Monthly Archives: October 2008

Community Partnership Fund deadline looms

The imminent closing date of a new round of the Digital Strategy Community Partnership Fund on 10 November has set off a stampede of creative thinking. There’s no shortage of good ideas, though the $5.8 million available probably won’t be enough to fund everything being dreamed up.

The criteria for funding means existing projects aren’t likely to get additional assistance, unless it’s about extending reach or linking with others doing similar stuff, and new projects are required to “support digitally disadvantaged New Zealanders”.

Services delivering IT advice and support specifically to community and voluntary groups want to link up. Each of our respective services will be strengthened through regular face-to-face interaction with peers. A proposal is being prepared to enable us to meet regularly to discuss issues and developments, learn from each other, start looking at standards for IT services to the community, strategic discussion to support advocacy for the sector and providing support to other regions starting a community IT service.

At the moment there are three regional organisations looking to join in a proposal, with the Wellington e-rider IT service writing things up. I’m wondering if there are other people around the country delivering IT advice and support primarily to community groups that would like to join in this proposal. Get in touch if you’re interested.

At this stage applicants are just required to submit a short EOI, with short-listed applications having almost three months to complete a full application early in 2009.

A project bubbling out the Cycle Action Network’s Digital Strategy Initiative (aka new website!) will provide a suite of online tools to support the work of advocacy groups. CiviCRM is a powerful tool to support relationships with members. This can be about promoting action, collecting membership fees, receving online donations, administering events, or much more. The CiviCRM back-end can be combined with a Drupal website front-end to create an attractive public entrance.

Andre Cymbalista, project manager of the new CAN website, wants any advocacy network to be able to benefit from this combination of online tools. With many groups being using the same tools, its possible to capitalise on shared training and build up local support.

In New Zealand there are only a small number of groups using CiviCRM but internationally organisations like Amnesty International, Wikipedia and a multitude of grassroots ones all use the software.

If this sounds like something your group would benefit from, contact Andre today.

That’s not all by a long shot. Promoting open source software, developing an easy website builder, providing IT management training to community group managers, and building Drupal modules are just some of the other ideas I’ve heard about.

Let the sparks fly!

How much time for Facebook, etc?

After I submitted my article for publication on social media to “Fundraising in NZ” there were a couple of areas I would have liked to cover in a lot of depth:

1. How much time does it take ?
2. Where do social networks fit beside more traditional online communication using websites and email?

I’ve since come across a couple of blog posts that attempt to answer these questions.

Beth Kanter has mashed up a useful table that simplifies the picture (see below). She suggests breaking your approach into stages: listening, participating, creating a buzz, sharing your story, and community building and social networking. To start with allow five hours to listen. If you want to run an online community, a minimum of 20 hours is required.

Diagram: How many hours per week does it take to use social media? Source: Beth's blog

Diagram: How many hours per week does it take to use social media? Source: Beth's blog

A caution, it can take several months for the effort to pay off. See Beth’s full post and discussion “How Much Time Does It Take To Do Social Media?” (1 October 2008).

Laura S. Quinn at Idealware says it’s important to for each organisation to think carefully about its unique audiences before diving into social networking.

The size and mission of the organization might come into play here – a larger organization that’s targeting internet-savvy audiences might find that it’s worthwhile to invest much more energy in online outreach, while just maintaining a website and email communications status quo. But a smaller organization might get better return on focusing first on creating a strong website and email infrastructure, before investing in finding new online friends (after all, it’s a good website and email strategy that will help keep your friends, after you find them).

With a $30,000 budget (oh, I wish) Laura would split it equally three ways:

  • 1/3rd upgrading and maintaining your website
  • 1/3rd crafting a solid email communications strategy and putting out solid communications
  • 1/3rd online outreach, creating things like viral movies or petitions, social network sites, etc.

Read more at “Prioritizing Websites vs. Email vs. Online Outreach”.

While not exactly definitive, these articles might help organisations thinking about diving into social networking.

BTW: Read my article “A toe in the water – using social networks for your cause”. This is republished courtesy of the publishers of “Fundraising in New Zealand’s”, Foresee Communications – specialists in fundraising and sponsorship.

IT advice for Taranaki community groups, coming soon

Community groups in the Taranaki region will soon have an independent source of IT advice and support. The ICT Gateway is being run by the Bishop’s Action Foundation, a community development organisation based in New Plymouth.

According to the Gateway’s recently appointed coordinator Patrick Edwards, they’re starting out by working with three groups to get a detailed lie of the land. Based on these case studies the details of how the service will be run will emerge.

The types of services on offer will include:
•    improving strategic planning and management of ICT technologies
•    access to both expertise, hardware and software resources
•    collaboration with each other to maximise the benefits offered by changing ICT technologies.
In addition to these pretty familiar aims, which are closely aligned with what we’re trying to achieve with the Wellington e-rider IT service, the ICT Gateway has also got some employment outcomes to achieve over the next three years.’

To make all this happen Patrick is making a big push into the local IT industry. He’s approaching businesses to donate time, hardware and/or software, and to offer training support and cadetships.

So far so, good. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a 45 second interview I recorded with Patrick when he was in Wellington.

Interview with Patrick Edwards, ICT Gateway from Stephen on Vimeo.

PS The clip is pretty shaky as I recorded it using my phone. I’ve decided to use Vimeo to host the video rather than YouTube after reading an article in Macworld. Michael Gowan says its stylish design, ease of use and options for sharing videos privately makes it good for personal use (see “Share your videos online”, 28 May 2008).

CommunityCentral sneak preview

On the CommunityCentral blog you’ll a find a sneak preview of the new homepage. After a demonstration at the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisation’s AGM we’ve decided to let people see what the new web-based platform will look like.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been doing a fairly intensive amount of usability testing. This has included a series of formal tests by AccEase who draw on a pool of people using screen readers and other assistive devices. I’m doing some more informal usability testing with a small group of typical users. And finally, the reference group we set up as been probing the e-newsletter function.

All this testing is generating a lot of feedback – some of which will involve relatively minor cosmetic changes, including wording, but there could be some more substantive problems. As we want to start engaging with users, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to address everything raised in the testing before the website goes live.

After ten months of planning, discussion, scoping, and behind the scenes work, the launch seems to be coming up so quickly. There are endless details to sort out and fiddly refinements. At times I wonder how I will get through everything.

What keeps me going? It’s actually because now that we’ve got a working website I can see how CommunityCentral will make a meaningful contribution to supporting people working in tangata whenua, community and voluntary organisations. It’ll take time, but I can see how the vision of the founders and initiators can be realised.

Anyway, I’d welcome any feedback if you visit the sneak preview.

PS We’re looking for a dynamic person who enjoys setting up systems and giving people really good support to act as webmaster/ site manager. Our ideal scenario is finding an intern or volunteer who will take on the role of webmaster and support person – for something like four or six months. Please get in touch if you’re interested or know someone who might be suitable. I’d be happy to send details.