Let’s get to work.

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It has been three years, four months and three days since my last blog post. In that time, a lot has changed. Let’s skip ahead to the big one.

Today was the third full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, and to say our friends in D.C. have been busy is an understatement. Here’s what happened:

  • Donald Trump signed three executive orders, including one withdrawing the United States from the TPP.
  • He also signed one banning foreign NGOs from receiving federal aid if they provide abortion care, counseling or referrals.
  • The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as CIA director and approved Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. Trump’s cabinet is expected to be the whitest and most male since Reagan’s.

And that’s just at the federal level.

In the aftermath of what is being called the largest demonstration in U.S. history, the time is ripe to spring into action — if we can stay on top of what’s going on. Here are some of the best resources I’ve found:

Women’s March: 10 Actions / 100 Days: The organizers of the Women’s March on Washington will call on marchers to take one collective action every ten days, for the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency. The first action: sending a postcard to your Senators to tell them what issues are important to you.

The 65: Originally a Google Doc, The 65 is essentially “Calling Your Representative for Dummies.” The phone call scripts were invaluable to me as I made my first calls last week; coupled with these tips from former Congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth, they made calling a stranger to share my opinion much less nerve-wracking than it could have been. this week’s action: continuing to protest the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

Daily Action: As part of its mission of “resisting extremism in America, one phone call at a time,” Daily Action sends a text message to you each workday with the information you need to share your thoughts on an urgent issue. Once you click on the phone number in the message, you’ll hear the CliffsNotes version of the issue, then be connected you to your local representative. Today’s Daily Action: Asking your senator to vote against the confirmation of Steven Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury.

Wall of Us: This site delivers four concrete acts of resistance to your inbox each week. From inspiring quotes to satisfying “I took action!” checkboxes, Wall of Us makes it possible to find the perfect balance between self-care and activism. This week’s actions range from watching President Obama’s final speech as president, to showing up to your senators’ offices tomorrow for the National Day of Action.

2 Hours A Week: The volunteer team at 2 Hours A Week invites us to spend, well, two hours a week making the world a better place. Sign up to receive 2 Hours A Week’s daily emails to get started. Today’s action: Read their news brief to get caught up on everything that’s happened since Trump took the oath of office last Friday.

Swing Left: Fostering change is a marathon, not a sprint, and that’s where Swing Left comes in. Enter your city, state or ZIP code to locate your nearest Swing District, and then receive updates about what you can do to turn that district blue in the next election.

If none of those strikes your fancy, here are a few others you might like:

One more note before we get to work: take care of yourself. Breathe deeply, go for a walk, drink plenty of water, spend time with the people you love. There’s a reason flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first.

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Girl Scouts align with the Millennium Development Goals for World Thinking Day

Girl Guides in Argentina created a banner to promote World Thinking Day and tell their community to "alzar la voz por nuestra tierra" (raise your voice for our planet). Image courtesy of WAGGGS on Facebook.

Today, millions of girls and young women are celebrating World Thinking Day, an annual celebration of the shared sisterhood of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world. Led by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), these young women unite each year around a common global theme. This year, that theme is “Girls Save Our Planet.”

Environmental sustainability is not a topic new to the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides movement. As a former Girl Scout myself, I remember learning lessons about taking care of the environment and leaving my surroundings as I found them as a young girl. But as these organizations begin to use technology and social media to broadcast their messages to a wider audience, and as fundraising becomes a more focused goal of the WAGGGS member organizations, I’ve been inspired to see them sharing a message that feels more urgent.

When selecting the global theme for World Thinking Day 2012, WAGGGS chose to align itself with one of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), identified in 2000 as the most urgent global priorities to accomplish by 2015. I’ve seen more discussion about these MDGs in the past month than in the previous 11 years combined, and I commend WAGGGS for aligning with these goals — their commitment to these global priorities affirms the Girl Scout and Girl Guide movements’ fight for relevance and further establishes these organizations as the preeminent leadership development organizations for our world’s youngest generation of girls.

The most compelling element of World Thinking Day is yet to come. In June 2012, WAGGGS will send an international youth delegation to Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. This delegation will work with negotiators to make sure the voices of girls and young women are heard and that women are involved in building the global plan for our shared future. I vehemently believe that the future of our world depends on the involvement of the girls and women that have so long been excluded from these discussions, and I take comfort in knowing that WAGGGS is advocating on my behalf and on behalf of our future generations of female leaders.

Why universities ask for (even more) money from you

If you’re a college graduate, you’ve likely received solicitations for donations from your alma mater. My first e-mail solicitation arrived yesterday, on the morning of Valentine’s Day, and featured the adorable bulldog video below and an appeal to contribute to the Drake Fund, the pool of donations that Drake University uses to support student scholarships, University programs and the school’s most immediate needs. I appreciated this solicitation for two reasons: one, because it was just darn cute, and two, because it wasn’t a random, out of the blue appeal — it was tied to the celebration of a holiday.

From the uproar I witnessed on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, many of my fellow recent graduates did not feel the same. These new alumni were outraged that their beloved university had reached out to them for money so soon after graduation — the school where they had invested so much of their money, or their family’s money, over the years, and to which they were still paying back student loans (and likely would be for a while).

As a recent grad myself, I understand that. When I decided to attend a private college, my tuition required that my family make financial sacrifices, and as a graduate I now chip away at my student loan debt each month at the expense of other financial needs. Even so, I still felt unsettled by my peers’ often angry responses to this e-mail across the Internet yesterday. Here’s why:

  • Our tuition is the money we pay to educational institutions in exchange for the education we receive. Just like anything else we purchase, it’s money that we pay in exchange for a service. This is not a “donation” to Drake University. This money pays for the professors who teach us, for the resources we are provided, and for the opportunities to which we are granted access.
  • Student loans may extend the amount of time we have to pay the money we owe to a university, but we’re paying now for something we have already received. Your lender has already paid the university. Your student loan payments do not support the university in any way; they’re going straight to the lender.
  • Attending a university is expensive now, but it will only continue to get more expensive over time. If your university provided you with an exemplary education, if it provided you with the skills that you need to survive after college, if it helped you find your passion or an internship or a job, those benefits you reaped are only going to get more expensive for future generations. Supporting your university helps provide scholarships to the students who need them most, making it possible for more students to share the life-changing experience you had, despite socioeconomic status or financial hardship. If you received scholarships that made your education less expensive, the best way to show gratitude for the opportunities you were given is to pay it forward.

My biggest frustration, though, is the attitude that because we are young, we are somehow excused from giving back. If you want to be the type of person who contributes your time and financial support to the organizations and causes that are important to you, start being that person now — otherwise, you’ll always find excuses or obstacles or “special circumstances” to stand in your way. There are plenty of non-profits that would appreciate your donation of even $5 a month. The donations I make to local and global organizations may seem small, but when compounded with the donations of the people around me, those donations can make a difference. (Want proof? Check out 100+ Chicks for Charity.]

Now here’s a disclaimer: I’m not saying you need to donate to your university. If I was, I’d be a hypocrite, because my donations have thus far been given elsewhere. But if you’re choosing not to support your alma mater, at least understand why your university (still) wants your money.

My Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa guest post

Earlier this month, I was asked to write a guest post for the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa blog in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts. Click on the image below to read about my own Girl Scouts experience and why I feel the Girl Scouts program has the potential to develop the next generation of female leaders.

30 women changing the tech landscape

The more I read, the more I want to take on “women in tech” as my passion project for 2011. Want to inspire young girls to consider careers in technology? Let them sit down in a room with one of these 30 strong, innovative women. They’re changing life in the present – let’s create opportunities for them to help change the future, too.

Our world needs more women in technology, but that can’t happen until our girls and young women have the resources, programs and mentors they need to nurture their interests and developing skills. There are local and national organizations out there working to help girls find opportunities to interact with technology, but more can be done. I’m just challenged by how to get started.

fastcompany:

Two years ago, Fast Company compiled a list of the Most Influential Women In Tech, in part to recognize the challenges that women in technology face—proper recognition being just one of them. We continued in 2010. Our 2011 list highlights 30 women in six categories. All of them bring unique brands of
 thought to their industries, such as Heather Harde (CEO, TechCrunch), Cher Wang (Chair, HTC), Rachel Sterne (CEO, GroundReport), and more. Click through and read on!

Girl Scouts get tech-savvy with cookie sales

Living in Des Moines, it’s impossible to ignore the hype surrounding Dwolla, a mobile payment system with POS integration that’s taking the Silicon Prairie by storm this year. The DSM Twitter community is fiercely loyal to Dwolla, so much so that many are unwilling to consider the benefits of other payment systems, including Square, an iOS- and Android-compatible (free!) credit card reader brought to life by a team led by Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter.

Although I’ve had my own Square card reader for about a month now, this past Sunday was the first time I got to see the payment system in action. A friend hosted a group of us over at his apartment’s clubhouse for a movie night and purchased a keg for his attendees; we each chipped in $5 through a quick card swipe via Square and his iPad, received our receipts via SMS, and were ready to enjoy the Honey Weiss goodness. Quick and simple.

Though Square has yet to catch on within a mainstream audience, I was pleasantly surprised to see this tweet from Randi Zuckerberg (marketing director of Facebook and sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg):

Some very smart, enterprising girl scouts are at Facebook HQ w/boxes of cookies & @square devices. Making SERIOUS bank.

These Girl Scouts’ innovation has since been covered by AdAge and is gaining buzz around the social media community, and for a good reason — it demonstrates a “new face” of Girl Scouts, consistent with the organization’s focus on STEM initiatives, and supportive of real-world innovation and leadership. I’m a staunch advocate for the growth Girl Scouts of the USA has brought to its organization in the last few years, and instances like this only enhance the organization’s potential to help girls develop into smart, strong young women.

How else can Girl Scouts find revitalization through technology? How can local groups incorporate technology like Square into their everyday activities? I’d love to hear your thoughts.