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A podcast and public radio program that investigates the Business of Doing Good.
A podcast and public radio program that investigates the Business of Doing Good.
273 backers pledged $30,925 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$30,925

273

$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.

The Sound

What does Tiny Spark sound like? Here's a one-minute promo:

The Impetus 

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.

The PlayPump [credit: Mediamolecule]
The PlayPump [credit: Mediamolecule]

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 

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.

Rewards

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

Receiving national media attention and critical acclaim has been a wonderful outcome for all the hard work I've put into this project. And listeners tell me they want even more! You want more frequent podcasts. A more active website. More expansive coverage. I want that, too. But I can't do it alone.

Tiny Spark needs to grow!

This is where you come in. I have launched this Kickstarter campaign so that I can do three important things in the next six months:

More reporters! I will assign a pair of kick-ass investigative reporters to produce two stories for Tiny Spark. I will work closely with them, every step of the way, to bring you the kind of thoughtful investigations you've come to expect from Tiny Spark. I am convinced that this is the future for my program: more reporters on the beat. Once these contributors post their stories, you can let me know if you want to hear more from them. I'm betting you will!

Media Partners! I have been working closely with PRI's The World on a global investigative series called Tracking Charity. I want to continue these kinds of collaborations. I will seek out a partnership with a highly-respected news organization to collaborate on at least one investigation. This will help raise Tiny Spark's profile, bring even more journalistic power to my investigations, and vastly expand my audience reach. Afterwards, let me know if the partnership fulfilled your expectations and whether you want to see more collaborative journalism from Tiny Spark.

Better Website! Finally, I want to do so much more with my website. If funding is successful, I plan to expand my website to include more original and curated content. Tinyspark.org should be your first destination for the world of international aid, US charities, social entrepreneurs and the Business of Doing Good. I want to provide more opportunities to engage with you about your story ideas and questions. I want to bring in thoughtful, respected voices, more frequently. I welcome your input about how I can improve the site and will do everything I can to build out the platform you're looking for.  

And then what happens?

If you are able to help me achieve these three goals, I will be in a strong position to pursue an innovative and unique funding model for Tiny Spark. 

I am currently collaborating with a team of MBA candidates at NYU's Stern School of Business to pursue new funding models for Tiny Spark. With your help, our team will actively engage with financial and strategic partners to map out a long-term strategy for growing Tiny Spark and ensuring its long-term sustainability. If successful, I hope our business model will create a path for other independent, serious-minded journalists to follow. I will share my roadmap with you, the backers, in hopes that my journey in this ever-changing media landscape might provide solid guidance for your own initiatives. 

PHOTO & VIDEO CREDITS:

FRONTLINE/World, TOMS Shoes, Andy Sternberg, Dr. Nadine Semer, Dr. Henri Ford.

Video filmed by: Stringer Productions

Video edited by: Karin Hayes

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.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Our deep appreciation along with your name etched in pixels on our website.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Hang out with Amy! After each Tiny Spark story, join Amy online to hear her behind-the-scenes accounts of her reporting process and details of her latest investigation. Amy will respond to selected questions and comments submitted by listeners in advance. Invitations will be extended to people who appear in each story, so they may also join in. (Three video presentations offered. Available to all who back at $25.00 level and above.) Plus your name on our website.

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    Custom-designed Tiny Spark mug and your name on the website.

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    Show the world you're a backer! Tiny Spark 100% cotton t-shirt plus your name on the website.

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    Get both! Tiny Spark t-shirt and mug. Plus, your name on the website.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Podcasting Pro Package: I will mentor you over Skype for one hour. Let's strategize about taking your podcast or public radio aspirations from a hobby to the real deal. Includes one-year Pro SoundCloud account (Value: 99 Euros) which you'll need for all that content you'll be posting to your fans. Plus the t-shirt, mug and your name on the website.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Tiny Spark Listener's Circle: Take part in two private post-podcast discussions with Amy. Join four other backers from around the U.S. and possibly the world! Amy will lead a talk about her most recent investigation and then open up the floor to questions and discussion. Three dates will be proposed for each Listener's Circle; the date with the most acceptances will be chosen. Two, one-hour discussions via Skype or Google Hangout. Plus t-shirt, mug and your name on our website.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Tiny Spark Producer - Have your name read by Amy on a Tiny Spark episode. Then join her for a one-on-one conversation regarding absolutely anything that interests you about the Business of Doing Good. Plus a t-shirt, mug and "Tiny Spark Producer" credit on the website.

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    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    Tiny Spark Sponsor: Remain anonymous or have your name and "Sponsored By" message read by Amy on three episodes, subject to editorial approval. Plus, two t-shirts, two mugs, and your name as a Tiny Spark Sponsor on the website. Email ideas@tinyspark.org to discuss.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Tiny Spark Angel Investor: Amy will visit your community or organization to give a presentation on Africa, nonprofits, social entrepreneurship or anything about the Business of Doing Good. I'll bring some Tiny Spark swag for you and your colleagues. (Travel and accommodation additional.) Please email ideas@tinyspark.org to discuss details and any potential conflicts of interest.

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Tiny Spark underwriter. Prominent online credit on website homepage and a "Made Possible By" credit read during four consecutive podcasts, subject to editorial approval. Amy will also visit your organization to give a presentation on any aspect of the Business of Doing Good that interests you. (Travel and accommodation additional.) Email ideas@tinyspark.org to discuss.

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Funding period

- (21 days)