How to Make the Hours You Waste Online Actually Mean Something

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockBy Corrie Pikul

Solve Social Problems
You know the saying: Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Give a man a mouse (or a touch screen), and he'll click to these group-building websites to help develop ways to feed the hungry, improve public health and solve other pressing social issues.

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OpenIDEO: This online platform hosts global brainstorming sessions to address world challenges, like the poor health of people in low-income communities and the need for bone marrow donors. Creative thinkers collaborate on concepts, and the best ones are (ideally) put into practice. Two of the site's partners, Oxfam and Nokia, are currently working to implement the 10 winning ways to answer this conundrum: How might we improve maternal health with mobile technologies for low-income countries? What would you have suggested?

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Kickstarter: This site, which allows anonymous supporters to offer financial support for strangers' creative projects, makes us feel like angel investors-or superheroes. By pledging an investment (which can be as low as $1), you sustain someone's dream. Filmmakers, designers, musicians, writers and artists include impassioned descriptions of their projects, and many offer community benefits. Check out this prototype of a mobile nursing station that provides an on-call haven for moms and babies, and this proposal for an organic rooftop farm in Philadelphia.

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Yoxi: This social competition is like a fun, updated take on the do-gooder practice of rounding up co-workers to pick up trash on the highway or read to the elderly. Yoxi challenges teams of self-selected "problem solvers" to create and communicate solutions to social issues like the dearth of healthy fast food options. Anyone can put together a team to create videos showing their ideas over three rounds of competition, and some get so involved that they decide to quit their day jobs. While the teams battle for support, renowned judges size them up, and the online audience votes for their favorites as well as pledges funding if they want. Winners get startup money to build their solution, and voters (who are integral to each project's success) get the satisfaction of doing something good for the world-without leaving their desks.

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VolunteerMatch: Connect with charities and other nonprofit organizations that need your money, your effort or your time. This search engine is used as a recruitment tool by over 78,000 nonprofit organizations, so you're likely to find a project that matches your values, needs your skills and is located in your area.

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Jumo: This social networking site lets you set up a personalized profile page with the causes and issues you care about. If the site's interface reminds you of that other social network (you know, the one in the movies), that's because Jumo founder Chris Hughes was also a co-founder of Facebook. After selecting organizations and issue areas you want to follow, you'll see updates, news and blog posts pop up in your news feed, and you'll have the option to respond, comment or act. Jumo takes our inclination to Facebook stalk and puts it to philanthropic good.

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