July 14, 2010

A change agent’s top 5 tools for social change

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, NGOs, foundations, educators, individuals.

Guest post by Allyson Kapin
Partner, Rad Campaign

The tools for taking action and effecting social change are getting more robust all the time. Here are five of my current favorites:


1I think Care2’s Frogloop is one of the most trusted sources among nonprofit campaigners for having the latest resources and best practices to engage activists and donors using multiple channels including email, texting and social media. Full disclosure: I’m the Blogger-In-Chief but I don’t think that clouds my judgment. :~)



2OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the nation and the world created by regular people, Wikipedia-style. It’s a fantastic tool that nonprofits should be using more. It contains a lot more open data than Google Maps.


3If you’re the type of nonprofit campaigner who thrives off of multitasking, Threadsy could be a life saver. In a nutshell, it’s a dashboard that allows you to manage email, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging – all in one place! It was in beta but now it has just been released to the public.


4Idealware provides some of the best research and data to help nonprofits make smart software decisions – anything from choosing open source content management systems and the differences between them to low-cost data visualization tools.

The Petition Site

5Care2’s The Petition Site enables anyone — not just nonprofits — to start a petition around social action issues, from stopping the Sable Island seal slaughter to protecting against new drilling.

In this series

Change-makers share 10 of their favorite tools

An educator’s 5 top tools for social change

12 open source tools you should be using

6 productivity tools for social change

A developer’s 5 favorite social tools

Top 5 tools for the entrepreneurial journalist

Top cause organizations

July 6, 2010

Change-makers share 10 of their favorite tools

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.

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March 24, 2009

Social mobile: A moral duty to do more?

kiwanjaIs the future of social mobile an empowered few, or an empowered many? Mobile tools in the hands of the masses presents great opportunity for NGO-led social change, but is that the future we’re creating?

In The White Man’s Burden – Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good,” William Easterly’s frustration at large-scale, top-down, bureaucracy-ridden development projects runs to an impressive 384 pages. While Easterly dedicates most of his book to markets, economics and the mechanics of international development itself, he talks little of information and communication technology (ICT). The index carries no reference to ‘computers,’ ‘ICT’ or even plain old ‘technology.’

But there is an entry for ‘cell phones.’

smallbeautifulE. F. Schumacher, a fellow economist and the man widely recognized as the father of the appropriate technology movement, spent a little more time in his books studying technology issues. His seminal 1973 book – Small is Beautiful – The Study of Economics as if People Mattered” – reacted to the imposition of alien development concepts on Third World countries, and he warned early of the dangers and difficulties of advocating the same technological practices in entirely different societies and environments. Although his earlier work focused more on agri-technology and large-scale infrastructure projects (dam building was a favorite ‘intervention’ at the time), his theories could easily have been applied to ICTs – as they were in later years.

Things have come a long way since 1973. For a start, many of us now have mobile phones, the most rapidly adopted technology in history. In what amounts to little more than the blink of an eye, mobiles have given us a glimpse of their potential to help us solve some of the most pressing problems of our time. As the evidence mounts, I have one question: If mobiles truly are as revolutionary and empowering as they appear to be – particularly in the lives of some of the poorest members of society – then do we have a moral duty, in the ICT for Development (ICT4D) community at least, to see that they fulfill that potential?

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