April 22, 2009

Carbon footprints, nation by nation

Breathing Earth

kiwanjaJust in time for Earth Day: the site Breathing Earth, which is described as a “real-time simulation which displays CO2 emissions from every country in the world, as well as their birth and death rates.” The data used comes from reputable sources, although the site admits that a simulation on this scale can never be 100% accurate. Worryingly, they note that the CO2 emission levels shown are much more likely to be too low than too high. Yikes.

This is a fascinating site, and one which throws up numbers on a scale large enough to scare the best of us. Since I started writing this brief blog post, for example, the world population has risen by over 2,000 and total CO2 emissions have exceeded an incredible 760,000 tons. The United States alone was responsible for approximately 175,000 of that.

If you ever need reminding of the relentless march of global population growth, and the increasing impact that our growing numbers are having on the planet, there can’t be many sites better than this.

This entry originally appeared at Kiwanja.net.

April 17, 2009

Maplight shines a light on politics & money


Maplight: shining a light on politics and money from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaSean Tanner, research director of MAPLight.org, talks about how the organization provides transparency to the political donations system through widgets that tap into pubic information databases. We spoke at the NetSquared conference in San Jose, Calif., in May 2008, where MAPLight won top honors in 2007.

Maplight offers a number of widgets that you can customize.

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April 15, 2009

How to capture great photos on the road

Copyright photo by Peter Guttman
Photo copyright by Peter Guttman

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, NGOs, journalists, individuals. This is part of our ongoing Making Media series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and create media.

JD LasicaWhat does capturing great photos on the road have to do with advancing the social good? When nonprofits and organizations conduct a retreat, or members travel to distant locations to document work in the field, the photographic output of those expeditions — on the Web, in slide show presentations, in annual reports — can be improved dramatically by following a few simple steps.

Peter Guttman, a fabled New York-based travel photographer who has traveled to more than 190 countries, is the author of five influential books on travel. Guttman offered the following tips to amateurs in an interview with the New York Times.

Tip 1: Tell a story

Forgo the temptation to take photos of your compadres standing in front of monuments or landmarks. Instead, research a destination to find out what makes it unique, and look for unusual and offbeat angles or interesting characters to illustrate your story — you’re telling a visual story, after all.

Tip 2: Get close to the action

"The main mistake that people make is that they don’t get close enough to the action," Guttman said. "You have to decide whether you want to be a tourist or a traveler. A tourist basically stands to the side and takes timid candids of things that they see from a distance as a shy spectator. A traveler [makes an effort to enter an experience] and tries to feel all the essence and the joy and the drama of what a place has to offer."

Tip 3: Know when to photograph and use natural light to your advantage

"The most effective time to photograph is at the margins of the day," he said.

"Early morning, dusk and most particularly during blue light, which is after the sun sets but before the sky turns totally dark. It gives photographs a cobalt blue essence that’s almost out of a fairy tale and contrasts with the sparkling golds of man-made light."

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April 13, 2009

Twitter as a tool for activism

Beth KanterThere is an inherent tension between strategy and tactical implementation of using social media to support a campaign’s objectives or nonprofit’s mission, whether the goal is fundraising, marketing, or taking action. Those who are just beginning to incorporate social media into their strategic thinking struggle with: “How do we get to know and understand how a particular tool can help us meet our goals, but not let the tool drive our decisions?”

twitter-activismAnd seasoned practitioners are debating whether a particular social media tool is in and of itself a strategy.   And, while it may be an argument about semantics, it further illustrates this tension.

The “is Twitter a strategy or tool debate” was fueled as Twitter got lots of attention (and  hype) as part of the coverage of last week’s protests in Moldova. Ivan Boothe points out in his post “The Fire and Food: Why There’s No Such Thing As A Twitter Revolution,” the real-time use of Twitter as an organizing tool is a not revolution.  Twitter has been used during the G20 protests and crowd-sourcing the location of a torch when it was passing through San Francisco.   And while quite, different from the “mainstream” use of Twitter by nonprofits, Ivan warns against tool-driven decisions for activism campaigns:

It’s certainly exciting to see technology being used in ways that amplify and extend the impact of movement organizing. I think it’s easy, however, to misread the technology as the cause of the movement rather than as simply a tool of it.

Fire, for instance, was a society-changing tool. Its revolutionary potential, however — cooking food and thus making it more digestible, nutritious, and lasting — was only realized through its strategic use.

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April 12, 2009

Buy on eBay to help your favorite cause


eBay Giving Works from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAt the first Awareness2Action gathering in San Francisco in August 2008 I heard about eBay’s Giving Works program, which has raised $150 million for charitable causes on eBay over its first five years. These folks rock!

I swung down to eBay headquarters in San Jose a few weeks later and chatted with Kristin Cunningham, the program’s general manager. The video explains how you can help nonprofits through your purchases on eBay (and how nonprofits can help themselves).

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April 12, 2009

Advancing social causes on campus

JD LasicaAden Van Noppen of Brown University discusses a youth initiative and campus engagement strategy, supported by the Acumen Fund, to involve college students in social causes. The initiative is focused on how finance and business can be used as a tool for social impact in fighting poverty and advancing other social causes — and making students aware of it.

We chatted for a few minutes at the first Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco in October 2008. The next SoCap is scheduled for Sept. 1-3 in San Francisco. Information here.

Watch video in Flash on Viddler (embedded above)
Watch video on Ourmedia

Cross-posted to Socialmedia.biz.