For the past couple of years, there has been an upswing in socially conscious groups throughout the U.S. focusing on their communities and trying to bring about change in whatever ways they can. --- Whether you agree with their approach or tactics or even their activities, every organization seems to be fueled by the same goal: improving the quality of life around us through positive change, outreach and cooperation. One of the more recent organizations looking to make a difference is Revolution United, a nonprofit outreach group that lets the community choose the projects they work on and goals they seek to achieve. Today, we chat with one of the founding members, David Brooks, about the program and the work they've done so far.
Gavin: Hey, David. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
David: Well ... I am a jack of all trades; music, architectural, system, product, and Web development are some of my favorite focuses. I’m passionate about applying my energy to things that matter and cause waves. I enjoy thinking about and discussing new theories, concepts, and technologies, then imagining ways of application. Don’t get it twisted; though, I sound like a super nerd, I also love physical activities. I came to Utah on a football scholarship to Weber State, where I discovered unity, nature and adventure, which are all highly sought after in my life now.
Gavin: When did you first become interested in community-related outreach programs, and what influenced you to get involved?
David: There really wasn’t ever a specific point where I became interested in community improvement. It was an evolution of mind. Months of meditation on the inner workings of the universe led me to appreciate truth; not absolute truth nor relative truth but the thin line between the two where people can collectively agree. There was a deep ambition to spread these shared truths with others. I felt that by presenting them, it would inspire the world to achieve peace. I was thinking macro change, like creating refugee camps in Somalia and Unified Theories of Everything, but realized at the time that my biggest impact could be made locally with my direct network, my actions, and my community. Everything and Everyone I have come across in my life has influenced me to do what I am doing now. For all experiences I am grateful, but some of the major things and people that have influenced me are Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Bob Marley, Malcolm X, Da Vinci, and a book by Ken Wilber called A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality. I must admit that playing role-playing video games as a boy such as Final Fantasy VII-X has also influenced me to get involved and make a difference.
Gavin: How did you start taking part in community projects and becoming involved in helping out with local causes?
David: Throughout my life, I have always been willing to donate my time to making a positive difference and impact. When I was an aerospace design engineer in Ogden, I would go over to Youth Impact three times a week after work just to show the teens that they do have options in this world and to be an example for them. Recently, I worked at the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Valley. By wearing many hats at the Boys & Girls Clubs, I learned the dynamics of how nonprofit organizations function.
Gavin: When did the idea come about to start Revolution United?
David: Once again, it was an evolution that took four years to be where it is today. The initial system behind Revolution United came to me while meditating in a closet during the summer of 2008. I had shared the new system with people here in the United States and everyone thought it was something I should pursue. However, I was on my way to live in Spain indefinitely. While in Europe, the idea evolved into creating a publicly owned cooperative bank where 33% of the profits went to developing the projects that the community proposed and voted on; this is something I am still pushing to create here in Utah. In Spain, I met with a socio-economics professor to talk about the project. He compared it to the Micro Credit system developed by Muhammad Yunis, with similar potential to make a real positive impact on the world. I was illegal in Spain and unable to create any legal organization or entity. I didn’t even know where to begin. Eventually, I came back to the United States and changed a few things regarding the system, became more knowledgeable in the nonprofit field and incorporated the organization. I wish I could say an alien came to me and said this is the way; that would be much more interesting.
Gavin: How did you go about getting other people to join up with you, and what was it like setting the organization up?
David: I asked the most intelligent and socially aware people I knew to be on the board of directors. Our first meeting was in January of 2012. Since then, more and more people have taken the opportunity to get involved. I think the idea and system supporting Revolution United is appealing to most aware people because it satisfies a sense of creation, community and ownership but also provides to nurture the mind and encourage awareness to bloom; plus the projects are diverse and can be in any sector of life. Initially starting up the organization consumed an incredible amount of my time. I run a product, architectural and Web development company, and also worked 40 hours a week, so time was hard to find. I often found myself staying up till 4 a.m. working on the bylaws, articles of incorporation, 501c3 forms, Utah Charitable Solicitation Permit forms and preparing for meetings. I would tell myself it would all be worth it. I would imagine the potential impact of the organization and push aside the sleepiness. Looking back on it, I am very glad I did. The sleep lost was worth it, for sure.
Gavin: Something that sets you apart from many other similar organizations is that you rely on people outside the group to suggest events and projects. How did that idea come about, and how has it worked out so far?
David: The idea of having anyone in the community propose a project or event stems from years of research on the many issues that face communities, countries, and the world. Issues such as poverty, hunger, apathy, the food industry, health care and religious wars are just a few that bother us. I couldn’t possibly solve all of these issues by myself, but I felt that I could gather other intelligent people to collaborate, bounce ideas off each other, and develop possible solutions to each specific problem. Also, if someone is involved with the project-development process, they feel a sense of ownership and want to see the project manifested. So far, the process of having people propose ideas and help develop projects and events has been amazing. At our last Idea Silo event, we collectively created five new projects, all of which shall create some interesting waves in Utah.
Gavin: What's the process like for a project to become a reality from the initial proposal?
David: The process is quite simple, actually. An individual or organization sees a need for an improvement in their community and proposes a potential project to our website or at one of our Idea Silo events. Once the project is proposed, we discuss the project and ways to execute it. The community then votes on which project to develop. Depending on the resources we have and resources required for the project will determine how many projects to execute simultaneously. If it is a project that requires more funding than what we have available, we begin seeking donations for the specific project. Revolution United then begins recruiting project directors, volunteers and/or paid staff for the specific project. We also consider which other nonprofit organizations we can collaborate with to make a bigger impact. At the end of each project, we create some form of media to share with the public that demonstrates the impact of the project.
Gavin: The projects that you plan out are completely donation-based in funding. What made you decide to go that route rather than form a nonprofit?
David: We are actually formed as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. However, we are very selective of where we accept funds. The public should be the ones sustaining the organization with donations. If the public can’t meet the financial demands, we want to only accept donations from companies that have ideals that align with Revolution United’s collective objective. Another way of maintaining this pool of community-managed funds is by creating multiple subsidiary local companies. These companies manage funds using a 33% rule: 33% of profits stay in the subsidiary company for growth, another 33% goes to the investors and the last 33% is donated to Revolution United. Although our name is Revolution United, we are willing to accept government funding to achieve our collective goals. One major aspect of our organization is that on our website we keep an up-to-date graph of cash in and cash out. We think all corporations, companies and organizations should be fully transparent.
Gavin: Your most recent event was Trash 4 Chalk. How did that event come about, and what was the turnout and response like from the community?
David: Since we are relatively new and are functioning on low amounts of funds, we wanted to create a project that wouldn’t be too taxing on our checkbook, yet still gets the community involved and makes a difference. At a board of directors meeting, we laid out the requirements and desired impact of the project and we began brainstorming. We came up with the idea to have neighborhood directors go out and recruit their neighbors to clean up a specific area and then leave behind positive chalk art. After all the fun work, we had a BBQ for everyone that participated in order for people to meet and greet all the others who were involved. Twenty one people showed up to volunteer their Saturday morning to this project; there has been a lot of response to this project. I have a meeting with neighbor of another neighborhood who got the flier we handed out. He was unable to attend the project but said he would like to be involved. We will be discussing how to improve upon the project and what he can do for the united push. It was also interesting to see the older generation come out and pick up trash with the younger generation.
Gavin: What is the overall goal for Revolution United as a whole, and what kind of an impact do you hope to have on the city and state?
David: Salt Lake City is the perfect place to launch such an organization. Deep in the heart of all Utahns resides a desire for community and collective fulfillment. The network of Salt Lake is very tight; we all know each other, if not directly, then through a friend of a friend. These aspects are grounds to spread a simple seed: that we should take responsibility for the world around us; if we collectively want change, we can create it. The overall objective is to have Salt Lake be the model city on how a community can be self-sustainable. Once we have a proven outcome and system, the model behind Revolution United will spread to any other place desiring collective change.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourself and Revolution United over the rest of the year?
David: From me, you can expect my full heart and mind to be plugged into this organization and movement. A Revolution United Somalia, which assists the people in Africa to be more self-sufficient to create communal changes themselves, is a dream worth chasing and dedicating my life to. In the meantime, locally by the end of the year, you can expect to see at least three subsidiary/partner companies unified with Revolution United. We are already working on the projects proposed and voted on at Idea Silo. One of them consists of developing a platform for locals to easily locate and invest in local start-up companies. Another is working with the city to create a policy for owners of apartment complexes to provide their residents with recycling bins. In general, look for us to grow and become more complex with our projects and their impact.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
David: Yes, we are always looking for people with passion. If you have passion in general, please contact us, because we can for sure find a way for both of us to grow collectively. I would also like to thank everyone who has been involved thus far, and to those who will become involved. This is something I could never do if there wasn’t support. Let’s have fun along the way and improve life. To stay in tune with what we have going on, you can go to our website or find us on Facebook. Lastly, I want to also say thank you, Gavin, for being aware of social movement.
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