“That’s ‘Sweetie, P.E.’ now, dear.”

Molly and I were pleased to ring in our new year with the New Year’s Eve envelope in the mail informing Molly that she had passed the engineering licensure exam she took back in October. That means she’s now officially certified to practice engineering in Washington state — so all you machines, buildings, roads and wastewater systems better behave yourselves or else!

A happy new year to all of you! May 2006 bring us all peace, happiness and joy.

About Me

I get excited about philanthropy, engagement organizing, collaboration, open source, effective leadership and good writing.

Email me at myfirstname.mylastname@gmail.com.

Heirs to Alinksy Organize Katrina Survivors

Nice story today in the New York Times about how nuts-and-bolts community organizers are helping Katrina survivors pull together to cope with disater and reconstruction:

>In the two months since Hurricane Katrina hit, the Metropolitan Organization, a group of professional organizers affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, a grass-roots network founded by the Chicago radical Saul D. Alinsky, has been busy sowing nonpartisan political activism and mobilizing survivors to champion their own interests in resettlement and rebuilding decisions.

>The Metropolitan Organization, active for 25 years in Houston, has toned down the confrontational playbook applied by Mr. Alinsky and his followers in the Depression-ravaged 1930’s and the revolutionary 1960’s. Today, organizers seek alliances with partners like religious groups, schools and unions, while identifying and grooming local leadership.

Good stuff. There’s no effective substitute for putting real people out into community to help people solve their own problems.

“The iron rule in organizing is, ‘Don’t do for people what they can do for themselves,’ ” Broderick Bagert, one of the group’s organizers, said at a meeting at a church last month that brought survivors of Hurricane Katrina face to face with public officials.

How Plone Can Become Kick-Ass Community Collaboration Software

The quality and power of Plone as a content management system is incredible. It’s got incredible usability, workflow, permissioning, document handling, search, extensibility, internationalization, accessibility — and more. We’ve launched over 40 Plone-powered sites for non-technical clients in the past year with a very small team of people.

However, for websites that revolve around “community” and “collaboration” (whatever those things mean, and believe me I’m often very cynical) I think that Plone’s community collaboration features could use some improvement.

The good news is that most of these features have pretty solid products that already get us 80% of the way there — they just need some focused “polishing.” Here are some thoughts drawn from our experiences at ONE/Northwest, and some of my hopes for the future.

But before I dive in, I apologize in advance. These are all pretty raw thoughts, and there’s likely a lot of half-baked ideas and not-so-great conclusions in here. I thought it better to spit this out into the world to see what response it would attract than to spend too much time polishing it to a sheen.

Continue reading How Plone Can Become Kick-Ass Community Collaboration Software

Take Back Your Time Conference

The Take Back Your Time Conference looks like a worthwhile event, coming up next weekend (August 4-7) here in Seattle.

>TIME TO CARE: Best policies and practices for
work, family and community balance and personal well-being.

>Bringing together a diverse group of interests, experts and leaders of the time movement, this year’s conference promises to be stimulating and exciting! While last year we focused on exploring the causes and impacts of time poverty, this year we’ll turn our focus to solutions — best policies and practices.

>The three main foci for the plenaries and workshops will be Public Policy, Personal and Cultural Change, and Organizing the Take Back Your Time Campaign.

If you can’t make the conference, there’s also a book.

The Fourth (?) Northwest Environmental Group Executive Director To Start A Blog Is…

…[Kathy Fletcher, of People for Puget Sound](http://pugetsound.org/blog)!

Big congratulations to Kathy and the rest of her folks at People for Puget Sound, for recognizing the importance of the personal, frequent online communication that blogs allow. Executive Directors are busy folks, and it’s great to see Kathy taking the time to write from the heart about her work and why it’s important to her (and the planet).

Of course, being an environmental technologist/communications strategist, I have a couple of suggestions:

1) Turn on comments. A blog is a conversation, not a monologue. And it’s the conversations that blogs allow that build the relationships that justify starting a blog in the first place.

2) Turn on trackbacks. Same reasons.

3) Encourage your staff to start blogging, too. I know that lots of them are doing lots of interesting stuff, and blogging is a great way to power the voices of the folks who are “in the trenches” doing the heavy lifting of environmental protection. (Paging Jim Dawson!)

4) Post shorter, more frequent entries. It was nearly two weeks between your first and second posts. I found your blog about a week after your first post, and, when I didn’t see anything new, I almost didn’t come back. Effective blogging is all about getting folks coming back frequently (or reading your RSS feed regularly). And putting new stuff up at least once a week is pretty important. It can be short, though — in fact, short is good.

5) Spread the word among your fellow environmental E.D.s! You’re an online communications role model — talk it up!

PS… yes, the first Northwest environmental group Executive Director to start a blog is none other than ONE/Northwest’s own E.D., [Gideon Rosenblatt](http://blogs.onenw.org/gideon). (Who could probably stand to post a little more often himself.)

Rumors Put Oil Traders on Edge – New York Times

According to the New York Times

>One of OPEC’s concerns is that oil prices will quickly climb to a level where many car owners decide to switch from sport utility vehicles to compact cars, or possibly, to public transportation or carpooling. Such a change in driving habits, while still considered unlikely, might produce a scary outcome for oil-producing countries: a crash in oil prices.

You mean, like, the best way to stick it to the oil barons is to drive less? Riding the bus helps boost our national security? I’m shocked, shocked.

George, Meet Michael…

Okay, I admit it. I played hooky on Friday afternoon to catch a matinee of Star Wars at the Cinerama. It was actually pretty good — if your expectations aren’t too high. The best line, and an obvious swipe by George Lucas at the war-mongering fascism of our Dear Leader George il-Bush:

>Darth Vader: You’re either with me or against me!
>Obi-Wan Kenobi: Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.

Bumperstickers doubtless will be issued.

Spatial Shopping Lists

Pure genius from my soon-to-be colleague Steve Andersen.

>One day it occurred to me to make grocery lists that matched the spatial layout of the store. When I am making a list of things to buy, I start by drawing a rectangle (the rough shape of the store) and as I think of items to buy, I write them on the rectangle, reflecting where they actually are in the store.

Spatial Shopping List

Bush’s Environmental Policies Matter To Voters

[Here’s a letter written by my colleague Drew Bernard that was so good I asked him to share it more broadly here. — Jon]

Hello Friends and Family,

You all know that I care deeply about the air we all breathe, the water our kids drink, and the land our great grandchildren will inherit from us. I know most of you are keenly aware that the Bush presidency has been the most anti-environmental in the modern era. We have all watched the current administration attacked the environment with a vengeance since the day the moved into the Whitehouse. We all know something is amiss when we hear the administration use terms like the “Healthy Forest Initiatives,” or voice their strong support for “Clean Coal Technologies.” I won’t take your time listing a litany of actions they have taken in their efforts to role back 30 years of bipartisan progress to protect our national treasures.

Yet, when I look at the state of the world today as well as the state of the US economy, I have been more then a little skeptical that the environment would make an ounce of difference come November. Sure people would prefer that their air, land, and water be entrusted in the hands of conservation-minded leaders, but there are wars going on, and the economy is on shaky ground.

My thinking about this was completely altered a few months back when I received a phone call from my brother wanting to get together for a cup of coffee. It was midmorning on Monday and I didn’t really want to stop the work I was doing. However, he offered to drive across town to meet me. It sounded important.

You see, historically, when my brother calls me and wants to do coffee on short notice, it has usually meant that something life threatening just happened, or is about to.

For those of you who don’t know my brother, he is an interesting character. He is one of a handful of CROs (Combat Rescue Officer) in an Air force Reserve unit an elite Special Forces team known as Pararescue (PJ’s for sort). He is also a Firefighter. Over the past two years, he has spent time in both Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He also happens to be the kind of person who thinks his 3-year niece might really like a flag that flew over Baghdad International airport just after her president declared “Mission Accomplished.” Go figure…

Anyway, we met in the funky little coffee shop on the ground floor my building. He ordered a breakfast sandwich called a Beemer (the one with ham), I just had coffee, and we sat down at a little table by the window. We chatted a bit about the kids and I waited for the real reason for his visit to make its way into the conversation. Finally, I asked him what was up. He asked if I had seen 60 Minutes the night before. No, I said; thinking I was going to be in trouble because he was probably on it and he hates it when I miss him on the news.

Then he started to tell me the story of how the Bush administration had halted an investigation into a massive coal sludge disaster in Kentucky. This was the incident where 250 million to 300 million gallons of water, coal and rock particles poured out of a mine, killing fish and fouling drinking water supplies. It was, by all accounts a HUGE disaster, caused by negligence on behalf of the mine owner/operator.

He told me that he always figured Bush and the people he put in power “were just like us.” He told me that he figured they were all doing their best to make the world a better place for all of us, even if they sometimes got it wrong. He was sickened and shocked at the story. I explained to him that what he had seen on 60 Minutes was indicative of what the administration was doing around the country. As we drank our coffee, he told me that he had made up his mind on GW and that he would NOT be voting for him next time around.

This amazed me! Here was a person (a true party independent with right leaning tendencies) who had put his life on the line for Bush’s discretionary war in Iraq, who had treated soldiers with major injuries including a 19-year-old kid who’s hand was blown off after heroically holding a flak jacket over a grenade that landed in his Humvee. Here was a person who had spent months away from his family, who barely made it to his daughters’ birth because he was chasing fictitious WMDs; and it was the story of the administration’s ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES that made up his mind to vote for change.

As I sat their drinking my Stumptown Coffee, it became clear: The environment may well be as critical to the upcoming election as the election is critical to the future of our environment.

The Morning After

The folks from [SPIN Project](http://www.spinproject.org) offer some [great thoughts](http://www.alternet.org/election04/19557/) for how nonprofits can prepare for the day after the election — no matter who wins.

This type of scenario planning is all too uncommon in the nonprofit sector, and I’m pleased to see that such smart folks are stepping up to the plate in a very busy season.

(Tip of the hat to [Michael Gilbert](http://www.gilbert.org).)

End of the light bulb?

Metafilter links to and discusses to an interestin
g article in EE Times about a researcher at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute wh
o claims to have [invented a 99%-efficient omnidirectional reflector that will
allow LEDs to replace light bulbs](http://www.eetimes.com/at/news/showArticle.
jhtml?articleID=25600144). Since lighting accounts for about 25% of US energy
use, efficiency gains here can have a huge impact. NSF and ARPA are bankrolli
ng the research, and the research team hopes to commercialize the technology in
three to five years.

Wikipedia has a [nice general background article on LED technology](http://en.w
ikipedia.org/wiki/Light-emitting_diode).

*Always* contest the district: be ready to take advantage of missteps

In the piece Always contest the district, DailyKos contributor RonK offers some great wisdom that is extremely network-savvy.

It’s a short post, and worth reading every word (plus the comments), but I’ll take the liberty of boiling it down even more:

Despite these caveats, always contest the district … and with a re-electable candidate if at all possible.

Every so often, lightning strikes … and you have to be there to take advantage.

In the average cycle, lightning will strike in one or two of nearly 200 “safe” GOP districts. You have to be there to take advantage.

Not every cycle is an average cycle. Sometimes a tsunami uproots fixtures that “everybody knows” are safely above the tide line.

You can’t engineer a tsunami … you can’t plan on it … you can’t predict it … you can’t necessarily see it coming 24 hours ahead of time … but you have to be there to take advantage.

The web should be our friend, making it easier to support “placeholder” candidates with prefab templates. Give our long-shots decent visibility without running them ragged or running them into debt.

Keep them in position without bleeding our funding reservoirs. Give local Dem’s something to meet up about. Let them ring a few doorbells and convert a few votes that may come in handy next cycle or the one after that.

Be there to “catch the wave” — if it comes — with a few weeks left in the cycle, and pump in money, media and phone solicitation to make it a real contest.

The best part about this is: it doesn’t just apply to candidate campaigns. As Marty Kearns has repeatedly argued, environmental organizers need to game out sceanrios and have campaigns “ready to launch” in response to unexpected tsunami. Stronger networks are what make it possible to create and replicate campaigns and to grow them fast in resonse to unexpected events.

The Winning Ways of Alinksy and Gandhi

Winning Ways of Alinksy and Gandhi is a fantastic three-minute primer on the organizing strategies of two of the greatest organizers ever: Saul Alinksy and Mahatma Gandhi.

This essay is the capstone in a solid ten-part series by Charles Dobson in The Tyee a new online progressive newsmagazine covering British Columbia. I had the pleasure of meeting their business manager Michelle Hoar last week, and I can tell you Watch Out — these folks are ones to keep an eye on.

Left-wing freak show

The Washington Times reports that the ultra-rightwing group the Club for Growth is currently running an attack ad on Howard Dean in which says that “Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.”

I guess it’s a good sign that the right has finally become a parody of itself.

And, the Club for Growth can kiss my latte-drinking, sushi-eating, New York Times-reading Vermont-loving ass.

Let the left-wing freak show roll on!

Cool Tool: Bullfighter

Bullfighter is both entertaining, annoying and useful. And, it has the most gratuitous install “movie” of any program I’ve ever seen.

Yes, but what does it do? It’s plug-in for Word and PowerPoint that measures the overall readability of your documents based on the widely-used “Flesch” methodology. And it highlights overused consulting jargon, offering witty comments along the way.