July 6, 2010

Change-makers share 10 of their favorite tools

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Ayelet Noff during Traveling Geeks UK trip
Ayelet Noff of the Traveling Geeks holds the Flip Ultra HD in London. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Launching our summer series on making media for social good

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, educators, NGOs, citizen journalists, media makers

JD LasicaWe’re kicking off a summer series on making media for nonprofits and social change organizations. And, to highlight the wealth of tools on Socialbrite as we just marked our first birthday, we’ve rolled out a complete redesign of our Sharing Center.

Regular readers know that Socialbrite is all about showcasing social tools for social change. Every week we bring you a new batch of articles from our team to help you take advantage of the astonishing new ways to connect, collaborate and communicate and mobilize your cause online.

We’ve been saying for some time that every organization, every nonprofit, is turning into a media outlet, at least in part. It’s the same meme my Traveling Geeks colleague, journalist Tom Foremski, has been using with his new site, Every Company Is a Media Company.

So we decided to tap our friends’ expertise to highlight the tools and platforms that have been making the biggest difference in their own efforts — people like Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign and Frogloop, Claire Sale of NetSquared, Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy Forum, Peter Deitz of SocialActions, Beth Kanter of Zoetica, Julie Crabill of Inner Circle Labs, Katrina Heppler of envisionGood.tv, Nathan Freitas, the mobile developer for the New York State Senate, and others.

Our original idea was to do one big roundup of indispensable tools — with the caveat, as always, that you should begin your efforts with a social media strategy, conversation strategy and social media strategy, and not just a set of tools. It turned out, though, that our colleagues provided so many suggestions that such an approach proved unwieldy. So instead we’ve decided to run a series of “top tools” lists by these experts in the field, kicking things off with this initial roundup of tools and resources for social good.

We suspect some tools and sites in the list below will be familiar while others may be new to you. Please add your own tips and suggestions in the comments below! And if you’d like to contribute your own short article, let us know.

Social action tools & platforms

Mobilize.org: Empowering & energizing the millennial generation

1Mobilize.org promotes greater civic participation and political engagement among young people. The site’s organizers believe the millennial generation offers hope for social justice regardless of race, class, religion or partisan identification. Mobilize.org has hosted eight Democracy 2.0 Summits on financial literacy, money and politics, millennial veterans, the environment and unemployment — with an eye toward developing sustainable solutions to these challenges. Follow mob_org on Twitter.

Amazee: Powering social collaboration

2Amazee is a global, Zurich-based platform that enables social collaboration for individuals, nonprofits, organizations and businesses. You can start a group to promote a cause or idea, to find like-minded people and to raise funds. Follow Amazee on Twitter.

Wiser Earth: Connecting you to communities of action

3WiserEarth is a free online community space connecting people, nonprofits and businesses working toward a just and sustainable world. Communities include the Culture of Peace Initiaitve, the Story of Stuff Project and the Radical Inclusion group. Now that Ning will be charging for hosted communities, Wiser Earth is a good choice for nonprofits and cause organizations looking to create an instant social network. Follow Wiser Earth on Twitter. Also see: Zanby: Roll your own community.


Charity How To: Step-by-step tutorials

4Next to Socialbrite, we think Charity How To does one of the best jobs of teaching nonprofits how to take advantage of digital tools. It offers step by step video tutorials, webinars and lots more. Follow CharityHowTo on Twitter.

we are media

WeAreMedia: A wiki of resources for social good

5WeAreMedia, spearheaded by Beth Kanter, is a wiki that came out of a hands-on workshop sponsored by the Nonprofit Technology Network. The site provides pointers to slideshows, resources and how-tos, like these tips and tutorials about Twitter.

Also, don’t forget Social Actions, which connects you to the issues and causes you care about.

Media creation tools


WordPress: Enabling citizen publishing

6WordPress.org, a self-hosted open source blogging platform, has become the software of choice for hundreds of thousands of blog publishers like Socialbrite or Syracuse’s University Lectures, while sites like Social Media Social Good use WordPress.com. You’ll want to take advantage of some of the thousands of free plug-ins that its global community of developers have created. Here’s our list of 10 WordPress plug-ins that rock, and here’s why we think WordPress is slicker than TypePad. Follow WordPress on Twitter.

OpenStreetMap: An open alternative to Google Maps

7OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the nation and the world created by people like you. The service provides an open alternative to Google Maps by letting organizations embed maps and use geographical data in a collaborative way. Follow openstreetmap on Twitter.


BlogTalkRadio: Extend the reach of your nonprofit

8Want a keyturn solution for your nonprofit’s podcasting needs? BlogTalkRadio, the world’s largest social radio network, enables anyone to host an interactive audio broadcast and syndicate it with one click to Facebook, Twitter, iTunes and across the Web. See our full writeup. Follow BlogTalkRadio on Twitter.


Kodak Zi8: Capture life on the fly

9We do like Cisco System’s Flip hand recorders, but think the Kodak Zi8 is a bit better: Hi-def 1080i video recordings in a slick, easy-to-use gadget, now on sale for $130. So amazing it’s sick. Carry these around, interview interesting people you meet, capture authentic moments or newsworthy events, then upload the MPEG-4 or .MOV files to your favorite video hosting site. Follow Kodak on Twitter.

Spot.us & DocumentCloud: Collaborative journalism

10You want a powerful media creation tool? Head over to Spot.us, suggests Julie Crabill, founder of Inner Circle Labs. It’s an open source project designed to pioneer “community-powered reporting,” starting in the SF Bay Area and Los Angeles. Through Spot.us, nonprofits, NGOs and individuals can commission stories on important, often overlooked topics. Couple that with DocumentCloud, a site that will enhance investigative reporting by making source documents easy to find, share and read. DocumentCloud provides an online database of documents contributed by a consortium of news organizations, watchdog groups and bloggers, and shared with the public at large. Users will soon be able to search by topic, agency or location. Follow Spot.us or documentcloud on Twitter.

In this series

Here are the initial articles we’ll be adding to this series in the coming days and weeks:

12 awesome platforms for social good (Katrina Heppler)
An educator’s 5 top tools for social change (Barbara K. Iverson)
A quick guide to multimedia software (Idealware)
Top 5 tools for the entrepreneurial journalist (Dan Pacheco)
Facebook 101 for Nonprofits: Getting Started in Five Easy Steps (Azin Mehrnoosh)
A change agent’s top 5 tools for social change (Allyson Kapin)
12 open source tools you should be using (Kim Bale)
A developer’s 5 favorite social tools (Nathan Freitas)
6 productivity tools for social change (Katrina Heppler)
Complete guide to creating a video project (Tim Davies)


Making media: Tools & resources for nonprofits and social change organizations (Socialbrite)

The Socialbrite Sharing CenterJD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 UnportedThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

7 thoughts on “Change-makers share 10 of their favorite tools

  1. One thing to consider that if you are producing distributable content, in particular video, don't just look at Youtube / Vimeo or traditional tv outlets as the primary channel for distribution.

    We wanted to find a way to spread the word about our charity program, FootprintsNetwork.org, so what better way than to film the projects we've raised funds for and look to distribute the documentaries online, well, if they were only good enough to go online. If we felt they were better quality than that, then we could look to offer them up as 'license-free' content to airlines.

    Airlines are desperate for quality content, new AVOD (audio video on demand) systems are being placed into airlines these days, and the demand for content is higher than ever.

    Luckily the documentaries (http://journals.worldnomads.com/positive_footprints) were good enough and we now have them on over 26 airlines around the world. We were also lucky that Nat Geo Adventure bought the series and broadcast (putting trumpet away now).

    With airline audiences, you have travellers visiting countries where community development projects are being run, so why not raise awareness of these projects before they get there, you have a captive audience, an engaged audience, no better time than to deliver your vision.

    • That's a good point, and a great example of thinking outside the box. Nothing like a captive audience to raise awareness of important projects. – jd

  2. Great list of tools and many thanks. I particularly like the look of the Kodak Zi8 which is going to be added to my ever growing list of objects of desire. All excellent tools though for people who want to make a positive difference with social media and communities.

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  4. Amazee – The social collaborating stuff sounds good to me. I always believe in promoting an idea or an cause in a platform where the business people and individuals are indulged. This way, we can get some reach and meaning to our thoughts.