About this project
$10,00 Matching Gift!
UPDATE: An anonymous donor has offered a $10,000 matching gift to Tiny Spark! Any pledges received from now (11/13/13) til the end of the campaign will be doubled! Your $25 pledge becomes $50! Your $100 pledge becomes $200! The donor will match each and every gift up to a total of $10,000. And if you've only got a buck to spare, that works, too! Every pledge, no matter the amount, gets us toward our goal: more reporters, more investigations, better website.
What does Tiny Spark sound like? Here's a one-minute promo:
I launched Tiny Spark after working as a correspondent in Africa for public radio and television, reporting on many people and organizations trying to “do good”. But over time, I came to realize that well-intentioned ideas, poorly executed, can actually cause harm.
This was never more apparent to me than when I reported on a promising technology called the PlayPump, which was supposed to harness the energy of children to provide clean drinking water to thousands of communities in Africa.
I followed up a few years later and uncovered myriad problems with the PlayPump program. After this experience, I decided that the nonprofit sector and "good ideas" deserve a lot more scrutiny.
Season One (Completed)
TOMS SHOES I investigated the company that promises if you buy a pair of its shoes, it will give a pair to a child in need. The TOMS "One For One" business model has been wildly successful but critics say the multimillion dollar company isn't actually addressing the root causes of poverty. UPDATE: Since this podcast was posted, TOMS announced that it has "listened to critics" and will begin manufacturing some of its shoes in Haiti.
MEDICAL VOLUNTEERS I discovered that many well-intentioned medical volunteers who went to Haiti after the earthquake actually caused harm to patients. Much of it was avoidable, had volunteers been trained properly. I also explore what can be done to avoid mistakes next time disaster strikes.
A QUEST TO END POVERTY I interviewed Vanity Fair contributing editor, Nina Munk, about her new book on Jeffrey Sachs' celebrated quest to end poverty in Africa. Munk's investigation describes a multimillion dollar effort plagued by unintended consequences.
The response to my podcasts has been tremendous. Tiny Spark investigations have been featured on four American public radio programs, as well as the BBC World Service, Slate, Mother Jones, PRI's The World and HuffPo Live.
And listeners tell me they appreciate the balance I've achieved in critiquing well-intentioned programs while also offering constructive ways forward.
The Tiny Spark mug was custom-designed by Yuchen Zhang who created our popular owl logo. Understated matte finish. Get one for you and one for a friend.
First-ever Tiny Spark t-shirt. Let people know you believe in investigating the Business of Doing Good and that YOU helped make it happen! Quality reporting demands quality swag, so the t-shirt is 100% cotton, of course.
Why I Need Funding Now
Tiny Spark needs to grow!
And then what happens?
Risks and challenges
Investigative reporting is an exercise that's part intuition, part luck, but mostly relies on hard work. The hard work is something I can promise you I will deliver. But sources can and do fall through. The insider tip that I pursue for three weeks can sometimes turn out to be little more than rumor. Due to these realities that are outside of my control, some stories I begin to pursue in Season Two may fall through. If that happens, I will simply report a different story but it could delay a podcast. But I promise you at least five new stories with the money I raise through this campaign.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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