Noticing some nice non-profit wiki work

CCN Wiki HomepageA while ago Beth Kanter put out to her network a request to know about useful nonprofit wiki practices. I meant to reply, but, as usual, got distracted. Today I received an email update about a local coalition here in Washington State (USA) that reminded me about their great wiki work. Check out the Communities Connect Network Wiki . Early on, I had the pleasure of working with Peg Giffels who was their main wiki gardener (among many other roles.) Peg “got” that there was both an information architecture and a set of social processes associated with their use of a wiki as both a project communication tool and as a knowledge sharing tool.

Intially the blog was going to be a general place for coalition members to share stuff. But we all know how general stuff goes — slowly if at all. Then Peg hit on using the wiki to be the central point for the coalitions training programs. Now, at the completion of this last round, Peg has a site that is rich in materials (print, audio, video), has an integrated wiki orientation and training component, reflects specific member areas and contributions (for example here and here) and is well organized and “gardened.” The left navigation links to major areas of the wiki.

One of the things that came out of the early “Wiki Wednesday” hour long telephone based orientations was that people came to get trained, but left with new connections to other coalition members. When asked what was best about the calls — it was always the people they connected with. Peg lives that in the way she works with the coalition. While she stewarded the technology and the content, her attention to the people came across to me, as I observed the wiki development over the months and now years.

Like most wikis, there is a relatively small proportion of editors to page views. For example, in April, there was a rough average of 220 unique visitors per day, 2-3 editors and intermittent spikes of editing across the month. This makes sense given the ‘wind down’ phase as well. There was a huge jump in traffic between February and March. I should ask Peg what was going on!

Interestingly, while this wiki is very focused on Washington state, there are viewers from around the world. I really wish I knew what they thought, in what ways, if any, they benefited from visiting the wiki. I appreciate that the Communities Connect project worked with such openness. They have made a contribution that is bigger than their own project work. I like that about public wikis.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this cool wiki with you. Do you have any great wikis you’d like to share with the rest of us?

P.S. Beth, when I went to find the link on your blog, I noticed two things. Your search box is now waaaay down on the left nav bar of your blog – I almost gave up looking for it. And it is a Technorati search, so I have to go to Technorati and THEN link back to your blog. Maybe consider putting in a Google or other direct search option? I want to find your great stuff FAST! And yes, I’m finally becoming a searcher!

Last week to vote for N2Y3 Mashup Challenge

If you haven’t already, pop on over to N2Y3 Mashup Challenge | NetSquared, a project of and vote on your favorite Mashup project. There are some cool projects! You need to register/sign in to vote and there is a lot to look at, but your feedback is important!

From the project page:

The projects below all represent someone’s hope for connecting pieces of information that will move the issues they care about forward.

Find projects that interest you and give the people working on it feedback in the comments with offers to help.

Explore Project Ideas by Cause Area

Public & Social Benefit
public debate

social change


ABCDs of Social Media from Brian Hsi

Brian, a community guy at Microsoft by day and a strong community builder online and offline for the world the rest of the time, shares his recent set of slides on the ABCDs of Social Media aimed at non profits. It is a great deck, which Brian made available to the rest of the world. Pass it along.

Visualizing Information for Advocacy

Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design from the Tactical Technology Collective. Oh wow, this is fantastic. Down-loadable. Free. Here is the overview:

Modern life is saturated with ever increasing amounts of information, advertising and media with little time to digest what is being said. Against this background, NGOs and advocates too often find the information they want to communicate, either buried in long reports full of professional jargon and statistics, or overlooked in an endless stream of media releases. Whether communicating to the public, staff, donors or government officials, information design can help NGOs communicate with more impact, increase accessibility, and present issues powerfully.

Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design is a manual aimed at helping NGOs and advocates strengthen their campaigns and projects through communicating vital information with greater impact. This project aims to raise awareness, introduce concepts, and promote good practice in information design – a powerful tool for advocacy, outreach, research, organization and education.

Through examples, the booklet demonstrates how to use innovative visual graphics to tell a complex and powerful story in a snapshot.

The manual was designed and produced as a collaboration between Tactical Tech and John Emerson of Backspace – a design consultancy dedicated to research, development and promotion of design in the public interest. John’s work portfolio includes print, internet, and broadcast television work for NGOs, not-for-profit corporations, and activist groups.

Hattip to Beth Kanter who tweeted about this!

Technology for Non-profit Organisations: what would you recommend?

A while back Laura twittered that she was looking for ideas for an upcoming gathering on technology for non profits. She asked what we thought in response to a blog post she put up… Getting the most from social media for nonprofits: what would you recommend? I started getting all carried away in her comments, writing something that was waaaay too long for a comment and promised to write a blog post about it. Nearly two weeks later, here I am…

First, here is what I wrote:

Sounds like you have a great team! I wish I were a fly on the wall.

I had a long conversation about this topic at lunch yesterday with Jim Benson. My takeaway reinforces my takeaway about doing ANYTHING online or offline. What is the purpose? The availability of social media can be used as a reminder to ask ourselves what we are trying to accomplish in our NGOs/NPOs. Is it a communication need? A collaboration need? Do we need to find ways to be more inclusive? Do we need to expand the reach of our message? Do we want to develop more trust for better, longer lasting volunteer relationships. How do we flip the conversation so we come at the media with a clear and compelling motivation. (That said, hearing great examples/stories from other NPOs is very motivating to generate possibilities around purpose!!)

This same question comes up when communities of practice ask “what technology should we use.” Etienne Wenger, John Smith and I are on the home stretch (fingers crossed) of the book we are writing and we have written about some ways to look at your org and ask the strategic questions first, then turn to the technology. So for example….

(Oops, this is getting preachy and long winded. And on YOUR blog. Uh oh. I should probably do a blog post and link here!! Wait! Wait! I’ll go do that. I’ll come back and post a link. After breakfast. Mommy wants coffee!)

Jeeze, that was a long breakfast. Clearly I missed the coffee.

What I was starting to write about was a strategy to evaluate technology not unto itself, but in the context of a need, an activity a non profit wants to support. That starts with looking at the organization. What are it’s key activities? With whom? THEN look at how technology can support them.

Of course, it is fun to see new tools, particularly when introduced with a case or story about how another non profit has used them. We need these to stimulate our creativity and imagination. But our organizations and peers are going to clobber those of us with the “early adopter” syndrome for bringing back more toys and less context than they can tolerate. So the discipline of asking “what for” is essential.

Second, I was going to strongly support Laura’s inclination to do some version of the Social Media Game that David Wilcox and Beth Kanter cooked up last year. I have used it a couple of times and each time I learn more. What is great is the engagement and conversation the game stimulates. But again, sometimes I erred on the side of too many toys and not enough focus.

Reading further in the comments that piled up since I first jumped in, I found myself nodding in strong agreement with the tension organizations might feel about splitting the attention of constituents who are “members” of both the organization and of all these newfangled social networking sites (a.k.a Facebook, Bebo, etc.) Why should I fracture my organization’s presence and identity at more than my own website? What does this do to the organization’s identity? The individual’s sense of identity and association with the organization? I think these are huge questions and I look forward to hearing what people figure out.

As to more resources, I keep piling up more on my wiki. Check the recent changes page!