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Drupal for Nonprofits, or, How to Build Social Networks for Change

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Earlier this month, NetSquared was generous enough to fund my attendance at the Lullabot Drupal Intensive workshop in Providence, Rhode Island. Drupal is a free, open-source content management system that allows non-technical users to update your site and is capable of powering blogs, community sites, action-oriented campaigns and social networks along the lines of MySpace and Facebook. Lullabot, a Drupal development firm that involved in much of the Drupal development, has a keen interest in Drupal for nonprofits. In return for NetSquared's generosity, I wanted to post some tips for nonprofits thinking about using Drupal for their sites. I'm convinced that, under most circumstances, Drupal can be a powerful resource for online advocacy and social change.

The Genocide Intervention Network's conference introduction to NetSquared

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The text of my "speech" to the NetSquared 2007 Conference.

 Have a Hand in Stopping Genocide The people of Darfur are not destined to fight. The peoples of Rwanda, of Bosnia and Guatemala, of Cambodia and Armenia, the Jews of Europe were not a lost cause. Nor were they simply a natural disaster, to be met with blankets and gauze. Who would have suggested that the appropriate response to Auschwitz was bags of rice?

Yet that is our response to genocide. Humanitarian relief organizations are doing vital, breathtaking work — but it’s up to us, as members of the human race, to work to change the situations that necessitate that humanitarian relief. The pattern to date has been ad-hoc groups coming together around a particular conflict, creating some noise and holding some demonstrations, and then fading away just as quickly when the mass atrocities lessen.

The Genocide Intervention Network was established to give our members a more lasting voice, a more permanent effect on the situation — to create a permanent anti-genocide constituency, that makes political inaction in the face of mass atrocities all but unthinkable.

The text of my "speech" to the NetSquared 2007 Conference.

 Have a Hand in Stopping Genocide The people of Darfur are not destined to fight. The peoples of Rwanda, of Bosnia and Guatemala, of Cambodia and Armenia, the Jews of Europe were not a lost cause. Nor were they simply a natural disaster, to be met with blankets and gauze. Who would have suggested that the appropriate response to Auschwitz was bags of rice?

Yet that is our response to genocide. Humanitarian relief organizations are doing vital, breathtaking work — but it's up to us, as members of the human race, to work to change the situations that necessitate that humanitarian relief. The pattern to date has been ad-hoc groups coming together around a particular conflict, creating some noise and holding some demonstrations, and then fading away just as quickly when the mass atrocities lessen.

The Genocide Intervention Network was established to give our members a more lasting voice, a more permanent effect on the situation — to create a permanent anti-genocide constituency, that makes political inaction in the face of mass atrocities all but unthinkable.

Can collaboration stop genocide?

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I attended NetSquared last year for its inaugural conference, and I wrote an introduction entitled Can Blogging Stop Genocide? If you're interested in all the details about who I am, how I got here and how it's connected to the project I'm proposing at this year's conference, check out that entry. What I really want to focus on in this post is how to find ways to collaborate with other participants at the conference, rather than be swallowed up by the competition. But first, and quickly by way of an introduction, I'll say that the Genocide Intervention Network's mission is to:

empower individuals and communities with the tools to prevent and stop genocide.

Perhaps you can see that this fits pretty naturally with the spirit of "web 2.0" and social networking -- user-driven projects, user-generated content, network-centric advocacy, etc. As a result we've engaged in a number of such projects in the past, and happily share our experiences with other organizations.

Ten Tech Proposals Empowering Social Change: Human Rights, Community Education and Local Leadership

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Building the political will to end genocideAs everyone has mentioned, picking just a few selections from the excellent proposals to nominate for the NetSquared Technology Innovation Fund is very hard, given the quality of the proposals — I can't imagine anyone will be voting for fewer than 10!

An Anti-Genocide Community

I helped to develop the Genocide Intervention Network's proposal — An Anti-Genocide Community: Building the Political Will to End Genocide — and thus one of my ten votes will be going to that project.

I had a few qualifications in building my list — criteria that encompass our own proposal:

  • At least half of the projects I nominated would be located in the Global South, because of the large divide that already exists between technology in the Global North and the Global South — and NetSquared's position to help alter this.
  • The projects I nominated would be grounded in community concerns or community initiatives. For me, that is broad enough to encompass a "community" of human rights workers or even, potentially, nonprofits. But I wanted to see a demonstrated need for the technology or service.
  • Needless to say, the projects I nominated would be involved in innovative community-building and/or social networking. A number of projects seemed like very worthwhile charities but outside the scope of this particular conference/fund.

Notes from NTC: Leveraging the Power of Participatory Media AND The Future of Online Outreach

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Although these two panels were held separately, I thought that they related so well that I'd present them together.

Leveraging the Power of Participatory Media

The Future of Online Outreach

Web 2.0 internship with the Genocide Intervention Network!

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Are you interested in changing the world by supporting the first-ever permanent anti-genocide constituency? Do you spend a lot of time online and know what an effective advocacy campaign looks like? Can you build a website from the ground up?

Net2Con: Different kinds of elites (and different kinds of elitism)

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In his NetSquared presentation with Howard Rheingold, Paul Saffo said that social movements, online and otherwise, "need elites" in order to effect change.

At first, this struck me as a popular myth — that social movements never accomplish things through activism alone — when in fact that's been pretty spectacularly disproven.

But then Paul continued, and said that what he meant was "thought leaders" like Dr. King — an instructive example, since his oratories and marches were supported by a network of churches and supporters and specific strategic planning that made his leadership possible. Read on...

Can blogging stop genocide?

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First, I want to thank NetSquared for offering me and the Genocide Intervention Network the opportunity to attend this critical event. I had written out my introduction earlier this week, but due to a browser mishap lost nearly all of it and haven't had time to re-write it until now.

GI-Net is a nonprofit based in DC that is a little more than two years old. We began as a student group at Swarthmore College with an idea: to change the way the world responds to genocide. In her groundbreaking and Pulitzer Prize–winning book, “A Problem From Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power surveys the U.S. response to genocides in the twentieth century and discovers that, above all, the reason the United States so often failed to act, or to act too late or ineffectively, was simply because there was no political will. In essence, it was easier for presidents and members of Congress to do nothing while genocide was being perpetrated and apologize for it later, than risk political capital taking action.

As a result of our origins as a student group, we have a strong history in using online social networking and viral campaigns, and this continues even as we branch out into other constituencies. In our first year of existence, we raised a quarter-million dollars for peacekeepers in Darfur — the only NGO to raise money for protection rather than humanitarian aid — primarily through student networks, both actual and virtual. In my work for GI-Net, I am heavily influenced by Howard Rheingold, Christian Crumlish's The Power of Many, Marty Kearns and Network-Centric Advocacy and similar movements.

How can online activism build a movement that prevents and stops genocide? Read on...

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