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Obama's 'Internet Man' launches social activism network Jumo

November 30, 2010 |  7:10 am

FastcompanyA Facebook co-founder whose social-media campaign helped Barack Obama take the White House launched a “social network for social activism” website Tuesday called Jumo.

Chris Hughes hopes his new venture will succeed where others have failed: in getting Internet users to shell out hard cash for causes. 

Alongside speechwriters Jon Favreau, Adam Frankel and Ben Rhodes, Hughes was one of a crop of twentysomething politicos Obama tapped to win the youth vote that propelled the then-short-term Illinois senator to the White House at 47, the fourth youngest president. 

Hughes, 27, built campaign website my.barackobama.com into a financial steamroller that raised more than 2 million donations of less than $200 and helped coordinate more than 70,000 Obama-themed events during the 2008 election cycle. Obama once referred to Hughes as "my Internet man."

Hughes helped Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg develop his idea for a social network at Harvard, an idea that mushroomed into an Internet phenomenon with more than 500 million users. Although he left Facebook in 2007 for Chicago, Hughes still holds a 1% equity stake in the company.  

His new network is similar to Causes.com, which was started by Zuckerberg’s roommate Joe Green and former Facebook President Sean Parker, Times writer Jessica Guynn notes over at our sister Technology blog.

Less than 1% of all charitable donations come from social media, Guynn notes, something Hughes ...

... wants to change by harnessing social media’s ability to bring together individuals who previously have indicated they want to receive information about something, be it a cause or a politician or a cute kitten.   

The Ticket has noted the difference between voting behavior in the real world and social-media political trends but also social-media networks’ ability to galvanize movements in places like Iran, North Korea and China.  It’s also played a role in raising awareness of causes including breast cancer, HIV and AIDS.

Facebook’s predominantly age-18-to-34 audience showed it could come out for politicians in 2008 but also largely stayed away from the polls in the recent midterms, where Obama’s Democratic Party suffered a “shellacking,” in the president’s own words, largely delivered by an older demographic (although one that is increasingly using social networks).

Hughes must hope the public’s appetite for giving to causes bounces back after several thin years for charitable organizations and the leanings of a federal commission appointed by Obama that has recommended ending or limiting charitable tax reductions as a means to plug the deficit.  

-- Craig Howie

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Image: Fast Company

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