Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

Technology for a better world. and Dr. Joel Selanikio receive Knight Foundation Grant May 14, 2008

Filed under: journalism,mobile,news,non-profit,technology — pdxbob @ 11:29 pm

Just a day after I posted about the wireless report of the UN Foundation, one of the case study subjects in that report wins a Knight Foundation grant in the second year of the foundation’s news challenge. Dr. Joel Selanikio, a founder of,  won the $325,000. grant with the ‘News on Cellphones’ idea of delivering news to the poor via text messaging!. develops open-source mobile technology which is used in developing countries to improve the health care system for the rural poor.

You can see all of the winners of Knight Foundation grants here.


Mobile Phones and Wireless Technology streamline social progress

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.


Update on Social Media Community Film April 30, 2008

Filed under: Social Media — pdxbob @ 4:30 am

I had a great meeting with my community media facilitator, Tim Rooney, tonight. I explained my film idea, we looked at Twitter and a little at some social media sites. My original plan was to create a film of 30-45 minutes, integrating interview clips, screencasts, B-roll film of in-person events. Being the master he is at examining a project and identifying what makes a great film, Tim proposed that I break the project into a number of chapters, each chapter being short, ten-minute absolute max length, and each chapter would focus on a particular form of social media or event. The thread through each of the chapters will be interview commentary, some video+audio, some just voice-over. To begin with I am going to tape two separate interview subjects, one technical, one non-technical. These sessions will provide a lot of the commentary that I will use throughout the chapters. If necessary, I’ll add additional interviews.

Here are some possible chapters that will illustrate the idea:

  • The Un-conference: BarCamp Portland is an example of an un-conference that comes together through the energies of local people who live and breath using social media apps like Twitter, blogging,
  • Two people who have met online and how they have used social media to enhance their relationship as well as their communities.
  • Technically-savvy person (or people) talking about using social media to its fullest extent.
  • Non-technical person discussing how they have learned social media tools from friends and how they put them to good use for a community of people (or built a community using them).

So, the idea of using chapters will allow me to finish a project in a short period of time, get more practice at making community films and will result in each new chapter being better than the last. Given that this would be my first project outside of the friendly confines of an organized class, I really like this progression! Thank you Tim for the great suggestions! You are a Jedi film-maker and storyteller!

My next steps are to identify the first couple of chapters and to start arranging the interviews. More to come soon! I will also start tagging the posts pertaining to this film series as “SocialMediaFilm”. launches Virtual Warehouse April 25, 2008

Filed under: Community,non-profit — pdxbob @ 3:45 am

Two friends, Kiyoshi Terada and Mikal Anderson, are part of a team that put together Virtual Warehouse on This site provides a place for donors to donate items to non-profits and for non-profits to indicate the types of items they need. Created by Sisters of the Community (SOC), a 501(c) (3) organization, helps to streamline the delivery of needed goods to non-profits.

The Oregonian had a blurb about the launch in its Business section today. If you’ve got items you want to donate, computer equipment, furniture, whatever, and you want it to go to a specific type of organization or a specific non-profit, this is the place to do it. Or, if you have a non-profit that needs stuff, sign up online to connect to donors. is run as an Oregon non-profit out of Lake Oswego.


Open for Comments: Social Media Community Film Script April 24, 2008

Filed under: Community,Social Media — pdxbob @ 4:47 am
Tags: , ,

I was going to share my developing script for a community film entitled Using Social Media to Enhance Community with a few people who I thought would provide excellent feedback. Then tonight as I was working on it I realized, why not share it with everyone?! My intent in making this film is to share the love of social media with Portland denizens who might not already be using it.  Getting input from everyone online is a great way for me to clarify the film’s message, make the script flow and learn more as we cooperate on this project!

So with that introduction, I present my first and rough draft of a script for the film. Background: the film will be aired on local cable tv through Portland Community Media at some as yet undetermined time (guaranteed to be sometime after the film is completed ;).

I’ve already spoken with two social media enthusiasts in the Portland area who have agreed to help by being interviewed: Dawn Foster and Amy Sample Ward. Thank you both for your help! I’m still looking for others to interview, in particular a non-technical person or group that is using some form of social media. And of course if there are others who think they would like to be on tv, please let me know. I’m  going to recognize anyone who helps in any way with thanks in the film credits. Wouldn’t you like to see your name scroll by just like Cate Blanchett or Matt Damon?

And don’t forget to read the script and tell me what you like, don’t like, what to change, great new ideas…

Script (sorry for the formatting – copy/paste with some editing pain):

  • Video of person typing a tweet (entry in Twitter) into a cell phone, a person sitting at a computer reading from blog entries in their aggregator, screen of a person’s main page on, and one from Facebook.
  • Video fades away and film title appears: Using Social Media to Enhance Community
  • How do you define community? [Time: 2 minutes max]
    • mix of still images and video showing traditional images of community:
      • Neighborhood streets
      • Teenagers hanging around and interacting
      • Community center activity, maybe bball game with spectators
      • College campus
    • Intersperse text graphics showing definitions of community.
      • possibly read this description from beginning of “community” entry in wikipedia:

German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies presented a concise differentiation between the terms Gemeinschaft (usually translated as “community”) and Gesellschaft (“society” or “association”). In his 1887 work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Tönnies argued that Gemeinschaft is perceived to be a tighter and more cohesive social entity, due to the presence of a “unity of will.”[2] He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of Gemeinschaft, but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in Gemeinschaft. Gesellschaft, on the other hand, is a group in which the individuals who make up that group are motivated to take part in the group purely by self-interest. He also proposed that in the real world, no group was either pure Gemeinschaft or pure Gesellschaft; all were mixtures between the two.

Pasted from <>

  • a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

Pasted from <>

  • Merriam-webster online:

a unified body of individuals:

Pasted from <>

  • Video of interviewees’ own, personal, definitions of community
  • “What is Social Media?” [Time: 2 – 3 minutes max]
  • Distinguishing Social Media from Traditional Media
    • Video of interviews where the distinction is explained.
    • Show images of traditional and social media where appropriate
      • Traditional: Newspapers, listening to a radio, TV newscast (image of newscasters at desk)
      • Social: Twitter, Facebook, Blog comments, Good Reads site
  • Where did Social Media come from? [Time: 1 minute]
  • Who uses Social Media /Are people excluded? [Time: 2-3 minutes]
    • Lead in with person’s blog, then go to interview footage with that person (tech-savvy person)
    • Interview footage with non-technical person
  • Scenarios
    • Business usage?
    • Friends hanging out online?
    • Solving community problem?

That’s what I’ve got so far for a script. Here are some of the places where I’d like to get some background video footage and possibly ad hoc interviews:

  • Beer & Blog
  • Portland Net Tuesday
  • Bar Camp Portland
  • Non-technical group meeting

Using Social Media to Enhance Community April 20, 2008

Filed under: community film,Portland Community Media,Social Media — pdxbob @ 9:06 pm

I’m doing a new community film project entitled ‘Using Social Media to Enhance Community’ (until I can come up with a better name). This film will briefly explore what social media is (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogging, wikis) followed by interview clips, short screencasts, and some fly-on-the-wall views of at least one in-person meeting of people who are involved in social media.

Right now I’m looking for some non-technical people who would provide a balance to the tech-savvy people who I am interviewing. The focus for the interview and video with non-technical people is to explore how their reaction to using social media applications for community-building. Although the tone of this film is intended to be positive toward the use of social media for communities, hearing some of the difficulties would also be constructive.

I may also explore how social media is used in secondary or pre-secondary education, how it is perceived and used by the leaders and workers of the future, although I haven’t decided if this will make it into this film.

If you are someone interested in participating in this project, to be interviewed or to recommend others, please contact me.


Social media project in Portland April 13, 2008

Filed under: Community,Social Media — pdxbob @ 9:44 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve just become certified as a producer at Portland Community Media (PCM) which televises programs created by volunteer community producers on the cable channels 11, 22 and 23 in the Portland area. In the Field Production class that I finished recently, fellow students and I produced a short film entitled “Just like your family…” about the community impact of recent court rulings that affect domestic partners. I will blog the air times and channel when I know them.

I’ve got the germ of an idea for a new film project which I’d like to get feedback on. Here is some background and a description of what I think the project will be.

Social media has really taken off in the Portland area. There are personal as well as community blogs, and lots of people using Twitter, the micro-blogger that has generated an explosion in the number of front-end applications for reading and writing “tweets” from a computer or a phone.

Get-togethers (I like the word better than meetings) are also increasing. I’ve attended the Portland Net Tuesdays monthly meet-up on non-profits and technology. There are Beer and Blog meetings where more experienced bloggers help out others with blog tech. Startupalooza is a free local conference for learning about new startups that don’t necessarily have a significant financial backing yet. I could go on and on.

My media project idea is to produce a film, probably 30 to 60 minutes long, where some of the more active players in the local social media scene are interviewed about the past, present and future of social media in Portland. If you’re a web denizen who spends hours a day on the web reading from the blogosphere, from twitter and interacting with other Portlanders, then this film will provide a good opportunity for you to get the message out to the rest of the Portland community.

I’m going to send out invitations to people I know (or know about) who would be great interviewee candidates. If you know someone or are interested in being interviewed yourself, please let me know.
I’d also like to hear what it is you would want to know from the social media experts. What questions should I ask them?

Let me know either through comments or direct email if you are interested in being interviewed, want to recommend others to be interviewed, have a question you think would make a good query or just want to let me know what you think of the project.