February 9, 2010

The best-designed social networks on Ning

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Guest post by Suzanne Reinfranck

We’ve long been fans of Ning, an innovative social platform that brings millions of people together every day to explore and express their interests, discover new passions and meet people around shared pursuits. With more than 1.9 million Ning networks created and 40 million registered users, this social space continues to grow at an explosive rate.

Laura Oppenheimer, Ning marketing manager

Laura Oppenheimer, Ning marketing manager

A few things differentiate Ning from most other social platforms:

• It has pioneered the market for people to self-organize around the “what” rather than the “who” in social networking

• It enables communities to organize around interests and passions and fully express what makes them unique.

• Ning offers a fairly wide degree of flexibility in customizing the look and feel of your site.

We asked Laura Oppenheimer, Ning’s marketing manager, for some of her favorite nonprofit and social change sites. Here are Laura’s picks of “beautifully designed/professional Ning Networks both generally, and specific to nonprofit organizations,” along with our capsule descriptions:

7 well-designed Ning networks


1. The Expedition Republic

Mountain Hardwear’s The Expedition Republic is an online social network where climbers, explorers and other nomadic souls can merge, mingle and discuss their thrill-seeking passions. The site is highly interactive and provides lively forums and exciting video clips, as well as member profiles, blog posts, photos and relevant links. This online community is engaging and also provides an excellent venue to get sound advice on high-quality gear and products needed for expeditions.

2. Zabitatz.com

Zabitatz (pictured at top) is a fun and welcoming online forum that encourages passionate members to meet and share advice, insight and inspiration about everything home-related. It is a one-stop site that fosters participation between experts and novices to share ideas such as home decorating, gardening, household finances and more. The site describes itself the ultimate “collaborative” community where members enthusiastically help each other gain valuable insight into anything regarding the home environment. It’s an online version of leaning over the backyard fence to get neighborly advice. Members are encouraged to ask questions, post a replies and provide relevant links.

3. My Photo Finish Records

4. Design Democracy (this site recently moved elsewhere)

5. Wired’s Haiti Rewired

6. PublicVoice.tv

7. Brooklyn Art Project (pictured below)


You’ll notice that only one of these contains “ning” in the url.

6 well-designed nonprofit Ning networks



freeDIMENSIONAL (fD) is a nonprofit that advances social justice by hosting activists in art spaces and using cultural resources to strengthen their work. The organization provides services and safe havens for oppressed activists and culture workers, fosters knowledge-sharing among art spaces who actively participate in local community organizing, engages the art world and mainstream media to heighten public awareness and influences policy change on critical issues. fD works with the global arts community to identify and redistribute resources and support meaningful relationships between art spaces and activists. Taking a decentralized approach, fD recognizes the power of strategic partnerships and believes that creative expression fuels social justice movements. As such, fD works with the global arts community to identify and redistribute resources and supports meaningful relationships between art spaces and activists. The group works with local civil society groups, social movements of all scales, arts organizations, schools and independent media outlets to build meaningful grassroots programs.

Social Actions

2. My Social Actions

Social Actions is a nonprofit that works closely with more than 60 online platforms to connect its participants to the issues and causes they’re most passionate about. The organization fosters openness, inclusiveness, collaboration and innovation and envisions a world formed by acts of generosity, and empathy. Social Actions encourages the proliferation of compassionate initiatives and strives to develop and maintain an open source infrastructure that adds a philanthropic layer to the Web.

3. National Marriage Boycott

4. Push Pickens Plan

5. Netroots: The List Project

6. The V Wall for Congo

Ning sites that offer subgroup capabilities

Ning networks can be customized to allow for subgroupings or categorizations by location or topic. Here are two examples that Laura cites:

1. Neighbors for Neighbors (http://www.neighborsforneighbors.org/) is a group of Ning Networks centered around communities in Boston. It includes Jamaica Plain ( http://jamaicaplain.neighborsforneighbors.org/ ) and Allston ( http://allstonbrighton.neighborsforneighbors.org/) with a complete list of neighborhood on the Neighbors for Neighbors site.

2. Reunion Memphis (http://reunionmemphis.ning.com/)  is a group of Ning Networks for graduates of high schools in Memphis, Tenn. It includes Wildcat Roundup (http://wildcatroundup.ning.com/), The High School (http://thehighschool.ning.com) and Whitehaven Alumni (http://whitehavenalumni.ning.com), among others.

Suzanne Reinfranck is the principal of Socialmediabusinesssolutions. This is her first article for Socialbrite.
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