May 31, 2012

Exploring how to strengthen tools to engage citizens

By BC Gov Photos on Flickr

Gathering at MIT seeks to inspire & enable community action

JD LasicaIt’s been a crazy month of travel, with my giving talks at the Women’s funding Network Summit and the California State PTA convention in LA, a Google conference on Internet freedom in D.C., and now I’m in Boston for the next two days participating in an important gathering at the MIT Media Lab put together by the Knight Foundation.

Called the Tech for Engagement Summit, the invitation-only gathering brings together 70 leaders and innovators in new technologies for a collaborative working session. The overall goal, we’ve been told, is to explore and to buttress technologies that can be used “to inspire and facilitate on-the-ground action” at the community level. That requires strengthening the network of practitioners working in the space, reviewing the state of tech for engagement and coming up with opportunities to collaborate and work together in the months ahead.

In 2008 I wrote a 110-page book for the Aspen Institute on Civic Engagement on the Move: How mobile media can serve the public good (free download). And I’ve been involved with the Knight Foundation for years (and was among the first round of winners for the Knight News Challenge), so I admire convenings such as this that cut across sectors (business, social enterprise, government, nonprofit, academia) to get us to some common solutions to lift up our communities and make sure we have a strong foundation for citizen engagement at the local level.

An all-star cast of participants

Knight has pulled together an impressive list of participants, including:

  • Susan Crawford, Visiting Stanton Professor of the First Amendment, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Scott Geller, CTO and President, Points of Light Digital
  • Urs Gasser, Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University
  • Marci Harris, CEO of POPVOX (whom I recently interviewed)
  • Joichi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab
  • Nancy Lublin, CEO + Chief Old Person,
  • Michael Smith, SVP of Social Innovation, The Case Foundation
  • Christopher Hoene, Director of the Center for Research and Innovation, National League of Cities
  • Jennifer Pahlka, Founder & Executive Director, Code for America
  • Max Schorr, Co-Founder and Chief Community Officer, GOOD
  • Micki Krimmel, Founder, NeighborGoods
  • Damian Thorman, National Program Director, Knight Foundation
  • Ethan Zuckerman, Director, Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab

Looking forward to connecting with everyone here. Not sure how much live-tweeting there’ll be, beginning late this afternoon and ending late Friday afternoon, but here’s the hashtag: #tech4engage

October 12, 2009

The Extraordinaries: Building the ‘micro-volunteering’ movement

JD LasicaAt Net Tuesday last month and the recent gathering of social change organizations at Chronicle Books, both in San Francisco, participants heard from Jacob Colker, co-founder and CEO of The Extraordinaries about their ambitious effort to kick-start a “micro-volunteering” movement of people who help worthwhile causes in their spare time through the use of their mobile devices.

Who knew that “the power of spare energy” held such potential?

I continue to be impressed by the breadth of projects being supported by The Extraordinaries — whose name, co-founder Ben Rigby told me at NetSquared, is a bit tongue in cheek but also points out that each of us is capable of contributing to the greater good in extraordinary ways. Last month Time magazine, in a listing of New Ways to Make a Difference, cited the Extraordinaries as a prime example of using new technologies to advance the social good, “from using your smartphone to view and label photos (to help digitize museum archives) to snapping a picture of a local park (to help build a map of places where kids can play).”

It’s simple to participate: Download the free “The Extraordinaries” application to your iPhone (or to a similar smart phone) or use a Web browser to peruse the list of micro-volunteer opportunities. Follow them on Twitter at @extraordinaries. Sundeep, a principal in the organization, taught an online class about micro-volunteering last week on eduFire; look for others in the near future. Continue reading