Asha Curran’s TED Talk Explores the Belfer Family’s Vision of GivingTuesday

Asha Curran’s TED Talk Explores the Belfer Family’s Vision of GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday is a movement that transcends monetary donations, embracing the profound effects of simple, heartfelt actions. Since 2012, it has become a symbol of hope and unity, proving that the power of humanity lies in its capacity for kindness and generosity. GivingTuesday began as the brainchild of the team at The Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at 92NY, formerly known as the 92nd Street Y, in New York City. Laurence Belfer is a board member and co-founder of the Belfer Center.

GivingTuesday’s CEO, Asha Curran, captivated a global audience with her TED Talk, “Why Helping People Makes You Happy.” Her message centered on the remarkable impact of quiet acts of graciousness and charity. Curran said, “We underestimate the power of our own generous actions,” highlighting how even the smallest gestures can initiate a cascade of positive change.

Curran’s vision of benevolence encompasses more than monetary contributions. “Yes, money is an incredibly important form of giving. It is crucial for the health and sustainability of our civil societies. But thinking about giving only in terms of money is like thinking about love only in terms of diamonds,” she said. “We love what we can measure; we love what we can quantify. But I think what we would love even more is to live in a world of immeasurable abundance, empathy, and solidarity.”

She believes in the transformative power of everyday actions, stating, “What one person can accomplish is enormous.”

Curran’s talk was enriched with stories from various corners of the world, where ordinary individuals made extraordinary impacts through their acts of grace. She was accompanied by leaders from the GivingTuesday community, including representatives from Colombia, Costa Rica, Liberia, and the military sector. They shared their experiences in fostering year-round generosity movements.

The talk showcased diverse examples of these movements, such as messages of gratitude in Toronto and decorated rocks in Nairobi. “People painted rocks with bright colors and inspirational messages, and they put them all over the city, park benches, bus stops, just to bring smiles to the faces of strangers, smiles that they would never even see. And turning the Earth’s literal most mundane object into a love letter,” Curran shared.

“When we use [generosity] collectively, we can build a more joyful, equitable, and peaceful future,” she added. Her message is a call to action for everyone to incorporate goodness into daily life, making the world a better place one small act at a time.

“With the world in this much pain, it might seem futile to be focusing on those kinds of micro decisions,” she continued. “We imagine a world where generosity is simply at the root of our decisions and our behaviors — even, and maybe especially, down to our smallest and most mundane ones.”

The Belfer Family and 92NY’s Role in GivingTuesday

The Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact fosters community engagement, leadership development, and social change. It embodies the mission of 92NY to connect people across differences and ignite movements that drive real change. The center achieves this through various grassroots global initiatives, leadership programs, and civic initiatives to create a vibrant worldwide community centered on big ideas and impactful actions.

One of the Belfer Center’s key objectives is to engage people from different backgrounds and perspectives. By ensuring that diverse voices are heard and communities are interconnected, the Center aims to nurture ideas at the grassroots level. This approach facilitates the growth of initiatives such as GivingTuesday that can lead to substantial and positive societal change.

The day of global generosity was strategically placed after the consumption-focused Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 92NY leveraged its cultural and communal influence to inspire a worldwide call to action. It started as an experiment to see if social media could harness the power of community for a global day of giving. The response was overwhelming, with numerous organizations, families, schools, and religious institutions joining in.

This event rapidly transcended its national boundaries, evolving into an international phenomenon. The monetary donations from individuals and organizations in the United States on Nov. 28, 2023 totaled $3.1 billion. It has raised more than $13 billion since its launch.

Global Impact and Beyond

GivingTuesday’s impact isn’t limited to a single day. It has grown into a year-round movement, with millions participating in various acts of kindness. Curran emphasized this growth, stating, “Eleven years later, GivingTuesday is a year-round global generosity movement made up of thousands of leaders and millions of people working to transform their communities and world.

“I have essentially been on a decade-long global generosity tour, witnessing this principle of radical generosity in action. I have been welcomed and hugged and fed in more countries than I can count,” said Curran. “From Kenya to Colombia to Canada and so many more places, I have witnessed the hundreds of ways that generosity manifests. And what I have learned, my understanding of what generosity is and my appreciation for what it can accomplish, has expanded a thousand times over.”

In Jackson, Tennessee, one longtime GivingTuesday leader decided to combat food insecurity in her community by building a set of little free pantries. She asked for help on Facebook. “People responded, and they built an initial six boxes, which local residents then stocked with food and other supplies. All of this done on donated supplies and volunteer time,” said Curran. “That has now turned into over 40 boxes over three different counties, with a network of hundreds of volunteers keeping it stocked.”

As GivingTuesday progresses, it strives to maintain and grow its impact. The focus is on cultivating a worldwide ethos of giving that extends beyond financial contributions, aiming to establish an enduring positive effect.