March 7, 2013

Crowdshout: Social advocacy made simple

App puts social actions in the palm of your hand

Guest post by Glenn Vander Laan
Co-founder, Crowdshout

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, educators, activists, general public.

GlennThe idea for Crowdshout hit my business partners and me back in November 2011, a few months following the Arab Spring and during the Occupy Wall Street protests. We realized that despite all of the tools and technology out there to support advocacy, something was missing. The advent of social media and the smartphone was helping to change the world right in front of us, but it was clear to us that all of the puzzle pieces were yet to fall into place to fully enable and empower groups of people.

crowdshout-icon Social media is providing real-time visibility to the social, political and consumer issues that affect us as individuals and as a society. The rapid dissemination of information has changed the game for governments and corporations in both positive and negative ways.

While social media has been embraced as a large part of an overall communication strategy, it can also be used as a powerful weapon by people in reaction to unpopular plans and policies. Institutions must now consider how to react to public opinion — from a petition, Facebook campaign or a viral video on YouTube.  In addition to this, the portability and capability provided by smartphones to access social media have allowed groups of individuals to communicate and organize very quickly and effectively in support of causes. Continue reading

January 21, 2011

Want to take action on a cause? The road ahead just got easier

Peter Deitz
Peter Deitz, the whirlwind behind Social Actions. (Photo by JD Lasica)


Social Actions moves the open source ball forward for the cause community

Guest post by Amy Sample Ward

I’ve followed and supported the work of Peter Deitz and Social Actions ever since hearing about his passion and ideas a few years ago. There’s a lot happening with Social Actions right now, but one bit of news is really exciting and needs to be highlighted: some incredibly important technical enhancements have recently been made to the Social Actions API. (Here’s what an API is.) Earlier this week, I got ahold of Peter to get the full scoop! Here’s our exchange:

Let’s start at the beginning: What is Social Actions and where does the API come in?

I describe Social Actions as an aggregation of actions people can take on any issue that’s built to be highly distributable across the social web. We pull in donation opportunities, volunteer positions, petitions, event, and other actions from 60-plus different sources. That’s today. A few years ago, microphilanthropy had just a handful of pioneering platforms.

The Social Actions project began in 2006. I wanted to make some kind of contribution to the world of microphilanthropy. My intent was to inventory every interesting action I came across to make it easier for people to engage in the causes they cared about. There wasn’t much scalability in the way I was pursuing the project.

In 2007, I realized that a much more effective way to aggregate interesting actions would be to subscribe to RSS feeds from trusted sources. I wrote about the potential for aggregating RSS feeds of giving opportunities in a blog post called, Why We Need Group Fundraising RSS Feeds. Three months later I had a prototype platform aggregating actions from RSS feeds, with a search element around that content.

Around  the time of the Nonprofit Technology Network’s 2008 NTC conference, an even brighter lightbulb went on. I remember sitting in a session by Kurt Voelker of ForumOne Communications, Tompkins Spann of Convio, and Jeremy Carbaugh of The Sunlight Foundation. They were talking about APIs. (API stands for Application Programming Interface, and refers broadly to the way one piece of software or dataset communicates with another.) In fact, the name of the session was “APIs for Beginners.”

I knew I wanted to be in the session even without really knowing why. It was there that I realized my RSS-based process for aggregating actions could be so much more with a robust distribution component. I wrote a blog post called, Mashups, Open APIs, and the Future of Collaboration in the Nonprofit Tech Sector. I left that session knowing exactly the direction I wanted to take Social Actions.

And what would you describe as the purpose of Social Actions’ API?

There’s a groundswell of interest, on the part of “non-nonprofit professionals,” to engage with social movements and causes. It’s well-documented at this point that people are hungry to engage with causes they care about in various forms.

The premise behind Social Actions is that there are enough actions floating around on the Web that nonprofits produce, but that they’re not linked up properly or adequately syndicated. There are a million opportunities to take action on a cause you care about, but it’s not easy to find them. The Social Actions API attempts to address the distribution and syndication challenge while also encouraging nonprofits to make their actions more readily available. Continue reading

February 2, 2010 How young people can take action

Sloane BerrentAt the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, I attended a dinner on the “Future of Philanthropy,” which was a really great talk about the role of philanthropy across nonprofits, family foundations, corporate partnerships and how individuals can get involved.

The dinner sessions at Davos I heard were a must. They’re expensive add-ons to the experience, but provide you an opportunity to sit at tables with a facilitator and go through topics related to the issue at hand.

Nancy Lublin is the CEO and “Chief Old Person” of Do Something, a nonprofit organization that gets young people excited and involved with voluntarism and getting involved in cause. Nancy is one of the Young Global Leaders, a subgroup of the World Economic Forum. Some 200-300 people each year are chosen from around the world who are making a difference and contributing to their communities.

Nancy identified three trends important to teens right now:

  1. Mobile – the ability to give online
  2. Slacktivisim – the ability to click a button and have something delivered to a person in need. Examples include Free Rice.
  3. Crowd-sourced giving like the Chase Community Program through Facebook that recently ended and the Pepsi Refresh Project (which by the way started this past weekend — if you have any idea on how to change the world, you really should check out this program and see what Pepsi is doing instead of placing a Super Bowl ad on TV this year).

Continue reading

June 14, 2009

All for Good: A Craigslist for service

allforgoodJD LasicaOn Friday I was one of 66 folks who participated in a conference call around the launch of All for Good.

It was fascinating to watch the disparate elements that came together through a single powerful idea: President Obama’s call for Americans to volunteer — for us to give back to our communities — through “a Craigslist for service” and similar efforts. The result is All for Good, a comprehensive Web presence intended to help people across the country find volunteer opportunities.

Here at Socialbrite we love silo-busting initiatives that harness the collective power of seemingly odd bedfellows — social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, political reformers, open source developers and citizen media types — to achieve a social goal.

Among those on the call were Jonathan Greenblatt, a member of the Obama transition team (note: the White House has no official role in the All for Good project); John Lyman, an associate at (who spoke at NetSquared last year about how social benefit organizations are using Google Apps to collaborate); Peter Deitz of SocialActions, who has been working with his team for more than a year to network nonprofits’ social actions together under a single interface; and representatives from cause organizations big and small (mostly small): FirstGiving, DonorsChoose, Better the World, the Extraordinaries, Network for Social Responsibility, Points of Light Foundation, Causecast, Care2, NGOPost and many others. Craigslist Foundation has been involved in this as well but I didn’t see them in the chat room.

At its simplest level, All for Good is an open source database of causes and opportunities that make a difference in people’s lives. It’s a way to gather up thousands of volunteer actions across the social-good ecosystem and put them in one place so that people can volunteer at the community level.

“If we can give more Americans the opportunity to serve in meaningful ways, then it’ll be worth it,” Greenblatt said.

Continue reading

May 28, 2009 Turning concern into action Helping you take action online from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaOne of the most impressive and influential sites in the causes space,, has really come into its own in the past six to eight months. The social enterprise is helping raise awareness about important social causes and empowering people to take action, chiefly through the efforts of leading nonprofits.

Here’s an interview I conduced with Ben Rattray, founder and CEO of, after a meetup at TechSoup’s offices in San Francisco. Ben describes the organization this way: “We’re an online community and media network for social issues, focused on engaging and informing people about the most important issues of our time — global warming, homelessness, fair trade — and compelling them to take action.”

Actions might range from joining an organization and making a personal pledge to signing an online petition or calling a congressperson’s office about an issue. “This is one of the things we’re most interested in innovating on and partnering with other organizations on — finding the most powerful actions possible for people to advance issues they care about.”

Continue reading

May 18, 2009

How uses social media

How KidsAreHeroes Uses Twitter from John Haydon on Vimeo.

John HaydonI had the incredible opportunity to speak with Gabe O’Neill of Kids Are Heroes a couple of weeks ago and was completely blown away by two things:

  1. How KidsAreHeroes.Com Uses Social MediaHis unwavering sense of mission.
  2. He uses only Twitter for social media actions.

Kids Are Heroes recently won the competition for Richard Branson’s first ever PitchTV show! In this video, I talk about my meeting with Gabe and the four success factors that contributed to his success:

  1. Solid sense of mission
  2. Remarkable content
  3. Be active with social media
  4. A reason to fight

Continue reading