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

Submit your Projects to the FACT Social Justice Challenge at NetSquared


The Nonprofit Commons is excited to let you know about the FACTChallenge for the FACT Social Justice Awards.

The French American Charitable Trust (FACT) and NetSquared are pleased to announce the second annual FACT Social Justice Awards. Submissions are now open for your innovative Projects that leverage web and/or mobile technologies to foster collaboration around social justice issues. Learn more about the Challenge and how to participate below.

About the FACTChallenge

FACT is committed to addressing the fundamental inequalities and injustices in our society by helping develop and sustain networks of community-based groups in the U.S. and France that educate, organize, and empower people to actively participate in developing public policies that directly affect their lives.

Our Challenge theme this year is “Collaborate for Social Justice.”

We chose this theme because beneath all the new platforms, widgets, tools, social media, and innovative products lies the potential for people to collaborate in new ways with one another.

The FACT Challenge seeks to surface innovative Projects that leverage web and/or mobile technologies that foster collaboration around social justice issues.

How to Participate

SHARE: Let your friends, colleagues, and networks know about this opportunity to profile ideas and find collaborators!

SUBMIT: Submissions are now open – submit your Project today!

SUPPORT: Even if you don’t have a Project to submit, your feedback and comments will help other Projects improve – get ready to share!

Learn More

Visit the FACT Challenge pages below for more information:

Written by: Layal

Haiti Nonprofit Commons Weekly Meeting of 02/26/2010

On Friday, the 26th of February, the crew at the Nonprofit Commons invited several speakers to share their perspectives on providing aid in Haiti.

Partners for Others representative RiverSong Garden said that “Partners for Others is committed to addressing the immediate needs of the poor and needy, and providing the tools which will empower them to meet their future needs.” In discussing their part in the relief efforts, she shared information about the logistical difficulties that her organization overcame in getting the much needed supplies to Haiti.

The port was destroyed as a result of the quake, and this made the delivery of supplies nearly impossible. But in the end, they managed to coordinate with their sister organization, Gleaners, and made arrangements to ship “185 Barrels which is 14,800 2.2 lb bags, that will make 2,250,000 cups of soup!!” She closed her talk by stating: “Many times in the media it’s been talked about that “long-term” assistance is needed even once the news stories stop…Partners for Others is committed to being supportive long term.”

The next speaker was Davey Macbain, who is one of the founders of Ushahidi, and Director of Technology Development. Ushahidi was a 2008 Netsquared winner . “Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, is the organization that I co-founded with a number of other Kenyans. It was born out of the turbulence that ripped apart the fabric of society in Kenya in January 2008, in the wake of a botched election. Ushahidi was a way to tell their stories when the media was silent or elsewhere. A means to tell the world what was happening.” He shared his passion for Ushahidi’s existence as an Open Source platform that can be easily utilized by anyone.

When the earthquake hit, Davey went on to say, he received a phone call from Patrick, who is one of Ushahidi’s staff members. They immediately went to work and had the website up within half an hour. There have been 2000 reports placed into the system to date. Ushahidi’s network extends worldwide, and includes many developers, including the International Network of Crisis Mappers , which Ushahidi co-founded and launched in October of 2009.
It’s a group of about 200 people who are specialists in technology and humanitarian response. There is also a Crisis Mappers Google Group . On Jan 16th, with the help of dozens of people from multiple organizations, we launched an SMS short code in Haiti (4636). People could report emergency info and location by sending a text message to 4636 in Haiti. There is also an Ushahidi Haiti video

Jistis Southpaw from IJDH was the next speaker to share his organization’s story. “I am a human rights lawyer, based in Oregon, we have an affiliate in Haiti called the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux. We are coordinating a group called the Lawyers Earthquake Response Network, which allows lawyers outside of Haiti to pitch in to defend the legal rights of earthquake victims”
“We have 300 lawyers already, and lots of good projects getting off the ground. We are a small organization- 2 full-time and 2 part-time staff.” He also spoke about how they are seeking technological solutions for coordinating the efforts of all of those involved.

After the speakers were done, the floor was opened for questions:

In Kenzo:
“So how can we help you do your work better? That’s a question for all of our guest speakers today…”

RiverSong Garden:
“I think I would really appreciate knowing of contacts you have in Haiti…people we could assist and network with”

In Kenzo:
“how do each of you collaborate with groups on the ground when communications systems are jeopardized during crisis?”

Jistis Southpaw:
“Skype actually worked for us initially, better than phones. It seemed that the internet connections came up quicker than the mobile phones”

Davey Macbain:
“and yes Skype has worked wonders for us too actually during the crisis itself, we spent 18 hour days in Skype working with multiple teams, I should say ‘peak of the crisis’ because the crisis continues”

Jistis Southpaw:
“As for contacts- I’d be happy to recommend, let me know what type of groups you’d like to get in contact with. Back to communications- texting on mobile networks, and in some cases emailing, also worked faster than voice”

Ava Dougall:
“for each of your organizations, would you say that donations are the most useful form of support from individuals that you can access through virtual means?”

Jistis Southpaw:
“Yes, donations first. But circulating information and advice can be valuable too.”

Davey Macbain:
“for us it might be a little different – personally as director of tech at Ushahidi, volunteer developers would be a great way to help”

In Kenzo:
“Perhaps we can tweet out those volunteer requests with you @ushahidi”

Davey Macbain:
“we have a skype chat room too for devs – Ushahidi Skype

In Kenzo:
“Are there other ways we can help you here today?”

Penguin Kuhn:
“we use the #dyb for Donate Your Brain on Twitter for tech questions that need techies to help with”

Penguin Kuhn:
“and that would be perfect for tweeting volunteer requests #dyb”

In Kenzo:
“I know many of us are thinking ahead to the next crisis….and I’m sure we’ll be able to use tools like Ushahidi in other work in our local communities, as needs arise.”

RiverSong Garden:
“for us..donations are wonderful…but know the direct needs on the ground is very valuable :)”

Rhiannon Chatnoir:
“btw…Virtual Haiti Relief has raised 1,690,468 Lindens so far… so if you are at any of the events over the weekend, and want to donate to this…you can donate at any of the Virtual haiti Relief ribbon donation kiosks. we are pulling the location data from where the kiosks are.. so on the site you can see totals by sims based on where they are”

Information to help everyone connect to these great organizations:

Virtual Haiti Relief Information:
Twitter: @virtualhaiti
Hashtag: #virtualhaiti

Our Guest Speakers:

RiverSong Garden

Davey Macbain (David Kobia)
Twitter: @ushahidi
Ushahidi Haiti Participatory Map
International Network of Crisis Mappers
Crisis Mappers Google Group
Skype chatroom for Ushahidi developers

Jistis Southpaw (Brian Concannon)
Twitter: @IJDH
Website is

TechSoup Links:
Community Forums at TechSoup
Discussion about mobile efforts to help Haiti
#dyb for Donate Your Brain on Twitter for tech questions that need techies to help with.

As an aside, our very own Penguin Kuhn had this announcement to make:
“In Kenzo, Glitter, Ninlil, and Kali will be handling my duties when I am gone, I will not be answering my emails for the month that I am gone, so please contact if you need anything while I am gone and they will help you.

Malin Dahlstrom announced that all tenants are required to take this survey: And our friends are visitors are invited to take it as well to help us improve.

Stay tuned for next week where we will have representatives from Linden Labs discussing the brand new Second Life viewer!

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Written by: Layal

N2Y4’s Mobile Challenge

As you might know, NetSquared – an initiative of TechSoup Global – is focused on launching Open Innovation Challenges designed to recruit and fund Web and mobile-based social-benefit projects.

This year, NetSquared’s Global Challenge and Conference, N2Y4, focuses on mobile innovations that support communication and progressive social change. N2Y4’s Mobile Challenge calls for world-changing ideas about how mobile applications can help citizens, groups and others create a better world for everybody.

The NetSquared Community will vote to select the top 14 Projects, and those Projects will be featured at the N2Y4 Conference, May 26-27 in San Jose, California. There, Project developers will have the opportunity to come together with great minds from the business, philanthropy, entrepreneurship and nonprofit sectors. The final three Projects will receive cash awards.

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