt Bertha comes in. Using information the team learns about various programs, Aunt Bertha matches people with public services available locally or federally, based on their specific needs.
2. Echoing Green
Big Idea: Echoing Green offers grants to social entrepreneurs and changemakers — it’s referred to as “impact investing.”
Why It’s Working: “Capital is always a problem,” says Echoing Green Finance Director John Walker, adding that “the first thing any entrepreneur thinks about is raising money.” That’s where Echoing Green comes in — it’s a seed-funding foundation that has disseminated $31 million to ambitious social entrepreneurs.
Echoing Green was launched in 1987, and it was recast as a global non-profit by one of its alumni fellows in 2002. To date, Echoing Green has funded the ideas of more than 500 fellows. What sets these fellows apart from most grant-receiving entrepreneurs is that they were chosen not necessarily for their business plans, but for their personality and ambition — they were selected by Echoing Green because they are perceived as effective changemakers.
Big Idea: Givmo.com is (literally) a free marketplace connecting users’ throwaways with new homes where the items will be appreciated.
Why It’s Working: After college, software engineer Dustin Byrne hopped from job to job, moving about once per year for several years straight. Each time, he says, “I found I had a whole bunch of stuff I hadn’t even looked at or remembered I had since the last time I moved.” People don’t want to just throw their old things away. So Byrne created Givmo as a platform where people can come together to give (and take!) free stuff.
Big Idea: DailyFeats offers a way for people to get motivated to achieve their personal goals.
Why It’s Working: By incorporating a positive rewards system and tailored programs that help people take small steps toward success, DailyFeats boosts confidence for users and motivates them to achieve their dreams. Users can either cash in their points for swag or donate to the non-profit of their choice.
5. Reboot Stories
Big Idea: With their trilogy of experiential learning projects, Reboot Stories aims to engage children from low-income school districts with imaginative and educational activities.
Why It’s Working: Reboot Stories is pushing the boundaries of traditional learning by incorporating technology and multimedia into classrooms that lack the resources otherwise. For Lance Weiler and Janine Saunders, creating an inspiring and engaging educational program that integrated digital learning became a major passion. Their first project, Robot Heart Stories, launched in October 2011 on a very minimal budget. Robot Heart Stories brought together two fifth grade classrooms — one in Montreal and the other in Los Angeles — to help power the journey of a small robot who crash-landed onto Earth.