Craig Newmark Launches a Do-Gooder Version of "Missed Connections"

Posted by Elisa Huang

Craig Newmark wants to change the world
As it turns out, the biggest thing in Craig Newmark's life right now is not selling your old bike on Craigslist. (Though to be fair, the website he founded in 1995 is pretty darn big by any standard: It's one of the top 10 most visited English-language websites on the internet).

Craigconnects is his life's work now and is on a mission to "connect and protect organizations that are doing good stuff." The site spotlights companies doing positive work in categories including Veterans' Issues, Technology for Social Good, Community Building, and Journalism Integrity. Launched on March 8th, it's off to a ringing start with more than 20,000 views, 1,200 Facebook Likes, and hundreds of organizations submitted within the first 24 hours. Hoping to bridge the gap between concerned citizens and great causes, Craigconnects is like the do-gooder twin to Craiglists's infamous Missed Connections page. To learn more, we checked in with Newmark via email to hear his take on how to save the world.

GOOD: Was there a particular moment that inspired the idea for Craigconnects?

Craig Newmark: Nothing specific, just a growing sense over the years that I've learned a lot doing customer service and I should do more. Another big influence is the music of Leonard Cohen, including "Anthem" and "Democracy."

GOOD: What are the major needs that you see in the volunteer and charity world that Craigconnects can help fulfill?

Newmark: Seems to me we need a culture where service to others is expected and normal, like it was during the "greatest generation," where we organize and also protect each other online.

GOOD: As the site continues to grow with users adding their own organizations, will there be an approval process before organizations can be featured?

Newmark: I think this will coevolve with specialists in vetting, like Charity Navigator, Great Nonprofits, and GuideStar.

GOOD: How would you like to see Craigconnects fit into the market when compared to sites like VolunteerMatch and Idealist?

Newmark: These organizations do great complementary work, much more than I can hope to do. In five years, I'd like to see millions of people connected via Craigconnects or maybe far larger numbers building their own equivalents to Craigconnects.

GOOD: On the site, you say you're more of a "builder" than the guy up front dictating the orders. What has being a builder taught you about how online communities and sites are created and sustained?

Newmark: Well, you need to stay living in the grassroots and listen to people there, encouraging emergent behavior, and sometimes trying to voice the needs of the grassroots to the people in charge.

GOOD: What's your take on the state of volunteerism today and people's desire to do good?

Newmark: People really do want to help out and there are good ways to find opportunities, like at All For Good. We need to get the word out better using that and a lot of other tools.

Image from Stephanie Canciello, Unali Artists