Tag Archives: groundwire

What Seth said…

What Seth Godin just wrote about getting funding in the tech sector could…nay, should!… be recontextualized for the nonprofit sector.  Turns out I only need to change a single word.  With apologies:

The goal isn’t to get money from a VC foundation, just as the goal isn’t to get into Harvard. Those are stepping stones, filters that some successful people have made their way through. If you alter your plans and your approach and your vision in order to grab that imprimatur, understand that it might get in the way of the real point of the exercise, which is to build an organization that makes a difference I don’t care so much how much money you raised, or who you raised it from. I care a lot about who your customers are and why (or if) they’re happy. Groupthink is almost always a sign of trouble, and it’s particularly dangerous when it revolves around what gets funded, and why.

 

Check out Cook Inletkeeper’s awesome new “Weather & Tides” feature

At the end of last week, we pulled the trigger on the new inletkeeper.org for our friends at Cook Inletkeeper in Homer, Alaska.   It’s almost certainly the last major website I’ll launch as a staffer at Groundwire, and while it’s definitely a little bittersweet, I couldn’t be more proud of the results here.  In many ways, it’s a pretty typical “state of the art” website for a small conservation organization.  Plone makes that pretty easy these days.  But the trick I’m most proud of, both strategically and technically, is the “Weather & Tides” feature.

The staff at Cook Inkeeper dreamed up this “engagement superpower” in the course of living and working in, on and around the waters of Cook Inlet.  In Alaska, the weather is big, just like everything else.  And so are the tides.  And while there’s a ton of information about the weather and tides available online, it’s pretty scattered across different sites, and there’s no “single source” that pulls together all of the “must have” information for Cook Inlet residents.  That’s where we came in.

Inletkeeper staffer Michael Sharp, himself an avid sailor and surfer (when he’s not rocking campaign & communications strategy), identified the various sources for terrestrial and marine weather forecasts and current conditions data, and showed us a really cool iPhone app for generating tide predictions.   We took a look at the data sources–yep, all easy-to-parse RSS and XML.  And even better, it turned out that the tide prediction software underneath the iPhone app was open-source!

A few hours of development time later, my colleagues Matt Yoder and Ryan Foster had a slick, open-source and open-data powered “Weather and Tides” page for the new inletkeeper.org.  Then Cook Inletkeeper asked “Hey, can you make it work great on the iPhone, too?”  Matt got his mobile-fu on, and managed to “mobilize” the page with a few clever bits of CSS and Javascript.  No custom app required, this is all straight-up HTML.  I particularly like the way you can “swipe” to move between panels.  It’s hard to tell this isn’t a native iPhone app.

A few other nice details we managed to work in:

  • The tide graph also includes a perpetual tide table, formatted to look just like Cook Inletkeeeper’s popular print tide tables booklet.
  • Cook Inletkeeper staff can point-and-click to edit the list of weather and tide stations shown.
  • The page uses cookies to automatically remember your customized settings.
  • Cook Inletkeeper staff can automatically “hot-link” to custom settings, great for customized email marketing outreach.
  • “Recommend on Facebook” button

One of the things I will miss most about Groundwire is the thrill of being able to help conceive and create fun, effective tools like that help environmental groups engage their audiences.

What is effective environmental organizing?

We’ve been talking a bit internally at Groundwire here about how to define effective social change organizing.  Here’s what we have so far:

Effective social change organizing creates relationships in order to build measurable power and wields that power to achieve specific, significant behavioral, policy or political outcomes.

How does that work for you?

We like that it is succinct and clearly connects relationships, power and tangible outcomes.  But it also raises questions of what we might mean by “measurable power” and “specific, significant outcomes.”

Any organizing campaign or organizer will need to figure out what measures of power are most meaningful for their context, but in general, we think that power is most often measurable in terms of “I can motivate X people to take action Y, which results in Z.”

“Specific and significant” outcomes will also vary greatly across campaigns, but again, we want to emphasize how important it is to be able to articulate these outcomes in specific and measurable terms.  Some examples could include:

  • Winning an election
  • Passing legislation or administrative policies
  • Measure shifts in public opinion or behavior

If your “big hairy audacious” goal will take years to achieve, that’s OK, but you need to be able to define some specific shorter-term outcomes to let you know whether you’re on track.

 

 

 

Three new Groundwire sites

We must have been feeling the Earth Day vibes, because my colleagues at Groundwire have launched three new Plone-powered websites in the last week:

Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design & Construction — the greenest commercial building in the world, currently in planning by our friends at the Bullitt Foundation.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust – leading and inspiring action to conserve and enhance the landscape from Seattle across the Cascade Mountains to Central Washington, ensuring a long-term balance between people and nature.

Harvesting Clean Energy —  a program of Climate Solutions, that helps accelerate rural economic development in the Northwest through clean energy development.

It’s great to be able to work with folks getting the good work done.

All good things…

After 15 years, I’m leaving Groundwire.

I’ll be starting a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs this September.  I’ll wrap up my work at Groundwire in June and take the summer off to be a full-time dad to Everett and to enjoy summer in Seattle through the eyes of a fifteen-month-old.

I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to be a part of Groundwire over the past decade and a half.  I’ve learned a ton, worked for hundreds of amazing, inspiring environmental organizations and have been blessed with the most kick-ass colleagues and co-conspirators this side of anywhere.  I am more grateful to all of you (past and present) than I can ever adequately express.  Thank you.

I won’t be going too far away.  We’re staying here in Seattle.  I’ll continue to serve on the boards of the Plone Foundation and Green Media Toolshed.  It’s possible I’ll add a consulting gig or two to my plate once I get a handle on my academic workload.

While there’s no denying that this feels like the end of a huge chapter in my life, it also feels like a new beginning.  I’m really excited to plunge into the unknown and into what I hope will be a period of creative uncertainty.  While I don’t know what the next chapters looks like, I’m confident that they will remix familiar themes: public service, social change, openness, systems thinking, data-driven decision-making and smart use of technology.

Watch this space for further updates.  Be seeing you.

 

 

Engagement is not a synonym for marketing

It’s interesting to see how widely the word “engagement” is now being used in the nonprofit tech sector. That’s cool.  (I like to think that my colleagues at Groundwire have played a role in spreading this meme.)

But less cool is how often “engagement” seems to be used as a synonym for “marketing.” That’s kind of sad. Nothing against marketing; lord knows the nonprofit sector could stand to get better at it. But I’d like to see more conversation about how to better structure the substance of our work to be more engaging and participatory and how to develop better processes for that kind of engagement.  Framing engagement as a marketing challenge reduces what could be transformational down to something more transactional.