White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Friday, August 15, 2008

That one hour of work

Summer has been quite a good chance to have deep and long conversation with a few friends. One theme that I have found common among these successful professionals is the issue of social impact that they might have throughout their life, specially now during their early research career. In an ego and self-centric era that everyone is simply focused on her own shell, we think that our dreams of helping to build a better world might never come through. A few who make it to the academia might get some of that feeling that they're touching things at the social level and have some direct impact on people's lives. But many of the researchers and scientists that end up being an army of the corporate world may always miss that feeling. While pessimism is the dominant language of intellectual forces, such feeling of being stuck with a routine job throughout the life time, can cause depression. Last week Matt was telling me how sick he was about a life that from morning till sleep time, things is about ME and a few others who bring ME benefits.

In this capitalist island of the planet, charity is financial support is the solution that the system offers: If you want to have an impact, then donate. While donation is much better than doing nothing, but still does not create much enthusiasm. Donation is like buying a gift certificate for a friend's birthday .... It never elevates to the level of spending time and mind and buying something and showing your care and understanding about the person...

Another great way of social impact in US is community service. As far as I have researched, community service works perfectly for teenage youth, people with college level education or old people. Practically speaking, it is not efficient to use a PhD or a doctor to collect garbage or to read stories to after school kids... I emphasis that I'm talking about efficiency and not appropriateness here.

So how can we use our young, intelligent and highly educated professionals to perform some sort of service that impacts things at the ground level?

I am thinking about the idea of One hour professional community service in the following way:
What if each young professional dedicates one hour of her time per day as a consultant to a project in a developing country. The idea is pretty close to open source movements that is quite popular in the computer science or open media projects like wikipedia that are totally volunteer based. The difference is that in my model, the end result is a professional consulting to parts of the world that are disadvantaged and desperately need such service. On our side the benefits are more than simple "feeling good".... If the matchings are done properly, the interaction can give a right perspective to the technological challenges in the real world where resources are not as vast as America.

The underlying technology is nothing more than Internet, VoIP, etc. But organization of the projects from the developing countries and researchers and matching the two armies together is the main challenge. I've heard about many join projects between the west and the developing nations through international organizations such UN or universities... But can we take such an effort out of the typical bureaucratic circles and employ an army of part time professionals?

I'm quite excited about the idea and I'll be researching about it and write here more.
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