Leveraging art and artists for social change

I wrote this article, Leveraging art and artists for social change for the Resource Media blog, but I am copying it here for you, dear reader. In October I traveled to Austin, Texas for SXSWEco expecting to learn about plenty of green and clean technology, policies and activist campaigns to advance sustainability in the face of climate change.  The most important idea I came away with was quite unexpected: Art and artists have an important role to play in the environmental movement, and other movements. The topic came up more than once: Ron Finley, the urban gardener from Los Angeles who rose to internet fame after giving a TED talk earlier this year opened the conference touching upon the beauty of the edible gardens he plants in South Central LA. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus urged the audience toharness culture to save the planet by deeply engaging with artists, not simply inviting one to sing a song at a rally. He urged the planners of SXSWEco to engage artists to create original works to be presented alongside other programming. And in the most direct example of art — specifically visual art — and the role it can play in activism, Shepard Fairey gave a keynote address in the form of a slideshow of his work over the years that had either been commissioned or offered free to organizations and movements. While Fairey is perhaps most well known for the Obama Hope portrait of 2008, and the Obey Giant apparel, he has a long history of working with environmental organizations going back to his days in...

Free And Open Source Software For Nonprofit Organizations Webinar Slides

On Thursday I presented a webinar in conjunction with NTEN entitled Free & Open Source Software For Nonprofits.  You can view the slides from my presentation below or on slide share (click that last link). If you would like to see the video fo the entire webinar, approximately 65 minutes, you can purchase it from the NTEN website for $35 if you ar a member, and more if you are not. Free & Open Source Software For Nonprofits: NTEN Webinar View more presentations from Gregory...

I'm a Certified Scrum Product Owner Now

<p>In January of 2012 I took a course and recevied my Scrum Product Owner Certification. So now, in addition to being a Certified Scrum Master, I am a Certified Scrum Product Owner.</p> <p><img src="/sites/gregoryheller.com/files/Scrum_Product_Owner_Horiz_2.jpg" alt="" width="400"...

Free And Open Source Alternatives To Proprietary SaaS Offerings

With this week’s announcement that Blackbaud will buy Convio there have been many questions whether this will be good or bad for the nonprofit organizations both companies count as their clients. We have often had clients and other nonprofit organizations we come into contact with us ask about the open source tools we specialize in, and how they compare with the proprietary tools or Software as a Service offerings that they’ve heard about. One very clear difference is that the open source tools don’t get bought up and consolidated. Eben Moglen, of the Software Freedom Law Center, gave a keynote address at the Nonprofit Technology Conference (video) a few years back. In a passionate 45 minute speech, he discussed the choice between free sofware and proprietary software as a moral one. Every dollar spent purchasing an operating license, or paying a lease on proprietary SaaS is a dollar taken out of the public trust and given to private companies to distribute to their executives, owners or shareholders. On the flip side, money spent deploying free and open source solutions is often also spent making those solutions better, and available for others to use. Allen “Gunner” Gunn of Aspiration Tech wrote similarly this week of the Blackbaud/Convio merger: Blackbaud makes tens of millions of dollars in annual profits by charging nonprofits usurious rates for mission-critical software. Their sales tactics and licensing terms are among the most aggressive and ruthless I have seen, even in my hardest-core Silicon Valley days. And their executives receive multi-million-dollar cash and equity compensation packages. Organizations do have options. Unfortunately those options due not have multi-million dollar...

An Open Nonprofit Directive

At the end of 2009 when the Obama Administration came out with the Open Government Directive (which I wrote about at the time) I had some conversations with other consultants and thinkers in the nonprofit technology world about the idea of an “Open Nonprofit Directive” that would, in many ways, mirror the OGD. Two years have passed, and in the prognostications for the year ahead I’ve seen a number of references to “opening up” and increasing transparency in the nonprofit sector. Once again I am left thinking it is time for an Open Nonprofit Directive. The three key tenets would take their lead from those laid out by the Obama Administration in 2009: Transparency. Organizations should provide the public with information about what the organization is doing so that the organization can be held accountable. Participation. Organizations should actively solicit expertise from outside of the organization so that they make the most efficient use of the funds entrusted to them. Collaboration. Organizations should work together with one another and with the public as part of doing their job of solving the problems, addressing the issues, or providing the services they are formed to work on. A year ago, Wiser Earth ran this article about Opening Up at nonprofit organizations, highlighting three main benefits of openess: Greater Efficiency Increased Trust Improved Fundraising Among the suggestions that the article offers to move toward a more open existence are: updating your 990 Listing in Guidestar, discussing your organization’s needs openly on your website, discuss your failures in addition to your successes. Those suggestions speak to the Transparency issue to which I would add:...

Responsive Design, Email Content Strategy And Templates

Why do so many organizations waste the opportunity to hook their email subscribers with the first line of the email message? I hadn’t really noticed this sooner because of the way I consumed email: through a series of complicated email aliases and gmail filters.  Honestly, in Gmail, I was basically ignoring most solicited bulk email (organization email lists). But since I’ve been taking a first look at my email through my iPhone and iPad using the iOS mail app, I’ve begun to notice this shocking fact. Here are some facts about viewing email via the iOS mail app: Approximately 35 to 40 characters of a subject are displayed Approximately 100 characters from the top of the email message are displayed Two lines at 50 characters, and a subject of 35 to 40 characters. That’s basically a Tweet.  And that (plus the “from” name) is all you have to get your reader’s attention and convince them to open the email message and read on. Why do so many emails waste this space with something like: “Click to view this email in a browser” (37 characters) “Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.” (64 characters) “If you’re having trouble viewing this email, you may see it online.” (68 characters) “Web version | Edit your subscription | Unsubscribe” (55 characters) I looked through maybe a dozen email messages that started with some variation on one of the above disclaimers to discover that the messages were sent through the following services: Vertical Response MyEmma Convio Mail Chimp Constant Contact Campaign Monitor The organizations are not choosing to put this...

Using Live Video To Reach Your Audience With Google+ Or UStream

  I think that most organizations are a little bit afraid of video. And if they are a little bit afraid of video they are even more afraid of live video.  Video, the conventional wisdom goes, is expensive and hard to produce. Your chances of doing it wrong are higher than of doing it right, and either way the cost and time involved is probably out of reach. Live video, well that is just crazy talk! Anything could happen! As we all know, the cost of video cameras has come way down, the once much heralded inexpensive Flip camera is now obsolute because of smartphones with high quality video cameras! And editing technology has also become cheaper and easier. For years now every Mac has shipped with iMovie, but today you can edit video with a range of online services including YouTube. Video engages people. How many times a day do you want a few minutes of video on the web? That clip from the Daily Show, a segment from the local news, something on YouTube (perhaps involving a cute animal) a friend posted to Facebook? Or maybe you were glued to live streaming of the #occupy demonstrations this fall? How can nonprofit organizations make use of video easily, and without great expense, to connect with their audiences? My, perhaps counter intuitive answer, is through live streaming. Yes, jump in on the deep end.  With live streaming video there is no post production necessary, just a camera and an internet connection. UStream has garnered much press because of the #occupy movements and it is a great platform, scales well,...

Process Vs Knowledge

I recently saw the wonderful documentary, Eames: The Architect & The Painter, and if you are a fan of the furniture, films or other design of Ray and Charles Eames like I am, you have to see this film when it comes to your town, or becomes available via DVD or some streaming service. Even if you are not obsessed with the work of the amazing couple, you have certainly been exposed to it, and I think we all can learn from the example they set. So much about this film impressed me, but one lesson more than all the others resonated.  Ray and Charles sold their process to their corporate clients, not their knowledge.  When they approached design challenges for their clients, they looked at them with a fresh perspective, and learned about the challenge, the industry, the technology, and that process of discovery is really what they sold, the work product was almost an artifact of the process.  Charles liked to say, “Never delegate understanding.” The Eames methodology of addressing subjects as a novice, learning about them, and translating that learning into a product seems similar to Zero Gravity Thinker solution to the expertise/innovation paradox.  I had a moment of synchronicity at Ignite Seattle 16 on wednesday evening when Beth Kokol got up and spoke about Hackademia: her work at the University of Washington to get students to solve problems they have no special expertise in. While there is certainly room, and need for knowledge and expertise, we cannot be so cocksure that we ignore the value of a fresh perspective and the innovation it can give rise to....

Interesting Stats On Mobile Adoption, Smart Phones And Apps

If you’ve been feeling like more people have smart phones than don’t, you are pretty close to being right. Third quarter numbers from Nielsen show that in certain age groups more than 50% of people have smart phones, and overall, 43% of all US mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone. Amongt mobile phone subscribers aged 25-34, 62% report having a smart phone. A November Wired article related stats from a recent study indicating that nearly 30% of mobile phone users worldwide are using smartphones. that same article reports that 11% of all mobile devices are running Android, 5% iOS and 5% Symbian OS. When you look at the market share among just smartphones, 43% are running Android, 28% iOS, 18% Blackberry. Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that as of August, the number of adult cell phone woners who’ve downloaded an app to their phone increased to 38% and half of adult cell phone owners have apps on their phones. However less than half of adults with apps on their phone paid for them, according to another Pew study. A few quick things to note: adoption in the studies above is adoption of smartphones among mobile subscribers, not all people, though numbers in some studies of that nature show vast penetration of cellphones period. There are still people without cellphone smart, feature or otherwise (sometimes easy to forget in our industry). So what does all of this mean?   For starters, I think we are at a tipping point.  The cost of smart phones, even the iPhone is dropping, with Apple offering earlier versions at bargain basement prices...

Unplugging and Improving Productivity As A Result

Perhaps it is just the end of the year approaching, and we are all getting a bit reflective, and thinking ahead to New Year’s Resolutions, or maybe something larger is happening.  I seem to be coming across many articles on the topic of productivity, work life balance, distraction (or focus), multi-tasking, personal energy management and burn-out. The proliferation of many, smaller, always on, wirelessly connected screens has completely broken down the barrier for many “knowledge workers”, digital creatives, and even nonprofit program employees and executives between work, and non-work. A friend was over the other evening and seamlessly went from reviewing a text message from her husband (who was coming to pick her up)to reading work email before jerking the iPhone away from her face and saying, “I’ve got to stop!” In the conversation that ensued she revealed that she often starts reading and responding to email from home, before breakfast, gets to work (as an executive at a nonprofit organization) continues responding to email, and then finds herself responding to yet more email in the evening.   I am sure that we can all relate to this experience. We recognize the disfunction of it, but can’t figure out how to break the cycle. I was excited to read about a Harvard Business Review Article called the Productivity Paradox: How Sony Pictures Get’s More Out Of People By Demanding Less. The abstract of the paper (I haven’t read the whole thing) offers what is probably the most important lesson: These behavioral changes are sustainable, though, only if leaders at the most senior levels of an organization are willing to...