Friday, February 27, 2009


Today, just two months before its 150th anniversary, the Rocky Mountain News printed and distributed its last issue. Check out this poignant, 25-minute video, Final Edition, about the last days of this newspaper and, by extension, the closure of many small newspapers across the nation in recent weeks and months.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

For more on the life and death of the American newspaper, check out this piece by Eric Alterman, Out of Print, in the March 31, 2008 issue of The New Yorker.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Remix Culture

As the recent copyright woes of Obama poster artist Shepard Fairey show, there's a war raging over what some now are calling a new art form in the emerging Web 2.0 culture—remix. Broadly defined, remix is collage, a recombination of existing, reference images or music and video clips from popular digital culture, elements of which are mashed up into something new. As thousands of people share and produce their own mashups and remixes online, an urgent question is emerging across today's cultural landscape: Should remix be outlawed as a violation of an artist's or photographer's copyright or—as long as the remix is significantly altered from the original—should remix be permitted by law to be shared freely, via social media, across the Web and in popular culture at large?

At the New York Public Library tonight, remixer/street artist Fairey, copyright scholar Larry Lessig, and author Steven Johnson all argued for free expression, saying remix is a form of self-expression and free speech that should be allowed to flow mostly unrestricted across today's burgeoning digital world. "Remix is literacy in the 21st century," Lessig said. The chief of Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society , Lessig is the author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. He said that failing to legally protect remixes as original forms of art and expression "will make pirates of our children...We cannot kill this form of expression; we can only criminalize it, drive it underground. We can't make [remixers] passive, we can only make them pirates."

For his part, Johnson, author of The Invention of Air, a new book about the history of information flows in American and British society, said remix has "deep roots in the Age of Enlightenment and among America's Founding Fathers." He said that Thomas Jefferson, no less, remixed the Bible to produce his own underground version of it; Johnson refers to that effort as "the original American remix." Said Johnson: "Where do we think innovation and creativity come from—protecting ideas or setting them free, allowing them to circulate freely?"

Fairey rounded out the talk, citing remix as one of the early 21st century's most popular forms of free political expression. Fairey said his most "potent" remix is not his iconic, 2008 Obama Hope poster [over which he is being sued by the Associated Press and is countersuing for the right to have made it]—but his 2005 remix, Greetings from Iraq, a reference to a 1930s-era, WPA-produced Yellowstone Park tourism poster. "This referenced something that advertised a geyser to go see; I've made that geyser into an explosion, figuring it as something to go run from," Fairey said. "...Remix is all about making references; references are how you establish a point of view in popular culture, and they are crucial to my work as an artist."

What do you think? [Fairey's 2005 remix, left; the original Yellowstone poster, right]

Here are some of Lessig's examples of popular remix, which he included as part of his talk:

* Johan Soderberg's Read My Lips remix, a 2006 mashup of George Bush and Tony Blair news clips on YouTube, created to make a statement about their mutual support for the Iraq War;
*'s February 2008 Yes We Can video, a remix of an Obama speech set to music, was widely distributed on YouTube prior to the presidential election last November.
* Beyonce's October 2008 performance video of Single Ladies got 1.7 million views on YouTube in original form, but a Saturday Night Live parody-remix produced a month later [see it here] got even more attention, Lessig said—some 3.2 million views. And those remixes led to dozens of others, including this one.
* The Grey Album, a mashup album by Danger Mouse, released in 2004, that uses an a cappella version of rapper Jay-Z's The Black Album and couples it with instrumentals created from a multitude of unauthorized samples from The Beatles' The White Album. [The Grey Album made headlines after record producer EMI attempted to halt its distribution.]
* Anime music video remixes, which began as a trend around 2007 by remixing images from Japanese cartoons with a music track from a movie trailer. See this March 2007 example, Disney in D Minor. Each AMV, Lessig says, can take between 50 and 400 hours to create.
* Social commentary remixes, including this March 2008 remix by experimental filmmaker Andrew Filippone, Charlie Rose by Samuel Beckett. It shows Rose engaging in an interview with himself about the future of the Web. ["It took about eight hours of editing to produce," Filippone said. Added Lessig: "What is striking to me about remix is how hard it is to do well."] Here is Filippone's remix, below:

What do you think? Protect remixes or crack down on them?

(Illustrations by Shepard Fairey)

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Net speed

In some African villages, bed nets are used as wedding veils—and water strainers and window screens. It’s a big worry for aid workers: in Nigeria every year, malaria accounts for 30 percent of all child deaths; the World Health Organization says that across the world, some 1 million die from the disease annually. The vast majority of those deaths, says WHO, occur in Africa. "The road map to get rid of this disease involves many things," Bill Gates told TED2009 earlier this month, "...including the work of social scientists, so we know how to get not just 70 percent of the people to use bed nets, but 90 percent."

Enter social media, instead. Christopher Fabian and his colleagues at UNICEF’s two-year-old Innovations unit [along with tech-for-change developer Dimagi] have created something called Rapid Android—a new software application for Google's Android phone that turns it into a high-speed data collector and analyzer to help relief workers bust through paper-based bureaucracies to distribute health and food aid more quickly. Using Rapid Android, Fabian and crew also can train villagers, themselves, to use inexpensive cell phones to text in their community's health, food supply, and bed net usage statistics to authorities. How rapid is this new mobile supply chain system? Think minutes versus months: aid workers can collect and process data anywhere there's a wireless connection. With faster knowledge of what's working [and what isn't], aid workers can intervene faster and more effectively.

Two weeks ago, the team launched Rapid Android to help the World Bank, USAID, and other partners start monitoring the deployment of tens of millions of bed nets in Nigeria. It's also launching a five-month pilot project in Malawi that will use simple cellphones and text-messaging to more rapidly and accurately track children's health and malnourishment data—before it’s too late to intervene. "Right now," Fabian says, "it takes months to get simple information from many of these villages to a centralized place." The team created RapidSMS last fall, following a famine in Ethiopia, to speed food supply data from remote areas.

Cause Global caught up with Fabian, his UNICEF colleague Adam McKaig, and Sean Blaschke of Columbia University, at Saturday's MobileTech4SocialChange bar camp in Manhattan. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation:

Why this and why now?
FABIAN: In Africa, we are finding there are systemic failures in public health and supply in terms of getting reliable information quickly from the field. Ninety percent of the developing world has access to a cell phone, so we're experimenting with the use of instant messaging to make a difference. We’re finding that we can train people in villages to be data collectors and help us by using cell phones to text information to central authorities; we and governments can then respond faster to specific needs. In some places, it takes months just to get a piece of paper from the field. Mobile phones and SMS technology can help surmount that hurdle.

Your team just created Rapid Android. What's this?
FABIAN: We're very excited about the Google Android phone. Android is an open source operating system for a mobile phone. Our developers wrote Rapid SMS, an open source version of the instant messaging software, for the Android phone, specifically. This means that at UNICEF, there's no need any longer to send a server or any complicated (computer) hardware into a country, and there’s no need to send in a person just to set it up. Now, you can simply bring a $200 phone into a country, plug it into power, and start immediately using it to collect data—on that phone, itself. This obviates a lot of overhead for set-up, and it also allows people who wouldn't otherwise be data collectors to gather information about their communities from any $10 cell phone. In Nigeria, there are 774 local government areas. Each one of them could use hardware like an Android phone to collect bed net data through SMS and have interventions very quickly rather than having to go to central source and wait 6-7 months for a report to come out. This means you can help people faster during emergencies and disasters.

What's the cost advantage, if any?
FABIAN: We found in Ethiopia, for example, just after a famine had struck about four months ago, that to collect 3,000 data forms over two weeks via RapidSMS cost less than 40 U.S. dollars. That's incredibly cheap. This is a technology that saves on fuel, there’s no people time and no travel. In Ethiopia, we've trained local people to report what's happening using the technology, and it's very cool how they've been able to take control over their own reporting in this way versus having foreigners come in and do it for them. It's very empowering.

In Nigeria, how will Rapid Android work in bed net distribution?
FABIAN: The challenge, again, like in Ethiopia and Malawi, is how we can get information from a wide swath of the population very, very quickly back from the field. We're working with the World Bank, USAID and a group of other partners in Nigeria to deploy the largest bed net distribution in history —63 million bed nets by 2010, which is something like 36 kilometers of trucks back-to-back. This will start in two regions in Nigeria, north of Abuja. That’s where the first set of bed nets will be distributed. There will be 6 million nets given to these regions by the end of this summer, and then another 57 million will be distributed throughout Nigeria by 2010. We’re sending six developers to Nigeria to work with local programmers, developers and universities to develop reporting capacity so we can start helping authorities make sure these nets are used effectively.

We're looking at reporting on the mobilization and distribution outputs of nets in Nigeria, and how these systems can help. Later in the process, we've discussed sending out questions like: Are people using their nets correctly? Have they been notified of when the distribution will occur in their village? Do they know what to do if they're not getting their nets? We're working with the federal health ministry in Nigeria—and also with mobile phone providers there—to get SMS into the hands of the local population so people in the villages can text in the information we need. This way, we also can provide access to information that can help in malaria prevention.

Do villagers need incentives to text in data?
McKAIG: We’ve been looking at the possibility of using a number of incentives, including offering people two free SMS calls for each call they make to us. We think this might help; we’re still testing a number of options.

In Malawi, you're using cellphones and SMS to help stem malnutrition. How is this working?
BLASCHKE: Health authorities in Malawi are very excited by the potential of using simple, $20 mobile phones to revamp, revitalize and basically improve a system that has been floundering.
It had been taking, at best, three months to get data from the field through the regional governments to the central government. We at Columbia asked UNICEF Innovations to work with us to help. If you're trying to identify early trends in malnutrition, a best-case scenario of three months doesn't cut it. Three months can be the difference between life and death.

McKAIG: In Malawi, one of the biggest things we're finding is not a problem with communicating nutrition measurements, but that those measurements are very inaccurate to begin with. People have been touching the hair of children to “feel” if they are malnourished rather than using government formulas for measuring height and weight to determine it. And in some places, we've found people measuring children’s height by having them stand up against a wall with a board balanced on their heads. These children are being told to stand as still as they can so as not to drop the board while people read measurements from the edges of it. Measurements can vary for each child by as much as 5-10 centimeters, just due to changes in the angle of the boards from any one month to the next. So we have programmed our RapidSMS system there to help detect wild fluctuations in children’s height. Our system also lets health authorities send back questions if they see data that seems suspect. We think this new feedback mechanism is very important. We’re also now asking workers to simply text in the height and the weight of each child; our system will do the rest to determine the math behind what those numbers mean. This will improve the quality of the data from the field and make it easier for local health care workers to perform their jobs better.

For more on the use of mobile in nonprofit work, click here for a recent overview on For more on UNICEF's RapidSMS and Rapid Android projects, click here.

(Photo, Mama Berta in Tanzania, courtesy of John Rae)
(Illustration by Evgeniy Ivanov for

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Manhattan's birds are brilliant. From my 42nd-floor conference room in Midtown, I often see flocks fly by in perfect formation, suddenly veering right, then left, to dodge the buildings below. It's as if they're being choreographed by some grand master hawk squawking orders from atop the Empire State Building.

Truth is, of course, birds aren't very smart. [Central Park's birds still can't seem to distinguish a cookie wrapper from a bagel chip.] But flocks of them? Different story. Group-think helps them to negotiate skyscrapers and migrate to Miami in a heartbeat.

Humans, too, gain some advantages in groups: we're just starting to figure out how much smarter we can be when linked online. [Five years ago, we began using social media to find and aggregate the people we knew into simple social networks. Then we started organizing our networks to do things, like raise money for a cause.] Now? We're experiencing another big evolutionary shift in the way we use the Net to collaborate. Think swarms—multiple social networks that aggregate rapidly to influence the offline behavior of others. They're much bigger and more powerful than our single social networks ever were. And like SWAT teams, they're all about swooping in to do something quickly, then disbanding.

Four types of super-swarms made headlines last week, offering up some tough lessons in mass collaboration for organizers and bystanders, alike:

* Twestival—the 250-city, one-day global gathering of Twitter users offline—ended up catalyzing hundreds of thousands of people in 186 cities worldwide to raise money for, a New York-based nonprofit that builds freshwater wells in Africa. It was the largest, if not the first, swarm-for-good ever assembled. Yet today, nearly a full week after the Feb. 12 event, Twestival organizers still don't know how much money they raised toward their goal of $1 million. Amanda Rose, Twestival's London-based chief organizer, sent out a tweet early yesterday that attempted to lower expectations: "Reaching $1 million that quick was always going to be tough," she tweeted, "but the awareness that came out was worth it. Will not blame those who didn't reach it." [This followed an earlier tweet that indicated that only 25% of the cities participating had reported how much money they raised. Later still, she tweeted: "We are close to £200k ($284,703.210) so nothing small. Announce soon."] Throughout the day, Rose urged people to continue donating in a last-ditch effort to bring the tally closer to the goal. Take-away: Swarms can easily overwhelm the individuals who organize them; their behavior is very difficult, if not impossible, to document in detail or control by any one individual or nonprofit once catalyzed.

* More than 4,000 people swarmed into London's Liverpool Street Station Feb. 9 to both mock and mimic an ad by a local phone company. Some characterized this Facebook-driven swarm—which totaled 14,000 participants online and off—as, simply, the latest in a series of Internet-inspired pranks in recent years [The first recorded flash mob occurred in Manhattan in 2003.] But this one was different. It might be the first swarm mobilized to mock or mimic something commercial. Previous "flash mobs", new media experts say, have been focused simply on having fun. This swarm resulted from viral marketing writ huge. Take-away: Companies can help to launch a swarm as part of a viral marketing campaign but can't guarantee it will stay "on message."

* The Women's Media Center mobilized a swarm in New York and Washington on Feb. 10 to protest remarks made by TV personality Bill O'Reilly following President Obama's first press conference. O'Reilly derided veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, calling the 88-year-old journalist "the wicked witch of the East" and poking fun at her age. Within hours, more than 10,000 people sent angry emails to O'Reilly and his producers, forcing the conservative provocateur to apologize to Thomas on air the next day—precisely what the swarm ordered. Take-away: Swarm-advocacy can be used to both challenge and promote free speech and social norms in new and highly powerful ways, raising new questions about the power of a networked crowd to shape the expression—and the behavior—of an individual.

* al Qaeda forces Feb. 11 staged simultaneous suicide attacks on three Afghan government ministries by mobilizing newly formed online strike-swarms. Terrorist "flash mobs" are now being used in smaller-scale terrorist violence, similar to the kind first seen in Mumbai last November, swarm theorist John Arquilla says in a piece he wrote Feb. 17 for The International Herald Tribune. Arquilla says al Qaeda and its affiliates have been using swarm tactics for several years and that they are being coordinated, increasingly, through the use of social media. Take-away: Flash causes, or swarms—when politicized—can be dangerous and difficult to minimize or pre-empt.

Howard Rheingold, the author of the 2003 bestseller, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, says digital swarms are just getting started. Given the evolving "brush fire" mentality of the Web, expect to see many more of them taking collective action offline—for better or worse—in coming months. Warns Rheingold: “As these [flash groups] become politicized, there is a potential for good and for danger.”

For more on the early work of swarms, see Cisco engineer J.D. Stanley’s recent paper, Digital Swarms, here. Also check out Swarm Theory, an article by Peter Miller in the July 2007 National Geographic. And for the upside of swarms, check out Charles Leadbeater's 2008 book, We Think, about mass collaboration and innovation.

(Illustration, The Birds, by Harley McCabe for

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Saturday, February 14, 2009


Check out this excerpt from the award-winning documentary Playing for Change: Peace Through Music. Producers used social media to invite street musicians from around the globe to collaborate in song:

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Smart Squares

David Merrill is an MIT graduate student who has created something called Siftables—cracker-sized "smart" squares equipped with wireless sensors that you can stack like blocks. Why bother? They do math. They play music. They interact. They also represent a breakthrough way to learn [and teach] and communicate complex ideas to children and adults. In addition, they create a new vehicle for all sorts of visual and mobile applications. Here's Merrill at TED2009 earlier this month:

When he's not working on Siftables, Merrill is exploring new ways to access digital information away from one's computer.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Today is Twestival, a day when more than 200 cities worldwide, for 24 hours, will be holding volunteer events to bring together people who know each other through the micro-blogging service Twitter. The goal: to raise money for charity:water—a Manhattan-based nonprofit that builds wells and rainwater capturing systems in Africa. The event, which also will be collecting donations online, will offer live feeds from cities including New York, Washington, D.C., Athens, Greece, and Auckland, N.Z. Twitter has been used before by groups to organize offline events. But Twestival will be the first big test of how well Twitter communities can mobilize Internet activity internationally into real-world action for a cause.

Twestival organizers hope to raise at least $1 million; they also hope the San-Francisco-based Twitter service will be able to handle the surge in traffic around it. [Twitter has been known for occasional downtime, chiefly in its early days but also as recently as yesterday.]

Twestival grew out of a face-to-face gathering of Twitter users in London last September, organized to benefit a local soup kitchen. Amanda Rose, the architect behind today's festivities, expanded the concept and last month started organizing teams of volunteers to help coordinate Twestival events in London and 100 other cities. [See a interview with Amanda here.] "You have a bit more of an audience when you Twitter something," she told The New York Times. "It doesn't go unnoticed."

Twestival has since gone mega-viral with the help of uber-promoter Scott Harrison, the former Manhattan club promoter who founded charity:water in 2006 after traveling to Liberia aboard the Mercy Ship Anastasis as a photographer helping doctors on the floating hospital document their work. Harrison witnessed, first-hand, the illness and disease caused by a lack of access to clean water. "The disconnect between the West and what radical poverty looks like is immense," Harrison told Contribute Media's Jesse Ellison in an October 2007 interview. Here's Harrison's pitch for Twestival, below:

charity: water for Twestival from charity: water on Vimeo.

In addition to collecting contributions online, Twestival participants can buy t-shirts, get involved in special eBay auctions for the cause, buy music online and other activities.

CauseGlobal will be following parts of the event through the day: follow us on Twitter [@Causeglobal] for updates.

(Photograph, Faces on the Wall, of the Berlin Wall, courtesy of

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Sunday, February 8, 2009


Thursday night on Manhattan's Upper West Side is known as "Big Garbage Night"—the one night of the week when neighbors put out their cast-off couches, bookcases, fireplace tools, old [and sometimes new] lamps, finished books, and other objects to be picked up by sanitation workers in the wee hours of Friday morning. Yet most of the stuff—the best stuff—never makes it to Friday. The not-so-big secret? Residents of this well-heeled neighborhood usually pick it up before the trucks do. One neighbor says she furnished her two-bedroom apartment almost entirely from BGN cast-offs. ["It's perfectly good stuff," she told me. "I'll take it, add my own touches, and make it into something more fabulous."]

At first, this struck me as one of those "only in New York" phenomenons—and then, more recently, as a sign of the economic times. Yet as I watched this self-organized, nocturnal flea market rise up again this past Thursday from my parlor window [Albert, across the street, was sizing up a small, solid oak door left as debris from a neighboring renovation], it struck me that there might be something else going on, that maybe we're all upcyclers now—if not in the physical world, then certainly online. Is the social Web's culture of sharing, sampling, re-tweeting, and appropriation spilling offline, encouraging more sampling and appropriation throughout our lives? [Albert told me today he plans to turn his find into a dining room table, based on an article he saw on Facebook, and start a "how-to" blog to share the experience. Eventually, he says, he hopes to create a do-it-yourself-design business.]

Call it Upcycling 2.0—the rise of a whole new crop of amateur and professional artists, entertainers, designers, and business people who are not simply recycling their garbage, like Terracycle, which makes consumer products from animal waste and old soda bottles. This new wave is re-contextualizing older objects and ideas; creating new visual and structural dialogues between the old and the new, the organic and synthetic, between one set of ideas and another.

One of the most prolific and inspired of these new upcyclers is Adam Kalkin, an artist and architect, whose Quik House projects convert old boxcars into pre-fab and low-income housing. For years, Kalkin has been developing these projects for commercial use, but he's also now organizing a SWAT team of designers to offer such housing to refugees of economic dislocation and global conflict around the world. "The container is a purpose-built object, but when you re-contextualize it—put it in a residential context—you both destroy its original context and create a new one," Kalkin says. He calls this a "new form of upcycling"— in his case, the act of taking modest storage forms [like boxcars] and materials and using them for a higher purpose. Kalkin says his work in this regard is "very much informed by the swell of Web-inspired appropriation and re-appropriation informing our culture at large." [For more on Kalkin's work, click here.]

My favorite example of upcycling, however, is from the world of entertainment—60s crooner Paul Anka's rendering of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit (click, left, for Nirvana's version). Anka is not simply "covering" Kurt Cobain's grunge rock hit of the early 90s. (Kalkin agrees with me.) Anka is creating a higher form of the original. Here he is, below:

For more upcycling, check out Patti Smith's version, here. Also check out Terracyle's latest projects here, as well as William Kamkwamba's work building a windmill in Africa. Also see how the design community is putting on another show this spring to promote numerous examples of upcycling. The trend also is happening in Second Life. Says machinima documentarian Douglas Gayeton, creator of Molotov Alta series on HBO, "Second Life is now more fertile than it ever was, and not driven by commercialism now so much as by idea-sharing and effort by some to upcycle the real world."

(Illustration, Green Machine, by Matt Hertel)

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Social Actions Roundup 4

The use of social media for social change is proliferating rapidly. In that vein, we at Cause Global are sharing this weekly round-up of social action links and varied tech news bits from Social Actions and its passionate, cause-wired team—Joe Solomon, Christine Egger and Peter Deitz.

Here is Social Actions' latest round-up, covering the two-week period from January 21 to February 2: launched its developer API and a new Web site,

Google Exec Katie Jacobs Stanton was appointed to the Obama administration as Director of Citizen Participation; CauseGlobal introduced Katie Jacobs Stanton and her vision.

UC Berkeley Human Rights Center launched a Mobile Challenge on NetSquared; Civic Ventures began accepting nominations for The Purpose Prize; Ashoka GenV and the Lemelson Foundation started taking submissions for their Invent Your World challenge; began accepting nominations for its 2009 DoSomething Award, and NABUUR began accepting votes for Volunteer of the Year. launched a virtual volunteering program.

BetterPlace wrote about Generation Generosity.

PolicyPitch cited a GOP effort to crowdsource ways to Rebuild the Party.

PolicyPitch wrote about the Utah Senate's embrace of social media.

ChristmasFuture received a $50k creative services grant from Karo.

NewsCred blog analyzed the Endowment Model for newspapers.

TheExtraordinaries shared slides from Stanford's Computuer Science for Social Good Class.

Lucy Bernholtz of the Philanthropy 2173 blog raved about Twitter; the Culture of Collaboration blog raved about micro-blogging in general.

Social Velocity explained how to Ask for Money in a Recession; FrogLoop shared Everything You Wanted to Know About Online Fundraising in a Bad Economy.

Tom Watson started blogging for Social Edge.

FrogLoop wrote about the Joys of Google Grants. shared Ten Tips for Planning a Successful Webinar.

Beth Kanter posted a list of Women in Nonprofit Technology Who Rock.

Money on the Move blog offered up a handful of micro-philanthropyplatforms; blog answered the question, Just What Is Micro-Philanthropy?; GiftHub hosted a conversation about Microphilanthropy for Macro Social Results; ExecDigital published an article on micro-philanthropy called Philanthropy: The Spirit of Giving.

Britt Bravo wrote about iPhone Apps for Nonprofits; Prelude Interactive asked readers to Look Beyond the iPhone.

Katya Andresen wrote about the lack of control when it comes to leveraging social media.

Global Mindshift posted a video from its Google Tech Talk.

Social Actions raised $14,715.34 in donations and pledges and launched its social media consulting plans.Its Change the Web Challenge introduced a proposed logo for the contest and published guidelines for Judge Nominations (or 50+ Rock Stars to Follow on Twitter).

Recent Discoveries - Dreamers Who Are Doers

EthicL - Buy and Sell Things That Help Humanity

Knight Citizen News Network - Helping Citizens and Journalists Amplify Community News

Advocacy Online - eCampaigning Software

What are Social Actions Round-Ups?

Each week, Social Actions community members post links and news about online social action applications and nonprofit activism. This round-up is a summary of just some of the links that surfaced in the last two weeks, through February 2. You can share links and news for future Social Actions round-ups in the Peer-to-Peer Social Change FriendFeed Room. You can also check out past round-ups here and can tag your delicious bookmarks with "p2pchange" or include "#p2pchange" in your tweets; Social Actions will scoop them up and review them.

Social Actions round-ups are syndicated on CauseWired, CauseGlobal, TakePart, and NetSquared.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Here's Charlie Rose's interview last night with founders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, in which they outline their aggressive expansion plans:

Charlie Rose - Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Party's Over

The air in Davos this past week was so thick with gloom over the convulsing economy and Wall Street greed [$20 billion in bonuses paid out despite hefty bank bailouts and historic layoffs], that many CEOs leaving the World Economic Forum for home today "bore the harrowed looks of survivors of the Donner Party," according to Newsweek columnist Daniel Gross.

Quick, boys. It's time to dust off those old corporate social responsibility [CSR] initiatives and retool them into Web-driven programs that deliver—or your company may find its precious brands, recruitment efforts, and corporate culture worth zilch to Generation G (for Good). That's the name gives—in a just-released report—to a growing segment of cause-wired, global consumers aged 40 or younger who consider "generosity" an important social and business mindset. "As consumers are disgusted with greed and its current dire consequences for the economy...has there ever been more urgency for corporations to ditch the greed and embrace generosity?" the February 2009 report asks in its introduction. "...Sharing is the new giving...In this business climate, can you really afford not to spend some time figuring out how to get a little closer to your customers?"

Compiled for business leaders in more than 120 countries from a global network of 8,000 trendspotters, the report lists various ways firms might use social media and other initiatives to create social responsibility programs that matter:

*Co-donate. Collaborate with customers about how often to donate—and to which causes. Use online and mobile technologies "to make the most of impulse-driven and networked fundraising."
*Be eco-generous. Don't just offset your company's impact on the environment; find ways to improve it .
*Engage in "free love"—in this case, give away some goods, like free coffees or free travel guides to consumers.
*Use brand butlers to help customers make the most of the company's products. IKEA, for example, loans out branded bikes with trailers to its customers in Denmark to help them transport their purchases home.
*Engage in "perkonomics." Offer perks like reserved parking to, say, owners of a specific automotive brand, or let preferred customers jump queues at busy events.
*Offer "tryvertising." Let customers try products before they purchase them to make their purchasing decisions based on their product experiences rather than corporate brand messages.

There's no question: with public trust in CEOs and corporations at rock-bottom and the change mantra out of Washington [and Davos] still freshly potent, cause-wired social entrepreneurs have never had a better opportunity to boost traction for their Web-powered ideas as they head into the start of their own summit season—first at the vaunted TED2009 conference in Long Beach on Wednesday and then at the Skoll Foundation's World Forum in Oxford in March.

In the months ahead, expect aggressive efforts by leaders of the social enterprise movement to track and compile the ROI of social media in for-profit and nonprofit enterprises. Says new media expert Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations: "Design an environment where people can feel good at what they're doing...and they'll flock to your venture."

For more on designing initiatives for generosity that also work for the bottom line, see Shirky's talk at the recent Pop!Tech conference in Maine, below:

(Illustration by Miroslaw Pieprzyk)

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