Friday, February 27, 2004

Good article on nonprofits using blogs to communicate their voice, creating by the good folks at N-TEN. Some quotes from yours truly on why I think the BeneBlog is important.

Check out the article in Nonprofit Quarterly: What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care?.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

My latest article was just published as an N-TEN Forecast, The Power of Technology Social Enterprises. I have been thinking about the technology community needing to take on a larger role in addressing society's problems. This article discusses how social enterprise works particularly well with technology.

I was excited enough about this that I'm already drafting a much longer article for another publication. I can feel a talk coming on already! Comments welcome.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Last week, Tom Parks of the Asia Foundation and I gave a talk at the World Affairs Council called Innovating Information Technologies to Protect Human Rights. The talk went well and is available on-line as an audio stream at the preceding link.

We were talking about the Martus Project, Benetech's human rights documentation and monitoring software. The Asia Foundation and Benetech partnered on the first country launch of Martus in the Philippines. I covered the background of where Martus comes from and how the technology works. Tom talked about the real world experiences of using IT in the human rights field across the different islands of the Philippines.

Because Tom and I are both pragmatic technologists, we were able to talk about what the real issues are (and not engage in hype). They are rarely technological: most of the issues are around organizational dynamics, power relationships, trust. Human rights activists are human! As would be expected, 80% of the activity is coming from 20% of the activists. Still, human rights information is starting to flow and things are starting to happen. Very encouraging!

The most gratifying piece of news was that the Martus roll-out got the different human rights groups talking with each other and the government's human rights organization. Patrick Ball, who was at the talk, noted that this was something he had learned from his former boss at AAAS, Audrey Chapman, who figured out that you can get competing human rights groups to come to the same table if the convening is to talk about technology. Technology itself is not as controversial as other issues!

We are looking forward to working with the Asia Foundation in a handful of new countries in Asia this year, expanding the availability of Martus (and the number of Asian languages it is translated into).

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Benetech achieves our goals with a great deal of assistance from people who share our dedication to technology better serving humanity. We are especially blessed with incredible volunteers.

Bookshare.org, our on-line electronic book library for people with disabilities, is built by volunteers. These folks are dedicated to the concept that access to books should have no barriers. They spend many hours scanning, proofing, cataloging and reviewing our collection, now over 15,000 books.

I'd like you to check our Bookshare.org - Volunteer of the Year. Carrie has done an awesome job, and her contributions help thousands of people with disabilities attain truly independent literacy.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

I'm just coming down from the Davos experience: it was incredible. For a social entrepreneur like me, the opportunity to attend the World Economic Forum is a rare opportunity. The founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab (and his lovely wife, Hilde), underwrites our participation to encourage business and government leaders to engage with social leaders in solving the world's problems.

And, they do engage, with enthusiasm. Outside the normal power structure of the corporation (or government), these leaders are interested and clearly stimulated by talking directly with other attendees about these issues. The interactions are at a peer level, without the normal screening that typically protects these leaders.

I can't begin to list the fistfuls of great conversations I had in my week in Switzerland. I talked to high tech corporate leaders, the heads of foundations, education ministers of different countries, several billionaires, major religious leaders, nonprofit (NGO in international parlance) leaders, the media, technology experts and other social entrepreneurs.

People sometimes ask me how much money I raised for my nonprofit by going to Davos. But, going there made it clear that's not the right question. The social entrepreneurs aren't there to beg for money. We're there to engage with other action-oriented people on important issues that face society (and yes, business). If we come up with great ideas and projects as a result, the money will follow.

I came away from Davos with at least as many ideas as I brought there, and that has enriched me personally as well as Benetech!

BBC News Coverage on Social Entrepreneurs and Activists in Davos.