I have been following Occupy Sandy and am both amazed and moved by the efforts of those who are organizing and helping. I’m writing this blog post for people who might be skeptical or even hostile towards a self-organized group of relief workers under the Occupy banner to urge you to reconsider. I know some people are thinking, “Why would I give money to an informal organization with no specific leader?” I think anyone with the means should donate to Occupy Sandy. (Note that I have total respect for the Red Cross and am giving to them, too — here’s their donation link).
Here’s how Occupy Sandy describes itself:
Occupy Sandy is a coordinated relief effort to help distribute resources & volunteers to help neighborhoods and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. We are a coalition of people & organizations who are dedicated to implementing aid and establishing hubs for neighborhood resource distribution. Members of this coalition are from Occupy Wall Street, 350.org, recovers.org and interoccupy. We have fiscal sponsorship from the Alliance for Global Justice.
Now, to address some of the questions you might have that may prevent you from giving to Occupy Sandy:
Does this kind of organizing work?
In my professional life, I have always believed in and promoted the principles of self-organization, whether it’s the self-organizing marketplace on Etsy (which I talked about at the Senate earlier this year, and which Sara Horowitz described so well in her seminal “sharing economy” piece for the Atlantic) or the first Hack Day I organized seven years ago. Read the “Punk Rock” section of my Hack Day post to see the magic of self-organization in a totally different (and far less urgent) context. This is exactly what I was talking about in my TedX Brooklyn presentation a year ago about using the hacker ethic to shape the larger world (slides, video). Self-organization works.
I think we’re seeing a major triumph of a new kind of humanitarian aid happen with Occupy Sandy and an effective (though distributed and mostly leader-less) response, focused on helping people in real distress. I’m not at all surprised that it appears to be working so well. Again, I also support the Red Cross,but these two pieces are worth reading for the skeptical: “Is Occupy Wall Street Outperforming the Red Cross in Hurricane Relief?” and “Occupy Wall Street Leads Way in Sandy Relief.”
Is the Alliance for Global Justice legitimate?
If you’re unsure about the organization behind Occupy Sandy, I checked into the Alliance for Global Justice, their fiscal sponsor, on the IRS.gov site. Publication 526 about Charitable Contributions (PDF) on page 2 points to a tool called Exempt Organizations Select Check. A search shows that the Alliance for Global Justice qualifies — here is a screenshot (PC stands for “public charity”):
A representative from the Alliance for Global Justice has been answering the same questions on the Occupy Sandy Facebook page:
What if I don’t agree with the politics of Occupy Sandy and/or the Alliance for Global Justice?
Politics doesn’t matter when it comes to people in need. Effectiveness does. I’ve given to Southern Baptist church relief efforts in the past because I know that they do an incredible job with disaster response (you can donate to their organization for Sandy, too).
I’m proud to add Occupy Sandy to the short list of organizations I support, and hope you will, too.