Acts on the Facts
By Anna O'Sullivan
Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program student Benjamin Robison, along with his collaborators Josephine Dorado and Hugo Berkeley, was granted a $72,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Knowledge Networking Award in March 2008. Robison is using the grant, awarded as a part of the first-ever Digital Media and Learning Competition, to develop a web application that matches news stories with opportunities for social activism and community service called, “Fractor: Act on Facts.” “Facts” and “Acts” will be organized on a single page where every news story is linked to real-world actions that users can pursue.
Since last March, attorney David Miller has been working with Robison pro bono, as a part of the Lawyers Alliance, to assist in the 501(c)(3) process of incorporating “Fractor: Act on Facts.” By next year, Robison is confident Fractor will provide a positive outlet for response to both daily events and major news, like natural disasters or wartime conflicts.
“I think people genuinely want to help others, and Fractor gives them a simple tool to do so. This empowerment helps create communities centered on giving and hope. Our goal is that the website will become a marketplace for citizens and nonprofits who seek to meet community needs,” Robison said.
Robison’s idea for “Fractor: Act on Facts” formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, when he became more civically active.
“I was invited to a U.N. Millennium Development Goals conference along with congressional leaders, youth organizers, and high school students. Through the discussion of international needs, it struck me that it was one thing to expose people to what’s going on in the world, but another thing to give them a way to feed into the system, to interact,” Robison said.
“Fractor: Act on Facts” is just one example of Robison’s commitment to altruistic endeavors. In 2001, as a classical violinist and doctoral student in musical arts, Robison founded the Musicians’ Alliance for Peace, which has sponsored more than 350 charity concerts in 30 countries. A number of concerts raised money for hospitals, which contributed to his decision to apply to and enroll in the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program. He decided to take his successes using music for community outreach and apply them to understanding how he could physically heal people.
“I am very interested in human creativity and its positive impact on individual and community health. Creativity through music has positively motivated me for the past 30 years, and now I am looking forward to learning about how the human body’s biological response to creativity can heal,” Robison said.