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Non-profit employs at-risk-youth and veterans to transform prisons into sustainable farms

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Restorative justice can be a hard concept to understand. To see it working in real life, look no further than Growing Change in Scotland County, NC.

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Throughout the summer, we’ve been having honest and urgent discussions about systemic disenfranchisement, policing, and punishment in our society. These issues affect nearly everybody and everything, even down to what we eat. Grocery stores, for example, are a rarity in lots of impoverished or densely urban areas. Places like this, without accessible sources of affordable and nutritious food, are called “food deserts”.

Multiple studies have indicated that without proper nutrition, children have more difficulty in school. Poor performance in school, in turn, is widely considered by juvenile courts to be a predictor of future criminal behavior, which influences the severity of the punishments that are handed down to young offenders. In other words, statistically speaking, growing up in a food desert may have a negative impact on the rest of a child’s life.

Since these problems are fundamentally related, the solutions could be tied together, too. That’s one of the ideas behind Growing Change, a non-profit farm and educational center located in Scotland County, North Carolina. Scotland is one of North Carolina’s poorest counties, with the highest rates of unemployment and food insecurity in the state.

Growing Change simultaneously addresses these problems and more, targeting food injustice in the Scotland County area while educating at-risk youth about sustainable farming practices, and connecting them with mentorship from wounded veterans returning from deployment. Their goal is to “flip” abandoned prisons across the state, turning Brownfield sites into clean, green farms while providing entrepreneurial opportunities for youth and vets.

In a statement from 2015, they explain that “North Carolina is one of the last two states in which youth are adjudicated as adults for all charges at age 16. By the time some 16 year-olds arrive in the courts they are permanently limited in their employment due to their ‘adult’ criminal record. We will help break this cycle by offering the courts, schools and communities ways of diverting youth from the criminal justice system.”

And they get results, too: Their unique Clinical Pilot Program in 2011 showed 92% efficacy in preventing recidivism among participants.

Skill building and personal development is instrumental, not just for teens and young adults, but for anyone to avoid or remove themselves from the dire life circumstances that drive crime rates. I have personally witnessed the power of this model – my former employer, YR Media, teaches classes in multimedia literacy and production skills to achieve the same ends in Oakland, California. When we help people to grow outside of negative roles and situations, more often than not, they happily do.

Growing Change began just under ten years ago, yet their mission is especially relevant now. The pandemic has only amplified the systemic injustices our country has been facing, long before George Floyd’s death transformed the world.

Effective solutions become almost an afterthought in debates about over imprisonment in the US, even though global statistics speak for themselves: The United States accounts for only 4% of the global population, yet is responsible for roughly 20% of the world’s prisoners.

Restorative justice can be a hard concept to understand due to our cultural notions about crime, and it’s impossible to have a full understanding without concrete examples of how these concepts work in real life. This non-profit is demonstrating a clear, creative vision for how we might build connections that nourish us all, from the ground up.

Desmond Meagley is an award-winning writer, graphic artist and cultural commentator in D.C. A proud YR Media alumn, Desmond's writing and illustrations have been featured in the SF Chronicle, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, The Daily Cal, and NPR among others. In their spare time, Desmond enjoys vegetarian cooking and vigorous bike rides.

Real Estate Marketing

This app simplifies all your website’s growth and marketing

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) While making a website is easy as pie these days, getting your website’s growth off the ground is less straightforward. Luckily, Notification Panda makes it easy!

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Website's marketing and growth on a laptop open to website in progress.

Setting up a website isn’t all that complicated today. There are various content management systems with templates that make it easy to get a website up and running in no time. The hard part of having a website is figuring out how to drive traffic to it so it can grow.

While there is no right or wrong way to increase your website’s growth, there also isn’t a lack of tools to help you get started either. Notification Panda is a social proof application for marketing agencies, e-commerce websites, bloggers, and all types of businesses.

The app offers you different ways to send out notifications to your visitors so you can interact with them more and increase sales. Best of all, no coding skills are required!

Notification Panda works well with a lot of popular website platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Zapier. The app’s only requirement is to have a website where you can copy your code from the app’s dashboard and paste it into your website for the notification(s) to appear.

According to their website, Panda is easy to set up with three simple steps. You create a campaign, create the notification, and publish it.

With the tool, you can track your campaigns and notifications. Activities such as email signups, demo registrations, purchases, and downloads from your website can all be tracked, which makes tracking your website’s growth even simpler.

The types of notifications Panda has to offer range widely. There are customizable informational bars. There is a live counter-notification that displays how many people are on your site. There is a countdown timer that helps you create urgency and FOMO and input in lead generation. There’s even a conversion counter type of notification so you help further establish social proof.

Any website can run the app, and its notifications are 100% compatible with Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Brave, and others. It’s also compatible with mobile web browsers and can even work on some Smart TVs.

Notification Panda offers different pricing plans. And, if you want to make sure it’s right for you, the company offers a free trial.

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Real Estate Marketing

How knowing ASL as a Realtor makes you more accessible

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Since America is the cultural melting pot, language can be a sizable barrier. One language that many people forget about is ASL, but not these Realtors

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ASL signs

The wonderful world of real estate is full of twists, turns, negotiations, and legalese. Most people struggle to grasp the language and terms clearly. If ASL, American Sign Language, is their primary language, having a realtor fluent in ASL could be quite helpful. Deaf clients are often underserved in real estate dealings.

There can be a language and communication issue when deaf customers work with hearing agents. Nobody needs any disadvantage when the paperwork is signed. People need to be able to follow along in every conversation and negotiation well, to understand what is being offered and what they are agreeing to. An ASL-fluent real estate agent is an excellent way for deaf people to fully participate in and understand their own real estate transactions.

No matter what, people need a realtor who’ll lead the way, guiding them through the intricacies of the contracts and terms, and advocating for them when needed. With every step of buying a home or property, most customers have questions. Therefore, for deaf people, finding a realtor who speaks their primary language, ASL, is a key factor.

It isn’t always easy to find realtors in your area who are fluent in ASL, but we found Amy Seely, of The Seely Group with Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas. Seely grew up with deaf parents, and has used ASL her whole life. “Because I grew up with deaf parents, I feel that it’s my duty to help the hearing and the deaf communities,” says Seely.

Maria Galluci, real estate agent in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, has a similar story. She grew up with deaf parents, and after acting as their interpreter when they bought their home. That experience led her to pursue a path in real estate, as she realized sometimes people take advantage of them due to the communication gap.

A quick Google search pulled up various databases of ASL-fluent real estate agents, based on area. One database lists 64 Texas real estate agents who speak ASL. We found another for DC, MD, and VA. Thank goodness for the internet. Hopefully deaf people will be able to find a realtor adept in ASL and experienced in real estate. Finding the ideal realtor who can walk you through the process is worth the time spent searching.

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Real Estate Marketing

Warning: User-generated content hikes your business insurance rate

(MARKETING) User-generated content is a phenomenal marketing tool when used properly, but it can impact your business insurance rates and potentially E&O rates…

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user-generated content

The use of “influencers” on social media and the sharing of user-generated content (UGC) isn’t a new thing in social media marketing. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to generate excitement and curiosity about your brand.

The best reviews are always those from real users, and the best advertising is the one you didn’t have to create: Those are social media marketing golden rules.

The implementation of user-generated content however, is rife with some potential troubles, especially when added to your own website.

A lot of businesses can operate under the idea that the average social media user is okay with the sharing of their content. While some of them will be, you run the risk of crossing an invisible line with someone who then generates negative press about you and/or your company. And of course, there is always the possibility of litigation.

Some insurance companies aren’t taking UGC into account, even today, while others will certainly ask whether you’re using it (and will charge you accordingly). This could impact your business insurance rate and potentially your Errors & Omissions rate.

It’s in your best interest to be above board on user-generated content and it always begins with the first step – asking for permission. How you ask for permission depends on the medium, but be sure to get a DM, email, tweet, or something that clearly shows the content creator giving you the right to use that image (and document that permission in a way that you can locate it in the far future). This prevents you from getting into a whole lot of trouble, and allows you to use user generated content most effectively.

Pro tip: If you’re going to be working with the same brand ambassador or influencer, make sure any contracts or agreements you have include a waiver that allows you to repurpose content they create that impacts your brand.

This is an easy thing to do, and it will help protect the integrity of your brand and your online presence – make sure it’s part of your social media strategy.

But it should be noted that there are merits to only using content that you create yourself – it’s more secure, more controlled, and it typically decrease the cost of your business insurance as it’s less risky. Because a lot of brands don’t ask for permission, UGC takes on some risk and skyrockets insurance rates.

The decision to use UGC should be a smart one, and if you do decide to use it, just follow the golden rules: Ask nicely and keep a paper trail.

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