Creating Community for Nonprofit Technologists: How NetSquared’s Volunteers Contribute to a Nonprofit Commons

Friday, January 10th, TechSoup’s NonProfit Commons in Second Life meeting will feature Elijah van der Giessen, community manager of TechSoup’s NetSquared community, who will present on creating community for nonprofit technologists.


NetSquared Local (Net2Local) connects the nonprofit and technology communities. Powered by a network of volunteers, we hold monthly meetings in cities around the world where people can come together to share best practices, case studies, and support each other’s projects.


Sounds a lot like the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life, doesn’t it?


Join us for a short overview of Net2Local, followed by a discussion of how these two nonprofit communities are both similar and different. 

  • What are the strengths of hybrid online/offline communities and how can they be created?
  • How has NPSL created a strong sense of community and what Net2Local can learn from NPSL’s experience
  • The unique characteristics of synchronous events like (Net2Local and NPSL) vs. asynchronous communities (message boards, forums , etc.)

Learn more at



Eli strives to be a connector – the interstitial tissue that holds the muscle of a community together. He’s been a volunteer manager, an event organizer and a digital campaigner. Basically he’ll take any gig that allows him to enable a group of passionate people to create things they love.


Currently he’s the NetSquared Community Manager supporting a global volunteer network of 50 monthly meetups for the nonprofit technology sector. Together they hold over 450 events per year. You can follow Eli on twitter at and read more on his site at


Join us in Second Life!


Nonprofit Commons Weekly Meeting

Friday, January 10th, 8:30 AM PDT / SLT

Plush Nonprofit Commons Amphitheater  


AGENDA (all times below PT)

  • 8:30 am Introductions
  • 8:40 am TechSoup Announcements
  • 8:45 am Mentors Central 
  • 9:00 am Featured Presentation – Creating Community for Nonprofit Technologists: How NetSquared’s Volunteers Contribute to a Nonprofit Commons, OR: Kissing Cousins: The Forbidden Love Uniting NetSquared and NPSL
  • 9:45 am Open Mic / Announcements  

The mission of the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life is to create a community for nonprofits to explore and learn about virtual worlds, foster connections, and discover the many ways in which nonprofits might utilize the unique environment of Second Life to achieve their missions. 

Written by: Rhiannon Chatnoir

TechSoup and Nonprofit Commons in the News!

Mixed reality panel at NetSquared conference

TechSoup’s own Susan Tenby, aka Glitteractica Cookie, wrote up a blog post about the Mixed Reality Health Panel Expo event that is featured on the Huffington Post. Part of TechSoup’s NetSquared Conference (N2y4), the mixed reality event highlighted nonprofits doing work in the virtual world of Second Life. including health expert panelists from organizations including Community Voicemail, Boomer Esiason Foundation, and Virtual Ability.

But that’s not all! The NetSquared Conference has gotten a number of press mentions. Huffington Post also featured an post from by longtime NetSquared supporter Allen Gunn: “NetSquared 2009: Making the Virtual Proximal”. “Lessons on Innovation from Nonprofits”, by columnist Chris O’Brien, also recently appeared in the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. And we were proud to see The Economist’s Technology Quarterly, showcasing five of NetSquared’s previous Featured Projects for their application of mapping tools for social benefit work

We are thrilled to see these fantastic individuals and social benefit organization getting press about their important work. If you’d like to see more you can check out wrap-up detailed coverage of the NetSquared conference and find text archive, pictures, and live-blogging of the Health Panel Expo event.

Written by: penguin kuhn

Blogging The Health Panel Expo

[Cross-posting from the NetSquared blog by BJ Wishinsky]

N2Y4 Mixed Reality Health Panel, Wed. May 27, 11:15 AM

My name is BJ Wishinsky (avatar name Biji Mornington), and I’m the Communities Program Manager at the nonprofit Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. I had so much fun live-blogging the mixed reality at last year’s NetSquared conference that I volunteered to do it again today. There are Health Panels all day today in Second Life, celebrating the launch of the new inworld Health Commons. The 11:15 panel on Mobile Health Information is mixed reality: Second Life and Real Life (here at Cisco’s Vineyard Conference Center in San Jose, CA). We’re about to begin, so stay tuned.

Seth Gonzales (Avatar Impeccably Peccable) is the Communities Manager for the Boomer Esiason Foundation in New York. They started their SecondLife presence with the long-term goal of starting an inworld community of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients. SecondLife can provide CF patients an opportunity to interact with each other without the risk of infection. They are also using SecondLife and mobile technology to engage donors. Donors can give via mobile up to four times a month. The text-to-donate program was launched this month because May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month. 263 million people in the U.S. have cell phones so they want to tap into this group. Seth is confident this will be a sustainable program that helps tremendously with fundraising. They just started it and are getting some good responses using promotional PSAs to get the word out.

Our multiple venues in real life and Second Life are starting to fill up, and Susan Tenby (whose avatar is named Glitteractica Cookie) is explaining the format for our new arrivals. Susan asks Seth about the unique opportunity of the Second Life environment for CF patients. CF patients usually are taking 10-20 pills a day and going through multiple treatments from nebulizers to vibrating vests to keep their lungs clear and stay alive. They often live very isolated lives, between treatments and the need to keep them from being exposed to other infectious diseases that can aggravate their CF and prove fatal. Second Life provides an opportunity for them to meet safely in Second Life and connect with other CF patients for support and socializing.

Their measure of success is getting CF patients acclimated (with a SecondLife 101 class) and familiarizing them with what they offer on Boomer Island.

Jessica Dally of Community Voicemail, works for a nonprofit that provides voice mailboxes to people who are homeless and don’t have their own home or cell. This allows those who are homeless to better keep in touch with their families and friends, and for those who care about them to be able to reach them. It also allows Community Voicemail to get important messages out to clients, for example, about the peanut butter recall, or an approaching hurricane. They are also partnering with in Second Life and using voicemail and mobile technology to help them disseminate information about HIV testing. In Second Life they partner with other organizations and help them set up voicemail programs with their communities. Second Life helps them spread the word about what they’re doing and partnering with other cities and agencies.

Ellehcim Fizzle (speaking from inworld) of is talking about the stigma of AIDS and the need to continue to pay attention to AIDS/HIV. One in five people who are infected with HIV are unaware of their status, which underscores the importance of Testing Day. They’re still determining all that they want to do in Second Life. They’re using mobile technology for the KNOWIT campaign where you can text 566948 (KNOWIT) with your zip code and receive information on an testing facility in your area. At the CDC Conference a few months ago she heard about how Community Voicemail was used to reach homeless people regarding the peanut recall and thought it would be a great way to reach the homeless community with information about HIV testing. They are also highlight videos created by partners like Kaiser Family Foundation, MTV and others to help promote testing day.

About 15 of the people here in the room with me are also currently present as avatars at the event in Second Life (SL). Our host, Cisco, has provided great support for all these people running the graphics-intensive Second Life application over the conference wireless. We’re starting some Q&A — microphone in the room, text chat in SL. Jessica (Kali Idziak in SL) notes there was a bit of a steep learning curve for her getting started in SL since she was not a gamer, but there are lots of people and resources to help you learn. She notes that you don’t have to be a techie to learn your way around in SL.

How do nonprofits get started? Come to the weekly inworld Nonprofits in Second Life meetings ( for info). There’s a meeting every Friday at 8:30 a.m. SLT (Second Life Time, which is Pacific Time).

Susan introduces Jeska Dzwigalski (avatar name Jessica Linden), Director of Communities at Linden Labs. Jessica says recommends telling your boss that IBM saved $320k in Second Life. She recommends also looking at some of the case studies at Some groups in Second Life where you can find help: Virtual Ability ( helps people with disabilities and Wiki Tecture helps people work on their 3D spaces.

The NetSquared Conference is a program of TechSoup, which also offers discounted technology to nonprofits through their TechSoup Stock program. TechSoup Stock is actively working to get more software partners to offer discounted products to health-related nonprofits.

Written by: penguin kuhn

Live blogging and tweeting from the Health Panel Expo event May 27th

Yesterday’s Nonprofit Commons Health Panel Expo innovative online event in Second Life brought together panelists from health-related organizations, including experts in the disability, HIV/AIDS, mental health and cancer communities. Panelists came together to showcase recent developments in health care research, and to connect efforts in fighting disease and creating a cooperative and supportive environment for patients and their providers. This event marked the grand opening of the Health Commons island in Second Life, the fourth Nonprofit Commons location, that focused on health-oriented organizations.

We had a terrific line-up of panelists for yesterday’s event and a number of volunteers who live-blogged the action by taking summarizing notes into the Second Life text chat, as well as tweeting the action, and blogging the experience.

You can follow the tweets from the event here.

Check out blog entries and pictures about the event and stay tuned for video coverage to follow!

You can also check out the archived panel presentations as we post them:

Health Panel Expo Panels
All times are in Second Life or Pacific Standard Time

9 am Virtual Support for Mental Health Issues Panel
10 am HIV/AIDS Awareness Panel
11am Faster Cures
11:15 am Mobile/Phone Health Information Panel Mixed Reality Event
12:15pm TechSoup Stock Donated HIPPA solutions
1 pm Physical Activity/Dietary Habits/Healthy Lifestyles Panel
2 pm Disability Panel
3pm Cancer panel

Written by: penguin kuhn

The Health Panel Expo – May 27 in Second Life & in the Real World

The Health Panel Expo planning is coming together and the event is right around the corner! Here are the details!

Click here to view a complete agenda of the days events.


SAN FRANCISCO—May 26, 2009—The Nonprofit Commons, a project of TechSoup Global (TSG), today announced an all-day, innovative online event in Second Life to showcase recent developments in health care research, and to connect efforts in fighting disease and creating a cooperative and supportive environment for patients and their providers. The Health Panel Expo, an international online conference sponsored by, will be held on Wednesday, May 27, 2009, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST (also called Second Life Time, SLT) in the virtual world of Second Life and simultaneously in the real world, being broadcast live at the fourth annual NetSquared Conference at Cisco in San Jose, CA.,The Second Life online event is free to attend and open to all interested participants. It will be accessible through Second Life, and the full agenda is listed on the NPSL wiki.

The Health Panel Expo panelists will include speakers from and Community Voicemail discussing mobile health initiatives; Virtual Ability, Inc., a nonprofit that brings people with disabilities and chronic health conditions into virtual worlds; and Susan Tenby, Online Community Director for TSG and the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life. Other panelists include experts from the disability, recovery services, nutrition, cancer, and AIDS communities.

The Health Panel Expo marks the official launch of the Health Commons in Second Life. As part of TSG’s Nonprofit Commons project, Health Commons seeks to bring together real-world health-related nonprofits, academics, educators, thought-leaders, foundations, and volunteer-supporters to showcase recent developments in health care.

The Health Panel Expo: Event Details

  • The Health Panel Expo is a day-long event with several hour-long expert panels in the virtual world of Second Life at Health Commons AMO island.
  • The Mobile Health Initiatives panel is a mixed-reality session on Wednesday, May 27, from 11:15 am-12:15 pm PST (SLT). The live portion will take place in the real-world of San Jose, California as part of the NetSquared Conference, and simultaneously within the virtual world of Second Life. The panel will also feature interactivity between the two worlds.
  • Panels and tours of Nonprofit Commons’ four virtual locations will take place throughout the day. The complete agenda can be found here.
  • The event will be recorded via live video and audio and will be archived on the Web site.
  • Watch the live web stream from 11:15 AM-12:15 PM.
  • Twitter hashtag of the event: #npslexpo.
  • Twitter account for Nonprofit Commons in Second Life is @npsl.

Written by: Beth J. Bates

Mixed Reality Aloft Nonprofit Commons Launch at NetSquared Conference

Hi, I’m BJ Wishinsky, Communities Program Manager for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology ( At Glitter and Penguin’s requests, I’m cross-posting here my live-blog on this event from the NetSquared Conference blog.

My avatar, Biji Mornington, has been attending Nonprofits in SecondLife (NPSL) meetings at the Nonprofit Commons (NPC; on Friday mornings. So when Megan Keane (Penguin Asana in SL) asked me to live-blog this mixed-reality event, I said yes. A lot of the buzz at NPSL meetings of late has been about the launch of NPC’s second island, Aloft, and plans for this morning’s mixed reality launch event. Our panelists are physically here at the Netsquared Conference and virtually inworld at Aloft. Here in San Jose, CA we can see avatars gathering at Aloft, and at Aloft the avatars also see our panelists by video. Evonne Heyning (In Zenzo) introduced our panel:

* Sandy Andrews (Ozma Malibu) of Floaters
* Dick Dillon (Coughran Mayo) of Preferred Family Healthcare
* Rik (Rik Riel) of Global Kids
* Jessica (Kali Idziak) of Community Voicemail
* Rebecca Wise (Jani Myriam) of Transgender Resource Center

Susan Tenby (Glitteractica Cookie) then kicked us off by introducing the Nonprofit Commons, a TechSoup project that provides to real world nonprofits virtual office space and support in SecondLife. Susan is the driving force, but other TechSoup staff and many volunteers make this a tremendous resource for nonprofits exploring how SecondLife can help them build community and meet their organizations’ goals. Currently about 70 nonprofits have free inworld office space at the two NPC islands, on donated land. There are two SL groups that avatars can join: Nonprofit Commons (NPC residents only), and the TechSoup group of those who, like me, are interested in nonprofit use of SL but not ready to commit to office hours. Volunteers are always needed and new group members are always welcome. Volunteers come from dozens of countries. Those of us who attend NPSL meetings are happy to be here today and finally meet our colleagues in person. One great thing about SecondLife is you don’t have to be anywhere specifically, physically, to do anything. But it’s nice to meet face to face when we get the chance.

Sandy tells us about Floaters, a program that provides access to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access. Her group has been able to connect, through NPSL, with other groups who have similar goals. With Bridges for Women, Kiva, and others they are planning a large scale project for people who are displaced, homeless, survivors of domestic violence, or otherwise in transition: They’ll provide services and mentors for the displaced and homeless, who can log in to SecondLife from places like McDonalds. They are looking for a programmer to help with a widget that would help people find shelter, food, training on life skills and computer skills. They offer free voicemail also. Services will be available from both the website and SecondLife. They offer training that will help people design and build a business in SecondLife, and hope they will in turn become mentors themselves.

Dick gets a big laugh by saying he was drawn to SL by the ease of use of the technology. Those who have organized this panel have had to work through several technical issues (apparently voice from the panel just now started coming through in Aloft). His agency is a nonprofit mental health service provider with emphasis primarily on drug abuse programs. They’re big, with 35 offices and 500 employees. They’ve been aggressively exploring SecondLife as a platform for the last year. In the mental health field the ability to reach out to people in hard-to-reach places is critical. If it would take too much time, effort or energy to get to an office, many people won’t go. So any technology from telephone and chat rooms to virtual worlds can be a big help in bridging that gap. A virtual world provides a sense of place, once people have learned the basics of getting around, and the real-time interactions help blur the distinction between real life and the virtual world in getting clients involved. And there are trade-offs. A client asked about lack of body language in SL. Coughran, his avatar, showed the client 40 different body positions his avatar could assume and also noted that when communicating face-to-face we don’t have the benefit of emoticons.

Our next speaker is Rebecca from the Transgender Resource Center. She talks about the behavioral health implications of SecondLife and says SL has unique qualities that make it an ideal environment for self-discovery. It’s safe and anonymous; you can delete your avatar at any time. It’s deeply immersive, so you can really explore your avatar’s identity by customizing it in ways you might not risk in real life. SL as a diverse and tolerant community. Yee and Bailenson’s 2007 report “The Proteus Effect” showed that as individuals explore their avatar’s self-representation, this in turn has an impact on their real-life self-identity. She told us her personal story and how important SL was in providing a safe space to explore her own gender identity. In SL, with a distinctly female avatar, no one questioned her identity and she could explore this safely. She was also able to make some connections in SL that pointed her to resources in real life that helped her with her own transition. Based on that experience she founded the Transgender Resource Center in SecondLife which provides a unique resource for community, information and peer support. Inworld they provide book excerpts, movie trailers, links to web sites and forums, bi-monthly support groups, and more. In the Nonprofit Commons TRC has found a supportive community of peers and mentors frm other nonprofit organizations, as well as free virtual office space, tools and training. TRC has over 800 members now.

Jessica’s organization, Community Voicemail, provides 24 hour voicemail service to people in crisis and transition. These phone numbers can be used for job searches, to connect with family, medical care and other resources, for people who are homeless, between jobs, etc. Community Voicemail has a multi-year grant from Cisco (our conference hosts) and heard about SecondLife from Cisco and then connected with TechSoup/NPC. They partner with nonprofits and agencies in different areas and SecondLife gives them a rich way to make these connections and spread the word about the services they provide. People in SecondLife are very community-minded and help spread the word, give advice, etc.. They don’t have a dedicated person on SecondLife but she spends part of her time there.

Rik Panganiban is a SecondLife producer for Global Kids. Global Kids empower the kids by teaching them technology and leadership skills. His topic “Turn Off the Damn PC and Go Outside” got a laugh from the (real) room. This was a line from a post on that initially inspired his perspective on virtual worlds. They use the teen grid in SL as a space where real learning happens. Earlier this year they streamed Kofi Annan talking about human rights into SL, where the kids had their own conversations about human rights and what that means to them. They use virtual worlds to foster leadership, self-confidence and collaboration skills, and engage them in working for real change in the real world. Their International Justice Center in SL will provide access to war crimes trials and opportunities for dialogue and learning. Global Kids is looking at the crisis in Darfur, giving them information and access to activists, and they are brainstorming with kids in other countries about solutions. They’re currently working on an application that would provide access on mobile phones for those who do not have access to computers for virtual worlds.

Inworld, the Aloft Nonprofit Commons festivities continue throughout the day with games, music, and tours. Here at the NetSquared Conference, I’m looking forward to sitting at a SecondLife table at lunch.

Written by: BijiMornington

San Francisco Meets the Metaverse 3

Join in the Celebration of the Launch of the Second Nonprofit Commons Sim! Nonprofits and their supporters will be hosting a mixed reality grand opening celebration in San Jose as part of the NetSquared conference and in the metaverse on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, starting at 10:00 A.M. PST/SLT (Second Life Time), in the new second Nonprofit Commons location.


  • Grand opening May 28 of the Nonprofit Commons 2/ALOFT, our second sim housing a large community of nonprofit organizations Mixed-reality event, to include a live presentation, a demonstration of the new Second Life Nonprofit Commons island to attendees at the NetSquared Conference in San Jose, and events within Second life
  • Live peformances all day within Second Life, with over 8 hours of music from musicians around the world
  • Media is invited to attend in-world event as well as to San Jose, and phone interviews are available upon request

This second of two Nonprofit Commons nonprofit sims was generously donated by TakingITGlobal. Like the first Nonprofit Commons sim on Plush, a virtual space for nonprofits, managed by TechSoup, Nonprofit Commons 2 creates and houses a community of social benefit organizations in the online virtual world of Second Life. This community of practice is entirely volunteer-run and hosts organizations from across the globe. To date, they have created a community blog, Twitter account, and a resource-rich wiki, and have held mixed-reality events, workshops, and regular weekly town hall meetings. This international community is a hub for charities to share best practices, work together on innovative ways to benefit their causes, and network with organizations from across the globe.

The Gala event will be a mixed-reality launch party, complete with networking, a panel of speakers, and tours of the Nonprofit Commons. This live event will take place in the real-world of San Jose, California as part of the NetSquared Conference, and within the virtual world of Second Life. These events will occur simultaneously and will also feature interactivity between the two worlds. Following the mixed-reality event, we will have an afternoon and evening full of live entertainment in Second Life. Audience members in the Second Life portion of the event will include Nonprofit Commons residents, their invited guests, and media representatives.

Don't miss this interactive collaboration, connecting the virtual world with real-world issues.

Event details:

Event activities:

10am- 11:30am PST/SLT (Second Life Time): Nonprofit Panel and Q & A session
11:30- noon: Tours of the Nonprofit Commons offices in Second Life
Noon–>: Activities continue in Second Life throughout the afternoon and night with major concerts, poetry readings, tours, dancing, and games.

Please RSVP via email to Megan Keane ( for in-world attendance to this event or IM Penguin Kuhn in Second Life. Join the TechSoup group, in-world to receive announcements about this event and future nonprofit events in Second Life.

Written by: penguin kuhn

SL Non-Profits in Running for $100K in Project support from NetSquared

"Net2logo"The NetSquared conference is set for May 29-30 in San Jose, and they are looking to fund 20 new tech
projects for social good. 150 projects were submitted to their competition, competing for $100,000 cash from the NetSquared Innovation Fund. They are inviting people to vote for their favorite nominated projects between April 9-14.

There are a number of SL-related proposals on the table including:

So stop on by NetSquared and vote for your favorite tech project, SL-related or otherwise.

Written by: rikomatic