Some of Ben Franklin's best ideas came from these 9 questions. Maybe yours can, too.

Ben Franklin: He was a Founding Father, he loved to party, and he's on the $100 bill. But you might be surprised what else he's left behind.

Image via Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr.


Most people have no idea he created the civic triumphs that formed the foundation of American culture.

He and his friends created the first volunteer fire department, the first post office, and the first lending library.

Images 1 and 2 via Library of Congress/Flickr. Image 3 via Mennonite Church/Wikimedia Commons.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

How'd he do it? He had the right attitude and a great group of friends.

Image (modified) by Howard Chandler Christy/Wikimedia Commons.

And I'm not even talking about his Founding Father friends. This is a totally different squad.

At age 21, Franklin got his friends together to form the Junto.

The Junto was a weekly meet-up or "mutual-improvement club" where he and his friends talked about how they could make both themselves and the world cooler.

There were certain questions Franklin asked his friends at these meetings. High jinks and civic innovations ensued.

The folks at 92nd Street Y, Stanford's Hoover Institution, and Citizen University are set on proving that Franklin's approach can be brought into the modern day. Out of the questions Franklin posed, the folks behind a new form of the Junto, called Ben Franklin Circles, have chosen the most effective — just nine simple prompts:

1. Is there something you need help with?

2. Is anyone here starting a new project and is there a way we can help?

3. Anyone who’s doing innovative work?

4. Is there anyone whose friendship we want?

5. How can we use our networks to help each other?

6. Is there anyone we can mentor and encourage?

7. Can we give one another any personal/professional advice?

8. Can we improve anything about the circle itself?

9. Are there ways the circle should be connecting with and contributing to nearby communities?

As you can see, there are a lot of hive-mind, lifting-each-other-up vibes. Honestly, I feel kinda good just reading these questions.

But what's really interesting is what Franklin did more than 20 years after starting this improvement club.

At age 42, Franklin took the Junto to the next level. Believing he already had enough money to last the rest of his life, he retired from work and dedicated himself 100% to his community.

As a profile of Franklin's uniquely non-monetary definition of success in The Atlantic states, "rather than cultivate the fine arts of indolence, retirement, [Franklin] said, was 'time for doing something useful.'"

Useful like a volunteer fireman creator. Image (modified) via Charles Washington Wright/Wikimedia Commons.

Not a bad way to spend retirement. Or life. One way to create that energy in your life is now available to everyone in the form of the Ben Franklin Circle.

Ben Franklin Circles are starting to pop up, and they're creating an amazing difference in people's lives.

Asha Curran, who's on the staff at the 92nd Street Y, says that her Ben Franklin Circle was one of the most profound parts of her past year.

"It is so rare to have an opportunity to be in a room of smart, thoughtful people where the focus of conversation is solely on our ethical selves. ... I was challenged to face things about my own habits that were painful but constructive, and I came out absolutely the better for it both personally and professionally."

Creating a sense of belonging can affect more than just happiness and well-being — it can even improve health as well. Sometimes for years!

Social psychologist and Stanford professor Greg Walton created a "belonging intervention" — basically an exercise that gives participants a sense that they’re not alone in their struggles —and found that it "increased subjects' happiness, improved their health and reduced cognitive activation of negative stereotypes for several years after the initial intervention." The Ben Franklin Circles have the potential to create similar results in the lives of its participants.

We humans have immense potential inside of us, and through helping each other, we can do so much — more than Franklin ever imagined.

You can get more info below or by looking at the #BenFranklinCircles hashtag or heading to BenFranklinCircles.org.

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via The Today Show

Michael and Jack McConnell will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on September 3rd and it won't only be a big moment for them, it'll be a landmark for the entire gay rights movement.

The couple was legally married 32 years before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 and 43 before it became federally legal in 2015.

How did they do it? They outsmarted a system that wasn't prepared to address same-sex marriage.

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via The Today Show

Michael and Jack McConnell will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on September 3rd and it won't only be a big moment for them, it'll be a landmark for the entire gay rights movement.

The couple was legally married 32 years before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 and 43 before it became federally legal in 2015.

How did they do it? They outsmarted a system that wasn't prepared to address same-sex marriage.

Keep Reading Show less
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If you've ever donated to a cause but worried that your contribution wasn't really enough to drive real change, you're not alone. As one person, it can be tough to feel like you're making a real difference, especially if you don't have a lot to donate or if times are tough (aka there's a worldwide pandemic going on.)

That's why, for years, the idea of philanthropy felt a little bit like a rich person's thing: if you had millions, you could donate and make change. The rest of us were just tossing pennies into a cup without really doing much.

But that's a problem: the priorities of a wealthy few don't represent the priorities of many, which means that good causes are often left underfunded, leading to a lack of meaningful action.

The thing is: it doesn't have to be like this. We can all make a difference, especially if we pool our money together.

Enter: Giving Circles. These are when groups of people with shared values come together to drive change. They do it by pooling their time and money together, then deciding as a circle where it should go. That way, they can cause a real targeted change in one place quickly in a very people-powered way by giving what they can, whether that's volunteer hours, money, or a mix of both. Best of all, Giving Circles are a social experience — you get to work together as a community to make sure you do the most good you can.

In other words, giving circles are a way to democratize philanthropy, making it more accessible regardless of your age, income, gender, or race.

That's why this year, The Elevate Prize, a nonprofit founded in 2019, is launching a new pop-up "Giving Circle" program so that problem solvers, budding philanthropists, and anyone that wants to do good can come together and drive real impact at a large scale. And you can do it all in just 90 minutes.

All you have to do is join one of the Elevate Giving Circles online. Learn about organizations doing good for the world, then pool your money together, and as a group, direct it where you think that donation could make the most difference.

But that's not all: every single donation made is matched by the Elevate Prize Foundation — basically guaranteeing that you double your impact for good. The theme for the first cycle is education, and Elevate Giving will match up to $75,000 in total donations for each cycle.

Ready to get involved? Elevate Giving experiences start June 26th, so sign up now for your spot to make a difference. There's no minimum fee to join either — so get involved no matter what you have to give. Now that's philanthropy for all.