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.

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Cross-posted to Socialmedia.biz.

April 12, 2009

Kiva: micro-loans to entrepreneurs abroad


Kiva from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaHere’s a 4 1/2-minute interview with Premal Shah, president of the nonprofit microfinance lender Kiva.org, conducted at the Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp in San Mateo, Calif.

The next Bay Area Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp will be held June 20 in Berkeley. Register now — it’s always an inspiring gathering.

In our conversation, Premal discusses not just Kiva but other online services that are of great help to nonprofits, including myc4, microplace, prosper.com, Google Checkout, techsoup and Salesforce’s program for nonprofits.

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April 10, 2009

Guide to shooting photos in public

Shutterbugs have wide latitude to photograph strangers — but consider propriety as well as the law

Target audience: Cause organizations, nonprofits, NGOs, journalists, general public. This is part of our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and create media.

JD LasicaWhen is it all right to take photos of strangers in public?

Society has wrestled with the question of street photography ever since the invention of the camera. In the United States, the general rule is that anything in plain view from a public area can be legally photographed, including buildings and facilities, people, signs, artwork and images.

In a recent case, photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia set up strobe rigs on a New York City street corner and photographed people walking down the street. He won a lawsuit brought by an Orthodox Jew who objected to deCorcia’s publishing and selling in an art exhibition a photograph taken of him without his permission. (See Wikipedia for a more thorough discussion.)

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April 9, 2009

Mobile solutions getting more mature

n2y4

kiwanjaIt’s incredible to think that exactly four years ago I was gearing up to write the early FrontlineSMS prototype. Although a lot was undecided, a central pillar of my early thinking was that a “platform approach” would be the most flexible and appropriate, and that it would be wrong and restrictive of me to try and build a specific, local solution to the communications problem I’d witnessed in South Africa the year before.

africajournalcoverI figured that if I could avoid the temptation to try and solve a problem that wasn’t mine, but build something which allowed its local owners to solve it, then interesting things might happen.

Today, the dizzying array of uses NGOs have found for FrontlineSMS is testament to that early approach, and the software is today driving projects in ways I could never have imagined. The Africa Journal most neatly summed up its impact when they wrote, back in 2007:

FrontlineSMS provides the tools necessary for people to create their own projects that make a difference. It empowers innovators and organisers in the developing world to achieve their full potential through their own ingenuity

Non-profits in over 50 countries have either applied, thought about applying, experimented or played with FrontlineSMS in the context of their own work, imaginatively considering ways in which the software – and the rise of text messaging – can be be turned to good use. As a result we’ve seen solid growth in the FrontlineSMS user community, but this is just one piece of the puzzle. Building community with users is one thing, but getting traction with developers is another.

And today, something very exciting is beginning to happen.

If you take a look at the 2Y4 Mobile Challenge this year, you’ll notice something quite interesting. Three of the ten finalists are building their solutions around the FrontlineSMS platform, and a fourth used it as a major component in early prototyping exercises. You can add to these work that Ushahidi’s developers have been recently carrying out, or students at MIT, or human rights activists in the Philippines, or the FrontlineSMS:Medic team, or university-based agriculture projects, all of whom have started integrating FrontlineSMS into their own tools and solutions.

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April 9, 2009

Witness puts tools for empowerment online

This post originally appeared Jan. 31, 2006, at Socialmedia.biz:

JD LasicaOver the past couple of months, I’ve been having discussions with the good folks at Witness.org about how Witness and Ourmedia could work together. Witness has announced an ambitious plan to build a set of publishing tools that would let those in repressive or abusive conditions shine a spotlight on what’s happening in their countries. We already have parts of that publishing infrastructure built, so it makes sense to join forces.

Tonight on PBS’s “Charlie Rose,” Witness founder Peter Gabriel and executive director Gillian Caldwell spoke eloquently about their stirring vision, which is now within reach. I transcribed this exchange:

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April 9, 2009

Samasource enables socially responsible outsourcing


Samasource from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaLeila Chirayath, founder and CEO of Samasource, has been popping up at nonprofit events everywhere lately. Samasource is a nonprofit organization in Silicon Valley that connects small and mid-size businesses with individuals and firms in the developing world that can perform outsourcing work (such as data entry) in a socially responsible way.

They now have pilot programs in Kenya, Nepal and rural India, and their goal, as their website says, is “to catalyze sustainable economic development and poverty alleviation by creating a thriving, active market for socially responsible outsourcing to developing regions.”

The 4-minute interview was conducted on a very windy day at the 2008 Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp in San Mateo, Calif. (though I do need to get a fabric microphone cover). I caught up with Leila a few minutes before her jam-packed talk. As Leila says, there’s a lot of misinformation in the media about outsourcing, and Samasource can help you sort through the best options.

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