Archive for November, 2008

World Day for the prevention of Child Abuse

19 November was World Day for the prevention of Child Abuse.

Reading the statistics on child abuse is staggering – often shocking!

It is not only figures such as 1 million children each year are forced into the sex trade, but it is also the abuse that surrounds us in our daily lives amongst people we know that we often tend to turn a blind eye to.

Most child abuse happens in the child’s home. It is therefore often unreported, unseen, and the children often remain silent, feeling shamed and guilty.

Of the rapes and sexual abuse reported of children under 12 years, 90% of the victims knew their perpetrator

Child abuse occurs at all socio-economic levels of society, across ethic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

One third of abused and neglected children will go on to abuse and neglect their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.

These figures do not include the atrocities committed against children in countries of conflict, where rape and violence against children is common, and an estimated 300,000 child soldiers – boys and girls under the age of 18 – are involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide.

UNICEF, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the World Health Organization has released the United Nations Secretary World Report on Violence Against Children, to coincide with both World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse and with the 15th anniversary of the Commission for the Rights of the Child.

These are just a few of the projects on that support children – and we encourage you to reach out and support:

“Life House Kids Bali”

“Teams for children’s rights”

“School for life in Chiang Mai”

Children’s safety is our responsibility!


Ashoka Fellow Till Behnke


We at betterplace have known for a long time that Till is great – but now it’s official! Till has qualified as an Ashoka Fellow over the course of a nearly one-year, multi-phased selection process in Germany and internationally with approximately three hundred competitors. Congratulations Till!

Ashoka gives the new Fellows financial support, advises them and connects them to the worlds of business and academia so that they can spread their ideas throughout Germany and the world.

Here is what Ashoka liked about Till and betterplace:


Till Behnke is setting up an online philanthropic marketplace that is entirely new and that is revolutionizing the relationship between donors and recipients. His internet platform enables small social organizations to present their projects such they can persuade users of the quality of their work – regardless of their size. On the other hand, it allows donors to give their limited funds strategically. The website combines rating systems with social networks and ensures radical transparency. Social organizations can insert their profiles and users rate the organizations. What’s great about it is that every user can see the relation that the rater has to the organization, for example as a scientific experts, recipients or donors, for example. The user can also see whether the rater has contact to his or her own network. On the basis of this information, the user can decide whether they trust the opinion of that particular rater and whether they want to additionally support the organization by making a donation of their own. In this way, betterplace provides for well-informed, transparent donations – even on a small scale. At the same time, organizations have the opportunity and the responsibility to actively solicit support. Founded in late 2007, Till Behnke is expanding betterplace step by step, earning an international reputation. In the meantime, betterplace also offers companies professional opportunities to get employees involved.

Network and Hierarchy

I am particularly pleased about the fact that the jury has recognized the novelty of our network structure and the Web of Trust. We are an open platform and, as such, we are not only able to offer large aid organizations a platform but also the “long tail of charity”. In parallel, the Web of Trust expands the hierarchical mechanisms of trust and control that have dominated thus far by network mechanisms.

What do I mean by that?

Some people trust projects backed by large, well-known institutions, be this UNICEF or Greenpeace. They trust in these institutions, for example those that are accountable to the German Tax and Revenue Authority as concerns their balance sheets, use the money in a legal manner. Other people have lost faith in hierarchical stakeholders and they prefer to support organizations or individuals that solicit their support with their networks.

Here is an example. I like to donate to projects backed by someone who knows the project and is committed to it. I was in Bhutan, for instance, and spent several days at the Choki Traditional Arts School. I have been watching the work of the person responsible for the project, Sonam Choki, from afar for three years. She reports to me about her work. I meet other people who have been supporting the project for a long time, have visited the project in Bhutan and whoe inform others about the progress it is making on the betterplace website. Then I tell my girlfriends about the project and if my girlfriends trust me, they will then also trust Sonam Choki and in turn donate to her project. Ideally this trust would spread like wildfire.

But the one form of trust does not exclude the other – ideally they would complement each other. A professional organization like Weg der Mitte in Berlin solicits support based on its good reputation – in the region –and the fact that it is recognized by the German Tax and Revenue Authority as a non-profit foundation. In addition, it encourages its supporters and people who are familiar with it to bear witness to the work it does to support of young mothers on the betterplace website. In this way, mechanisms of trust come together from the worlds of hierarchies and of networks.

In the past months we have been attacked time and again on exactly this point: “What! You don’t control which projects are inserted on the betterplace website and which aren’t? That’s just welcoming lies and deception with open arms!” Ashoka, THE network for social entrepreneurship, has now certified that mechanisms based on social networks and radical transparency may be superior to the established hierarchical ones or at least complement them meaningfully.

Stretching beyond your limits

Community Class

Community Class

The key to giving is to use what you are good at to give back to the world.

Yoga You Palma is doing just that.

This Sunday 16 November, Yoga You in Palma de Mallorca hosted the first of a weekly “community class” – and betterplace is at the heart of it.

The class is for free, and the teachers give their time voluntarily, but everyone is encouraged to give as much or as little as they feel appropriate to the featured project of the week.

Yoga You Palma have created a Yoga You team on betterplace. They have selected a number of projects which they will be supporting over the weeks to come, one project featured a week.

This Sunday – the class was dedicated to little Ava-Joy – a three year old girl living in Cameroon who’s mother was asking for support to pay for her first year of pre-school. It was great to see that by the end of the class, the “yogis” stretched beyond their limits and completed the project! And little Ava-Joy will begin her first year of school.

birthday parties with betterplace


I would like to present to you Noah, so far the youngest betterplace team organiser. Yesterday, Noah celebrated his 9th birthday. And instead of handing his friends yet another partybag, he decided to donate the money otherwise spent on sweets and cheap, not very exciting, presents, to a project on betterplace, a nursery school in Togo

Take a look at Noahs Team and feel inspired to start your own!

P.S. A big Thanks to Maritta Koch-Weser for coming up with the original idea. Let’s spread it in Germany and Great Britain.

betterplace Workshop in Mali

Youchaou’s school in Mali, Westafrika, is one of my favourites (well, I also have a few others, but this one is really good). And this, not only because my family and I visited the project last January and spent a great day and evening with Youchaou, Jürgen and the street children he supports with a daily meal in his courtyard. My enthusiasm has more to do with the approach itself – a local initiative strategically supported by outsiders in a respectful and cooperative way. Imagine my reaction when I received this photo:


It shows participants of a workshop in Bamako, Malis capital, learning how to use betterplace, so that the stakeholders of the project can blog about it directly. This is the idea of the Web of Trust: give as many people as possible a voice in order to increase – or shatter – trust for a social initiative.

I hope many people will support the scholarships for needy children.

Meeting of the Advisory Board at betterplace

Last Thursday’s “regulars” at Café Bravo were witness to an unusual sight: in the lobby of the Berliner Kunstwerker – one of Berlins leading institutions for contemporary art –a small crowd (of men) were gathered, all with lap tops under their arm, speaking into their headsets over Skype or mobiles, taking their last instructions before being punctually summoned into the meeting room of KW at the first meeting of the betterplace Advisory Board.

Almost exactly a year after launching online, we had the chance to gather almost all the individuals who have supported us with their advice and expertise over the past year.

Alongside successful internet entrepreneurs such as Stefan Morschheuser from, Matthias Entenmann (betfair), Mehrdad Priroozram (iSteps) and Rüdiger Trautmann (Wirecard), sat equally impressive “old-economy” individuals such as Hans-Jürgen Cramer, who until the summer was CEO at energy provider Vattenfall, and now spends one day of his week in the betterplace office, as well as Dr. Maritta Koch Weser, an inspiring visionary in the field of social entrepreneurship. Representing the Foundations was Dr. Martin Pape and Albrecht Graf von Hardenberg, who for many years have pushed the issue of “micro-sending”. Our communication partners and supporters, Axel Pfennigschmidt from Agentur PULK, Matthias Dietz from Schindler Parent Identity and Marketing expert Alexander Hornikel , added their valuable contribution to the discussion table.

Opportunities and Challenges from the year 2008

The morning was spent presenting and identifying the developments and challenges of the last 12 months. A great deal of the work and time spent by the betterplace team, is not immediately visible to betterplace users – neither are the legal and financial foundations on which the platform is built, and the ongoing maintenance of relations with donors and NGOs.

Till helped to place betterplace in context of other existing online market places (having been well briefed and introduced from a recent conference in Stanford), and presented the efficiency and effectiveness of online giving markets in changing the non-profit sector.

I then presented 4 different types of projects as they are presented on betterplace, each using the platform in their own dynamic way (from a large organisation such as CARE, to a small grassroots project in Bhutan or partnerships with projects and organizations such as Cinema Jenin and WTO). Moritz Eckert and Jörg Rheinboldt described the work done within PR and Marketing, followed by Michael Tuchen and Stephan Schwahlen opening our financial books.

Gesine Schwan and Peter Eigen talk about social innovation

After lunch, Gesine Schwan und Peter Eigen joined the meeting, and led a discussion on the development of social innovation in Germany. Both Peter – co-founder of Transparency International – and Gesine committed their support to betterplace – and we look forward to holding them to their word!

Looking to the future

The afternoon session was dedicated to presenting our past and upcoming betterplace CSR products: These included “Teaming” (where employees are actively engaged in a payroll giving scheme, and together with the corporation they work for decide where and how the CSR budget is spent), Christmas Giving and Disaster Relief packages, whereby corporations and their employees are provided with a package that allows them to respond with aid to a humanitarian disaster anywhere in the world within 24 hours.

The positive and constructive feedback given by all who took part, not only in the area of product sales but also on financial sustainability of betterplace, was of priceless value to us. It was a privilege to have so many experienced and knowledgeable individuals sitting around one table giving their input and creative ideas towards growing the betterplace idea.

Caipirinhias with the Team

After a relaxed and tasty dinner at Zagreus, we continued on to the Greenwich Bar, where we met up with the whole team, and together toasted a couple rounds of Caipirinhias to the future of betterplace. Although it was 12 hours of intense brainstorming, presentation and discussion, we felt energized and inspired by the day’s success. A big thank you to you all for making it possible (also to Annika and Guya and the KW Team)!

We will do our best to follow your good advise, your leads and take you up on your pledge of support. We look forward to meeting up with you again in the new year, and hope that those who were not able to attend this year*, will be able to join us.

*including Dr. Bernd Kundrun (Gruner + Jahr), Hanns Michael Hölz (Deutsche Bank) and Martin Enderle (Scout 24), Eran Davidson, (Hasso Plattner Ventures), Thomas Heilmann (ex. Scholz & Friends), Daniel Wild, Axel Schmiegelow (Denkwerk / Sevenload), Markus Hipp (BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt), Loring Sittler, (AMB Generali), Ralf Fücks (Böll Foundation), Stephan Balzer (RedOnion)