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I’m joining ActionSprout!

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jan 11, 2013.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve joined the team at ActionSprout, where I’ll be serving as Director of Strategy.  ActionSprout is a startup that was founded last year by my dear friends and fellow Groundwire alums Drew Bernard and Shawn Kemp, and we make tools that help nonprofits organize action and raise money on Facebook.  [...]

A neat trick Engagement Organizations can do

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Nov 01, 2012.

Here’s a neat trick that Engagement Organizations can do: because they have solid, integrated website and database systems, they can quickly identify contact records that have missing information, then send out an email blast like this one I just got from Dogwood Initiative: As you can see, the email includes a personalized URL that takes [...]

“Engagement Organizing” is live!

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Oct 04, 2012.

I’m pleased to announce the release of “Engagement Organizing,” a short whitepaper about the culture and technology of building power for social change in a networked era.  I had the great pleasure of collaborating with my dear friend Matt Price, and I’m really pleased with the final results.  If you are working to make progressive [...]

In an era of climate risk, is cost-benefit analysis enough?

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Sep 28, 2012.

David Roberts at Grist thinks not.  Great article, with deep links to hardcore World Bank wonkery.  Food for thoughts for Evans students (and profs): As time horizons and uncertainty increase, cost-benefit analysis becomes less and less useful, more and more “a knob-twiddling exercise in optimizing outcomes,” as economist Martin Weitzman put it. Differences in social/political/ethical [...]

Authenticity and social change

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Sep 19, 2012.

This didn’t make it into the paper on Engagement Organizing that we’re about to release, but I thought it was an important point on its own.  Curious to hear your thoughts. One thing is common to all of the engagement organizations we interviewed: authenticity. These are organizations that are so comfortable with their identity and [...]

What’s Happening with Alchemy of Change?

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Sep 18, 2012.

Alchemy of Change is taking a little break right now, as Gideon Rosenblatt is busy building out another project....

Should grantmakers be more like VCs?

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Sep 11, 2012.

At Web of Change 2012 last week, I had an interesting conversation with Drew Bernard about nonprofit boards vs. the boards of internet startups, and the very different roles that nonprofit and VC funders play.   Drew’s a great person to chat with about these topics, because he’s worn all the hats: startup entrepreneur, angel investor, [...]

“The Lean Startup” — for nonprofits too!

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 26, 2012.

I’m most of the way through Eric Reis’ 2011 book, “The Lean Startup.”  As the title suggests, it’s attempt to apply “lean” management thinking (as developed at Toyota and popularized by a thousand books and consultants) to entrepreneurial startups.  But what really grapped me by the proverbial lapels was how directly most of his ideas [...]

An Advocacy Dilemma

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 22, 2012.

I’m working on a fairly big chunk of writing about advocacy campaigns, organizing and strategy.  (More on that very soon!)  In the meantime, one idea that popped out along the way that didn’t really fit into the main thrust of the piece was the observation that, for many organizations, there’s a deep tension between building [...]

Blocking more Facebook ads with Adblock Plus

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 02, 2012.

I hate looking at online ads that I am never, ever going to click on, and I’m pretty aggressive about using adblocking software like Adblock Plus to avoid seeing them.  Recently, I’ve noticed that quite a few Facebook ads are getting around the default Adblock Plus filterset, so after a bit of experimentation, I’ve found [...]

Theming Plone websites with Diazo (for non-developers)

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jul 05, 2012.

Plone 4.2 has just been released. Congrats to Release Manager Eric Steele and all of the excellent folks who worked hard to make it happen!  For me, this is one of the most exciting Plone releases ever, because this is the first release of Plone that includes the amazing Diazo theming system as part of [...]

Week in Review: May 21, 2012

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 29, 2012.

Seven ideas on meaningful work, myth, mobile computing, philanthropy, and networks.

Klout, Influence, and the Future of Business

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 24, 2012.

Klout helps companies better understand the influence of employees and customers, and this opens the firm more fully to the outside world. Despite its many problems, Klout not only symbolizes the growing importance of influence in marketing, but the increasingly permeable nature of the firm.

Week in Review: May 14, 2012

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 21, 2012.

Four mini-posts on: Google's new 'knowledge graph" and the semantic web, the sad story of Flickr (and CarPoint), why Justin Bieber has a higher Klout score than President Obama, and the future of market research. Phew...

Soulful Work – My Interview with Big Life

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 18, 2012.

An interview with Shelly Immel from Big Life, where she helps me cut to the essence of my work on making business a better force for good in the world.

Week in Review: May 7, 2012

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 14, 2012.

Three interesting articles: focusing on market efficiency, governance, and a high-tech evolution of the old trading company.

Fixing the Google+ Engagement Problem

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 09, 2012.

Google has a real problem with Google+ engagement - especially with new users. Here are some ideas on how to address the situation.

Social Reading and the Social Book

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 23, 2012.

"Social reading" centers not so much on the joy of reading or pursuit of knowledge, but a desire to build social capital on social networks. And now, it's coming to books.

Testing the Wisdom of Crowds

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 20, 2012.

When we make it possible for people to aggregate their wisdom in independent, diverse and decentralized ways, the resulting "wisdom of the crowds" can be uncannily accurate. I just tested that on Google+, and here are my results.

Simon Goodyear – Force.com Dependency Management: A First Pass

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 17, 2012.

Nonprofit Starter Pack gift entry

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 12, 2012.

Coworker Nick Bailey on the nitty gritty of recording gifts in the Nonprofit Starter Pack. “One of the recurring questions in the Salesforce for nonprofits world is about how we handle money and enter Donations/Opportunities to best track donations, grants, etc. Here, I’ll outline how I handle common scenarios in the Non Profit Starter Pack [...]

Why So Many Social Change Organizations Struggle

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Mar 29, 2012.

When nonprofit organizations with issue-specific, niche missions organize themselves around individual donor fundraising, it creates waste, dysfunction and drains power away from real social change.

How To Turn A Great Adventure Into A Great Story - The Frisky

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Mar 22, 2012.

Kony 2012 Debate: Fights and Mobs, but Little Truth | Global Spin | TIME.com

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Mar 20, 2012.

Visible Flaws

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Mar 17, 2012.

On numerous progressive fora, I’ve read countless praises and tear-downs of Invisible Children’s tactics, motivations, and strategy. In general, I think the analyses were driven by sincere curiosity, and a desire to understand a phenomena, so that we can advance our work. I had the chance to meet some of the Invisible Children staff Thursday [...]

White male nerd culture’s last stand - Salon.com

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Mar 15, 2012.

Google Plus: Average User Spends Only 3 Minutes Per Month! | Search Engine Journal

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Feb 29, 2012.

Nailing Down The Appeal Of Pinterest : All Tech Considered : NPR

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Feb 29, 2012.

The Mounting Minuses at Google+ - WSJ.com

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Feb 28, 2012.

Google's 5 Biggest Failures | Mac|Life

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Feb 16, 2012.

Advocacy in the Cloud slides and recording

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Sep 16, 2011.

I recently had the pleasure of facilitating a Dreamforce session where two amazing people talked about how their organizations have gone all-in with engagement. The DC Project and Idaho Conservation League are each betting their futures on engagement, and in very different ways. Sara Arkle talked about how Idaho Conservation League is turning the organizational [...]

Chrome Extension: Salesforce.com Id Clipper

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jun 06, 2011.

I had a great idea for a Chrome Extension that was pretty complicated, so I decided to come up with a simpler project to learn the ropes. This weekend I built the Salesforce.com Id Clipper, a Chrome Extension that helps you get Salesforce.com Ids from records more easily than copying. It’s a small problem I’m [...]

Nonprofit Starter Pack and Money

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 09, 2011.

At a recent gathering of nonprofit-focused Salesforce developers, we got into a deep discussion about how to best track money in Salesforce. Everyone agreed that the Opportunity object was key, but there were differing opinions about what else needed to be done and how. I realized that this group of people, who had years and [...]

Join our team

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 14, 2011.

The Salesforce.com Foundation technology team received a compliment the other day when a co-worker said, “Wow, your technology team is atypical.” I’ve been on great teams before in my career, and our team right now is up there as one of the best. I’m looking for a Force.com Developer to join us in our work [...]

JP Rangaswami on social objects

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Feb 27, 2011.

I’ve been really enjoying JP Ranagaswami’s latest series on social objects in the enterprise. His series so far is here, here, and here. I’m finding his tale of the merging of internal systems of record with external systems of engagement, and the socialization and consumerization of these objects to be really compelling. The corporation is [...]

The Divine Right of Capital

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Feb 18, 2011.

A number of years ago I read The Divine Right of Capital by Marjorie Kelly and it blew my mind. It’s a book that has changed the way I look at the world of business, and reinforced the concept that in systems there are rarely unintended consequences–the rules are there to bring about outcomes desired [...]

Coherence by Richard H. Bailey

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Nov 12, 2010.

I just read Rick Bailey’s book on nonprofit marketing, Coherence. Rick’s son Nick is a friend of mine and another Salesforce.com coder-for-good We’ve had a number of conversations about nonprofits and leadership, and when we met up at Web Of Change this year, Nick passed on his dad’s book. Coherence is Rick’s name for telling [...]

“If all You Have is a Hammer” - How Useful is Humanitarian Crowdsourcing? | MobileActive.org

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Oct 31, 2010.

Shared by Jon
Wow, amazing critique of crowdsourcing humanitarian response.
Editor’s Note: In this article, guest contributor Paul Currion looks at the potential for crowdsourcing data during large-scale humanitarian emergencies, as part of our "Deconstructing Mobile" series. Paul is an aid worker who has been

Segmenting Campaigns

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Oct 15, 2010.

In the run up to the amazing Web of Change conference this year, I was asked to write a think-piece. I ended up writing about being scientific in the design, implementation, and analysis of our work. I called it We Must Be Scientists for Change, and it seemed to resonate with a number of the [...]

We must be scientists for change

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Sep 07, 2010.

I just posted an article for the Web of Change conference, which takes place in a few weeks. I make the call for our sector to become more scientific in our approach–posing testable questions, using technology to get results, analyzing meticulously and sharing systematically, and jumping quickly to posing the next hypothesis. Please check out [...]

Why our railways suck (in two graphs) | Grist

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 29, 2010.

Shared by Jon
You reap what you sow.
The Amtrak mess that left commuters stranded this week just goes to show you transit just isn't as reliable. People prefer to drive. Except not.

Inside The Puget Sound Partnership

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 18, 2010.

Your Brain on Computers - Studying the Brain Off the Grid, Professors Find Clarity - NYTimes.com

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 15, 2010.

Shared by Jon
Five neuroscientists spent a week hiking to understand how heavy use of technology changes how we think and behave.

Textexpander snippets for Apex

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 14, 2010.

I just upgraded my work computer to Snow Leopard and one of the benefits I was most excited about was being able to update Textexpander, the incredibly handy snippet tool. You create short codes and when you type them they are replaced with pre-recorded text. They’re much better at describing what it does. It’s really [...]

Logging Off: The Internet Generation Prefers the Real World - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 08, 2010.

Shared by Jon
"Generation Net" isn't.

A small group of writers, consultants and therapists thrives on repeating the same old mantra, namely that our youth is shaped through and through by the online medium in which it grew up. They claim that our schools must, therefore, offer young people completely new avenues -- surely traditional education cannot reach this generation any longer, they argue.

There is little evidence to back such theories up, however. Rather than conducting surveys, these would-be visionaries base their arguments on impressive individual cases of young Internet virtuosos. As other, more serious researchers have since discovered, such exceptions say very little about the generation as a whole, and they are now avidly trying to correct the mistakes of the past.

Numerous studies have since revealed how young people actually use the Internet. The findings show that the image of the "net generation" is almost completely false -- as is the belief in the all-changing power of technology.

Resource: New Mobile App to Combat Climate Skeptics

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 06, 2010.

Shared by Jon

Ever wish you had all the top climate information at your fingertips? If you're the owner of a smart phone, then your wish has been fulfilled: the "Skeptical Science" app for iphones, Android phones, and Nokia phones is available now (for free!).

Screenshot of the iphone app. The app lets you browse arguments via the Top 10 most used arguments as well as 3 main categories ("It's not happening", "It's not us", "It's not bad"). (via)

The app's creator, physicist John Cook of SkepticalScience.com, describes the app:

The app looks at many arguments from climate skeptics and identifies a common pattern – that skeptics focus on small pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the full body of evidence...[it] aims to give you the full picture, with all the evidence, scientific context and links to peer-reviewed research. It has another useful function – users can send me reports on which skeptical arguments they encounter.

Thanks to Cook, and the app developers, smart phone users now have a terrific resource "that puts the science at your fingertips, along with the most commonly used arguments by the disinformers and doubters and how to answer them." (via Climate Progress)

Shine Technologies developed both the iphone and Android apps; and Jean-François Barsoum created the Nokia app using the Ovi App Wizard.

To download the app for your

Help us change the world - DONATE NOW!

(Posted by Amanda Reed in Resource - Planet at 12:45 PM)

Transition is when you really appreciate keeping track of things

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Aug 06, 2010.

I recently started a new job here at the Foundation and it’s a bit like other internal transitions I’ve made in my career. There are innumerable transition tasks–meetings for getting up to speed, relationship hand-offs, getting dropped into new projects and processes, new team-members, etc. It can be overwhelming, mostly because the old duties don’t [...]

Move messages to Archive in Entourage

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jul 01, 2010.

I have to use Entourage at work with our Exchange server. Because I subscribe to the concept of Inbox Zero, and because we have very low mailbox size limits, I move all my messages out of my inbox as soon as I can. I found that I was dragging messages over to a local archive [...]

The Twitter Devolution - Far from being a tool of revolution ... (Golnaz Esfandiari/Foreign Policy)

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jun 14, 2010.

Central Idaho wilderness bill rises again

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jun 14, 2010.

Cashing In On The Chasm

By rcraver from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jun 07, 2010.

In the case of many non-profits the much-vaunted “Fundraising Pyramid” too often resembles an hourglass.  Fat on the ends, skinny in the middle.

So I was particularly pleased to see Nicole Wallace over at the Chronicle of Philanthropy recently tackle the subject of middle donor or mid-level donor programs.

As the name implies, Mid-Level or Middle Donor Programs are fundraising efforts that fall between the mass, small gift efforts at the base of the Pyramid and the large, major gifts at the top.  Mid-Level giving ranges vary depending on how you want to define them, but usually they’re in the $500 to $5,000 + range.

Frankly, at a time when many groups are having acquisition and retention trouble at the base of the pyramid and uncertain economic times are creating delays or deferrals in giving at the top, the middle is where fundraisers need to focus.

This under-worked space is so painfully obvious that you have to wonder why Mid-Level Donor programs are the exception rather than the rule.  Mark Rovner over at Sea Change Strategies offers the most plausible explanation: the tension that exists between direct mail fundraisers and major gift fundraisers.

“They genuinely dislike one another,” Mark told Nicole Wallace at The Chronicle. “That’s not true everywhere, but it’s often true. The high-dollar people see the direct marketers as the used-car salesmen of fund raising, and the direct marketers see the high-dollar people as snobs who, if you’re not worth millions of dollars, you’re not worth my time.”

The result of this intra-mural pettiness?  Middle donors fall into a chasm of neglect.  Meanwhile the needs of the non-profit go unmet and fundraising opportunities unrealized.  Sad.

It sure doesn’t have to be that way. As The Chronicle piece points out:

• The ASPCA has nearly doubled its income from its $500 to $5000 donors by focusing on this mid-level group and encouraging them to give more often;

• Catholic Relief Services now raises 25% of its income from the 1% of its donors who fall into the mid-level donor category;

• And Mercy Corps has seen a 5% increase in the number of its mid-level donors by assigning part-time development officers to provide more personal attention through its program.

So, if the person in charge of development and fundraising at your organization permits or, worse still, encourages  competition between types of giving, or permits fundraising efforts to exist in silos she/he ought to be fired.  Or at least put under adult supervision.


Salesforce.com as free, bolt-on analytics engine for any database app

From Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jun 02, 2010.

Over my career I’ve noticed that most applications have very limited reporting and charting features. I’ve tried to write some of my own and realized quickly why this is–analytics is hard! Visual query builders, dynamic charting, aggregation of data, it’s all really tough to do right. I also think most application teams start out with [...]

Report To Me

By tbelford from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Jun 01, 2010.

I was reading this article on effective email messaging, the gist of which was … make it relevant via personalization.

Now there are a variety of ways to personalize, especially in (but not limited to) the online environment — using the donor’s location to tailor content, keying off of actions taken (completed a survey, signed an online petition), using transactions as a trigger, using donor milestones as a trigger (“Congrats on your fifth anniversary as a member”). Messages keyed to any of these items of data would be more relevant to the donor, as well as providing gratifying evidence that you actually recognized and paid attention to him/her.

But perhaps the most important cue around which to build messaging is the declared interest of the donor — “I’m giving you my donation for this purpose, to meet that goal, to support this initiative … and I want especially to hear about our progress on that.” Yet this information seems to be very seldom used.

Mostly, I suspect, because organizations never ask donors the key question when, for example, acknowledging their initial gift — “What is it that we do that is most important to you?” And obviously if you don’t ask such a question, there’s no way to target and tailor subsequent reporting back to the donor.

Even when donors have been acquired via a narrowly cast appeal — e.g., an environmental group’s appeal on, say, biodiversity versus clean air — rarely is follow-on cultivation driven by that initial interest. And even a nonprofit that might segment on that basis for future targeting, will often refrain from making its insight explicit to the individual donor in subsequent appeals, losing the powerful connection … “Here’s why we’re asking you again, Tom …”

Indeed, in the old days, the goal was to move the donor away from a single interest and toward being an institutional supporter. The theory was that the latter donor was more deeply and reliably committed to the core mission of the organization, and not as likely to be fickle or faddish and lose interest when “their issue” faded.

There was a logic to that approach, but I wonder whether it still applies so well.

Today’s donor, arguably, has a more focused sense of why they are giving and what they want to see as results … Report to me!  They are more performance-driven. So why not identify their expectation as specifically as possible from day one and focus on meeting — and communicating about — that expectation. Yes, they can be exposed to other facets of the organization, and if they respond, great.

But don’t lose sight of their original motive and expectation. And weight your communications accordingly.


Attention Designers & Filmmakers: Two New Competitions Announced

By Amanda Reed from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 19, 2010.

Worldchanging Architects, Planners, Artists and Animators: The International Living Building Institute, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has announced a new design competition: Living City. They invite you to

create a new global vision: a breathtaking, compelling model for the future of civilization. Unleash the power of your imagination to envision a city capable of thriving through the centuries – one that will heal the land and prove that the human species can in fact live, in the words of E. O. Wilson, as ‘part and parcel with creation’.
The competition is framed as a response to our current, prevalent dystopian models of the future, and is a chance to create a positive, ecologically grounded vision of the future that will help shape our collective consciousness. These are the general guidelines:
Our Living City Design Competition is an act of optimism, grounded in our belief that we already have the technical tools and collective wisdom we need to achieve true sustainability. But before we can bring our cities into balance with the ecosystems they inhabit, we must understand what that balance would look like. This is where you come in.
Each Living City Design Competition team will envision a city that meets all of the Imperatives of the Living Building Challenge (Version 2.0), including its specific requirements for density, shading, urban agriculture, transportation, energy and water use. The end result must be rooted in solid ecological and architectural principles and explicitly aligned with the Living Building Challenge 2.0.

Submissions are due on February 1, 2011. The full criteria for submissions will be available June 15, 2010. Click here to download a PDF of the competition brief, which includes information on entry fees and prizes. Contact Joanna Gangi with inquiries.


Worldchanging Filmmakers, Artists, Students, and Water Enthusiasts: Our friends at Ecotrust are now accepting submissions for the Stories From Our Watersheds contest. The competition invites filmmakers from the Pacific Northwest region (Oregon, Washington, Idaho) of the United States to produce low-cost, 10 minutes-or-less digital films that capture the benefits of community-based watershed and habitat restoration.

Filmmakers are encouraged to focus their creativity on making a film that recognizes and reinforces the nature-human relationships that form the fabric of communities. The film is not meant to be a political statement. It may result in that, but that cannot be its sole purpose. Films that focus on expressing a feeling about a place – a sense of place, a mood – will be given special consideration. Films must look at how watershed restoration influences and affects human life in ways including: local job creation, community-building, and hands-on learning opportunities.

The contest is managed by Ecotrust on behalf of the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative (WWRI), a collaborative effort between Ecotrust, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and others.

$3,500 is up for grabs for filmmakers in two categories: 21-and-over, and 20-and under. The deadline for submissions is July 19, 2010. For more information see the contest website.

(For more on Ecotrust from Worldchanging see Resource: Watershed Locator; Resource: P&P; and Creating a Community Supported Fishery.)

Image of man in Cedar River Watershed courtesy of Flickr photographer Soggydan Dan Bennett under the Creative Commons License.

Help us change the world - DONATE NOW!

(Posted by Amanda Reed in Urban Design and Planning at 2:52 PM)

The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand « The Jason Calacanis Weblog

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 12, 2010.

Energy, Transportation, and Land Use Patterns

By Dan Bertolet from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on May 04, 2010.

In response to last week’s post about how cars cause significant greenhouse gas emissions in addition to what comes out of the tailpipe, some commenters contended that even so, car-dependency is not a problem because cars can be as energy-efficient per passenger-mile as buses and trains.

But that perspective is classic “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Because vehicle efficiency is just one piece of the puzzle that leads to an efficient urban transportation system.

The sexy graph below tells the story (click it to see an enlarged version):

For the U.S. we see that in general, cities with higher density and more extensive transit service use less energy per capita for transportation, with New York consuming the least. Seattle would land a bit to the left of Los Angeles on the graph. (Keep in mind that greenhouse gas emissions are typically about proportional to energy use.)

But what’s truly amazing is the difference between the U.S. and Europe. On average the European cities use about one third of the energy used by New York, the most transportation-efficient city in the U.S. How is that possible?

Socioeconomics likely explains part of it, since it is a nearly universal truth that energy use increases with personal income. It’s worth noting, however, that even though average incomes in the U.S. are higher than those in most European countries, European city-dwellers enjoy a quality of life that is at least on par with U.S. cities.

And part of it the difference is due to the relatively small, efficient cars Europeans tend to drive.

But the critical ingredient of  Europe’s high-efficiency urban transportation systems is a synergistic combination of extensive, high-quality transit, and compact, mixed-use development patterns.

These factors are mutually reinforcing: Population density and a mix of uses enable shorter trips and allows transit to operate efficiently; and transit stations create spatial catalysts around which compact development can be focused.

When transit serves high density areas it tends to run closer to capacity, thereby reducing energy consumed per passenger. When trips are shorter, they require less energy if made by motor vehicle, but are also more likely to be made by foot or bike.

Furthermore, when there are attractive alternatives to a car, fewer people own them, which has the added benefit of reducing the non-trivial energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacture, maintenance, and infrastructure, as discussed here. If those factors were included on the graph above, the difference between European and U.S. cities would become even more pronounced.

The end result is a balanced, equitable, energy-efficient urban transportation system. And this is not just hopeful speculation. The proof is on the ground in cities all over the world.

In the U.S, the absurd amount of car-dependent sprawl we have built is a major impediment to creating the kind of compact, walkable, transit-rich communities that will reduce our transportation system’s energy consumption over the long term. But here in the Puget Sound region, because we are growing, we have a unique opportunity to make progress. The region’s population is projected to grow by 40 percent over the next three decades. If we hope to create a region that will prosper in the face of future challenges, we must do everything possible to accommodate this growth with compact development and aggressive transit investments.

Welcome to Eaarth

By Scott Gast from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 30, 2010.

Make “Small” Your Advantage

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 26, 2010.

Shared by Jon
Great advice

Not every Agitator reader has a multi-million dollar fundraising and communications budget to work with!

So we keep an eye out for fundraising advice that’s especially relevant for smaller nonprofits. Here’s an example from Doodig Blogs.

This article — 5 Top Fundraising Mistakes Made By Small Nonprofits — stresses five points … all essentially about donor communications:

  1. Not thanking donors. 
  2. Beyond "thank you," failure to communicate. 
  3. Communicating poorly.
  4. Static website.
  5. Lack of exposure.

I’d stress the first three. But you know what? Small nonprofits — especially local, community-based organizations — have a terrific advantage over their behemoth national and international cousins.

That advantage is their potential for greater intimacy and immediacy with their donors. And that’s what makes the communications issue so important. From email and online social media to mail to face-to-face interaction, the small nonprofit has the opportunity to establish authentic personal contact and rapport with donors. And not just with major donors.

If a local nonprofit is in fact getting the job done on the ground, truly making a difference, then it should never — short of death or relocation — lose a donor. How’s that for an audacious goal?


P.S. And hey, you big guys, small is the new big … even for you! Read Seth Godin on the subject

Keeping tabs on Canada's Parliament | openparliament.ca

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 20, 2010.

Shared by Jon
Very impressive
Info on what your representatives are doing in Ottawa can be hard to find and use. We're trying to make it easy.

XAuth: Somebody, Please, Put Facebook in Check

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 18, 2010.

Shared by Jon
And so the identity wars begin.
A consortium of companies including Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Meebo and more announced tonight that it will launch a new system on Monday that will let website owners discover ...

Ning’s Bubble Bursts: No More Free Networks, Cuts 40% Of Staff

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 15, 2010.

Shared by Jon
Exeunt Ning.
One month after long-time Ning CEO Gina Bianchini was replaced by COO Jason Rosenthal, the company is making some major changes: It has just announced that it is killing off its free product, forcing existing free networks to either make the change to premium accounts or migrate their networks elsewhere. Rosenthal has also just announced that the company has cut nearly 70 people — over 40% of its staff. Here's the email Rosenthal just sent out to the company: Team, When I became CEO 30 days ago, I told you I would take a hard look at our business. This process has brought real clarity to what's working, what's not, and what we need to do now to make Ning a big success. My main conclusion is that we need to double down on our premium services business. Our Premium Ning Networks like Friends or Enemies, Linkin Park, Shred or Die, Pickens Plan, and tens of thousands of others both drive 75% of our monthly US traffic, and those Network Creators need and will pay for many more services and features from us.

Grantsfire: Transforming Philanthropy Through Open Grants Data

By (author unknown) from Groundwire RSS Aggregator. Published on Apr 14, 2010.

I was blown away by the response to yesterday’s news that Grantsfire was becoming a Foundation Center project. I’ve always felt that Grantsfire was somewhat of a skunkworks project, so it was exciting so see so much interest, and it’s personally exciting for me as one of the initiators of the project.

Grantsfire is a story about a ragtag group of busy individuals who cared passionately about social change, who had a good idea and no time to do it, and who did it anyway. I want to share that story, and I want to offer a challenge to all grantmakers moving forward.

The Data Problem

To understand the premise behind Grantsfire, try answering the following questions:

  • Which U.S.-based foundations invested in climate initiatives in 2009?
  • How much was invested and in which specific areas?
  • Who received these grants?

Substitute “climate initiatives” for any social change initiative, and your answers are probably the same: “I don’t know.”

Here’s the dirty little secret. Nobody really knows.

One of the huge problems in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors is the lack of good data on grants. The Foundation Center spends millions of dollars every year attempting to collect this data, but it takes at least a year to aggregate and scrub. That’s not a knock on the Foundation Center. Data collection is a hard problem, and the way that foundations do their reporting make it even harder. Without this data, people can’t even get to the harder and more important problem: Making sense of the data.

So people try to apply bandages. Affinity groups, for example, spend a huge portion of their time surveying their members, trying to collect this data themselves. Program officers often rely on word-of-mouth from their grantees to learn about other foundations in their space.

Why does all this matter? Good, real-time data allows people to make good decisions in real-time. It helps foundations fund strategically, and it helps both foundations and nonprofits work collaboratively. Simply seeing where the money is being invested opens up opportunities for collaboration and smart followership.

Grantsfire Is Born

The Grantsfire Team
From left to right: Gavin Clabaugh, Eugene Eric Kim, Jason Ricci, Eugene Chan, and Patrick Collins. Missing Katrin Verclas and Michael Gilbert.

Katrin Verclas (then of N-TEN, now of MobileActive), Eugene Chan (then of Community Technology Foundation of California), and Gavin Clabaugh of Mott Foundation first conceived of Grantsfire in 2005 as part of the short-lived Innovation Funders Network. They were inspired by a proposal that Michael Gilbert made in 2004.

Michael’s proposal was simple and brilliant. Grantmakers should publish the grants they make in real-time on their web sites. If they used a standard format, anyone could aggregate and analyze that data. Michael suggested using RSS, which is a standard used across the web for syndicating information.

Katrin, Eugene, Gavin, and Michael discussed the idea, and decided that there needed to be an additional layer of structure over RSS that was grant-specific. Katrin had heard about something called microformats that she thought could be useful. She wanted to get some feedback on that idea. So she gave me a call.

Microformats are a clever way of structuring data using standard HTML, which is the language that all web sites use to present information. The advantage of using microformats is that you can use any standard web design program to generate them. There’s no need to learn a new language or use special tools.

I told Katrin that using a microformat was a smart choice. It lowered the bar for publishing structured data even further. I also told her that I thought that the overall idea was brilliant, but that I was too busy to do anything more than offer advice here and there.

A few weeks later, I found myself at the Community Technology Foundation of Californias offices in San Francisco with Katrin and Eugene, mapping out a schema for grants data, which we dubbed hGrant. A few months later, I found myself at TAG in Baltimore meeting with Eugene, Gavin, Patrick Collins, and Jason Ricci.

Patrick had just joined the Hewlett Foundation as its CIO, and he also loved the idea of Grantsfire. (He has a saying which explains how all of us suddenly found ourselves involved in this project: “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.”)

Jason Working
Jason “working” at one of our meetings hosted by the Community Technology Foundation of California.

Jason was a successful product designer who wanted to build an open source grants management tool. The synergy between the two ideas was obvious, and he wanted to participate. Jason is irascible and impatient. He’s also one of the nicest, most genuine people I know, and despite his pragmatism, he’s also an idealist. He, more than anyone, is the reason Grantsfire is where it is today.

Based on our discussions, I pulled together a spec and wrote a quick demo to show how easy it was to publish and parse hGrant. Eugene, Gavin, and Patrick scraped together about $15,000 from their combined budgets, and Jason and his developer (Keith Grennan) wrote the first aggregator. In the meantime, Gavin and Patrick drummed up additional resources to implement the spec at Mott and Hewlett. Total time from our last meeting to a working prototype with live data? Six weeks.

It took us about three months working in our limited spare time to take a good idea and make it real. We thought the road to transforming the sector was just around the corner. We felt justifiably high.

Then we got stuck.

The Adoption Challenge

“Never confuse a clear view with a short path.” –Paul Saffo

From day one, we felt that our biggest challenge would be adoption. Our first goal was to eliminate technical barriers as an excuse. We felt we had done that. Our next step was to overcome the cultural barriers. We were optimistic. We thought that our rapid proof of concept, our large collective network of connections, and having two major foundations on board so quickly would galvanize others to participate. We started fundraising and evangelizing.

One of the first questions we had to grapple with was, “Are you competing with the Foundation Center?” Our answer was no. We saw our work as naturally complementing the Foundation Center, and in private, we all thought that the natural future home for this work was the Foundation Center. Our goal was real-time data, and we were willing to sacrifice certain things to get rough numbers quickly. We saw the Foundation Center’s value in a world of openly available data as cleaning it up and making sense of it. We wanted to make it easier for the Foundation Center and anyone else to do just that.

Furthermore, we released the code under an open source license. Anyone could take our code, run it,, and modify it. We didn’t want to assume that ours had to be the only aggregator. Our goal was to catalyze change and to maximize the potential for emergence.

While we generated lots of interest, we weren’t able to raise the funds we needed to really sell the concept. We had three people on our team from foundations, and one person with significant fundraising experience, so the odds should have been in our favor. This was the first time I was personally involved making a grant pitch to foundations, and I found it grueling and frustrating. In the meantime, we all continued trying to convince foundations to adopt the spec and make their data available.

We ran into three main barriers:

  • The people who were most excited by the idea tended to be the least empowered to make that decision within their organization. These included CIOs and communications people.
  • Many people felt that they were already doing their part by publishing their 990s or giving their data to Foundation Center, and they didn’t see the value in making their data publicly available in real-time.
  • Fear.

Many people didn’t understand the technology, and they naturally didn’t want to mess with something they didn’t understand. Many more were scared of the implications of this kind of transparency, which in fairness, are not simple or straightforward. And frankly, many people were simply afraid of looking stupid. In their eyes, it was better to do nothing than to risk failure.

We kept running into brick wall after brick wall, and we hadn’t raised the money to sustain our energy. A few of us, including me, essentially dropped off the project. Everyone else kept trucking along, including Jason. I was surprised by that, because Jason was probably more frustrated than any of us. I hadn’t realized how stubbornly persistent he was, and how much he believed in the importance of our work. We also acquired more valuable talent along the way, including John Soulsby, Kristen Barrali, and Casey West.

Breakthroughs and a Gauntlet

Starting in late 2008, we experienced three breakthroughs. First, Gavin managed to secure a grant from Mott to push Grantsfire forward. It was the first significant funding we had received, and Jason was tasked to manage the project.

Second, Jason became the CIO of Energy Foundation, where he was given the opportunity to implement his original vision of an open source grants management tool. (Watch out for it. It is spectacular. Energy Foundation is already using it, and it will release it to the world later this year.) Not having to deal with startup hours and the grind of product management enabled him to refocus his energies.

Third, Brad Smith became president of the Foundation Center. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Brad, but by all accounts, he is someone who gets it.

I don’t know the exact details of how Grantsfire became a Foundation Center project, and so that’s not my story to tell. I will say that the experience seems to have been very positive, and I am personally thrilled that this happened. Foundation Center is the right home for this work, and I hope they understand the value of why we designed it the way we did. Furthermore, our adoption strategy has always centered around eliminating excuses. We’ve now eliminated the question of whether to give it to Grantsfire or the Foundation Center (which was always a red herring anyway). Now the answer is, give it to the Foundation Center.

I feel blessed to have been included in this project and to have had the opportunity to work with such a remarkable group of people. That said, the work is not done. At the end of the day, foundations still need to commit to publishing their data openly and in real-time. It’s shameful that it hasn’t happened already, especially considering the comparable transparency of our financial markets.

And so, I’d like to offer the following challenge to all of the foundations listening: Have an open conversation about this. Your concerns are complex and real, and they need to be addressed. But don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis either. Grantsfire offers a simple, straightforward way to do some good and improve the sector. Take that first step, and support the work that the Foundation Center will now be doing.

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