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November 2008
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January 2009 IBM designing smart networks.

IBM is starting to look at the way transactional data and the access to such data makes us smarter.

Network-centric advocacy it has always been the combined data and feedback is the key to our campaigns getting smarter.  IBM is just thinking on a global scale but the lesson is the same for every campaign and every movement.

How are you growing campaigns that a going to be smarter? How are you building a base that learns from itself? what are the millions of little transactions that if you could see them they would help you plan and react?

Technology can play a big role in helping find answers to these problems. ....While the Internet currently connects more than a billion people, in just a few years, it will connect more than a trillion objects. Everything from cell phones, cars, roads, buildings, and even objects in nature itself, will have embedded technology and be connected to one another, enabling tremendous advances in how we understand how the world works and make smarter decisions to make it work better. But technology is just part of the solution. Without the people, policies and culture to inspire and execute the change, nothing ultimately gets done. From Sam’s speech: Leaders will need to hone their collaboration skills, because we will need leadership that pulls across systems. We will need to bring together stakeholders and experts from across business, government and academia, and all of them will need to move outside their traditional comfort zones. I’m struck by the questions this raises. What investments need to be made by both public and private institutions? What policy issues need to be debated and resolved? What role can individual citizens and employees play in helping bring about meaningful change? I’m also struck by the potential opportunities inherent in finding solutions to these problems. The hope for this blog is to explore some of those opportunities. To surface some of the issues and challenges facing us as we collectively look to build a smarter world.

this is not philanthropy, but is it is service: reaLLy?

Why does the volunteer organizing space fragment?  There is almost no benefit to the volunteer or the organizations posting the volunteer activities that this space does not syndicate both volunteer interests and could work that needs to be done.

Hopefully, these college campuses know about volunteermatch and the network that they are building.

Dan Nadler, vice president for student affairs, said Fisher has done a great job of gathering information through interaction with the campus and the community. "Part of the reward is being able to react with other people,"

Nadler said. He said, when he asks students why they do not volunteer, they usually respond with they do not know where to go or who to speak with.

That is why he is excited for this office. Nadler wants students to have the desire to volunteer and to continue volunteering after graduating. "My hope is that they have that desire and actively participate in volunteer programs so that they give back to the community," Nadler said.

Part of what the office does is keep track of how many service hours are taking place by students. In order to do this, the office has launched a Web site where a student can search for volunteer opportunities that they can engage in today and log hours individually or as a group. "I think it's beneficial because it offers easy access to what and where service is needed," Fisher said.

"We are on the right track and now that the Web site is up, students can share their experiences with the service that will be a nice step and to track the hours to find out these details." Every month, the office has special projects they work on, but they update a mailing list every week that tells people special service events taking place that week. ....

Doris Guevara-Nordin, director of the Student Volunteer Center, also works with Fisher. "It has been great with the projects we have done together," she said. "The SVC programs are always open to everybody to participate." Fisher helped Guevara-Nordin bring more students to help volunteer on their weekly nursing home visits.

Students that come into Fisher's office sometimes tell her they don't have time. To help with that problem, Fisher has found a way students can help from their room through the Web. "Sometimes schedules get busy and they need volunteers at times you can't go to," Fisher said. "There (are) virtual opportunities where you can offer service to people in other countries on the web." This is something new for the university and the center-students can go to the Student Volunteer Center Web site and click on Virtual Volunteer Opportunities.

Fisher said this is not philanthropy, but is it is service. "We hope to expand this opportunity, and keep expanding it," Fisher said. "With the power to the Web and since all the residence halls have it, why not?"

Road Runner or Wile E Coyote?

One of my board members recently sent me a note that analogized the financial situation to the “Wile E Coyote Effect.”

You might remember the coyote running along and not realizing that he has run off the cliff.  He keeps running suspended magically by denial. He stops, feels around his feet for the ground, and then looks down to find the ground has disappeared beneath him.

As nonprofit leaders, here we stand. Some of us are stopped on the edge of the cliff, some have kept running and are suspended way out over the cliff, and some of us are holding the anvil over our heads. 

Our movement has received a lot of our 2008 budget that has the Economic Crisis hit us so late in the year it is difficult for us to act fairly project 2009 budgets.  additionally there is a lot of confusing information circulating out there on how philanthropy changes in an economic crisis.

The big overall studies are misleading to people in the advocacy and campaign space. In 2001, the last big recession the crash was created in part by terrorism. The philanthropy and overall numbers of giving stayed neutral or went up because people gave more to 9/11 relief funds and they started going to church in huge numbers again.   I would be interested in more studies that tease out the type of giving targeted at anything except advocacy and campaign related donations during previous economic downturns. 

I'm focused on this because I believe it is really important to networks.The entire movement is not going to go out of business. Many of our groups are not go out of business. There may even be a growth in the number of groups that are formed as people with the skills get laid-off from larger groups, and there are very low barriers to starting groups, and the tools that they have in a new start up are identical to the ones that they had in the large institution. The movement may go the number of groups engaged in the advocacy. In places where there is money, we will see a swarming towards it. Some of that swarming will come from large institutions that shift message or mission or creep over to grab market share of the money that exist or the available people who are laid off from these other institutions will set up new brands in the niche to compete for money. 

Focused on the aggregate number because there will be a network effect associated with the economic downturn. Most managers can handle a reduction from 20 up to 40%. It is hard, but with focus on the books and asking everyone to contribute a manager teams really squeeze an organization on travel budgets, new purchases, staff layoffs, benefit reductions, meeting cost, new initiatives and cut program expansions.  It is painful but it is manageable. just like the American banks were able to hold back money, reduce their exposure to risk, and cut costs.

The problem is that if everyone goes through this at the same time within a particular network you can create a network collapse which exacerbates the problem. if you are running a national campaign on park funding and you work with it coalition or network of thousands groups, or 100 groups. With each one contributing several hours of staff time per month to the campaign, how do you manage a reduction of 20 to 40% when you are not in charge of which resources stay and which ones go? how do you manage when you don't know which of the 40 people out of the hundreds that you work with, are not to be here next month for your big campaign? 

These are the network effects of a downturn and the overall numbers are the numbers that matter when you're thinking about network planning.

There are going to be great opportunities for change in 2009. In the economic crisis will create opportunities and create problems. It will create these problems and opportunities for groups and for our networks.

On the network level, are we prepared to take advantages of the opportunities that will emerge for our advocacy networks because of the downturn?   On the network level, do we have a plan to avoid the obstacles that this crisis will create?

My sense is that there is a lot of thinking around how to take advantage of the network opportunities but there is little planning or thinking around mitigating the network effects of the downturn.

join the planning conversation. (it is a wetpaint wiki site)

Intersting Post: Information Overload and the FOOD IS THOUGHT Metaphor

I love this riff. For a long time people in the nonprofit sector that I work with have complained about information overload.

In this following post, the author spells out information overload like a Vegas buffet. Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to overeat. It is not a bad thing that all the information is there.  The new skills needed are about being able to pick through the buffet carefully to get you the nutrition that you need.

I like this post because it also relates to some of the choices that the public are going to be making as they get overloaded with potential campaigns, volunteer work, and engagement opportunities.  We are going to need to train people how not to get overloaded, and how they should pick the right menu of items to get the satisfaction that they seek.

In our sector does the satisfaction come from policy work, hands-on work, social engagements, brands, sex appeal, or something else? In 1970, it may have been a lot harder for people who care about society to find the right cause, and to find the right way to plug-in to make a difference. Today, people seeking to do something are standing at the Vegas buffet.

We should not try and offer them everything from each group. We should try and figure out what nutritional value does our organizing present and help them clearly understand how engaging with us satisfies their hunger to do something.

Information Overload and the FOOD IS THOUGHT Metaphor | ribbonfarm.
Clearly, information abundance and attention scarcity are real. Information overload is not. Just because there is too much food at a Vegas buffet doesn’t mean you have to overeat (though many do). You just have an easier time satisfying your calorific needs than through hunting or farming. As in Vegas, there will be a lot of waste — food that’s sampled and not finished, food that’s never touched and thrown away. You might think that information abundance and attention scarcity are just different ways of describing information overload. No. Information abundance is a problem for producers. People like me, in short, who have to discipline ourselves. Cooking one new and exciting dish in limited quantities for the potluck is better than making a second pot of mashed potatoes when somebody is already making a first pot. Attention scarcity also is a problem for producers rather than consumers. I, as a blogger, must try to get your attention. But you, as reader, can choose to tune me out completely and go elsewhere. The biggest insight from the metaphor is this: you don’t even have to sample if you don’t want to, so long as there are a few dishes you like that make up a balanced meal. Indians might like to eat Mexican food, and Mexicans may like to eat Indian food, but each can survive without the other. And actually did for several millenia before the cultures had any contact. Let me translate that back to the information domain. Curing Information Anxiety If you are still not convinced, it is probably because you believe the following: that as the flood of information coming at you increases, your processing workload inevitably increases. After all, you have to, at the very least, glance at a news headline or email subject line for a tenth of a second to decide whether or not you want to process (or eat) it. Surely, even with the most efficient recommendations from StumbleUpon and all sorts of filtration tools, those tenths of seconds still must add up? No. The key to understanding why is to think of information throughput rather than information input. You only need to ensure that enough high-quality information (nutrition) is coming at you so you can add enough value (digestion, information work) to make a living off the throughput-process, and hopefully enjoy it (tasty work). So yes, it has to be balanced and sufficiently varied (protein, carbs, fats — theory, facts and history), to allow you to function and make a living, but you don’t have to experiment and sample unless you want to, or your traditional means of adding information value through your work is under threat. If you are an experienced welder in a great job, and you read nothing, you are probably still safe except from the unlikely event of really advanced robots taking away all high-skill welding jobs.

News Media Shifts

Here is a great link from the PTP blog.

The story here is about the way that nonprofits can use the error position in the community to cover stories and generate press. As mainstream media falls, people will still want news stories. People are still interested in coverage, the problem with the media is that they are being attacked on both sides of their business model. On the classifieds and advertising side they are getting pressure from online competitors, and as this story shows they are also getting be generating stories.

If news consumers will turn to bloggers and random people on the street, there is no reason to believe that they won't turn to local nonprofits as experts. It may be a two or three-year investment, but the value of dominating the web space on the coverage of your issue will be enormous.

It will be interesting to monitor the nonprofits to hire journalists to cover stories, or communities that get together to commission stories (

REVERB CRIB Notes » we read it so you don’t have to.
According to Reuters Director of News Media Development, Chris Cramer, “Every key event going forward will be covered by members of the public, and not by traditional journalists.” At nearly every major event of the last few years–from the earthquake in Sichuan to the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks–journalists have been trumped by bystanders news-gathering with their cell phones, cameras, camcorders and blackberries. The effect on the newspapers industry has been devastating with media titans like the Tribune Company declaring bankruptcy and local papers like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (and 16 others) shuttering their D.C. news bureaus. The financial crisis and the Internet have created a perfect storm that is ending news as we know it. Why should local grassroots groups care? On one hand it’s going to be harder to get cash-strapped reporters to cover our events. And whatever minimal investigative reporting currently exists will surely fade into the background over the coming months and years.

Say ...Goodbye Bush! - Network Salute to "W." (GoodbyeBush) tag!

Mother Jones is collecting 30-second YouTube “Goodbye, Bush” videos over the holidays.  As you make your riff please use the TAG "goodbyeBush"


If you had 30 seconds of goodbye face time with George Bush, what would you say?

Here’s what to do: First, look into your webcam/ other videocam for 30 seconds and start talking! Or be creative: point your camera where you think it needs to go, and tell the story of “Goodbye Bush!”

Second, put the video on YouTube labeled “Mother Jones Goodbye Bush video.”

And then email the link to [email protected] Deadline is Jan. 5, best videos will win MoJo swag and be featured on the front page of our new website prior to Inauguration Day!

If you know other folks who might like to participate, please pass the word along. ...

Forget a Rerun. Watch Clay Shirky tonight.

Clay is a great thinker in this space and the impact of the culture revolution on organizing. Clay lays out a nice summary of the shifts and what they may mean to group expression and advocacy.

It is through immersion in this type of understanding that drives us to start to think of an Advocacy2.0. Stop asking how does the network help me do what I am doing today better. Ask how does the network change the strategy to get what I want?

We must be saved by Hope, Faith and Love. Passed to me by a coworker.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime
    therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense
     in any immediate context of history;
        therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
     therefore we must be saved by love.

 - Reinhold Niebuhr from The Irony of American History

Many many thanks Tom David

Blog Food Drive.
Social Media for Good” to connect several efforts going and leveraged the face-to-face activity to bring in food and social media activity to help get two trucks filled with food and delivered to a local food bank. The online activity, Tyson’s offer to give away 100 pounds of protein per comment on their blog, was spread out, from the face-to-face event, via twitter. Tyson has more than 800 comments on their blog and stopped when they’d filled two trucks with food. This is a food drive,..

Collaborative Paper: What to do in the nonprofit sector to offset the economic crash.

Well. Here is the paper to get the Cascading Failure discussion going.  I decided to also put it on a wiki.  The answer on how we understand and survive this meltdown is out there in the network.  The network better have a space to start kicking it around...

Please join in the discussion...
At this stage, it is clear that nonprofit and advocacy groups are headed for extraordinarily difficult financial times. The cash crunch for the advocacy movement will be as bad as we can imagine and far worse than we can easily manage. We need a plan for how to remain effective. We should all begin to operate with new assumptions:

Twitter as an introduction service for a new team pulled together for a project.

I bumped into Gibrán Rivera in Boston.(great guy. brilliant)

He was talking about how he connects a group of people for 2 weeks via Twitter before they get together for a collaborative meeting or a project. I am not sure what all the steps and coaching might be involved with getting that going but it strikes me as a really smart way to start helping a groups sort itself out before coming together in that initial meeting. I assume they are talking about using an SMS updates and prompts to get the newbies microblogging but I assume most folks would not be tuned off by the approach.

  • Twitter takes very little information to join.
  • SMS has very little learning curve.
  • 2 weeks is a very defined window of playing with the new technology.
  • Very interesting things and personalities may emerge.

Has anyone done anything similar?  Are the steps out there for an experiment?

Nonprofit "Winners and Losers" in Difficult Times.

Just as there are “winners” in the private economy ( financial network news, repo companies, grocery chains (more eating at home), collection agencies, craigslist, certified mail companies (deliver bills and foreclosure notices) etc. There will be nonprofits and advocacy groups whose services and plans are amplified in value as the economy worsens. Who are they? Capacity organizations that serve many other organizations will be better insulated from shocks and provide a higher quality assurance for donors that benefits will spread. Looking only at the spaces they occupy (not their internal financials) Nonprofits like:

  • Aidmatrix (support service for food banks and food distribution)
  • Tides (joint management services)
  • Lapiana (nonprofit mergers)
  • Green Media Toolshed and Rethink Media (shared media contacts and media outreach tools
  • OneNorthWest, Progressive Technology Project (shared technical skills)
  • Rootscamp (volunteer driven trainings) ,
  • Green for All, The Apollo Project, (Green Jobs/ Green Energy)
  • Conservation Leadership Institute, CCMC, Resource Media ( shared communications capacity)
  • Volunteermatch, (collaborative volunteer recruitment)
  • (exchange of trade of free stuff).
  • Democracy In Action (shared technical tools)
  • Rockwood Leadership Program, ICL and ELP (leadership development and networking)
  • Additionally, the shift of the policy fight back to the federal level will help those groups with heavy political and lobbying assets applicable to federal policy.

These groups and other simialr organizations in other issue areas provide low overhead, cheaper costs, easily distributed benefits and more effective “shared and pooled services”. They all seem likely to expand during this downturn.

Groups like these that are designed to deal with the obsitcles difficult economic times creates for others in the movement should do well.  However, they will be the exceptions.

What other models need to be "in the list"?

Please end your slide show with this. Distributed ask..

Here is an interesting distributed ask (please end your power point with this "one slide")

Here is what you do Talk About It
* Commit 2 minutes to present The One Slide at your next company meeting
 * Share the slide with loved ones over dinner
 * Be able to answer the questions for yourself and for your loved ones
* Answer the five questions on our site
* Encourage others to do the same