In our times, the Internet is easily the most powerful medium that people can turn to when they want to make a request for help. But it’s easy for their plea to get drowned in the deluge of information on cyberspace.
Social psychologist Chandni Parekh decided to exploit the full potential of the Internet by connecting people with information they might be seeking. She decided to use Twitter to start a platform whereby individuals or NGOs could make requests for donations or receive information about available funds.
She called this initiative Fund A Cause ( http://twitter.com/FundACause ), started a blog (FundACause.posterous.com) and also started a Facebook group.
Parekh began the initiative in April 2009, by simply collating information that she received in emails from friends or other e-groups that she was a part of, and retweeting them to her followers. She says she was inspired by the fact that there’s no comprehensive forum for those seeking or providing funds. “Where is the platform for those seeking funds?” she asks. “Even for someone to critique a request for money, there should be awareness about it.”
In the last year, the causes that have found a mention on her Facebook page have spanned a wide range. The most common requests are from families of patients seeking donations for medical treatment and from NGOs. But you will also find information about a surprising number of scholarships, from an energy efficient lighting design competition with prize money of over a lakh, to the British Council’s award for young entrepreneurs.
How does Parekh sift the genuine claims from the dubious? “I don’t take up any of the cases or personally contact the funders,” she says. “But so far, it’s quite remarkable that of the 1000-odd tweets I have received, there haven’t been any I’ve found fake. Besides, every tweet has the email address and the contact number of the concerned person.”
However, she did receive some unconventional requests that she couldn’t share. “There were two dowry-related emails I received,” she says. “In one case, a father was asking for monetary help to raise dowry for his daughter’s wedding.”
Although she doesn’t intend to formalise the initiative by establishing an offline presence, Parekh says it is bound to grow on the Net. “Twitter has the potential to channelise a lot of efforts,” she says. “There are well-meaning people out there but they have to be motivated.”