Haiti Relief in Second Life: A View from the Nonprofit Commons Collaboration

The Virtual Haiti Relief campaign in Second Life has become a fascinating experiment in engagement here for us at Nonprofit Commons — I hope we can learn from this endeavor for future work. Over a dozen avatars actively shared their skills by creating interactive experiences, events, fundraisers and outreach campaigns to help raise support for the people of Haiti over 6 weeks this winter. Many hundreds of avatars visited campaign spaces, from the Benefit Music Festival to the Help Haiti Hub aid distribution center.

Haiti Benefit Festival at Nonprofit Commons

This campaign took off when Rhiannon Chatnoir and the Virtual Haiti Relief group was able to take the scripted code from the Relay for Life kiosks and create a specialized Haiti relief kiosk that was spread throughout Second Life. Let’s look at the fundraising numbers and rank of monies raised by this community on our four sims:

2) Health Commons $760 or L$197619
24) Plush Nonprofit Commons $83 or L$21440
28) Aloft Nonprofit Commons $68 or L$17541
72) ECO Commons $16 or L$3910

Total raised from NPC: L$240,510 or nearly $1,000USD (thanks to all of you for contributing!). This campaign as a whole raised L$2,000,000 or over $7,200USD. Together the Nonprofit Commons sims raised more than any other single group working in Second Life.

Much of the money raised was passive — beyond the organized music and arts festival events there were many thousands that came in just by making the means of donation available in public spaces around the sims. There are also over 40 musical acts that donated their time to come play for the festival on Aloft Nonprofit Commons, including LabGraal that packed the sim on a Saturday afternoon.


Lessons Learned:

* Events are essential! Most of our visitors and new guests came for the music festival (hundreds over the course of one weekend)
* Advertising is helpful: It helps to have friends on other sims who will get the word out for us
* Music & Entertainment draws crowds better than most other activities, especially if the band has a following
* It helps to make simple agreements quickly with one organization vs. longer route with foundations/coalition-building
* Offer content that informs as well as entertains — many guests appreciated our speakers and detailed information on how to get more involved in grassroots efforts

Special thanks to those here who supported these events/efforts including Rhiannon for building the kiosks and festival stage, Katydid Something for organizing the music festival, Mia Kitchensink, Brena Benoir, Ninlil Xentiltat & many others here at NPC for building various elements on our sims…thank you for your efforts to make this possible. The Help Haiti Hub will continue to exist for some time to allow us to process how aid and information flows across these spaces.

Dancing at the festival

We are finding that what works inworld connects closely to what works on the ground in Haiti:

HuffingtonPost article on Haitian Solidarity and Giving by Beverly Bell

From this HuffPo article:
“In the meantime, what saved many during the earthquake, and what is keeping them alive today, is a culture and economy of solidarity, or mutual aid. Solidarity is an essential strategy through which on-the-margins communities, and their individual members, can survive and thrive. Today the generosity is on overdrive.”

“Gifting and solidarity are time-honored traditions in Haiti, as around the world. The non-monetary transactions of services, care, and goods are both spontaneous and organized. They honor human relationships and attention to the well-being of the whole, not just oneself. They minimize the role of profit in economic and social relations, and thus keep respect, cooperation, and ethics thriving.”

Haiti Benefit Festival at Nonprofit Commons

We learned a lot by bringing in speakers from Ushahidi, Partners for Others, Sustainable Haiti and many other organizations working with the people on the ground to rebuild and renew.

In the spirit of giving, there are a few organizations where you can be more directly involved:

Following Ushahidi will show you up to date reports of where issues are noticed and addressed. There are many creative groups solving issues around rebuilding, permaculture and food security, water purification and medical care in remote areas. There’s a long way to go and volunteers will also be welcomed by many groups if you are interested in traveling directly to the region to help rebuild this country.

Help Haiti Hub

We are learning that there’s a lot we can do remotely to help, from fundraising to connecting organizations who are doing good work to collaborate in times of great need. Please share the lessons you have learned here so that we can begin to build better campaigns together at NPC.

Written by: InKenzo

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 haiti.ushahidi.com 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
Video: http://vimeo.com/9279815
Skype chatroom for Ushahidi developers

Jistis Southpaw (Brian Concannon)
Twitter: @IJDH
Email: brian@ijdh.org
Website is www.ijdh.org

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 nonprofitcommons@techsoup.org 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: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3YTDLHF. 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