Impact Journalism Day: Pitching in to help shine some light

Many people I meet, especially younger ones, tell me they would like "to make a difference".

They are passionate about wanting to improve their communities or sharing their ideas and energies, both at home and abroad.

They read the headlines from around the world - the venom and hatred spewed by politicians at immigrants and minorities; the seemingly never-ending threat of terrorism; the mounting worries about global climate change - and they grow weary at the negativity of it all.

So, how to make a difference? How to contribute to shape things for the better? Where to start with pitching in?

These are questions many seem to be grappling with, and they often look to us in the media for answers.

That is where Impact Journalism comes in.

Today being Impact Journalism Day, we in the media celebrate the work of people around the world who are striving to make the world a little better, in their own ways, big and small.

They are making their communities a little kinder and more inclusive; they are striving to shape more cohesive and progressive societies and, ultimately, they are seeking to bring about changes that will make for a brighter future for people across the globe.

Some 55 newspapers from 50 countries have come together for this year's Impact Journalism Day, including some of the world's leading publications like Le Monde in France, Die Welt in Germany, El Pais in Spain, Asahi Shimbun in Japan, Kompas in Indonesia and Israel's Haaretz.

The Straits Times is proud to be part of this collaborative project, as we have been from its founding in 2012 with just 20 papers from 20 countries.

By working together, across the planet, newsrooms have been able to deploy considerable journalistic resources to the project.

In the process, we have uncovered projects such as Jaga-Me, a home-grown online initiative which uses an app to connect emergency home nursing services to elderly folks in need of medical attention.

Then there is the Hush Teabar, set up in 2014 as a place for harried urbanites to slow down and enjoy moments of silence, while creating jobs for the deaf.

Other innovative ideas include ShareTheMeal, an app created by its German founder Sebastian Stricker. He figured that since there are more smartphones than hungry people in the world, why not combat hunger by allowing mobile phone users to do so with just one click on an app.

He put up billboards in New York's Times Square which show what 50 US cents might buy you: 90 seconds on a sightseeing tour or 1.8 seconds of a street performer's time. Or, it might pay to feed a malnourished child for a day.

Click on the app to make a 50 cents donation, and make a difference, easy as that.

"Some 5.4 million meals were distributed by about 500,000 donors up to the end of April," says the ShareTheMeal founder.

"That means we are feeding between 10,000 and 15,000 children every day."

Then, there is the Greek start-up Phee which makes smart-looking cases for mobile phones from dead seaweed, to put the 200 tonnes to 250 tonnes of the material that gets washed ashore each year to better use.

Singaporean Julian Koo, 28, who worked previously in a statutory board for two years, notes how technology is helping young social entrepreneurs like him to make an impact.

"With the rise of the sharing economy - apps like Uber and Airbnb - people are more and more willing to leverage on technology and trust to get a home service done, even when it is for healthcare services," he says.

This special report features many like Mr Koo who are pitching in. We hope you will find their stories interesting and inspiring. Along the way, we hope you will find answers to some of the questions you might have on how you can join in to make a difference - and an impact - in your own way.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline Pitching in to help shine some light. Subscribe