Begun in January 2010 as a pilot project sponsored by CSCH and the School of Public Health, the Birmingham Community Health Exchange (BCHE) is a web community where people interested in making small donations to help others meet basic health needs can find stories of people in need and donate directly, in real time, to make a positive difference.
The operative premise is that, by leveraging web technologies and social networking and communication tools, we can improve how health needs are communicated and increase local support to serve those needs.
The founding non-profit community partners include: Birmingham AIDS Outreach; M-Power Ministries; Cahaba Valley Health Care; Greater Birmingham Ministries; and Congregations For Public Health.
Additional nonprofit organizations are being invited to participate on the Community Health Exchange. They are encouraged to insert the BCHE Giving Window widget on their own site and publicize their own client and organization needs. Online video tutorials have been created to assist in the learning process.
The Giving Window widget is a quick and easy tool that nonprofit organizations can simply add to their own websites for posting needs. No programming is required, and support for pictures, video, and online donation processing is automatically integrated within each need description. It is also easy for visitors to share needs via FaceBook and Email. A scrolling window on the BCHE website randomly displays featured needs posted by partner organizations.
Categories for needs include food, health (including medical, dental, and vision services and supplies), and other's “ for example child safety seats, transportation vouchers, household needs, services (such as tutoring), clothing, organization office supplies, and disaster relief supplies. Needs also include requests for skilled and unskilled volunteers.
Youtube continues to make it easier and easier for videos to be created from digital cameras and smartphones. Each member organization highlights one of its needs as a Featured Story by including a one- to two-minute YouTube video. Another need might be identified as a Priority Need. Featured Stories and Priority Needs are featured on the BCHE website.
For the donors, needs may be addressed in full or, in some instances, partial donations may be possible. In addition, donations may be monetary or in-kind offers of materials or labor.