Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NetSquared Conference

I'm at the NetSquared Conference yesterday and today. Pretty exciting: this sort of thing would have been hard to imagine not so long ago!

Our new CTO, Patrick Ball, was attending and spoke on human rights. Patrick occasionally injected his reality checks into the proceedings. I spoke on revenue models for socially motivated businesses, on a panel moderated by Vince Stehle (of Surdna Foundation) and with Clara Miller of NFF and Lee Davis of Although we drew the 520 pm timeslot, I think we did a good job of putting some energy into the last session of the day!

There was a lot of interesting stuff in the plenaries, but I especially enjoyed Ethan Zuckerman's talk about advocacy and citizen journalism. The point I really resonated with was to "get out of the way" of the authentic voices of people from around the world.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 quote Excitement

Lots of great things happening with I just got back from Geneva, where I took advantage of being invited to the UBS Philanthropy Forum (very cool conference, maybe more later!) to discuss international I was able to meet with two key people from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as the head of the International Publisher's Association, Jens Bammel. These were substantive and informative conversations, and are crucial parts of taking the rapport with the publishing industry that we've developed inside the U.S. to the rest of the world.

WIPO has just published an important paper on the area of access for people with disabilities, and is extensively profiled as an important model.

And, of course, our team receives a constant stream of great feedback from people with disabilities, their teachers and families. I wanted to share something I was just copied on from a mother of a user:

"Bookshare has made a world of difference for my son, an 8th grader. The availability of books through your organization has made reading for him almost as easy as it is for his counterparts. It has also changed my life as his mom, because I spend far fewer hours scanning and correcting the recognition of the texts he reads. Thank you very, very much."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

48 million Guatemalan Secret Police Documents

On Wednesday, May 10, the Guatemalan National Police Archives Project found a bottle filled with petrol in flames on their premises. It was apparently an attempt to intimidate the project to secure and preserve the estimated 48 million police records found by the Human Rights Ombudsman's office in 2005.

Benetech's Human Rights Program is helping the Ombudsman's Office in Guatemala with the Archives Project. Benetech staff Tamy Guberek, Romesh Silva and Daniel Guzmán are currently in Guatemala City helping the Ombudsman's Office to refine and implement a series of statistical pilot studies conceived by Benetech's Human Rights Program Director Patrick Ball. A volunteer group from the American Statistical Association has provided invaluable guidance on the statistical sampling issues. The knowledge gained in the pilot will to guide the overall design and implementation of a large-scale scientific study.

To date, the history of state violence in Guatemala has been understood primarily through accounts by victims, witnesses, and the press, because these were the main sources of available data. The National Police was accused by victims of being responsible for much of the violence in Guatemala. Consequently, the National Police Archives provide a important opportunity to learn about the chain of command, the flow of communication, policies, and links between the National Police and other groups. The analysis could be used to shape institutional reform within the new civilian police and other public security institutions, and it could contribute further to historical clarification in Guatemala.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Important Book on Technology in the Social Sector

Jonathan Peizer has been one of the most influential thinkers in my evolution with Benetech. Patrick Ball introduced us early in our transition to the new Benetech projects ( and Martus), and JP became our first funder of our Martus project through the Open Society Institute. His insights about technology in the social sector have been especially valuable.

Jonathan has just published a new book: The Dynamics of Technology for Social Change.

Here's the review I wrote for the book's listing on

As a long-term leader in the field of social applications of information technology, I want to strongly recommend Jonathan Peizer's new book, THE DYNAMICS OF TECHNOLOGY FOR SOCIAL CHANGE. IT in the social sector is exploding, and yet many projects are not as successful as they could be. Jonathan has incredible learning and perspective to share from being at the center of this field over the last 15 years through his vantage point at George Soros' Open Society Institute.

This book is especially useful for practitioners. Quite often, we bumble about trying to find the best way to make things happen. It's rare to find writings that immediately speak to your experiences, but from a more thoughtful and analytical viewpoint. It often explains why certain initiatives failed and others succeeded. I had that kind of "aha!" moment when I first read some of Jonathan's essays years ago, and this book is a platform for expanding on these crucial topics.

The best example of these insights is the "Trusted Source Relationship" concept. In the book, JP explains why traditional marketing and sales have limited effectiveness in the social sector, and why trust is the most critical asset in effective technology implementations. However, the book is full of practical and realistic observations and recommendations. If you are planning on using IT to save the world, reading this book will greatly enhance your odds of success!

JP's Philantherapy blog:
JP’s Philantherapy Blog » Blog Archive » Is There a Formula for Capacity Support Decisions?:

Monday, May 08, 2006

Route 66 Literacy Beta Users

Route 66 Literacy began its first beta at Community Association for Rehabilitation, Inc. (C·A·R) in January, here in Palo Alto, California. C·A·R is a nonprofit organization for children and adults with developmental disabilities (mental retardation, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism, and other neurodevelopmental conditions causing developmental delays) and other disabilities who live the Silicon Valley area.

We were delighted by the feedback from the users and the C·A·R staff about the results, and we're planning to press ahead to raise money to take this project to the next stage.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Nonprofit Online News: Asking the Wrong Questions

Asking the Wrong Questions

Michael Gilbert is a fascinating observer of the application of technology to social objectives. I quite enjoyed a recent article of his looking at technocentric approaches to technology assessment. As a techie, I have to keep reminding myself of these issues!