December 2nd, 2010
05:51 PM GMT
When I arrived at the offices of start-up Jumo I was surprised by just how young Chris Hughes looks in person. Though he is now 27 years old, he looks like he could still be in college. As we set up for the interview I tried to reconcile this mild mannered fellow with the person some credit with getting Barack Obama elected (he spear-headed Barack Obama’s online fundraising and social networking efforts).
And then Hughes started talking. He is sharp, focused and confident beyond his years. I guess I would be too if I had helped launch Facebook – that is a pretty big resume booster. Still, Hughes has set himself a formidable task. Getting people, especially young people, to engage in charitable giving at a time when jobs are scarce and the future looks bleak. Crazy?
“I never underestimate the generosity of the American people,” says Hughes. “Obviously people are suffering at home and are having trouble making ends meet, but especially around the holidays they are thinking about their communities.”
It is that community part that Hughes thinks is missing from the charity equation. When disasters like the tsunami in Indonesia or earthquake in Haiti strike and news images flood our lives we connect in a personal way with those in need. Donations surge. But when the story moves on so does the help. Hughes thinks the social network framework of blogs, news feeds and video can establish more lasting relationships. People can also tap into special interests more easily and find a niche they want to get involved with and support.
There is huge potential. The New York Times points out that only 6% of the $300 billion donated in 2009 was done online.
It is a leap of faith, but Hughes is an optimist. “What is at our core is our sense of solidarity, our feeling that we are all in this together…….that American resiliency is at the core of what has gotten us through hard economic times before, it will get us through this time and probably the ones to come.”
At a time when many dismiss the competitive ability of the U.S. and are so gloomy about the future of the global economy, it is a breath of fresh air to talk to Hughes. While some industries and jobs may be gone for good, Hughes and his peers are focused on new frontiers. He calls the rate of invention on the web, awe-inducing. Applications exist now that didn’t exist five years ago. Hughes sees endless possibility in that and for the short time I am with him…so do I.
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