Creating Passionate Users, one of my all-time favorite resources, is devoted to the idea that we need to meet learners where they're at. This, of course, means that we must first understand where they're at and then be able to do something about it.
Lately, I've been trying to put myself in my customer's shoes, something I'm forever advising them to do. Here are some things that I know for sure when it comes to nonprofits and using technology:
- They don't have time to read about all the great stuff that's available.
- There's so much information out there that even if they do have the time, many people quickly become overwhelmed.
- They want someone to explain things to them in easily digestible pieces so that they can understand the technologies, one piece at a time.
- They're most interested in seeing in a concrete way exactly what we're talking about when we say that nonprofits should have a blog or do podcasting. They need to see examples of how these tools are used by real organizations to accomplish the real work of an NPO.
Seeing this need, I went looking for resources that could help. And while I found a ton of good stuff, I didn't find anything that exactly met what I pictured.
There were a lot of great articles and how-to's and examples, but they were spread out all over the place and they were sometimes confusing to understand, especially if you don't know the jargon of the new media. I couldn't find a good "Nonprofit Web 2.0 for Dummies," that boiled down the essence of this stuff into pieces a "regular" person could understand.
So like any good denizen of the Web 2.0 world, I went and created something myself.
Our Web 2.0 for Nonprofits Wiki is meant to give nonprofits a brief introduction to the concepts and tools of Web 2.0 and to provide them with specific examples of how other nonprofits are using these tools to engage in their basic work activities. I assumed that people would either want to know about specific tools ("what is MySpace?") or they would want to know about how to get certain tasks done. To help them, I've tried to organize the wiki by both the tools, as well as by the activities for which nonprofits might use the tools. So there are sections on advocacy and engaging volunteers and there are cross-referenced sections on blogs and podcasting.
Our goal with this is not to be the definitive resource for all things Web 2.0. There are plenty of sites that are doing this, like TechSoup. We're also not trying to get too detailed and technical. Instead, we're trying to create something that's easily digestible and understandable for most nonprofits and that organizes the information in terms that they are most likely to understand.
More importantly, we wanted to create a resource that could serve as a repository of best practice examples for how other nonprofits are using Web 2.0 to do their work. To the extent possible, we wanted to show rather than to tell.
Why Use a Wiki?
I considered putting all of this into a website, and I might do that at a later date. But the reason I chose a wiki was so that other people could add their own content and examples, making this a more dynamic, collaborative resource. One of the major tenets of the Web 2.0 world is harnessing collective intelligence and with a wiki, we can do that most easily.
Isn't This Replicating Other Work Being Done By Other People?
I thought for a while about whether or not I should even begin this project, which has taken many hours to put together. But I wasn't able to find exactly what I was looking for and I felt like this was something that was really needed by our customers. One of the best services we can provide in an information-overload environment such as ours is some simplicity, guidance and pruning back of the garden of knowledge.
Why Should I Care?
Well, like I said, the power of the web is in harnessing collective intelligence. It's also in sharing what you have with other people who may be able to do something even more amazing with it. Ideally, the wiki will at least be a place where people can get some basic information. More than that, I'd really love it if others contributed their best practices and ideas. As much as possible, I'll add new information as we go along. There's also some other work I want to take care of to clean the place up a little and to continue adding information into different sections. It's definitely a work in progress.
So please take a look and feel free to add your comments and best practices to the site.
UPDATE: Rallyfan from Random Thoughts on Life and Work is already adding some resources! He reminds me that in order for anyone to make edits, you need the wiki password, which is "nptech," without the quotes. Sorry I didn't mention that previously.