Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

Technology for a better world.

Great Resources for Non-Profits June 26, 2008

Filed under: non-profit,philanthropy,technology — pdxbob @ 4:54 am

Last night I attended the monthly Portland Net Tuesdays meetup, which meets at the AboutUs headquarters in SE Portland. This meetup brings together people interested in the use of technology in non-profits. I’ve been going since February, when the second Pdx Net Tuesdays meeting was held. The topics last night were Connec+pedia and Squarepeg. Bram Pitoyo has written a comprehensive review of the two presentations here. These are great resources for non-profits.


Giving Children a Chance in Cambodia June 25, 2008

Filed under: Cambodia,children,philanthropy — pdxbob @ 5:23 am

As my personal business card reads ‘Technology for a Better World’ I try to use technology to further good causes. I just blogged about donating items instead of dollars through a Virtual Warehouse and now I’d like to ask you to consider donating dollars to a cause that is so important to the future of our planet: fighting human trafficking. Yes, we have to slow down global warming and live more sustainably, but if we don’t fight the battle against greed and outright criminal abuse that the human traffickers are carrying out, we are forgetting about the children of this world who depend on us to provide a decent future for them.

James and Athena Pond are Oregonians who dedicate themselves to empowering young girls who are victims of human trafficking by providing them with opportunities to live a normal life and to heal their wounds. They founded Transitions Cambodia, have a transitional care home in Cambodia and consult worldwide to advise on setting up similar homes. But ultimately they rely on donations to get their work done. Transitions Cambodia, Inc (TCI) is trying to raise $1,000. on a Facebook cause by July 4th.

Please consider donating even as little as $10. to help them reach their goal by Independence Day.


Spring/Summer Cleaning and Donating June 24, 2008

Filed under: donating,non-profit,philanthropy,Portland — pdxbob @ 7:19 pm

I don’t use my home office as much as I used to, primarily because I love sitting anywhere in my house with a laptop on my lap, and I also love sitting in coffee shops with WiFi. The home office has accumulated a lot of computer equipment that is unused and I finally got around to unloading the older gear. I had, and have, many options for unloading computer equipment and furniture: my young-adult kids, Craigslist, FreeGeek.

But the first place I think about now is, a Lake Oswego-based non-profit. Online cash donation has been common but what if we can donate goods online?   Della Rosenthal, Director and founder of DonorsResource, has been organizing the giving of needed items to low-income families for years. She collected and distributed more than 20,000 items to families in need in Portland in only 18 months, manually, and offline.  Now her new dedication is to connecting donors and nonprofits in need or goods and resources. DonorsResource created Virtual Warehouse that enables donating and receiving items online

So I got started by putting two CRT monitors, a printer and two desks into a “box” in the Virtual Warehouse. How easy is that? I just had to name the items, optionally providing additional description and pictures, and the site stores a virtual box in the Virtual Warehouse, ready for the taking by a Portland-area non-profit. When an organization shows interest in receiving my donated items, we, the donor and the non-profit, make arrangements for delivery or pickup. That’s why the storage is called a Virtual Warehouse. Clever.

You can also give to a specific organization, even search for organizations by category of donated items such as computer equipment, men’s clothing, cell phones, office furniture, etc. The site is cleanly designed and easy to use. Currently, there are hundreds of non-profits in the area looking for donated items to help them with their mission. If you have unused computer equipment, furniture, clothes, kitchen items or virtually any other home or office stuff, consider donating to a needy non-profit in the Portland area.


Mobile Phones and Wireless Technology streamline social progress May 14, 2008

Filed under: health,mobile,philanthropy,poverty,technology — pdxbob @ 4:49 am

I just finished reading the Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use report issued by and written by Katrin Verclas and Sheila Kinkade. The report is based on case studies of the use of mobile technology around the globe including Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Syria, Indonesia, Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States. A survey of over five-hundred NGOs was developed by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research as part of the research project.

There is an estimated 3.5 billion mobile phones in use throughout the world and 86% of the NGO employees in the survey use mobile phones as part of their work. Not surprising, mobile phone use at work is more common among NGO employees in Asia and Africa than it is in developed areas with more wired infrastructure.

Reading the individual case studies was fascinating. A few highlights but there are a lot more in the actual report:

Point-of-care access to health information is provided in Kenya and Zambia using EpiSurveyor, a free mobile software application that was developed by DataDyne, a non-profit consultancy founded by a medical doctor and an ex-Red Cross IT consultant. EpiSurveyor not only delivers information to the device, it allows the easy creation of custom forms for download to the mobile device. The user-friendly interface has allowed organizations to collect diagnostic health information from people in the field and improved the monitoring of diseases. One of the challenges facing organizations deploying these field applications is the aggregation and analysis of large amounts of data. This is an area in need of scalable solutions.

In South Africa, an info-line service allows people to text their location to a phone number and receive the location of the nearest clinic testing for HIV. lets parents enter the name of a toy and receive back whether lead or other toxins that may have been found in it.

The Open Medical Records System (OpenMRS) is a free and open source electronic medical record application for developing countries.

There is growing evidence that mobile phones can move people to action more effectively than other media. A number of campaigns reported to the authors show a response rate of 20 to 45 percent for text appeals, which is considerably higher than that recorded for email alerts. The report also noted that, in the commercial market, people have an increased likelihood of purchasing a product or service when notified by text message, and that reliable data is not yet available for the non-profit sector.

Greenpeace Argentina created a powerful advocacy system by maintaining a database of 350,000 mobile phone numbers. Other Greenpeace offices are planning on testing the Argentina method of mobile activism of advocacy in 2008. Greenpeace Argentina is planning on expanding its mobile infrastructure with a more robust platform.

The report is available here. Thanks to the authors for this valuable report.


A Plan for 2008 December 31, 2007

I’ve read resolutions, wish lists, and need lists for the coming year. I’d like to put forth a plan for my next year. Thanks to Chris Brogan for the motivation to put together this simple but practical plan.

Create at least two original works for non-profits or specific causes, in the digital media space. After taking a Digital Storytelling class at Portland Community Media, I’m excited about applying my skills to help make the world a better place.

Complete a Field Production class and volunteer on two productions to develop my film-making skills. A side-goal is to enroll in yet another PCM course, just not sure what that will be right now.

Create a podcast series dedicated to technology for a better world. Technology is a broad term and in this case I want it to be since I want to be able to interview people involved in many facets of using technology to make the world better. I don’t want to mention people at this point since I haven’t talked to them, but some of the topics I’d like to cover include

– using mobile technology to improve the lot of people in developing countries
– the social networking sites and their usefulness for non-profits
– digital storytelling

Help the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon: this may come in the form of volunteering on an event and/or working with digital media to promote the organization.

Promote myself as an expert in using digital media and software technology to make the world a better place.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. It’s a manageable list and practical, just like it should be. My final, but certainly not the least, thanks go to Kilong Ung, my co-worker, friend and super inspiration for all that I do to help others. This past year Kilong and I cemented our friendship through daily walks during our weekday lunch time. I learned a lot about philanthropy and leadership from Kilong who is himself a born leader. Kilong has just stepped down after several years as President of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon although I believe he will still be very involved in helping the new leadership. Thanks Ki, and Happy New Year to all!


Technology and Service in Cambodia November 27, 2007

Filed under: Cambodia,philanthropy,technology — pdxbob @ 4:30 am

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Cambodia lately including Michael Freeman’s book, various blogs and some MDG materials. Tonight I came across a growing social business named Digital Divide Data (DDD) that is set up as a 503-C in the US and as an NGO in Cambodia. DDD’s mission is two-part: to deliver high-quality digitization services to clients (one of which is the Harvard Crimson newspaper, and to provide to their employees “fair wages, health care, education, and career advancement opportunities”. Many of the employees, moreover, have physical challenges suffered because of land-mines, polio or other misfortunes of their poverty-striken lives in Cambodia.

I can’t say enough about an organization like DDD. They not only bring technology work to a country trying to raise itself out of poverty, but they bring work to the very people who have the most difficulty finding work: the physically challenged!

Their latest newletter reports that their employment has now reached 450 (from an original 18 in 2001) with an annual budget of $1.5 million, sixty percent of which is from earned revenues with the remainder from donations. There are a lot of people in need of work in Cambodia, both in the city of Phnom Penh and in the countryside. You can participate in DDD’s mission to raise up this wonderful country by helping their employees with their education. DDD has a scholarship program where an employee (referred to as an operator since they operate using computers) pays half of their educational costs and the donor pays the rest. They ask for $240. per year from a donor to cover the educational costs of the scholarship.

If you’re moved by this type of investment in a country’s and a person’s future, go to their web site and look at some of the videos. They are moving.


Getting a Grip on Democracy October 26, 2007

Filed under: democracy,philanthropy — pdxbob @ 4:30 am

I’ve been away from blogging for a couple of weeks now. The last week has been tough because of the flu which I’ve had since Saturday. Feeling tonight like I’m finally getting over it.

I just read Getting A Grip by Frances Moore Lappe of Small Planet Institute. It’s a short work in reading but powerful and lasting in ideas. She encourages us to move from our thin democracy to a living democracy where instead of seeing issues, we see entry points. There are so many issues or problems in the world and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Frances suggests finding entry points which can be any way for you to address one of the issues. One of her examples involves a community in Texas that was upset that local businesses were not hiring local Hispanic workers. Rather than simply protest that, the community got to the root cause and discovered that people needed training. So they started a locally-funded program to train and educate citizens for better jobs. There are so many entry points. You just have to look for them. I realized that I wanted to do more as part of my job and in reviewing an internal web site, I discovered that there is a representative from each company location on my employer’s charitable giving committee. But not one from the Portland area as we were just acquired this past year. So I volunteered, was accepted onto the committee and am contributing by identifying local organizations that will be recipients of the company’s charitable contributions, both in the form of direct contributions and through gift drives.