May 16, 2016

Using Virtual Reality for Social Change Work


By Caroline Avakian

Virtual reality is a newer medium that has the potential to revolutionize the way many global development and human rights organizations communicate their work. It also presents an opportunity to virtually bring supporters, donors, and all others curious about the work being done on the ground, right to the communities and people they would otherwise not have access to.

The award-winning, “Clouds Over Sidra” a virtual reality film that was released in January of 2105, was one such film. It follows a twelve year-old girl named Sidra in the Za’atari camp in Jordan — currently home to an estimated 84,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war. The groundbreaking film shot for the United Nations using the Samsung Gear VR 360-degree platform, is the first ever film shot in virtual reality for the UN and is designed to support the UN’s campaign to highlight the plight of vulnerable communities, particularly refugees.

Since the success of “Clouds Over Sidra” there has been some buzz on how nonprofits and global development organizations might be able to leverage virtual reality to build awareness of their causes.

One such organization taking on virtual reality is Trickle Up. Trickle Up is a global poverty alleviation organization that works with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people to help them achieve financial independence and social connection. I spoke with Tyler McClelland, Trickle Up’s Communications Officer, to learn more about what the learnings, challenges, and best practices were for them as a smaller organization, taking on VR for the first time.

Continue reading

January 18, 2012

Free-to-use mobile and technology images

kiwanja Mobile Gallery

kiwanjaThey say a picture paints a thousand words, and that may be the case. But if they cost the earth or you don’t have permission to use them, they end up painting nothing much at all.

When my mobile “career” kicked off in 2003 with multiple research trips to South Africa and Mozambique, I took the opportunity to start taking and collecting mobile- and technology-related photos. Back then people were beginning to take an interest in the impact of mobile phones on the African continent, and NGOs were looking to use photos on websites or in project proposals, newsletters and presentations. On top of that, people were just generally curious about what was going on.

That collection now stands at over 150 photos, and covers everything from people around the world texting or making calls to pictures of shops, signs, mobiles themselves and other interesting examples of mobile entrepreneurship in action.

The images are free to use – with attribution – by nonprofits or any other organization seeking to profile the social impact of mobile technology. Visit the kiwanja Mobile Gallery for the full gallery of images, and for details on how to credit their use.

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

November 18, 2009

eduFire expands its tech curriculum

Learn about social media, PHP & WordPress on the Web

Guest post by Katrina Heppler

We met up with Jon Bischke, founder of eduFire, in San Francisco to learn about the launch of eduFire’s new Tech Channel, an online video learning platform that provides live, interactive video classes in social media, PHP, WordPress and other tech areas.

In this video interview, Jon describes the new Tech Channel’s offerings and tells us how eduFire is using social media throughout the company’s platform. Continue after the jump for a full transcript of the conversation. Continue reading

October 23, 2009

Using nonprofit tech to benefit society

Amy Sample Ward on nonprofit technology from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaJust before we launched, I met Amy Sample Ward in person for the first time. Amy’s a whirlwind of energy and passion about all things np tech (nonprofit technology), and I was so impressed that I immediately asked her to join the Socialbrite team.

But not before I got her to sit still for a few minutes to talk about nonprofit tech, Net Tuesdays — Amy is the global community builder for NetSquared — and being a catalyst for social change.

NP tech is social change work, whether you’re a nonprofit or an individual who wants to change her community or you’re a corporation that’s working on social benefit through a corporate social responsibility campaign, she says.

More than 36 cities around the world now hold monthly events as part of Net Tuesday, the offline component of NetSquared, and if you’re within driving distance, you should stop by and meet other change agents in your community. (Sarah Kennon does an outstanding job of organizing the Net Tuesdays in San Francisco.) Continue reading

September 30, 2009

GoingGreen: Innovations in green tech

Photo by Salem Kimble

By Salem Kimble
East Bay Green Tours

Earlier this month, amid the picturesque backdrop of the Cavallo Lodge in Sausalito, Calif., a flurry of venture capitalists and industry innovators came together at the GoingGreen Conference from AlwaysOn. There were all manner of industries represented, from cement that absorbs carbon (Novacem) to low frequency wireless technology for long range monitoring (On-Ramp Wireless) to completely architected materials (Nanosys) and everything in between.

In fact, there was so much going on, let’s break down a few of the more intriguing elements.

Smart designs for buildings

Project Frog, a slick and friendly outfit from San Francisco, showed off their super quick building construction from partially pre-fabricated buildings that minimize waste during construction, save 50 percent in energy once built, and go up in an incredible six weeks’ time. Their smart designs take into consideration the building process and include things like designing doors and walls to fit the size that the wall material is when sold. Their flagship installation is at Crissy Field in San Francisco.

Buildings are important, but perhaps more intriguing are the people who are re-engineering the building blocks themselves, as Novacem has done. They have an alternative to Portland cement (standard material used in the majority of construction) that has a lighter carbon footprint at the outset and over the long term. Says Novacem’s Stewart Evans, “The big win is that Novacem has the potential to not only remove the 5 percent [of carbon] from creation [of the cement] but to take out 4 percent of carbon [from the atmosphere] over time.” Continue reading