Filtering by Tag: Social good

We Deleted Uber and Maybe You Should Too

On March 19th, 2018 a woman by the name of Elaine Herzberg was struck and killed by one of Uber’s self driving vehicles in Arizona. The media has approached this topic from a variety of angles, but the primary focus has been on explaining what exactly happened. The police chief initially reported the pedestrian jumped out in the street at the last minute making it impossible to avoid. Others said this was implausible considering Elaine had a bicycle in her possession. Finally, a video was released from the cars dash cam which showed a safety driver in the car looking down and away from the road repeatedly just before impact.

Uber failed in three ways to insure something like this would not happen. Clean Technica reports Uber reduced the number of LiDAR units from 7 to 1 per vehicle in 2016 creating blind spots. One such blindspot may have prevented the car from perceiving Elaine as a human being to be avoided at all costs. Uber failed when they began sending single drivers out instead of couples for test drives of their vehicles. Even if the driver had not seen or anticipated a pedestrian then surely another set of eyes on the road would have been helpful. Lastly, Uber failed when they hired Rafaela Vasquez as a safety driver. Ms. Vasquez is a two time convicted felon in the state of Arizona which certainly does not preclude her from the workforce, however, a safeguard position such as this is questionable. Uber was striving to move past needing a driver intervention within thirteen miles of road. So the drivers they hired were certainly not sitting idly for hours on end.

I switched to the past tense to describe Uber’s failings not because the company apologized, said they would take stock of their actions, and change but because of the recent fallout. Arizona banned Uber’s self driving car program from operating in the state any longer, Uber opted to not renew their license with California to run an autonomous vehicle program, and their entire fleet is grounded for the time being.

Why would Uber take these risks? Money. Eric Meyhofer, the head of Uber’s autonomous driving efforts, said the question isn’t whether Uber can make a self driving car, but if they can do so quickly and cheaply enough to solve its revenue problems. Corner after corner was being cut in order to reduce the 2.8 Billion dollars it lost last year. By contrast, Lyft President, John Zimmer, characterizes his company as caring about the cities they operate in, the people they service, and the people that work for the company.

Part tragedy, part comedy, The New Yorker has certainly not missed the irony of their most recent article on Dara Khosrowsahi, Uber’s new CEO charged with cleaning up company culture. The accident in Arizona receives a very small entry at the end of the article as if the actions don’t speak louder than the words, and history of one man in a massive company.

We have deleted Uber from our phones. We believe consumers make a choice with their dollars, and we are taking a firm stance with ours. Uber may be redeemable, and perhaps Dara can actually right the ship, but for now we refuse to support a company that has disenfranchised and humiliated women within their company, and shows such relentless disregard for ethical practices just to continue their growth. We hope you consider exactly what that next UberPool is worth to you and everyone else in the global ecosystem.

"Nothing is certain but death and taxes" - Ben Franklin

Whether you’re a 501c3, for-profit, or somewhere in-between we believe you can make a difference in the world. So when we heard of friends in the nonprofit world fearing for their organizations because of the new tax plan our ears perked up. Then we started digging, and what we found might be described as cautious optimism.

Nonprofit concern

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University estimates the new tax plan will result in charitable donations to nonprofits shrinking by 13 billion or more each year. This number is being echoed across numerous media outlets, and lives at the core of current nonprofit anxiety.

How is this going to happen?

The new tax plan doubles standard deductions for individuals and couples from 6K to 12K and 12K to 24K respectively. This means the majority Americans have a greater incentive to select the standard deduction in lieu of an itemized deduction where charitable contributions are stated. Americans were previously incentivized to give more to charities so that their itemized deductions would be greater than the 6K and 12K standards. Additional commentary out of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy argues Americans won’t completely stop giving, but they will give less.

(For our younger or confused readers: a standard deduction is the amount the government allows you to deduct from your full taxable income. That standard deduction is essentially not subject to income tax like the rest of your income. The standard deduction is the preferred method of deducing taxable income because of the complexity associated with line item deductions. It is a catch all for deductions like costs associated with work, donations, etc..)

Recent Historical Context

From 2012 to 2016, individual contributions to charities have gone from $228.93 billion to $281.86 billion. That’s slightly more than a 23% increase in just four years. By contrast, total GDP in the United States has seen 15% growth over the same time period. Individual donations have outpaced economic growth by a whopping 8% over four years.

Total contributions have continued to reach record highs, with 390.05 billion dollars of contributions in 2016 when the most recent data is available. It isn’t difficult to understand non-profit anxiety when levels of growth like this have been the norm for almost five years.

Worst Case Scenario

The average American could potentially decide to donate less money because of the tax plan, and it could be a direct result of the increased standard deduction. The Council of Nonprofits states the estimated loss in donations amounts to 250,000 jobs being lost in the nonprofit sector. That’s assuming every dollar lost is spent on a salary, but the statistic is meant to contradict the idea that the tax plan would lead to more jobs. A potentially worse impact of this loss in donations is a loss of food, medical, or other support services delivered to those in need.

Best Case Scenario

In addition to raising the standard deduction, the tax plan also raises the cap on charitable deductions. Theoretically the 10% increase in max deductible donations means the wealthiest in America would at the very least make up the difference lost as a result of the standard deduction increase. Ideally the estimated losses are overstated, and wealthy donations increase which would most certainly allow the nonprofit sector to continue their period of record growth.

Taking Action

As this tax season ends, FM-31 will be keeping a close eye on the data captured by the government and NGOs. Corporate charitable donations were the smallest portion of all contributions from 2012-2016. We were disappointed to hear this for a number of reasons. As social entrepreneurs we believe businesses can and do make a massive impact, but sadly data on the collective social impact made by organizations like TOM’s, Warby Parker, CauseGear, and others does not exist. We plan to publish a report of the 2017 social impact made by for profit organizations like these over the 2018 summer so we may have one more potential bright spot in the fight for good.

DC Design Week

For a limited time the Helping Hands Journal Series will be on sale at Cherry Blossom Creative from Thursday-Sunday this week! We are part of the DC Design Week Pop-Up Shop, and our work will be displayed alongside other established DC Artists and Designers. There will be a launch party at Cherry Blossom Creative with free drinks on Thursday at 6pm, and we will be in attendance to answer any questions. Drop by and say hi!

Address: 2128 8th ST. NW, Washington DC 20001

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