This Site Lets You Pay The Water Bill For A Family In Need

When Detroit began shutting off the water supply to thousands of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents who were behind on their water bills in 2014, U.N. experts called it a violation of human rights. Three years later, the same thing is still happening. On April 19, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department began another round of mass shutoffs.

One nonprofit has a simple way to help: If you donate money, they’ll use it to pay off overdue bills.

The Human Utility first launched in 2014 as the Detroit Water Project, when cofounder Tiffani Bell–a Code for America fellow at the time, based in Oakland–read about the situation in Detroit and started tweeting about it. As she dug around on the water company’s website, she found a list of delinquent accounts and began to speculate about helping pay them off. Bell worked remotely with another volunteer she met on Twitter (Kristy Tillman, now head of communication design at Slack) to quickly build a website to connect donors with people in need.

Since launching, the Human Utility has helped nearly 1,000 families.  [Photo: czarny_bez/iStock]

Initially, volunteers manually matched donors with people who reached out for help. Now, all donations go into one pool, and anyone with an overdue bill fills out an application that automatically screens them for qualification; they also provide supporting documents like pay stubs.

Since launching, the tiny nonprofit has helped nearly 1,000 families. “There’s some people who were living without water for a while,” Bell tells Fast Company. “There’s a lady who wrote an email that hangs over my door who talks about how she and her son were very sick, and they had to live without running water in their house for six months until we helped them. They were doing things like trying to drink from their neighbor’s water hose. Now they don’t have to.”

After going through the Y Combinator program in early 2015, the organization expanded to also work in and around Baltimore, where the donations have helped some families keep their homes.

“You can lose your house over a water bill as well,” she says. “If you don’t pay it…they’ll essentially tack the bill onto your property taxes. So if you don’t pay the property taxes, you’ll lose the house in a tax sale.” Since 2015, the organization has helped around 40 families in Baltimore stay in their houses.

The Human Utility also helps people living in cities near Detroit, although not Flint–where residents pay three times the national average rate for water that still comes from lead-tainted pipes. “We don’t think people should be paying for the water there at all when you can’t drink it in the first place,” Bell says. Flint water shutoffs began in April.

In Detroit, the city launched a water payment assistance program in March 2015 for customers who live at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. The program covers a third of a family’s monthly bill and freezes overdue accounts. But though 5,766 households are enrolled, it’s not a long-term solution. Neither is the Human Utility, says Bell.

“I want it to grow and help more people, but I ultimately want it to not have to exist,” she says. “I want cities to think about the effect of water policy and have it be where water is affordable for everyone.”

It’s a problem that’s likely to continue to grow. One study predicts that in five years–as cities have to continue to invest in expensive new infrastructure, pushing rates higher–as much as a third of Americans won’t be able to afford their water bills.

Dana Anderson Leaves Mondelez in Marketer’s Biggest Executive Shakeup Yet


Mondelz International Chief Marketing Officer Dana Anderson is leaving the company, perhaps the biggest sign of major changes to come at the maker of Oreo cookies, which is also announcing two other executive changes Monday.

Anderson, a former Kraft Foods executive who has been with Mondelz since the company separated from Kraft in 2012, is leaving “to explore a new professional opportunity,” Mondelez said Monday.

Mondelz said it plans to use Anderson’s departure as a way to evolve the CMO role within the organization, which has been trying to tighten its focus on its so-called “power brands,” its major sellers including Oreo, Belvita, Milka, Cadbury, and Trident.

Continue reading at AdAge.com

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu Brings His Emotions To Tribeca

Alejandro González Iñárritu is not only in touch with his emotions, he’s proven his skill of shaping them into art.

The Academy-Award winning director of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and The Revenant discussed his career and creative motivations with artist Marina Abramović as part of Tribeca Film Festival’s Directors Series. Although topics ranged from virtual reality to President Trump, the through line of the discussion was Iñárritu’s ability to harness not only his passions, but those of his actors as well, and mold them into some of the most emotionally-charged films of the past decade: 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful. Below are some of the highlights from Iñárritu’s talk.

Alejandro González Iñárritu [Photo: Brigitte LaCombe]

Making Mistakes

“My ambition diminishes reality, and then when I hit reality there’s always turbulence. I would love to be a little bit more mathematically planned, but in a way my enthusiasm is overwhelming, and in the middle of the flight I have to solve a lot of things.”

Molding Emotions

“An emotion is a prism that you can interpret in many possibilities. I have learned there was this fear of an actor or actress [burning out] in a scene where–they should feel the whole emotion in one take and not over rehearse. There’s a certain truth to that. But the reality is that filmmaking is an art that is not just born by one moment of inspiration. It’s born by the craft and attempts and mistakes. So in a way you have to be trained as an actor and as a director to sculpt the motion–to finding what is true and what is not true in that moment. What I have learned is that by doing it 100 times in rehearsals, the actors suddenly are liberated from the rationale behind the scene.”

Theaters vs. iPads

“When you go to the museum and you see a [Diego] Velázquez and you bought the postcard, to see a film on an iPad, that’s the postcard of the painting. ‘I saw The Revenant on my phone!’ You didn’t see The Revenant. You saw the postcard of The Revenant. The new generations are not used to the complexity of sound, the latitude of the image.”

Working in Virtual Reality

“One of the biggest mistakes of V.R. is that it’s been interpreted as an extension of cinema, but it’s not an extension of cinema. I would say that V.R. is everything that cinema is not, like a radical kind of thing. Cinema is this little hole we look through and all the things that are not in that frame, we have to basically create in our own minds. In V.R., you don’t have that frame in a sense. We’re learning how to explore the narrative space. I think we are in the baby [stages]. It’s completely an experimental period.”

How Droga5 Turned An Idea of “Preparing For Next” Into Met-Rx’s New Ad

What’s the old yarn about the journey being more important than the destination? Turns out, that’s an apt metaphor for the motivation of elite athletes. At least that what we learn in this new campaign for nutritional supplements brand MET-Rx.

Through former LSU star running back and current projected top 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Leonard Fournette, we see that all that hard work and dedication isn’t about the golden trinkets.

Here, The Nature’s Bounty Co. chief marketing officer Derek Bowen, and Droga5 creative director Ryan Raab and copywriter Yahkeema Moffitt break down the inspiration and idea behind the new ad.

This Community-Run Business Creates A Sustainable Stream Of Food, Water, And Health

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly one in 10 children dies before the age of five and half the population lacks access to clean drinking water, the traditional approach to aid–donations–hasn’t worked very well. Despite tens of billions in international aid delivered to the country since the turn of the millennium, it’s still hard to find clean water. Health clinics regularly run out of medicine. After more than two decades of conflict, it keeps getting harder to get new donations to keep everything running.

A startup is piloting a new model of aid: a community-run business that sustains itself. Called Asili (the name means both “tradition” and “what holds us together” in a local language), it includes three interconnected parts. A farming cooperative gives loans of seeds and fertilizer and gives access to a guaranteed market for crops. With income from the farms, families can afford the Asili’s other two services–kiosks that sell clean water, and modern healthcare at clean, well-stocked clinics.

“We’re doing this in the hardest place in the world, and it’s working.” [Photo: Christopher Michel]

In January 2017, three years after launching, Asili saw its first profitable month. Now 25,000 people have access to water for the first time; to date, the business has sold more than 1.3 million gallons, piped in from a clean local water source. The clinics, which have served thousands of patients, open each day at 7:30 a.m., in a region where 40% of clinics are closed, unpredictably, on any given day. The pharmacies inside the clinics have never run out of the medicine they provide.

“We’re doing this in the hardest place in the world, and it’s working,” says Daniel Wordsworth, CEO of the American Refugee Committee, the aid organization that co-created the startup with USAID, Congolese community members, and the design firm Ideo.org.

“Our moonshot is actually around intimacy. How do you have an organization or an approach or a service that is absolutely oriented to the customer?” [Photo: Christopher Michel]

The business is an early experiment as the American Refugee Committee thinks about how to evolve for the future. “We’re trying to grapple with this idea of what a 21stcentury humanitarian organization looks like, and what a 21st-century humanitarian response looks like,” he says. “Our view is that everything you’re seeing around are kind of like perfected 20th-century institutions. They’re like big, dumb, scaled machines that deliver ‘results,’ but it’s all a little bit Comcast-y. There are some great things about Comcast–like they go everywhere and they do everything at scale, and it kind of works–but it also kind of sucks at the same time.”

Rather than focus on scale, Asili is focused on customer service, and providing a quality product that people are willing to pay for. “I think in our world, everyone thinks that our moonshot when it comes to humanitarian work is around scale,” Wordsworth says. “Whereas I think our moonshot is actually around intimacy. How do you have an organization or an approach or a service that is absolutely oriented to the customer?”

The community was involved in every aspect of the business creation, including the logo. [Photo: Christopher Michel]

To create the new business, the team worked with Ideo.org and the community itself. “It included co-design sessions where we were putting together role plays and asking [community members] to play out different scenarios,” says Jocelyn Wyatt, executive director of Ideo.org. “Like, ‘You’re the woman who pregnant, but you don’t have enough money to cover your visit, and you’re the nurse, and you’re the doctor. Show us what happens.’ Through these role plays, they showed us what would happen in these moments of service delivery.”

The community was involved in every aspect of the business creation, including the logo. Red–the color the ARC initially proposed–was rejected because it is used by local rebels. Green was associated with the military, and other colors were associated with political parties. Instead of choosing a single color, the logo uses red, yellow, blue, and green, to emphasize that the services are for everyone.

“Human-centered design is allowing us to be able to build with the community in mind, with the community at the center.” [Photo: Christopher Michel]

Before the first clinic was built, the community gave feedback on the layout. The community also helped shape the choice to have clear, transparent prices for services at the clinic. At other clinics, fluctuating prices meant that many patients stopped using services. A woman might go for a free prenatal screening somewhere else, and then return and find that the price was now an unaffordable $5.

“Human-centered design is allowing us to be able to build with the community in mind, with the community at the center,” says Abraham Leno, the DRC country representative for the ARC, who manages Asili. “They are not just the way we used to position them as the beneficiary . . . Here your opinion matters. When that opinion feeds into their goals for themselves, their goals for future, their goals for community, then they know that we are serious about building something that would stay longer.”

Leno, who lived in a refugee camp himself as a teenager, believes that traditional humanitarian aid–while helpful for short-term crises–is both hard to sustain and disempowering. In a recent poll of Congolese citizens, a third of respondents said that the country would be better off without international NGOs.

[Photo: courtesy ARC]

“I speak with knowledge of growing up being an African, and coming from this community,” he says. “The global society has not always been able to see things through our eyes. Most times when someone is categorized as vulnerable, as helpless, it takes away a lot of power from you. You start to feel vulnerable and you feel I have nothing to offer. That needs to change. Asili is not a handout.”

Service at the clinics, designed with the goal that the American-based ARC staff would feel comfortable taking their own children there, is so respected locally that people from the nearby city of Bukavu have started coming to the villages to use them. “That’s really unprecedented–you would never leave the city to go to the country for that sort of thing,” Wyatt says.

Asili plans to continue expanding locally. There are currently three clinics, each surrounded by water kiosks, and a fourth clinic will come soon.

By putting three businesses together in each village–the clinics, the water kiosks, and the agriculture business–it helps reduce overall costs. “If you’re in Congo and you have to import stuff in, you have to hire your own customs person to sit on the border for two days a week, that’s going to kill you,” says Wordsworth. “But instead we could share the costs of one person to manage customs and the supply chain. Each business pays for it, but they only have to pay for a portion.”

The business model still has challenges to overcome. The water infrastructure, with 60 kilometers of pipeline, was expensive to build. Before recreating the system in other locations, the team hopes to find ways to lower the capital expense. But the business has proven that it can be operationally sustainable. And if it can work in the DRC, one of the poorest countries in the world, it’s likely it could work elsewhere.

Google’s New $17,000 Jump Camera Aims To Democratize VR Content Creation

Almost every day, it seems, a new camera for shooting virtual reality content is announced. Ranging from consumer-grade devices that cost a few hundred dollars to those meant for Hollywood filmmakers that come with five-figure price tags, the goal is the same: to ensure that there’s more and more VR content so that people buy more VR headsets.

Last week it was Facebook, which unveiled its professional-quality x24 and x6 cameras. Today, it’s Google’s turn, with the unveiling of the company’s second high-end VR camera, the Jump Halo.

Developed by Google and made by China’s Yi, the $17,000, 17-lens Jump Halo—and its associated post-processing software and distribution system—is meant to shoot high-quality 360-degree video, stitch it together automatically, and be light enough at 7.5 pounds to take just about anywhere.

[Photo: courtesy of Google]

Google launched its first Jump camera last year. This Jump is all new and includes what the company said was the most-requested feature for a second-generation: an upward-facing lens that ensures the video it shoots captures not just 360 degrees, but also everything above the camera, and then stitches it all together seamlessly.

The Jump Halo can shoot 8K by 8K stereoscopic 360 video at 30 frames per second, or 6K by 6K at 60 frames per second. It also gives filmmakers total control over parameters such as ISO, white balance, and the like. It’s optimized for Google’s VR platform, says Yi CEO Sean Da, and ensuring content works with Google’s stitching algorithms, which aim to remove most if not all of the telltale lines that often betray where content from one lens didn’t quite mesh with that of the next one over.

The camera can be powered by a mobile app that gives a “consumer-type experience,” Da says, giving filmmakers control over things like a live view from the camera, as well as the ability to change settings remotely. And once shooting is over, it’s meant to be easy to load the footage into an assembler program. Content then is processed and ready in a matter of hours.

According to Emily Price, Jump’s product manager, the Jump assembler software is able to return fully stitched video in about eight hours, down from the 24 hours it took just a year ago. But, she says, the tool can show a “rough stitch” preview on a laptop while still shooting.

With high-end VR cameras from Facebook, Jaunt, Nokia, and now Google available, one might imagine filmmakers would have a hard time choosing. But according to Armando Kirwin, a VR filmmaker with Samsung’s Milk VR who had early access to the Jump Halo and was one of the first to use Facebook’s $30,000 first-generation Surround 360 camera, there really isn’t that much confusion.

“It’s a different tier,” Kirwin, who spoke at a Google press event unveiling the camera, said of the Jump Halo in comparison to the new Facebook devices.

[Photo: courtesy of Google]

By that, he means that Google’s new camera is meant to be portable, affordable, and within the reach of many filmmakers. Facebook’s camera, on the other hand, is aimed at professionals on multimillion-dollar shoots.

“You can [use the Jump Halo] by yourself,” Kirwin said. “Facebook’s camera requires teams of professionals, which are more expensive.

His point was really to stress that although it might be tempting to position the VR cameras from Google and Facebook as competitors, they’re really aiming at totally different markets and shouldn’t be thought of as such.

[Photo: courtesy of Google]

Still, Kirwin appreciates that VR filmmakers now have many choices for shooting their projects.

“When we started making cinematic VR, there were zero cameras” on the market, he said, “so we had to build our own.

Now, there’s a proliferation of cameras, and that means that soon, VR production will be “democratized.”

Added Kirwin, “That’s fine. That’s the way Hollywood works now. It’s inevitable VR would work that way.”

And that’s nothing but a good thing as the need for VR content to motivate people to buy VR headsets becomes more acute.

“Within a year, cameras that [once] cost us $1 million will cost $10,000,” he said. “The number of people creating content is exploding. That makes a huge difference in the industry.”

Google’s New $17,000 Jump Camera Aims To Democratize VR Content Creation

Almost every day, it seems, a new camera for shooting virtual reality content is announced. Ranging from consumer-grade devices that cost a few hundred dollars to those meant for Hollywood filmmakers that come with five-figure price tags, the goal is the same: to ensure that there’s more and more VR content so that people buy more VR headsets.

Last week it was Facebook, which unveiled its professional-quality x24 and x6 cameras. Today, it’s Google’s turn, with the unveiling of the company’s second high-end VR camera, the Jump Halo.

Developed by Google and made by China’s Yi, the $17,000, 17-lens Jump Halo—and its associated post-processing software and distribution system—is meant to shoot high-quality 360-degree video, stitch it together automatically, and be light enough at 7.5 pounds to take just about anywhere.

[Photo: courtesy of Google]

Google launched its first Jump camera last year. This Jump is all new and includes what the company said was the most-requested feature for a second-generation: an upward-facing lens that ensures the video it shoots captures not just 360 degrees, but also everything above the camera, and then stitches it all together seamlessly.

The Jump Halo can shoot 8K by 8K stereoscopic 360 video at 30 frames per second, or 6K by 6K at 60 frames per second. It also gives filmmakers total control over parameters such as ISO, white balance, and the like. It’s optimized for Google’s VR platform, says Yi CEO Sean Da, and ensuring content works with Google’s stitching algorithms, which aim to remove most if not all of the telltale lines that often betray where content from one lens didn’t quite mesh with that of the next one over.

The camera can be powered by a mobile app that gives a “consumer-type experience,” Da says, giving filmmakers control over things like a live view from the camera, as well as the ability to change settings remotely. And once shooting is over, it’s meant to be easy to load the footage into an assembler program. Content then is processed and ready in a matter of hours.

According to Emily Price, Jump’s product manager, the Jump assembler software is able to return fully stitched video in about eight hours, down from the 24 hours it took just a year ago. But, she says, the tool can show a “rough stitch” preview on a laptop while still shooting.

With high-end VR cameras from Facebook, Jaunt, Nokia, and now Google available, one might imagine filmmakers would have a hard time choosing. But according to Armando Kirwin, a VR filmmaker with Samsung’s Milk VR who had early access to the Jump Halo and was one of the first to use Facebook’s $30,000 first-generation Surround 360 camera, there really isn’t that much confusion.

“It’s a different tier,” Kirwin, who spoke at a Google press event unveiling the camera, said of the Jump Halo in comparison to the new Facebook devices.

[Photo: courtesy of Google]

By that, he means that Google’s new camera is meant to be portable, affordable, and within the reach of many filmmakers. Facebook’s camera, on the other hand, is aimed at professionals on multimillion-dollar shoots.

“You can [use the Jump Halo] by yourself,” Kirwin said. “Facebook’s camera requires teams of professionals, which are more expensive.

His point was really to stress that although it might be tempting to position the VR cameras from Google and Facebook as competitors, they’re really aiming at totally different markets and shouldn’t be thought of as such.

[Photo: courtesy of Google]

Still, Kirwin appreciates that VR filmmakers now have many choices for shooting their projects.

“When we started making cinematic VR, there were zero cameras” on the market, he said, “so we had to build our own.

Now, there’s a proliferation of cameras, and that means that soon, VR production will be “democratized.”

Added Kirwin, “That’s fine. That’s the way Hollywood works now. It’s inevitable VR would work that way.”

And that’s nothing but a good thing as the need for VR content to motivate people to buy VR headsets becomes more acute.

“Within a year, cameras that [once] cost us $1 million will cost $10,000,” he said. “The number of people creating content is exploding. That makes a huge difference in the industry.”

3 Questions For Figuring Out Why Recruiters Keep Ignoring You

All job hunters hear the advice to “stand out,” “be different,” and “separate yourself from the crowd.”

But what exactly does that mean with regard to your job search? Do you send a fruit basket to your interviewer? Record a video of a company cheer you composed? Or maybe you just try to be your “best self”—whatever that means!

Here’s the scoop: You will face competition when applying to most jobs, so the greater the gap you create between you and your fellow applicants, the better. But it’s important to remember that there’s a right way to stand out and a wrong way.


Related: The Surprising Ways You Ruined Your Interview Before You Even Opened Your Mouth


To help you determine how to stand out successfully (and this can vary by industry and position), we’ve developed three rules. Before we jump into them, let’s take a look at two sales manager job applicants I encountered while working in HR for a major retail chain.

Both prospects wanted to “stand out” in the interview process. Applicant A submitted a prospective sales plan, laid out in 30, 60, and 90 days. While some of the specifics of her proposal were a bit off, overall, it was a solid plan that showed creative, analytical thinking.

Applicant B affixed her resume with an 8-by-10 photo of herself. After all, what better way to stay top of mind? Well, Applicant B was memorable, all right, but not in the positive way she’d hoped for. Her move cost her the chance to even interview.

Standing out requires risk taking by nature, but you can mitigate that risk by asking yourself the following three questions to make sure you’re making the impression that’ll lead to an interview and job offer:

1. Is It Relevant?

Being unique purely for the sake of individuality is useless. Find a way to stand out that’s relevant to the company and to the opportunity you’re interviewing for.

Do this. One of our clients, Laurel, a huge Seattle Mariners fan, was looking for a new position in social media. She took her interest and capitalized on it to create a social media and publicity campaign to get the Mariners’ attention and convince them she was the best person for a social media marketing position. She snagged an interview, even though she had less experience than many of the other candidates.

See how this outside-the-box thinking works? You have to consider your industry and what you can do to demonstrate in a way that goes beyond the bullet points on your resume how you’d be an asset.

2. Is It Valuable?

Whatever your plan for standing out, it must further your cause in some way. This rule is why just emailing 100 times or calling 10 times a day after your interview isn’t going to pay off.

Do this. Matt Hirsch, another client, hoped to make a statement following an interview for a graphic design position he really wanted.

His idea? He created a “Hirschy” chocolate bar wrapper that was perfectly tailored to the role. The list of “ingredients” included the graphic programs he’s well-versed in, and the end result was simply a perfectly creative way to illustrate his skill set and show that he knows how to go above and beyond.

Sending a thank you note after your interview is essential, but when competition is fierce, you’d be wise to think about the other ways your follow up can help you stand out.

3. Is It Authentic?

The problem with gimmicks is that they’re, well, gimmicky. They don’t ring true or feel authentic.

So before you rent a sky writer or send your interviewer a CD of your “greatest hits,” make sure your scheme rings true for you and your personality. Whatever plan you pursue, it should share a new dimension of your personality or shed light on a part of your resume you want the hiring manager to understand in greater detail.

Do this. Yet another client, Eric, thought he might be really interested in the solar industry. He created a blog with the intent to write articles that allowed him to investigate whether or not he really wanted to be a part of that field. As it turned out, the website also gave him complete freedom to contact CEOs of solar companies to get their perspective on recent changes affecting their business.


Related: Career Experts Mercilessly Revised My Entry-Level Resume


He then went a step further and published the resulting article on his website. This authentic and completely legit tactic allowed him to investigate the industry, but more than that, it put him in contact with a dozen potential employers.

Consider how you can both be true to yourself and leave a lasting impression that’ll result in getting you hired.

As you can see, standing out doesn’t have to be expensive or super complicated—after all, in some cases, time is of the essence—it just needs to be real and different in the right way. A typo-free, polished resume is great, and a stellar cover letter is awesome too, but when you need to rise to the top of promising candidates, you’re going to want to take things a step further.

Brainstorm some ideas, and then put them through the three guidelines above to ensure you’re hitting the right notes. It can be helpful to enlist the help of an exceedingly honest friend at this stage.


This story originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.

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