By Advocate Contributors
Originally published on Advocate.com May 11 2010 5:00 AM ET
After reinventing social media and helping to elect a president, what do you do for a hat trick? Save the world, naturally.
That’s what 26-year-old Chris Hughes, who cofounded Facebook in 2004, hopes to accomplish with his next venture. His new website, Jumo.com, will combine philanthropy with social networking. By querying users on their interests, Hughes aims to direct people to causes that excite them as well as to other users with similar passions. By uncovering people’s love for, say, otters, Jumo will direct them to the Otter Project, Defenders of Wildlife, and other groups near where they live.
“The Web offers a lot of opportunity for people to find information relevant to them and for people to act,” Hughes says. “But we haven’t seen a lot of development in the space that gives people the opportunity to substantively engage with organizations that desperately need their help. People want to engage with the world, but the Internet hasn’t yet caught up with that latent social desire.”
If people are invested in their philanthropy, the impact will last longer than a single check, Hughes believes. “What we want to do is use all the existing information channels out there—e-mail, Facebook, Twitter—to get information about the programs that the users have connected to directly to them,” he says. “If we can do that in a way that really builds a relationship between the individual and those causes, we’ll unlock resources, money, time, and skill that isn’t moving now because people don’t know where to give or why it’s important.”Jumo’s social component is just as vital as the altruism. Connecting like-minded people can lead to grassroots groundswells, as Hughes demonstrated when, as a media adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, he created My.BarackObama.com. That site linked supporters of the then-senator from Illinois, creating an army of campaign managers and sparking thousands of focused minicampaigns.
Fittingly, Jumo means “together in concert” in the West African language of Yoruba. The impetus for the site came partly out of a trip the North Carolina native and Harvard graduate took to Africa, Asia, and Latin America following the 2008 election.
“I wish I was able to more easily follow the way technology is being used to ensure elections are free and fair,” Hughes says, when asked what issue he thinks Jumo would direct him toward. “You can use mobile telephones in particular if you build a system that keeps watch over voting places.”
The website, currently in development and scheduled to launch at the end of this year, will operate as an open platform, meaning organizations won’t have to individually reach out to Jumo to be part of it. “Any organization working to change the world can be part of Jumo,” Hughes says. “LGBT groups working for civil equality should definitely find it useful.”