Friday, April 23, 2010

Release of Liberia Human Rights Data

We are pleased to announce the publication of the data and the accompanying data dictionary from the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The statistical dataset is available on our website.

All of personal information has been removed from the published dataset to protect the identities of the victims and statement givers. The dataset can be used to replicate the analysis presented in our report, "Descriptive Statistics From Statements to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission," and for extended analysis of statistical patterns of human rights violations reported to the TRC.

The Benetech team worked closely with the team at the Liberian TRC, who did an incredible job of collecting data about human rights violations during Liberia's civil conflict. We are excited about the commitment to transparency and science demonstrated by this data release.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Serendipity and Twitter

The ten days in the UK amazed me with the power of social media in my life. As a tech guy who also plays a social entrepreneur, I often get asked by my SE buddies about what are the practical use of a tool like Twitter. I moderated an excellent session at the Skoll World Forum last week on using social media for more social mission impact. But rather than making this an extensive essay on the glories of social media, I just want to give some examples from my UK trip, just from Twitter. I spend less than 15 minutes a day on social media, but the payoffs are huge!

BBC tracks me down!

When I arrived in London on Sunday, I sent a tweet out on Twitter:
Just landed at Heathrow and looking forward to Oxford and seeing all my #socent buddies at #swf10
I quickly get a direct message from Tim Weber, the Business Editor of the BBC News website. He invites me to come by the BBC in London the next day for a tour of the newsroom. Via Twitter, we set the time and he gives me the Tube stop (White City).

The next day, I'm getting a full-on tour of the BBC newsrooms, a preview of the new BBC News website design, an in-depth demo of the content management system including how to move approved stories around in response to user interest, a graphical overlay on these pages showing top links being clicks, and so on. Of course, I was able to tell Tim the latest about Benetech and visiting the Skoll World Forum. He responded by showing me a series BBC was doing on social entrepreneurship, covering many of my Skoll buds.
Jim Fruchterman in front of a blue police box/the Tardis from Dr.  Who And, as a huge Dr. Who fan, I had Tim take a picture of me in front of the Tardis (Doctor Who's time travel machine disguised as a standard old English police box).

As it turns out, BBC journalist Peter Day did an extensive radio interview of the three social media panelists (and me) at the Forum in Oxford. Coincidence? You decide!

Throw my hat into the ring and speak at TEDxVolcano.

The airports in the UK closed near the end of the Skoll Forum, and many of us headed off last Saturday for London to ponder our next moves. Nathaniel Whittemore (the social entrepreneurship blogger) pitches June Cohen of the TED conference to pull together TEDxVolcano impromptu conference for the next day: Sunday! Since I'm following the Skoll World Forum hashtag (#swf10) on Twitter, I learn about the conference as it gets pulled together, scheduled, grab tickets, etc.
Jim Fruchterman with mike, giving a talkPhoto credit: Robert Leslie via TED

Via Twitter, I "throw my hat into the ring" for TEDxVolcano and quickly get invited by Nathaniel to be a speaker, joining the likes of Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, Matthew Bishop (US bureau chief for the Economist), Larry Brilliant and other Skoll refugees. Without Twitter, I wouldn't have been able to find out about this and make the offer.
Photo credit: Steve Francis

So, I got to tell the TEDxVolcano attendees my personal experience of my favorite explosion, the Percheron Rocket: my first job out of school. I thought it was apropos of a volcano theme. The next day, I find out via a tweet from Lara Long, Benetech's literacy product manager, that my talk is online at the TEDxVolcano livestream, at about 46 minutes in.

Working the exit options to get home.

By following the #swf10, #tedxvolcano and the more general #ashtag hashtags on Twitter, I was treated to a steady stream of website links and stories about the airport closures and the volcano. Offers of shared buses and even possible charter flights flew around. Social entrepreneurs are a resourceful bunch: every option was explored and most were done by somebody! The best websites for getting current flight data came via tweets from people I respect. I used these websites to figure out which flights were likely to actually still be departing on Wednesday, the day flights resumed. I got to the airport, talked my way onto the first California-bound flight on American Airlines, and then tweeted about how I did it (and that there were empty seats) to the rest of the world, but especially my Skoll Forum community.

Why Twitter worked better for me

I'm a huge email user, but email wasn't the solution. It was too slow. I wasn't going to spam every person I know in the UK about my arrival. But, someone like Tim Weber had decided to check tweets from people like me he chooses to follow on Twitter. I learned about TEDxVolcano and became a speaker within a couple of hours: a process for normal TED or TEDx conferences takes weeks. And, by using Twitter with the right hashtags, I was able to learn from people I knew and many I didn't know about what was happening on the ground in London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Casablanca and so on, all from people who shared my interest in finding ways home.

I wouldn't want to count on Twitter to replace email or the web: it's just the wrong tool for the jobs those tools do better. But, during the last ten days, I learned what it could really do for me. Connecting with people important to my mission. Opening doors to speaking gigs. Solving real problems.

All by harnessing the power of 140 characters to deliver glorious serendipity!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

President's Update: the Benetech Report

My latest President's Update is up on the Benetech website. This update spotlights our new Benetech report celebrating twenty (!) years of technology serving humanity.

When I first started Benetech, I never dreamed that we would actually be where we are today. Through the generosity of our committed supporters, Benetech has had remarkable success and I am proud of our impact in the fields of disability, human rights and the environment.

Our report asks the question “How many people can a single idea help?” This is a question we ask every day at Benetech. As a technology company where social benefit—not profit—is the bottom line, we believe the knowledge is readily available to solve many of humanity’s most vexing problems. Our innovative solutions take the best of existing technology and adapt it at low cost to confront these challenges. In this time of social conflict, environmental destruction and economic uncertainty, the need for such a strategy has never been greater.

We’re looking forward to strengthening and growing our work in the coming years. Global society pays a high price when we do not use our assets to address pressing needs, simply because such uses are insufficiently profitable. Benetech is committed to filling that gap by applying technology solutions to help people who often need this technology the most, but are least able to afford it. With better access to the benefits of science, technology and knowledge, we can imagine massive payoffs in education, economic development, health and democracy.

I hope you will take a look at our report.

We are proud to bring our technology expertise to places where it is needed most and serve people who are working hard to make this a more just, equitable and peaceful world. And we are grateful we can count on our friends and partners like you, to help bring about this vision. Thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to keeping you posted of our progress!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Social Enterprise Summit Blogging Contest Winners Announced

Great to see two social enterprise bloggers, Kylie Eastley of Tasmania and Tristan Pollock from Minnesota, won Halle Tecco's contest on Huffington Post to go to the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit later this month in San Francisco.

I just heard from Jerr Boschee, the interim CEO of SEA, that registrations are already well ahead of past Summits, and that over 30% of the attendees are coming from outside the United States. This year's Summit is being held in conjunction with the Social Enterprise World Forum, which was in Australia last year and Scotland the year before that. Next year it will be in South Africa. We're excited to playing host to the growing global social enterprise movement, and I'm glad that Kylie will be blogging up a storm from down under even Down Under!

This Summit will be my swan song in a leadership role at the Alliance. I joined the board ten years ago, and my term limits were extended to act in the chair's role these past two years, following in the big shoes of social enterprise rock stars like Chuck Lief (Greyston) and Charles King (Housing Works). Bill Strathmann of Network for Good will be our next Chair: be sure to come to SF to cheer him on!