OK, I’m finally back home in DC after traveling all day from Planetwork 2004, so I can get you those notes on the conference that I promised yesterday. They’re certainly not exhaustive, as I’m bushed and there’s waaaay too much stuff to cover in one post. Instead, this post is mostly going to talk about the session I presented in (“Online Organizing: Best Practices From the Frontline”); I’ll follow up with more posts later on other stuff from the conference.
As I mentioned yesterday, Planetwork is aggregating posts about the conference via the Internet Topic Exchange, so if you want all the gory details about every session — some blogged right as the sessions were going on; what did rude people ever do before WiFi? — hit the Topic Exchange channel and you’ll get them.
Overview: A great experience. I’m definitely glad I went. My head is so full of ideas at the moment that it’s going to take me some time to sort through them all, and I got the opportunity to meet bunches of people working hard on interesting things.
My presentation: It’s amazing how fast 10 minutes goes by when you’re speaking in public. I ended up blowing through my presentation faster than I would have liked to; I think I got the general ideas across, but I would have loved to have spent more time on specific examples. (The other panelists — Sally Green from the Human Rights Campaign, Ruby Sinreich from Planned Parenthood, Becky Bond from Working Assets, and Don Means from Meetup — all did a better job of that than I did, I think.) But I think it was an OK presentation, all things considered. If you’re a Planetworker and you want to know more about what we’re doing at Oceana, drop me a line and I’ll hit you with the specifics.
The other presentations: The other panelists were terrific. Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere you probably already know why Meetup is cool, but HRC, Planned Parenthood, and Working Assets are kicking much ass, too. For example, did you know that Working Assets has a program where you can route your e-activists through them to get registered to vote — and for every new voter that gets registered from your membership, they’ll contribute $2 to your organization? How cool is that? (Note to Working Assets customers — Oceana isn’t on the list of non-profits Working Assets contributes to yet… we need you to nominate us!)
Other random notes from the session:
Until an open-source CMS comes along that works on the kinds of spit-and-polish issues I mentioned, it’s going to be hard for any of them to break into the non-profit world in a big way, IMHO; the average non-profit just doesn’t have the budget or tech staff to keep teams of programmers hacking away at a rough-hewn code base, and unlike in the private sector, there’s no profit motive to drive non-technical people to get past their issues with undocumented software (a small business might be able to get a real edge over competitors by dropping the annual MS license tax; but if you’re in a non-profit, who cares about that? As long as your funders are happy, maximizing efficiency isn’t high on anyone’s priority list, alas), so that isn’t going to drive adoption either. And asking people to do it because It’s The Right Thing To Do is just naive (though I would happen to agree that it would be the right thing to do).There may be an opportunity here for new intermediaries to add value by taking unpolished OSS code and making it “non-profit friendly”. The people at CivicSpace Labs, for one, certainly think so. We’ll see over time if more of these types of intermediaries emerge, and how commercial companies like GetActive react to them.
OK — time to go sack out. Watch this space for more later.Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at June 06, 2004
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