Good news! What we've learned from the ice bucket challenge - Women's Agenda

Good news! What we’ve learned from the ice bucket challenge

“Do not allow people to dim your shine because they are blinded. Tell them to put on some sunglasses, cuz we were born this way bitch!”
Lady Gaga.

I was flicking through the newspaper a couple of weeks ago whilst cuddled up to my wonderful eleven year-old goddaughter. When she saw me reach for the paper, she shrieked, covering her eyes for dramatic emphasis: “No! Put it away! It’s horrible!”

I mustered up my best Grown Up Voice, “Now Ella”, I said “that’s just not true. It’s very important to know what is happening in the world, and there are lots of good stories about great people”. A serious mistake. With the look of a chess master, about to deliver the fatal line, she settled back with a smirk. “OK, read me something good from it about a great person.”

I flicked desperately. War. Hatred. Bigotry. Fear. There must be ONE. Person saves panda bears? New research saves lives? Does the weather count? Where was a bloody good news story? Checkmate.

Having been dealt that piece of wisdom from someone 40 years younger than me, like all sore losers, I have since been busy scanning the news worldwide on a daily basis to find good news and stories of great people to email her, in a bid to regain some ground.

It hasn’t been easy. But then came along the really good news that someone, somewhere, had a fantastic and fun idea about raising money for a group of really vulnerable people who have a dreadful disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
(ALS).

I am sure you have heard what happened. Some bright sparks, including the late Corey Griffin, came up with the clever idea to raise money by getting people to pour ice water over their head, post the video of that online, and hopefully then donate to the ALS cause.

The ice water is a symbol of the beginning stage of ALS, when you begin to lose sensation. All you need to be part of it is access to the internet, a bucket of cold water, a sense of humour, and the willingness to donate a bit of money. From Bill Gates, to fire fighters miming Flash Dance and toddlers with a hair-raising vocabulary, it’s been going viral.

What have we learned? That from one end of the planet to the other, we love to laugh. And rather wonderfully, we really seem to like being connected to each other. And we are all too happy to give for a good cause.

Brilliant, hey? Yes, about 100 million dollars worth of brilliant, and that’s about when the backlash began.

“ALS is just a rare white man’s disease!”, howled some. “Taking money from other more important causes!”, exclaimed others. “Wasting water when so many in the world don’t have access!” The roar got even louder.”…and look how much they spend on administration costs! Look at the CEO’s pay package!” “Slactivism! It’s all about narcissism!” And on and on it went. All the fun of the fair. Not a good news story, but a bad news story. Not great people, but people deserving of our critical judgement.

This is all too reminiscent of the moral outrage sparked by the “Make Kony Famous” video in 2012. That went viral too, with over 110 million views in the first nine days and then extreme criticism of that small NGO. Sure, there are plenty of things that they might have done differently. But at least they tried, and the increase in global awareness of Kony was astonishing. That consciousness-raising achievement, showing us what is truly possible with social media, was screamed down by so many and it’s a real shame.

I’m not sure why we smugly enjoy criticising, from the comfort of our sofas, those who try to do incredible things. Does seeing someone trying to do something for others make us feel uncomfortable and perhaps reflect upon our own shortcomings? It’s so easy to criticise, and much harder to do something good, much less something great.

I have been working with an incredible team of people in the business and NGO sector for 16 years with the aim to support women and children in poverty. And like all those in this field, we know first-hand that making or raising money is incredibly hard work. So to raise over $100 million within a few weeks for people suffering and in need, I call that stunning. I call it masterful. And I wish I had thought of something that clever.

Let’s hear it for the ALS mob. Good on them. What a shining example to all of us of the power of the internet, the possibilities for non-profit fund raising, and that when we unite we can do amazing things together.

And let’s face it, if ever we needed a good news story and to celebrate people doing something great, it’s now.

So, if you really do feel the need to turn your nose up next time someone comes up with a great way to raise money for the needy may I politely suggest that you just… well… put on some sunglasses.

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