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N2Y4 in pictures

Photos from NetSquared Year Four

We had a great two days at Net2 this year. There's always a feeling of homecoming when Social Signallers arrive at the Cisco conference centre in San Jose: the Net2 online community was one of our very first projects, and its extraordinary success is a tribute both to its participants and to the visionaries at Techsoup Global.

For folks who weren't able to make it this year, or who are thinking of coming next year, here's a little taste of what went on:

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Engagement planning worksheets to engage your users and move them to action

Engagement mapping worksheet

How can you use the web to engage your members, supporters or the public, and move them towards a specific action?

That's a common question from nonprofits who are diving into social media. Whether you're looking for your online visitors to contribute photos, forward your issue alerts, make a donation, or contact policy-makers, social media can be a powerful way of engaging your audience and driving them towards action.

But it's often hard for nonprofits to figure out how they can engage people effectively online. It's hard enough to get visitors to your site or social media presence, let alone drive them effectively towards action. In our session at NetSquared today, we used Social Actions as a case study in engaging online community participation, and shared two strategy tools that can help you make your nonprofit site more engaging.

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Heading to NTEN and NetSquared

Catch Rob at two of the leading nptech conferences in April and May

Spring's starting to look better and better, with two great events landing on my calendar.

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NetSquared: Alex on social media and conversation as the engine of change

Jed SundwallJust a heads-up: there's a great interview over on the NetSquared web site, where Jed Sundwall (that's him on the right) talks to Alex about the work we do, and how social media can help organizations join the big conversations that can lead us to a sustainable, socially just world:

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NetSquared, year 2 begins

As I write this, Irene Weiser from Stop Family Violence is on stage at NetSquared, telling t

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NetSquared Innovation Fund: Want to nominate a project? Share expertise? Vote?

This just in from our friends at NetSquared:

1. 9 Days Left to Nominate a Project for the NetSquared Innovation Fund Award

There are just nine days left to nominate innovative projects that are using the social web for social change. Please encourage web innovators in your community to submit their projects for a chance to win cash and other resources from the NetSquared Innovation Fund. Project nominations can be submitted and refined until April 6.

For more info go here.

2. Share Your Expertise with Net2 Innovation Fund Nominees

You can help innovators who have nominated projects for the NetSquared Innovation Fund Awards by browsing through the nominees here. Let them know what you like about their proposals, and offer suggestions for how they can improve them. Nominees can revise their projects as many times as they like until the deadline,
April 6th.

3. Join the NetSquared Innovation Fund Award Gabbly Chat 3/31 &

Have you been thinking about nominating a project for a NetSquared Innovation Fund Award, but aren't sure if it is a fit? Or did you already submit a project proposal and want to know how to make it better?

You can get answers to all of your questions during a NetSquared Innovation Fund Award Gabbly Chat with Billy Bicket, Director of Strategic Development, Knowledge Services at TechSoup, and Marnie Webb, Vice-President of Knowledge Services of CompuMentor on Saturday, March 31st at Noon PST and Monday, April 2nd at Noon PST.

Just go to this page during one of the chat times, type in your name and ask away.

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Got a cool non-profit tech project? NetSquared wants to fund it

This year's NetSquared conference is shaping up to top last year's inaugural confab of non-profit leaders, tech types and funders. And high on the agenda is the new Technology Innovation Fund.

At least $100,000 is on the table. The process for awarding it has begun on the NetSquared site itself, where community members will nominate projects and vote for their favourites:

Nominations will be accepted from March 1 - 31, 2007. Voting will be held April 2 - 7, 2007. The top 20 vote getters will receive an all-expense paid invitation to NetSquared Conference for two project representatives.

They're looking for projects that:

  • Use the power of community and social networks to create change
  • Use existing, or newly developed technology tools for social impact
  • Have a plausible financial model
  • Have a clear way to measure success
  • Exhibit extraordinary leadership, passion and resourcefulness
  • Exhibit a passion of social change

The 20 projects selected for presentation at NetSquared (or "N2Y2", as the folks at Compumentor have dubbed it) will be announced on April 16. Conference participants will hear the presentations, then decide who gets how much funding. And cash isn't all that's up for grabs; Yahoo! is making technological resources available, and other assistance is expected.

Learn more here... and once you have your project teed up, apply (or nominate someone else) here.

NetSquared Conference

From the NetSquared web site:

In May 2007, 350 members of the NetSquared community are invited to the Cisco campus for a new technologies for social benefit project incubation platform. Building on the strength of the NetSquared community and the success of the first-ever NetSquared 2006 Conference, N2Y2 further extends our efforts to bring corporate and public philanthropist together with web developers, nonprofits, NGOs and the nonprofit-serving tech (NTAP) community. The challenge to us all will be to define and develop proposals with:

  1. the deepest social benefit potential
  2. utilization of innovative social tools and
  3. the strongest levels of collaboration and commitment.

In other words, let’s turn the best nonprofit technology ideas into real tools that can help change the world.


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Dispatches from NetSquared -- Day 1, part 2

I was going to say that I wish I had made more time earlier today to blog the rest of yesterday's sessions for folks to read about, but you know, I really don't wish that at all. I spent the second day of the NetSquared conference fully engaged, and I wouldn't trade the time I've spent with people here for anything.

That said, though, now that the five of us who remain here in our swank silicon valley hotel are gone to bed & there's no more to talk about, I feel like it's okay to fit in a little writing. So, as promised, here's some more highlights from Tuesday afternoon. 

Distributed Grassroots Marketing

This session featured Elisa Camahort, Tara Hunt & Chris Messina. It was (im)moderated by the invincible Marnie Webb. This is the one session during which I took stellar notes. I think it was because it was pretty noteable -- well-prepared and well-facilitated, not to mention incredibly educational.

The point of this session was to discuss how grassroots marketing works in an online context & to develop strategies for creating critical mass around an issue, event or product so that it takes on a life of its own in the community. I wasn't sure that I'd be all that into it, really, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the presentation, particularly Tara Hunt's portion, was actually super-interesting. It's easy to recap the high points, since Tara's portion of the presentation outlined 5 straightforward & simple concepts that make grassroots marketing campaigns successful. 

Here's her list:

  1. Maximize inbound rather than outbound messages.
    • Elites and 'thought-leaders' are not as influential as they once were. The most influential groups in peoples lives are amateurs and peers. Spend time working to let those people in.
  2. Be a community advocate, not a company evangelist.
    • Learn to take feedback about your company or org, and allow that feedback in turn to help you tailor your product/service to better serve the needs of your community. People love that stuff.
  3. Practice 100% authenticity.
    • There was a great question from the audience about the difficulty of communicating authenticity. Chris weighed in to say that the way to earn peoples' trust in this regard is to thoroughly document your journey. People will get a sense of who you are through your personal (or organizational) history... you just have to let them have access to that history somehow.
  4. Cater to the long tail
    • Under-represented audiences grow, whereas older, more 'conventional' audiences hardly ever do. Plus, working with under-represented audiences is cheap!

  5. Follow open-source principles
    • Let your users see how you did what you've done, and let them learn from you.
    • Allow your users to drive your project to its destination. Create an API & allow people to freely re-mix your technology.

There were many great questions from the floor, too -- check out Sarah Pullman's live-blog notes for more info.


Gender & the Social Web

This was the event that I was most excited about. I spend a lot of time thinking about (offline) social issues related to the construction of gender, and I'm thrilled to know that people are pushing to make gender a central issue in our online communities, too.

But I have to say, the session wasn't exactly what I expected. I had hoped for a great discussion about ways to a) push out gender as an issue online, make inequities visible & create 'best-practice' style solutions, and b) broaden the incredibly narrow understanding of gender in the world of digital identity. The session was actually more of a 'state of the woman on the internet'; a kind of round-up of success stories. Which is also super-cool -- don't get me wrong. It was great to hear about the successes of Blogher, the Omidyar network & Moms Rising in fostering gender-neutrality on the web. I was disappointed, though, that the conversation wasn't more dynamic. Gender was ever expressed in binary terms, and success seemed to be measured by gender parity, which I felt was a little shy of awesome. I was reminded by a good friend, though, that this is still a pretty young conversation in the online domain. There's still lots of time to push it in all directions. 

One very interesting thread that emerged during the conversation was that the trend toward 'bottom-up' organizing in the open source community is very much in keeping with principles of feminist organization often seen in activist communities. Changing the timbre of social movements is all about changing the nexus of control, and it was inspiring to think about open-source models as successful contemporary examples of non-heirarchical structures that work incredibly well. 

The panel discussion included Catherine Geanuracos, Christine Herron, Fran Maier & Lisa Stone. It was facilitated wonderfully (really -- the facilitation was impressive) by Susan Mernit. For more information, check out the session page. (I couldn't find the live blog notes this morning when I looked for them...)


I'm going to cut it off here. There was also one other session that I attended during the day, which was a discussion about Social Networking, but I was embroiled in tech support work for the NetSquared site, so I didn't get to pay very close attention. I'll try to add my notes from 'day 2: twice as awesome' later today. Woot!

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NetSquared: Online tools changing offline politics

There's a panel on right now with three fascinating thinkers and doers in online political activism: Joan Blades, Amy Goodman and – facilitating – Micah Sifry. Here are my very rough notes.

Social Signal on...

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Work Smarter with Evernote

Get more out of Evernote with Alexandra Samuel's great new ebook, the first in the Harvard Business Press Work Smarter with Social Media series!

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