Bad Project Warning Signs

Andy Budd, a freelance web designer in Brighton, England, offers 10 Bad Project Warning Signs, many of which ring very very true over on this side of the pond as well. In particular:

>* The project needs to be done in an incredibly short space of time, due to a fixed deadline. In these situations the potential client has often known about the deadline for a while. However it�s taken them longer to plan the project than initially anticipated so they expect the developer to make up the time.
>* The client says they want the site to be as cheap as possible, or they have an extremely low budget. This usually means the client doesn�t value their web presence much, preferring cheaper over better. In this situation potential clients are often spending their own money, can be extremely demanding and expect more for less.
>* The client expects much more from the project than their budget will allow. In these situations it can be difficult to manage the clients expectations.

A couple of my warning signs:

* The client is unable to articulate the outcomes/results they want from the project, or to connect those outcomes to accomplishing their organizational mission.
* The client resists the idea of trading off features, cost and time — the classic project management “iron triangle.”
* The client appears too busy and overwhelmed to do their part of the work on the project.

What are your warning signs?

Should nonprofit tech assistance providers collaborate on “educational materials” with for-profit vendors?

Is it ethical for a nonprofit technology consulting shop to collaborate with a for-profit technology vendor to create “case study” or “white paper” educational/marketing materials featuring that vendor’s products?

We recently faced that question at ONE/Northwest, and decided that the answer (for us, anyways) was “no.”

It wasn’t a question of whether we like the vendor or their product — we do. It wasn’t a question of whether we feel comfortable recommending the product — we recommend it product when we think its qualities fit the situation. (There are other competing products that we also recommend.) For us, the decision came down to the following considerations:

*Would the proposed materials benefit our clients?*
We didn’t think they would. Even if the materials were designed to be more “educational” than “marketing-y,” what smart clients would really put much stock in one vendor’s evaluation of their competitive marketplace?

*Would the proposed collaboration benefit ONE/Northwest?*
We couldn’t see how the proposed collaboration would benefit us. While the materials featuring our organization might have gotten some circulation in nonprofit or small-business technology publications, we didn’t think that kind of obviously-marketing-driven publicity was really valuable to us.

*Would the proposed collaboration harm ONE/Northwest?*
We didn’t see a great deal of potential harm in the proposed collaboration — after all, we like the vendor/product in question and feel good about recommending their tool. However, a large part of the value of organizations like ONE/Northwest (and our many peers) is that we can offer trusted advice. But in order for us to be trusted, our clients have to believe that we are independent. And that means being very careful about how we let others use our name.

In the end, we responded with a polite “we love your product, but we think we’re going to pass on this opportunity.” We’ll probably offer to give the vendor a brief and carefully-worded endorsement blurb if they’d like to use as a reference.

It also makes me wonder: are technology vendors really the ones who should be providing market research, strategy articles and analysis? Or is this task best left to independent analysists and consultants? We think that independent analysis is far more valuable. No doubt that vendors are knowledgeable, and a smart analyst might do well to interview the leading vendors for a strategy article. But in the end, we think the editorial voice needs to be independent of the vendors in order for it to have credibility.

What do you think? Did we ask the right questions? Come to the right conclusions? Is this an issue you’ve faced in your work? What did you do?

BC Priorities for Environmental Leadership Launches

The practice of state/provincial environmental communities setting common policy priorities is spreading fast. Today, my talented colleagues at ONE/Northwest helped a coalition of leading BC enviros launch Priorities for Environmental Leadership, focusing attention on four key environmental issues in the runup to BC’s May 17 legislative elections.

BC’s four environmental priorities are:

The problem with strategic planning

Marty offers a good rant on the problems with “strategic planning” in the nonprofit sector:

>Most nonprofit directors have a very clear “off the record” opinion of the strategic plan process. They are frustrated with the funds that have been dumped into consultants and non-profit groups for strategic development and planning which typically look at the organization as a stand alone unit in a world of competing interest. They also feel the plans do not account for the real life variability and opportunity that exists in the nonprofit sector.

>Most strategic planning seems to throw away instincts of field leaders and create a competitive and hostile environment for building network capacity. The strongest plans typically lead to the destruction of social capital between groups because by design they eliminate the option to work on unrelated work for friends.

Marty’s point is an important one — it’s not whether we should do planning, but what kind of planning that should be. Marty believes — and I’m inclined to agree — that our planning should focus much more on collaboration, innovation, and creating room to embrace unexpected opportunities.

This will require some new thinking and learning on the part of strategic planning consultants, those who fund them — and those who consume their services.

The Three Pillars of Social Source

My colleague Gideon Rosenblatt just published The Three Pillars of Social Source, which tackles some big-picture strategy issues in the nonprofit technology sector.

>In the world of scarce resources plaguing the nonprofit technology sector, we currently suffer from a conflation of roles. This paper outlines three functional roles that are essential for a vibrant nonprofit technology sector. These “three pillars” include the �application developer”, the “application integrator” and the “application hoster.” Drawing clearer distinctions between these roles will help nonprofit technology assistance providers clarify their organizational missions, which will reduce competitive overlap and pave the way for improved collaboration between organizations. These steps are absolutely necessary if we are to evolve the nonprofit technology sector into a more integrated “social source” movement dedicated to empowering the agents of social service and social change throughout our societies.

>The ideas in this paper echo a similar analysis of functional roles from an earlier paper on the environmental movement called Movement as Network, which argued that:

>”The environmental movement is not just some vague concept, but an actual entity. It is a network, made up of very real interconnections between people and organizations; a networked whole that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.”

>In much the same way, the nonprofit technology sector must also come to see itself as something greater than the sum of its individual parts, for it too is a network – a network with the potential to become a movement. What holds it back from its potential as a movement is the lack of a unifying mission. Yes, the nonprofit technology sector does exist to serve the technology needs of the nonprofit community. But that in itself is not unique. Microsoft plays this same role every time a nonprofit organization uses Word to write a letter or Excel to create a spreadsheet. What is it that makes the nonprofit technology sector greater than the sum of its parts? What is its vision – its reason for existence? What, in short, would turn it from a sector into a movement?

Intrigued? Read more at http://www.movementasnetwork.org/

A Web-Based Resource for the Craft Art Community

Sonny Cloward, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person (along with his adorable son Finn) this winter, is pondering A Web-Based Resource for the Craft Art Community. Lots of good — if raw — ideas in here about how to create a next-generation community oriented web resource for a topical/issue community.

>Facets: Search | News and Publications | Share | Exchange | Locate | Discuss | Connect

Lots of good thinking here; it’s not hard to see the relevance to the Northwest environmental community I work in. In fact, we’ve been having similar conversations around ONE/Northwest these days.

Towards the end, Sonny speculates a bit about platforms to build in — my personal choice would be of course be Plone. But that’s another story.

Conservation Voters of BC

My amazing colleagues launched another website today, this one for Conservation Voters of BC.

It’s got a couple of cool things going on:

1) A [weekly column/blog](http://www.conservationvoters.ca/blog) by CVBC’s founder, Matt Price, who is a sharp thinker, a talented writer, and a gifted leader. Nothing technically amazing here, but it’s nice to see an environmental leader take to new media.

2) An innovative “[Legislator Tracker](http://www.conservationvoters.ca/mlas)” feature where Matt has begun to compile the on-the-record statements of BC’s 79 legislators about the environment. Since the parliamentary system doesn’t really allow folks to hold their representatives accountable for individual votes, tracking their statements in floor speeches as published in [Hansard transcripts](http://www.legis.gov.bc.ca/hansard/) is the best that can be done.

I’m hopeful that Matt’s innovative effforts will succeed in raising the political profile of environmental issues in BC during the upcoming provincial election cycle.

UPDATE: here’s the [press release](http://blogs.onenw.org/jon/index.php/archives/2005/02/26/conservation-voters-of-bc/2/) from CVBC promoting the Legislative Tracker

Three new BC websites

My amazing colleagues have launched three websites for BC environmental groups over past few days:

1) Rainforest Solutions Project.

2) [Hollyhock Leadership Institute](http://www.hollyhockleadership.org).

3) [IMPACS](http://www.impacs.bc.ca), the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society.

All are built on top of [Plone](http://www.plone.org), a powerful and user-friendly open-source content management system. Individually the sites are neat, but together I think they start to hint at the power and flexibility of the underlying platform.

One cool behind-the-scenes trick — nearly all of the scores of pages of content for the IMPACS site was bulk-imported from their previous closed-source CMS. It was really nice for them not to have to retype or even cut-and-paste their old content into their new site.

Green Drinks

As we often like to say, technology is no substitute for beer. And last night, ONE/Northwest put our money where our mouth is and ONE/Northwest Seattle Green Drinks. Huge turnout (we think over 60 folks). I’m bummed that I have to leave just as it was getting started, but it’s clear that there’s are even more cool green people that I thought. (And I thought there were a lot!)

What, you might ask, is Green Drinks?

>Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up for a beer at informal sessions known as Green Drinks.

>We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you’ll be made welcome. Just say, “are you green?” and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there. It’s a great way of catching up with people you know and also for making new contacts. Everyone invites someone else along, so there’s always a different crowd, making Green Drinks an organic, self-organising network.

>These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity. It’s a force for the good and we’d like to help it spread to other cities.

There’s probably [one near you](http://www.greendrinks.org/). I’ll definitely be swinging by People for Puget Sound for next month’s soiree.

Priorities for a Healthy Washington

I’m proud to announce that we’ve just launched the Priorities for a Healthy Washington website.

Although the site is pretty basic, the collaborative effort it documents is pretty amazing. Priorities for a Healthy Washington is a coalition of nearly all of the leading environmental organizations in Washington State. This is the third year they’ve come together to create and lobby for a common agenda in the state legislature. They’ve had some solid successes over the past two years, and this year is looking even better.

This year’s Priorities for a Healthy Washington are:

  • Cleaner Cars, Cleaner Air — adopting California’s best-in-the-nation auto emissions standards.
  • Green Building — committing the state to making sure all of its new state buildings meet the LEED Silver standard for high performance green buildings.
  • Sound Solutions — saving Hood Canal and Puget Sound from water pollution
  • Banning Toxic Flame Retardants — getting some of the most dangerous toxic chemicals out of our bodies, our food supply and our wildlife.

Priorities for a Healthy Washington will be sending out a series of email alerts and updates at critical moments throughout the legislative season. Why not take a moment to sign up and stay informed?

UPDATE: Alex Steffen argues that the Priorities are [not well framed and not bold enough](http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/001925.html).

Slashdot, eWeek — and ONE/Northwest — on Plone

It’s nice to see Plone — and the two excellent recent books on Plone — getting coverage on Slashdot and eWeek.

As ONE/Northwest groupies likely know, we’ve been doing a lot of Plone-powered website development lately. And Plone’s strong developer and user community is a large part of the reason why.

We’re trying to do our part to build and nurture that community, which is why we’re hosting the first-ever (that we know 0f) Seattle Plone Gathering:

Seattle Plone Gathering
Wednesday January 26th

ONE/Northwest
1402 3rd Avenue, Suite 1000 (kitty corner to Benroya Hall)
Seattle, WA 98122

5:30 – 7:00pm
RSVP to: andrew@onenw.org

The purpose of the meeting is to identify ways to encourage systematic knowledge sharing and establishment of a peer community around this tool.

Moving day

Today was my first day in ONE/Northwest’s [new Seattle office](http://www.onenw.org/bin/page.cfm/secid/27). We had been at Nickerson Marina for over five years, and although we were long overdue for roomier headquarters with actual [walkable amenities](http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/), I found moving in to be a surprisingly emotional experience.

Riding the bus downtown to work for the first time in five years, I found myself reflecting on how much ONE/Northwest has grown in size and sophistication over the past five years.

A bunch of people have joined the ONE/Northwest family since that bright spring day in 1999 when we first crossed the threshold of 1080 West Ewing: Andrew (B), Kerry, Andrew (G), Clayton, Dave, Gideon, Jim, Lisa, Wood, Jodie, Drew, and Jon (B), Laurie, Brad, Travis, Joad, Alan, and more. (Not to mention Steve, Denise, Nancy, Eva, Barabara and of course Dean.) It humbles me every day to work alongside such talent and passion.

I also found myself thinking about how much the world has changed since that spring day in 1999 when we first moved into the marina. The great boom/bubble of the 90s collapsed, deflating rents (and, thankfully, a few egos) across Seattle. The environmental movement has won a number of victories, but has suffered its defeats as well. WTO happened. There has been an explosion of technology tools to power grassroots activism. We elected the most virulently anti-environmental president in history, and then allowed him to lie us into war in the aftermath of a shocking and gut-wrenching act of terrorism. Five years ago I didn’t think that my environmental activism would ever make my government see me as a threat — now, in the Ashcroft Age, I’m not so sure.

What will see in our next five years in the Vance Building, I wondered to myself.

Then the bus stopped, I hopped out into a bright foggy Seattle morning, and went up the elevator to work.

Amazing Getting Things Done workflow diagram

GTD_diagram.gif

Carl passed along this fantastic Getting Things Done workflow diagram, courtesy of [43 Folders](http://merlin.blogs.com/43folders/2004/09/getting_started.html) — a very solid (but somewhat Mac-centric) blog on the Getting Things Done methodology. (For more background on Getting Things Done, see ONE/Northwest’s [article](http://blogs.onenw.org/onelist/001348.html) in ONEList.)

Reaching Out With Respect

Heath Packard directed me to “Reaching out with Respect: Environmental Education with Underserved Co
mmunities
” by Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer and Shamu Fenyvesi. In in, they off
er 15 tips for working with diverse communities, and their advice is applicable
far beyond the relatively narrow domain of environmental education — this is
solid advice for organizers of all stripes.
Continue reading Reaching Out With Respect

Planetwork: Online Organizing – best practices from the frontline

My second panel session of this eclectic conference.

This panel features Ruby Sinreich from Planned Parenthood, Sally Green from Human Rights Campaign, Jason Lefkowiz of Oceana, Becky Bond from Working Assets and Don Means from Meetup.com

I’m hoping these folks, all working on big-money national campaigns, will share some ideas that can “trickle-down” to smaller scale groups.

Bill Pease of GetActive introduced. Framing: tried to bring together field organizers from a variety of successful online organizing campaigns.
Continue reading Planetwork: Online Organizing – best practices from the frontline

Clean out your closet, support the environment

Here’s a great win/win/win for you, the environment and a bunch of great environmental groups (including ONE/Northwest). Eco Encore is a new organization here in Seattle that collects donations of used CDs, DVDs and books, then sells them online (via [Amazon](http://www.amazon.com/shops/eco_encore) ), donating the profits to 10 Seattle-area environmental groups. My friend Jesse Putnam is their founder and visionary-in-chief.

Their “triple bottom line” is this:

1) You benefit because you get rid of a bunch of old stuff that is cluttering up your bookshelf, your CD rack, and your mind.

2) The environment benefits because your stuff gets reused. This helps reduce our need to make more new stuff, and helps keep old stuff out of the landfill.

3) The environmental movement benefits because, well, movements cost money. And Eco Encore is an innovative new way to generate financial support for environmental protection.

So here’s the ask: if you’ve got some used books, CDs or DVDs that could use a change of scenery, why not [donate ’em to Eco Encore](http://www.ecoencore.org/Donate.htm)?

If you live in Seattle, Eco Encore can pick your stuff up from you: just email Jesse Putnam at donations@ecoencore.org.

If you’re outside of Seattle, you can mail paperback books, CDs and DVDs in via Media Mail. You can find [simple instructions](http://www.ecoencore.org/Shipping%20Donations.htm) on the Eco Encore website. They’ll even reimburse your postage (!).

You can designate your donation to support ONE/Northwest, or any/all of a dozen great environmental groups.

And you’ll feel really good about cleaning up your clutter and supporting an innovative entrepreneurial group.

If you’re curious whether it works, consider this: ONE/Northwest hosted a small house party last fall, and we invited our guests to bring books, music and movies to donate. Three trash cans (and a bunch of red wine) later, we had hauled in enough stuff to raise over $2000. Not bad. And people had a blast. (You wouldn’t believe all the embarassing 80s CDs that folks brought!)

Check out the new ONEList: it’s blog-powered!

I launched the new “blog-powered version of ONEList”:http://blogs.onenw.org/onelist today. This finally moves ONE/Northwest’s 8-year-old email newsletter into the modern age. We’ll still be sending out monthly emails to subscribers, but folks can also subscribe to our RSS feeds, and get new articles as soon as they’re written.

Another big new feature is commenting. Now, ONEList readers can immediately comment on stories and articles.

If you want to include ONEList headlines in _your_ website, you can just stick in a single line of code:

<script src=”http://www.onenw.org/carp/carp-onelist.php”>

which will produce output that looks like this: