Red Cross

Tech for Change - August Round Up!


Technology in and of itself is no panacea for positive transformative change. It is the people who create the opportunities and who leverage these technologies for the betterment of society. Though still a work in progress, there are tons of charities and non-profit organizations who are working towards this.

Earlier this month, Red Cross hosted the Emergency Social Data Summit in Washington D.C., bringing together government agencies, humanitarian and disaster response organizations, and tech companies to address how technology can be used to respond more effectively during crisis situations. From the Red Cross blog:

"Social media has changed how people communicate, including their calls for help. Now, people Tweet, update Facebook statuses, and text about natural disasters. Emergency and disaster response organizations are working to develop a process to address this and harness the communication power of new media."

Tutus for Tanner originated when an influential blogger in Toronto, Catherine Conners, (, posted an entry telling the story of her nephew, Tanner, who suffers from Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy. The blog post soon went viral and people began taking action and holding their own fundraisers for him. As a quick example, Scott Stratten (another big kahuna in the social media world) hosted and managed the #TutusforTanner tweet-a-thon auction, which called his 65,000+ followers to tweet about the contest and donate. He set out to raise $25,000 in just 30 hours and guess what? Over $29,000 were raised! Incredible stuff! Just goes to show the importance of having not just a large, but engaged following online.

crowdrise is the funky, hip, and hilarious web platform that brings together a community of online givers and volunteers. Here, anyone can start their own fundraising/volunteer projects or donate their time/money for the causes that they feel most passionate about. It makes giving in all shapes and forms so easy! Check out their website at  If not to donate, at least to read their cheeky copywriting, which in itself deserves a prize of some sort!

It Starts with Culture.


There have been times while working at jhr when I've wanted to bang my head against the wall because not everyone (okay...a very small minority) knows what I'm talking about when I start talking about social media. The lingo that I use (hashtag or Trending Topics, anyone?) garners some pretty dumbfounded looks that leaves me feeling disheartened. How can we move forward as an organization technologically if our staff (there aren't too many of us either) don't understand what we are trying to do or the value of adapting to these technologies? With the rapid speed with which the technology is moving, there's just no time to waste. We're behind already and the distance in catching up is just growing wider and wider. I want jhr to run at a steady pace the whole way through, not sprint and fall behind.

It's hard stuff and I know that there are tons of other organizations struggling with this. So what to do? The first step to the solution is to change the organizational culture to one that is more knowledgeable and embracing of the technology available. If you want people to spread the word about your organization and the work that you do, where else would you start but with the very people who make it happen?

zomg, social media is like the best thing evarrr!

So in my frustration and in an attempt to make some serious changes, I decided to start a little "sharing" program every week in the office where I would feature one non-profit organization that is using technology (whether it's social media, mobile, etc.) to advance their goals and effect social change. By doing this, I hope to educate our staff on the different ways tech can be used to our advantage and hopefully get the creative juices flowing for everyone. I want my friends at jhr to be as excited as I am about the incredible possibilities we can achieve with the help of technology. Social media isn't just silly games, it's serious stuff!

Here are the four NPOs I decided to highlight for the month of June and a little blurb on why. If you've got any suggestions of other worthy orgs or any ideas on how to foster a more tech open culture, I'd love ya for it!


The National Wildlife Federation's "Nature Find" took Google Maps and cleverly used it to fit their needs. Their Google Maps "mashup" allows its supporters to find all kinds of info about outdoor areas and events going on in their area. Simple concept but a genius way to encourage participation, awareness, and engagement. 



Not just your ordinary blog, the LiveStrong's Blog is an interactive page that includes all sorts of social media tools like Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube to engage and involve their followers. The YouTube side widget, for example, encourages people to tag their videos as "LiveStrong" for a chance to be featured on the page. They've also built a community on Flickr with people tagging photos as "LiveStrong". All of this can be accessed by anyone and all are aggregated under that one distinct "LiveStrong" tag helping to not just build up the LiveStrong brand but also allowing supporters to share their experiences with one another. 

Among the other great things that they do, Red Cross has been using SlideShare actively to share various presentations like their social media handbook, ways to volunteer, campaigns, etc. It's a great way to continue being the transparent organization that they are while providing resources that are useful and easy to find.

Innovation at its best. Ushahidi is an open source project that was born out of the post-election violence in Kenya back in '08. It was used to map reports of violence and peace efforts submitted by ordinary citizens from the web or their mobile phone. Since then it has been deployed to track violence in the DRC and Gaza and monitor elections in India and, most recently, Kyrgyzstan. It provides real time and visual information that is so essential for crisis response.