Everyday Problems: Are you paying attention?

On what would have been Nelson Mandela‘s 98th birthday, today seems like a better time than any to launch a new website I’ve been working on…

You shouldn’t need anyone to tell you that there were refugees long before the Syrian crisis brought their horror further into the public consciousness. There was famine before recent announcements of severe food shortages in Yemen, Malawi and Nigeria, too. And, today, with over fifty countries run by dictatorships, oppression isn’t in short supply, either.

As heartening as it is to see the public response to the latest humanitarian crisis or injustice, it’s a shame that in so many cases it takes a major news event to bring a particular concept of suffering to people’s attention. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people were always paying attention, always aware of the inequalities in the world, and always willing to help chip away at it, wherever it may be? How many of these events might never have happened if we all paid more attention and supported those working to fix their root causes? In today’s always on, always connected, 24/7 news world, there’s no excuse to not know what’s going on in the lives of people less fortunate.

Heartbreaking stories like the drowning of the young Syrian refugee were meant to be turning points, but for many people those shocking images are now just a distant memory. Yet refugee children and their families continue to drown in boats every week. The problem has not gone away, even if the attention of the press has. 

As part of my wider work helping support and mentor social innovators – and would-be social innovators – around the world, I’ve launched a new site, Everyday Problems. The site is designed to highlight the fact that people face problems every day, even when the news doesn’t report it. In particular, the site encourages people to:



During my time as a mentor with Unreasonable at Sea, I had the honour to sit on a panel with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in front of several hundred students hungry to find out how they could help make the world a better place. It was a wide-ranging conversation which you can see in full below. (The Archbishop later wrote the Foreword to my first book, which you can read about here).

Feel free to check out the Everyday Problems website, and if you’re an educator please make use of it as you encourage your own students to take an interest in, and build solutions for, the kinds of problems people face around the world on a daily basis – whether those problems are in the news or not.

Breakfast with explorers

I’m sitting on the top deck of a 747 after British Airways kindly decided to upgrade me to First Class. After a week in Washington DC it feels like a fitting – if not fortunate – end to a crazy and hugely productive, thought-provoking few days. The main purpose of my trip was to attend the National Geographic Explorers Symposium, but that ended up being sandwiched between various meetings for the Global eHealth Foundation, a CARE International workshop, and coffee with a number of old friends and colleagues. There’s nothing like a bit of diversity in your working week.

The Symposium itself is a bit like Christmas – you sort of wish it would come round every week. Hundreds of Explorers and Fellows converge on the Society’s headquarters for five days and share new and exciting updates on their work. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, or how far up or down you are on the fame ladder. What makes the week special is that, for a while at least, everyone is equal. (Example: On the first night at dinner I sat next to Bob Ballard. For those who don’t know who Bob Ballard is, he discovered the Titanic).

The National Geographic Explorer family

The National Geographic Explorer family

During the week I had the chance to catch up with some older acquaintances, including Meave Leakey (who picked up a Hubbard Medal, the Society’s highest honour) and John Francis, the ‘planetwalker’ – both fascinating, approachable, humble people. And I bumped into Lee Berger, who picked up Explorer of the Year award for his discovery of a new hominid species. Given my passion as a child was conservation and exploration – not unlike many others, I don’t suppose – Explorers Week finds me pinching myself almost hourly. It truly is an honour and a priviledge to be a member of this family.

I had the opportunity this year to share my latest work and decided to focus on my writing and work on altruly, a new kind of mobile giving app. Education came across as a strong theme during the week, and much of what I find myself doing at the moment – writing, speaking and mentoring – proved very complimentary. I also managed to hand out some free copies of “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” (which carries three National Geographic endorsements) to help push the message further. Nothing beats a free book. And after a couple of productive meetings I’m hopeful for a future collaboration with National Geographic Education. Watch this space.

Although I come away energised and inspired, I also come away frustrated and impatient – not just at the problems and challenges of the sector I work in, but in my own progress and ability to make a positive dent on them.

When you meet people at the very top of their game it makes you question the one you’re playing. That’s exactly what Explorers Week does, and one of the many things that makes it so special.

We’re (part-time) hiring! * NOW FILLED*

After a great response, this position has now been filled. Thanks for your interest!

Late last year we secured angel investment for an exciting new kind of mobile giving app. Called altruly, we’re looking to reimagine how people give, manage and monitor their personal giving portfolios. App development started last month and we’re looking at early summer onwards for an official launch. There’s a holding page up on the altruly website, but we’re holding back on releasing more information until nearer the time.

altruly Icon on Wet Window Small

As part of our preparations for the earlier Beta release, we’re looking for some help building a database of projects and causes people will be able to support through the app. The online data entry side of things has already been built, and is good to go and easy to navigate and use.

We need someone part-time for three months, starting any time between the middle and the end of May, to help find and enter projects into the database. You’ll get guidance and support with this – we want to be strategic about who and what is made available to users early on. And we’ll be looking to meet up regularly over coffee to share ideas and discuss progress.

We’re looking for someone who:

  • Is interested in social innovation and helping drive social change
  • Can use a web browser, can type accurately, and is comfortable using a computer
  • Has access to the Internet, or who can get somewhere with access
  • Is enthusiastic, reliable, ideally looking to forge a future career in the social sector
  • Is available to start within the next couple of weeks or so
  • Can commit to 15 hours per week throughout June, July and August
  • Is happy to work remotely most of the time
  • Is happy to work under a short-term contract, billing us monthly for their time
  • Ideally lives in Cambridge or London (or near by) for ease of regular meetings

This work would suit a student looking to keep busy over the bulk of the summer, but also keep some free time for other activities and interests. Hourly pay will be determined by experience, but in any event will be well above the minimum wage.

If you’d like to apply we’re looking to keep the process as short and sweet as possible:

  • Applications will be through our contact form, so no attachments or lengthy letters
  • In a couple of paragraphs, tell us about you and why you’re applying for this role
  • If you use Twitter or other social media, feel free to share the details
  • Feel free to ask any questions, which we’d be happy to answer via email
  • Before you sign off, confirm when you’re available and where you live

This position will remain open until we find the right applicant. Good luck!