Thursday, August 21, 2014

Only Eight Goals Away...and 500 days to meet them

From website
This week, August 18, 2014 marked the 500 day milestone until the target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's). The MDG's are eight goals established by the United Nations and governments around the world in the year 2000 to tackle some of the world's biggest problems surrounding global poverty. Each goal has concrete targets associated with it and a looming 2015 deadline. The goals are:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Create a global partnership for development

I believe in goals. I believe in strategy. When I first heard about the MDG's, I thought they were a brilliant idea for many reasons. Firstly, pulling all these root causes of poverty together and treating them as an interconnected problem with international cooperation increases our chance of success greatly. Secondly, the targets associated with the goals are very clear. (To see them visit They are not vague. They were set by experts with full knowledge of our technological capabilities and what our global governments can afford. Thirdly, they are exactly what the world needs to baby-step us toward a time when poverty does not exist.

Let me elaborate on that last point. Long before kids, I was a couch-to-marathon runner back in my 20's. That experience tells me that - given our human nature - the best way to reach a giant, seemingly unattainable goal is trick our brains by hacking it up in to smaller pieces and get there bit by bit. Don't believe me? Try to get a 4-year-old to climb up a mountain trail without using milestones. Adults and heads-of-state are no different. Anyway, that's what the MDG's are to me. They are milestones. Without milestones to hit, we will never win the race or summit the peak.

There will always be nay-sayers telling us we can't get there, but take this to heart: we've already hit two targets! We hit them hard and early. First, the Economist reported that global poverty in 2010 was half the level it was in 1990. In spite of global population grown and a massive worldwide economic downturn, fewer people are living on less than $1.25 a day. Then, the United Nations reported that in 2010, 89% of the world's population enjoyed access to safe drinking water. These targets would not have been reached without the MDG's behind them and grassroots advocates pushing for them.

I admit that I don't know where we are on all of the goals. Like many, I'll be watching and learning in the next 500 days. I'll also be sharing what I know about the ones I advocate on regularly and sharing in this blog how you can help. In this last countdown of 500 days, follow the Twitter hashtag #MDG500 with me to see who's talking about it and join the conversation. 

"8 Goals Away" at
For some inspiration and happiness, I invite you to click on this awesome song "8 Goals Away" by African artists that has never seemed so timely to me as now. They remind us, "Time is tick, tick, ticking...There's no time to delay." The world we dream of is only eight goals away!

Music by Jimmy Dludlu 
Lyrics by Eric WainainaCHORUS
Time is tick, tick, ticking
It’s ticking away
Hear the call for a through-ball
Yes! A luta continua
There’s no time to delay
The Africa we dream of
Only 8 Goals away.
Africa E!
Africa O!

People working for less than a dollar a day
And there’s no answer to the hunger
And the poverty never seems to go away
They’re asking how much longer?

Let the children go to school
Let there be no reason
They can’t get an education
I see the beautiful minds coming
From miles and miles like butterflies
Let’s feed the thirst in their eyes

If we teach a girl to read
A future generation rejoices, rejoices
Put a microphone in the hands of our sisters
Hear their voices, know their choices

We have the power at this very hour
To decide we’re losing no child under five
That they will grow and live to see their eighties
And live to see their babies’ babies

She puts his hand on her stomach
His other hand is on the heart, card in his pocket
Their doctor, knows she’ll make it
As for the baby that both parents created
Sitting at the gateway
They are new parents-to-be
Its a good, good day

We’ve made such major steps
In the right direction
We took the road less traveled by
We’ve pulled hard on the reigns of major sickness
No, we won’t bear the burden of the sadness

Smoke from factories
Killing rivers and trees
The water’s not drinkable
The situation’s unthinkable
We must have somewhere to go when we need to go
Overcrowded spaces
Like a maximum sentence

What we need is opportunity
A world in unity
A level playing field
See where we went wrong
Take a look at the replay
It’s time for fair play

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Advocacy Made Easy: Writing a Blog Post

You may have seen my past posts in my Advocacy Made Easy series. (If you want to see them, type "Advocacy Made Easy" into the search bar of this blog) I'll admit up front that this particular action - writing a blog post - isn't as ready-made for step-by-step instructions as other advocacy actions. It requires creativity, introspection, and a willingness to put your views out into the public that many other actions don't.

I'm still stumbling along in this journey to create compelling posts, but here are a few lessons I've learned that I can share with you about creating blog content.

EPIC Format Still Works
I use the EPIC writing format for writing letters to Congress and letters to the editor. There's nothing wrong with using this tried and true method for a blog post. A blog tends to be more free flowing than a formal letter, so it's okay if you just want to write 6 or 7 haikus about your topic. Nevertheless, for informing readers and asking them to take an action, nothing beats a good EPIC piece of writing. "EPIC" is a handy mnemonic for remembering an order of statements to build your case for an action and engage your reader. Here it is:

Engage: Grab the reader's attention with a question or a startling statement. You could use a surprising statistic or a question. 
Problem: State the problem that you want the reader to address. 
Inform (or Illustrate): Inform the reader of the solution or illustrate how the solution can help. 
Call to Action: CLEARLY state what you want the reader to do. It's best if you can do it in the form of a question that should be answered with a "yes" or a "no."

THINK Before You Post
There are plenty of bloggers making names for themselves by being edgy, negative, or snarky. However, my advice to you, especially if you are just starting out and haven't found your voice yet, is to play it positive. It seems like the online universe trends toward the negative side of things. Isn't there enough name calling and disrespect out there? Why add to it? Remember, once you put something negative and nasty out there, you can't take it back once it starts being shared and re-tweeted.

I found a sign in the hallway at an elementary school and thought that its message is even more applicable to bloggers than school children. It encourages kids to think before they speak and ask themselves about what they are about to say: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

I strive to hold similar standards in my blog posts. I want this blog to be uplifting and inclusive, so I also give consideration to "Who might I be alienating with the way this draft is written?" I know I don't always get it right, but stopping to think before posting helps a great deal.

Use Pictures (your own pictures!)
Pictures are a great way to get someone to click on your blog and hold attention. They don't even have to be award winning photography. Just something to give the brain a break from a solid wall of text. Case in point: In the bullet suggestion above, I could have just listed out the bullet points of the "Think Before You Speak" poster. But it was more interesting looking at the quilt-like bulletin board that a teacher spent a good amount of time putting together, wasn't it? I've taken pictures of legos spilled on my floor and heaps of my own dirty laundry to make my points. The main thing is that you own the pictures you use or credit the person who does own the photo (ideally with his or her permission). You can also purchase stock photos on websites for not much money if you wish. Sometimes if I don't have a good photo, I might simply draw a quick sketch like this one I used on a blog about sadness.

Be Sincere and Find Your Own Voice
Frank Gilbert, English teacher and fellow RESULTS advocate, guides his students in the art of finding their own writing styles. He tells them, (paraphrased) "If anyone ever tells you that they can hear your voice when they read your writing, then you know you have found your genuine writing voice." When I began this blog, my own writing was quite stilted and - frankly - extremely boring. If you don't believe me, you can read my post from 2007 about the Farm Bill. Or - better yet - don't bother unless your having difficulty sleeping and want to be lulled to unconsciousness. Over time, I found that many more people respond to my posts when I write as if I'm writing an email to a friend. Sure, a post should be more strict about grammar (see Weird Al Yankovic's "Word Crimes" if you don't understand why) than your twitter feed. So, be casual while also being correct. Please also accept my apologies for the unintentional typos you may be reading over in this very post. Additionally, when I became more authentic in sharing who I am - a nerdly stay-at-home mom of two - and shared my opinions through that particular perspective, my posts became more interesting to more people.

Like I said, I'm still growing and learning. If you have more pieces of advice for new (or old) bloggers, please share them in the comments. I'd love to hear it!