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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Buy One House, Give One Free!

Donating money to charitable causes is all very well and good, but there's usually an abstractness about it that makes one wonder if the funds are really helping those who need it. A new project by California eco-urban design firm LJ Urban aims to make giving more concrete—quite literally—by matching its sales of homes domestically with funds to build homes in the impoverished African nation of Burkina Faso.

LJ Urban has designed a new eco-urban community of 35 LEED ND Certified homes in the urban core of Sacramento, its home town. The community is suggestively named Good, and for each home within it that gets sold, LJ Urban has committed to funding the complete training of a West African mason to build sustainable homes for families in Burkina Faso.

By partnering with the Association La Voƻte Nubienne (AVN), which has already trained about 60 local masons to build durable homes out of earth bricks and mortar, LJ Urban aims to go beyond just providing homes to impart enduring skills and jobs to the local community. Taking the notion a step further, LJ Urban has also opted to skip the expensive marketing campaign to promote its Good community, and to use that money to train more African masons instead.

So, for every 100,000 people who visit LJ Urban's new, dedicated website by July 1st, the company will fund the complete training of another local Burkina Faso mason—up to 20 in all through this viral approach.

The Good project was inspired by Toms Shoes, a project that donates a pair of shoes for every one it sells. "[That] approach captivated us because it broke through the 'charity fatigue' all of us have felt at one time or another," LJ Urban's team explains. "The question then became: 'What if we could do something like that with our houses?'…" The project is also reminiscent of One Laptop Per Child's (OLPC's) "Give One Get One" campaign last year through which consumers could donate a laptop and get one for their own use at the same time. A model of giving to bring to your neck of the woods...?

Website: http://www.dosomegoodnow.com/
Simon Turner simon@marquetteturner.com.au

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