Non-Governmental Imagination

Why I’m at BlogHer: Mommyblogging!
July 29, 2006, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Blogs, Imagination

So BlogHer is about women and blogging and I am not a woman. So what am I doing here?

Well, besides all these reasons, I’m really curious about this whole Mommy Blogging thing. I view the Internet as nothing more than a tool for connecting people, and moms have utilized this like no other (with geeks, politicos and 13 year-old girls being the only possible exceptions in my opinion). I view mothers as extraordinarily busy people doing the most important work on Earth: raising kids. But as they will all tell you, that’s only one piece of their lives. And they find time to not just blog about it, but to make real connections with other moms.

Blows my mind. Although I have no intention of ever becoming a mother, I am thoroughly impressed with the value they get out of the internet.

If I were to become a mother (ignoring the whole “I’m a guy” thing), I’d be scared shitless. How do I care for this little ball of humanity? How do I raise him/her right? How do I keep other areas of my life fulfilled? What the hell is a wiggle, and why does it conjure up violent thoughts in my head?

I could go read some book by a PhD in cognitive development or some celebrity who became a mom. Or I could, for free, read about how everyday schmos like me answer all these questions. Brilliant.

I’m not just curious for curiosity’s sake. I’d love to find a way to emulate their kickasshood with my efforts at work. But I am still very curious on a personal level, and I’m hoping to do a lot of listening today.

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Cool Idealware blogging tool comparison
July 22, 2006, 5:11 pm
Filed under: Blogs, NGO Blogs, Resources, Web 2.0

One thing that did happen is Idealware came out with a handy blogging tool comparison aimed at non-techie NGOs. I helped contribute to it, and it as excellent tool written in plain English.  Check it out.

Thanks, Marnie/Beth!
February 28, 2006, 7:50 am
Filed under: Blogs, Imagination

Marnie Webb has what I’ve been looking for.  This is exactly the kind of thing that nonprofits and the non-techies they hire to do techie things need.  I hear all kinds of buzz about online tools, and it’s hard to seperate the wheat from the chaff.  Brief, informative posts like these that outline in simple terms what x is can be really valuable to me.  It saves me a ton of time at work, and that translates into saving donors money.  Marnie said that she got the link from Beth Kanter, but I couldn’t find it there.  That’s ok, I’ll still give Beth some link love.

NetSquared Warm Fuzzies
February 17, 2006, 6:55 am
Filed under: Blogs, Imagination, Interplast

Note:  The internet crapped out on me, and although I wrote this at 4AM, I am only now getting around to posting it at 10:30PM.  

Wow.  So I’ve just had quite a night.  It’s 4AM and I can’t sleep.  Tonight I co-presented with Mena Trott at the NetSquared Net Tuesday event.  She’s super nice.  Before we talked I told her how nervous she was and she told me to just be myself and not worry about what people will think.  It worked!  I can’t imagine how it could have gone any better.  At Interplast, my role as Youngest Person Who Therefore Obviously Knows A Lot About Computers has been to stumble across new technologies (without spending too much time on the clock looking for them) and convey to the rest of the staff why we should or shouldn’t use them.  I find myself trying to understand complex things and then explain them simply to people even less tech-savvy than myself.  It’s fun, because it helps me understand them more by having to really break down why a particular technology is useful, and not just “cool?. Tonight, I was one of the least knowledgeable people in the room regarding technology, and I just talked about how Interplast has used the blogs to further our mission.  When I had been practicing, I really struggled with how much to talk about Interplast, our blog, our meandering blogging path, the ways in which we’ve screwed up and the ways in which we’ve done something cool.

In the end, I said screw it; I’m just gonna talk.  I wasn’t looking at my notes very much, and I wasn’t trying to portray Interplast in a particularly positive or negative light.  Just how we are, what it’s like to work at an international humanitarian organization that most people haven’t heard of, and some of the successes and failures of our blogs.

Afterwards, lots of people came up to me and gave me pointers and praise.  Their compliments mean a lot, but their tips mean more.  I spend more time than I would like (and staff time = donor money) trying to learn about new technologies that might help us, and how to implement them.  It took me months to figure out how to have videos on our blogs, and I still don’t know how to do it bug-free and with ease.  Maybe now that some techie types are aware of some of the issues I face every day trying to help Interplast help more kids, tools can be developed that can make my job easier.  Or maybe there can just be findable instruction manuals.  Maybe now people will pay attention to our blog, and instead of cruising by and thinking “that’s nice? they might actually leave a comment or write an email about how we could do x better or how we should email the person’s cousin who runs a hospital in India.  Maybe someone can finally explain to me in simple, non-buzzwordy terms how to use our blog to increase donations and please our donors without appearing crass and/or commercial.  Maybe they can convince me, as people tried to tonight (they were about 95% successful), how to not care about what the blogosphere thinks.

There are all kinds of great tools out there (like the Tech Soup forums) that if I was smarter I would spend more time delving into.  But I’m easily intimidated by uber-geekiness and have plenty of right-now issues to deal with otherwise.  Being in a room face-to-face with the people that make the tools I use every day has given me new hope that small nonprofits like Interplast can compellingly reach large numbers of people without celebrity spokespeople, paid ads or powerful friends.  We’re definitely not “there? yet, and I don’t really know where “there? is, but I after tonight I am more confident that we can get “there?, and we’ll have some help along the way.

Dead Whales, Greenpeace, Paul Watson and Macgyver
January 24, 2006, 8:22 am
Filed under: Big vs. Small, Blogs

Japan has been whaling a lot recently, and Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd have been blogging from the Antarctic hunt. While both groups are basically doing the same thing, there is no love lost between the two, although Sea Shepherd has a pretty extensive page of Christmas wishes for Greenpeace. Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd, was one of the early pivotal members of Greenpeace.
One of Sea Shepherd’s main beefs with Greenpeace is that they are more concerned with publicity and hanging banners than actually accomplishing real change. Sea Shepherd explains the difference thusly:

“Sea Shepherd is not in the waters of Antarctica to protest whaling. We are there to intervene with the purpose of upholding international laws protecting the whales.”

Their spat is indicative of the NGO world. As groups morph from a small group of committed pioneers to a professional organization, the culture changes and hard-charging personalities may find that they are not as welcome or comfortable with the new buttoned-down, donor-friendly approach.

Both are trying to save the whales, a campaign I greatly respect. I think Japan’s claims of whale-hunting-as-research are tenuous and ridiculous. Different tactics and levels of slickness appeal to different people.
Where do I stand on the big vs. small, change-the-system vs. work-within-the-system debate? I don’t really know yet. Part of why I started this blog is to work it out in my head and out in the public.

I do know this though. Greenpeace definitely has a sense of humor.


But in the category of most impressive reason to back an anti-whaling direct action NGO, I gotta go with Macgyver (See “Ticket Prices”).  See, Sea Shepherd?  Fame and celebrity are powerful forces for shaping public opinion!

Sea Shepherd / MacGyver: 1
Greenpeace / Japanese Embassy in Berlin: 0

NetSquared NetTuesday NetQuiche
January 14, 2006, 4:37 am
Filed under: Blogs, Food, Imagination, Web 2.0

me at netsquared
On Tuesday I went to the Netsquared NetTuesday event. I’m not sure about the spaces and capitalization with these, but I’ll just roll with it.

Netsquared in their own words:

“Today, we recognize a turning point in nonprofit technology adoption. Through the immense possibilities of the Internet, nonprofits can turn hundreds of supporters into thousands, access new reserves of volunteerism, and give their constituencies tools to take charge of change.

This site is the online home of our effort to highlight projects around the world that succeed at the intersection of pervasive access, new tools, and new audiences.”

I hope to really dig in and learn how to better utilize tagging, RSS and other web 2.0ish things that I keep hearing about and can only semi-intelligently talk about. But for anyone out there who is interested in how these emerging technologies can help nonprofits expand their message and tap into widespread grassroots networks might want to give them a shot.

At NetTuesday (it happens on the second tuesday of each month) I met some interesting people who have had a lot of experiences at nonprofits, for-profit companies that do cool stuff and just cool people in general. They also had a huge platter of these mini-quiches that weren’t very good but just tractor-beamed me into eating them. Everyone there seemed to already know each other, so it seemed a lot easier to hang out with my trusty friend Food than to mingle. But I left Mr. Food to go hang out, and got a lot more out of the evening.

One of the things that struck me most was how the folks I talked to there admitted that they didn’t know any of the answers. They just seem to be trying like all the rest of us to make sense of it all. I think that the geek world makes a habit of using intimidating and confusing language that scares off normal folks who don’t inherently know what “CMS” stands for. Netsquared attempts to make complex concepts like Web 2.0 and RSS (simple my ass) understandable for the people who are actively working to change the world. We need more groups like them, and I highly encourage anyone to poke around their site.

Starting a blog about NGOs
January 3, 2006, 1:35 am
Filed under: Blogs, Imagination, Interplast

So I must admit that I have been thinking about blogs and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) for awhile now. I work at Interplast, and after volunteering everywhere from Texas to India, I have gained a different perspective of the nonprofit world from my climate-controlled cubicle at an established NGO. I am using this blog to independently express my ideas and engage in discussions about how society creates positive social and environmental change. Nonprofits are bound by a particular set of rules, both legally and culturally. I think that the groups most successful at achieving lasting social change will be adept at changing the rules under which all groups operate.

There are millions of non-governmental organizations out there, and the vast majority are probably under-staffed, over-worked and under-funded. They need some creativity and imagination (hence my cutesy title) to navigate around the whims of their clients, donors and regulators. Such creative groups and people are out there in every sector, and I hope to point out some of the better examples in the hope that people with an interest in efficient, long-term systematic change can find resources and discussions in one nifty little place. So lemme know what you think about NGOs, and I’ll try to keep lots of yummy content streaming your way.

My blogging policy / disclaimer: Although I am paid employee of Interplast, NGI (Non-Governmental Imagination) is not a product of Interplast. I will not blog while on the clock or while using Interplast equipment/resources, and Interplast will have no editorial control over the content. The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of Interplast, and should not be treated as such.