San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Pay it forward with this golden opportunity

We all know how good it feels to find cash. I remember finding 100 bucks once when I was about 13 years old.  It was before I had to worry about gas, rent, insurance or dates, so I used it all on myself. As I recall, I spent a lot of time in a go-kart.

That day felt incredible. But these days, something in my gut tells me spending cash I didn’t actually earn on my own will produce a short-lived happiness. When you’re older, happiness becomes much more complicated because it tends to always involve sharing experiences with others.

So ask yourself, if you were given a small sum of money out of thin air, how would you spend it? Would you buy something you didn’t need? Would you spend it alone? What if you knew your family and friends were watching? Would you be more inclined to brighten someone else’s day and share your fortune?

This is the concept that led to creating the social experiment known as  The Golden Opportunity.

Victor Kearney, the co-founder of One Skin Suit, a nonprofit that simply challenges people to “be remarkable,” asked himself the question: “What would the average person do with money if they found it?” Kearney now works with the brilliantly creative Lynn Liss and a team of forward-thinking minds to explore the answer.

This is how it works: A driven individual looking to make a positive influence in the community is given $250 and a Flip Video camera. All the person has to do is spend the money, film what they did and post it on the website. The results have unleashed the power of micro-activism, a revolutionary new form of charity that encourages individuals to take small-scale actions of good will to produce a larger ripple effect in communities. Simple. Awesome. Genius.

Ira Liss, the mind behind TGO’s strategic partnerships said, “TGO exists because of Victor’s curiosity and trust in humankind. TGO recognizes people’s desires to be activists but not to be  entrenched in a specific cause or high commitment.”

I’m not usually one to promote charitable organizations. I’ve got a simple policy of doing good deeds as I see fit. I take issue with entrusting my money to someone else to do what’s best. It’s why I don’t support the church or the Democratic Party.

When I see a commercial attempting to tug at my heartstrings by showing sad images to the tune of somber music, I immediately check out. If I chose to contribute $10 per month, how much of it will actually go to the cause?

But this is different. Instead of cutting a check every month to a massive organization and receiving a T-shirt or a picture of a random child, you can go to the website, browse, vote on and contribute ideas, enter the Golden Opportunity sweepstakes and browse TGO-sponsored projects being completed by everyday people. You can also donate to specific projects through a PayPal link.

This allows people to become part of a community within a community. Because videos are posted, allowing anyone to see where your money goes, there is a constant transparency to it all.

It really is refreshing to see an organization that believes the power of the individual is far greater than the power of the dollar. And now that TGO is working with SDSU’s human rights professor, Danusia Garrison, on the “Film it Forward” project, we’re seeing students empowered to get firsthand experience of being a positive and meaningful influence in a stranger’s life.

Imagine if this was built into curricula nationwide. Working with your peers, creating an idea to somehow better your community, creatively marketing your idea to get donations. Implementing the plan and filming the results would be an invaluable learning experience and a practical application of so many different classroom lessons.

I would go so far as to say this could be a class in and of itself. Not only should it be its own class, it should be a required class. I don’t believe the world is so far gone that people no longer want to do good for others, but I do believe in the era of social media we’ve become overwhelmingly self-involved and have forgotten to find the time.

Adding the dynamic of empowering young adults to make a difference while in the throws of professional development and self-discovery is a fantastic way to keep the philanthropic spirit alive in the new generations of leaders and professionals. Who knows, maybe by experiencing something this powerful, future directors, operations managers and CEOs will offer more innovative ideas rather than just outsourcing and cutting jobs when trying to save a buck.

If you visit, you will find the depth and variety of videos to be astounding. Something else you might notice is the absence of control or guidelines aside from not posting pornography, violence or criminal acts.

Maybe it’s being selected, being trusted or the expectation of positive results from others, but when people receive a “Golden Ticket,” as it’s called, they don’t just take the money and run. They don’t take advantage of the generosity. It seems people enjoy capitalizing on the opportunity to prove their intrinsic worths.

I want people to get behind this. Take five minutes and go to the website. Poke around, watch a few videos, see with your own eyes just how amazing the project is. When TGO rises to the level of notoriety it undoubtedly will, I want us to be able to say we were part of the beginning. We were part of an epic movement to no longer rely on others to do good. I want to be able to say the students of San Diego State were part of making a tangible difference in the community and part of changing the way people think about charity.

“It turns out we’re pretty good people, this human race,” Liss said during our conversation.  TGO is creating wonderful opportunities for us to prove it.

—Joe Stewart is a journalism senior.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Pay it forward with this golden opportunity