On a recruitment drive – #net2welly

NetSquared Wellington winter event flierThis spring NetSquared Wellington will be hosting a day-long unconference for changemakers, people working in their grassroots communities and communicators in NGOs. We will offer a day for people to learn from each other about putting technology to good use.

There is a team of stellar organisers working on details at the moment, with a notice about a date coming out soon.

In the meantime, we’ve got a programme of lunchtime learning events. These are free, fun and great for networking as well as learning.

If you know of anyone that you think might be interested in attending, you could suggest they look at the NetSquared Wellington meet-up page, or you could give or send them a brochure. Digital versions attached here, or I can post out a hardcopy if this you reckon this will be more convincing.

Upcoming meet-ups:

Cyclists heading on a journey, on social media, Tuesday 26 May 2015
Some successes and secrets from the very active Cycle Aware Wellington.

Social Media Surgery, Wednesday 1 July 2015
Book-in to get one-to-one advice from a social media professional. Co-hosted by the Community Comms Collective (www.communitycomms.org.nz).

Making the most of Google for Nonprofits, Tuesday 28 July 2015
An introduction to Google’s super grant.

RSVP without delay.

Attachment:
NetSquared_Brochure_May2015_PRINT (PDF 1.2MB)

No #net2welly website yet, but we have a plan

NetSquared Wellington website plan: very messy writing on whiteboardWhen I turned up to facilitate the “A new #Net2Welly website in an hour?” meetup yesterday, I was prepared to get stuck in with website installation and design.

I had hosting arranged with Crazy Domains, and checked they had WordPress ready to install at the push of a button. I’d already paid $14.95 for the net2welly.org.nz domain.

The plan was to work in small groups on different aspects of website development. I envisages people working at three or four tables covering: installation and set-up; graphic design; structure and content; and testing/ launch.

With only half of the 12 people who RSVP’d actually in the room — poor turnouts being one of the drawbacks of the informal meetup format — these plans quickly changed. It made sense to work as single group.

And we didn’t go anywhere near the control panel, DNS set-up or plugin directories. Instead, we arrived at the end of our hour long workshop with a plan.

Skipping the talking part of the process and essentially doing things on the fly would most likely have a led to a train web wreck. Maybe not fatal, but highly likely a site heading off the rails. Discussion what will be valuable our community and narrowing the focus are fundamental starting points.

As we started Alan Royal shared Rudyard Kipling’s timeless advice: “I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all i knew); Theirs names are What and Why and When And How And Where and Who.”

And that’s exactly what we covered: our goals, linkages with the big picture NetSquared vision, how would the website sit alongside other community IT initiatives in Wellington, who is the audience, what content could we easily co-create as volunteers, how will people interact, and what will it take to ensure the website is accessible to all.

Ultimately, we had to decide whether a website will be a valuable addition to communities in Wellington. After a round where everyone had their say, the answer was yes. Our goal is offer a virtual extension of our regular NetSquared Wellington meetings: part learning, part networking, part social.

As well as meetup and other event notices, we plan to share short posts about stuff we learn about using technology for social change. Maybe this is from a workshop or webinar network members attend. Or perhaps brave experiments with coding or online communication.

Anyone willing to abide by some simple community guidelines will be able to create and add a blog post. Brave stuff in a world where everyone constantly pleads they’re “busy, busy, busy”. Busy, schmbusy: we’ll give it ago.

Other ideas we’ll explore include:

  • a project space that could connect people with IT needs with those with skills to offer
  • a page with resources or sign-posts about essential, useful online tools and ways of doing stuff
  • sharing the good words and connecting people via a popular social network (or two).

First we have to build the website, something we’re due to begin together on Tuesday 12 August. Come along, all fingers and devices at the ready.

Even though we didn’t actually build the #net2welly website in the allocated hour, we’re off to a great start.

Make time to talk

Stephen Blyth, at Otago Access Radio studio“It used to be if I asked people how they’re doing, they would say they’re busy. Then they started saying “Oh, I’m busy, busy, busy”. And now they’re saying things like “I’m crazy busy” or “I’m insanely busy”, Margaret J Wheatley reflected when I talked with her last week.

The hyperbole will doubtless continue to inflate.

I experience this as having barely finished one thing before I’m racing on with the next. Distraction at the hands of this wonderful, but paradoxically attention grabbing technology, no doubt contributing to this. There rarely seem to be empty spaces.

There is definitely something missing as we blanket ourselves with this comforting illusion of busyness. When do we make time to scratch below the surface? To re-examine why we do things? For pondering about what really matters? To ask how come things ended as they are?

Margaret’s words ring true, if I really allow them to sink in. She says not only is thinking endangered, but working with others and generosity too. She very forthrightly describes our predicament at length in her recent book “So far from home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World”, and suggests we can find a way out.

One question that arises is how would things be different if we allowed more time for thinking and conversation?

I see a glimpse of what can happen when people stop to talk in a paper delivered by vivian hutchinson at the New Zealand Creativity Challenge held in New Plymouth last April (“What’s Broken is the We: some thoughts on creativity for the common good”, 2013).

The experienced community activist and social entrepreneur recounts how he invited two leading and long-time workers in community development in New Plymouth and Taranaki to talk:

“Let’s take all our various hats off for a while – some thoughts on creativity for the common good while … all the roles and labels that we carry around with us as we do our work. Let’s just have breakfast together as active citizens in this province that we love.”

Then I issued a deeper invitation: “Let’s tell each other the truth of what we are seeing right now … rather than what we tell our funders.” They both knew what I was talking about – because the growing gap between these two messages is in itself a significant problem in the sector right now.

Well, once we started talking, we found we couldn’t stop. We ended up having breakfast every fortnight for the next nine months. The conversations deepened our understanding of what we mean by community development and civic engagement. We asked ourselves some challenging questions about what sort of community sector we
handing on to the next generation.”

This conversation led to many others. Vivian found people “hungry for an authentic opportunity to stop and reflect. We spent four months at it, and established the beginnings of a learning community on how we as active citizens can do our work differently, and create real change.”

As I’ve found in the last week, conservation without the need to rush to conclusions is a wonderful thing. It is possible to find inspiration in the twists and turns of life.

When invited to revisit why I do the work I do by interviewer Sam Mann, I ended up heading off on some unexpected tangents. In the hour-long interview for the Sustainable Lens: Resilience on Radio program I talked about some of my motivations, shared learning from my community work over the last 25 years, and mulled on where using digital tools fits in.

This conversation was very invigorating, and would have been just as rewarding had it not been recorded. It’s just not something I would usually make time for amidst the day-to-day bustle.

Margaret J Wheatley is full of encouragement about the need to create time to be together in conversation: “I think a major act of leadership right now, call it a radical act, is to create the places and processes so people can actually learn together, using our experiences.”

IT for good: learn local, think global talk, 17 July 2014

Dunedin Community House,  taken early monrningPresentation and links from a talk hosted by the Council of Social Services Dunedin on 17 July 2014.

My trip south was supported by NetSquared and my wonderful family.

Listen to Stephen Blyth being interviewed on Sustainable Lens | Resilience on radio by Sam Mann. This was broadcast on Otago Access Radio, Thursday 24 July 2014.

Top 5 co-organiser tools

  1. Doodle – easy scheduling in open way
  2. Google Forms – easy to use, free web forms for anything you collect online (almost)
  3. Wikispaces (free easy to edit website wikis) – EYC unConference example
  4. Storify — see the example from my trip to Washington DC, March 2014
  5. Flickr – photo sharing, storing and editing, via Yahoo.com

Other links

Six views on innnovation, including Technology pyramid, by Edward G Happ

Kete – telling our stories together, software and more to act as community memory

NZ Navigator – online self-assessment to help identify your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses

Reflections on 14NTC: Technology Experimentation and the Ad Hoc Open Source Society, by Craig Sinclair, Manhattan Neighborhood Network

Creative Commons Aotearoa – licences for creative works to share, remix, resuse – LEGALLY!

NetSquared – global community

NetSquared Wellington group

A video about Meet-up.com (a paid for service)

The presentation

IT for Good: learn local, think global presentation, 17 July 2014 by Stephen Blyth

Thoughts on a NetSquared trophy

Photo of Net2 trophy, printed using 3d printerThe trophy pictured here is more than what it seems.

It shows the potential for us as global citizens to share good ideas and practical tools to make the world a better place. Anyone with a 3-D printer and crafty fingers can print off and construct the trophy.

Designed by MBau3d in Guatemala, the trophy was handed out at the recent Central America and Mexico NetSquared regional netcamp. The STL (STereoLithography) files needed have been generously shared by mBau3d.

While I’ve heard stories about printing prosthetics, pumps and plastic parts, it wasn’t until I unzipped the 900KB folder and saw the actual files for the trophy that I realised how easily technology could be transferred.

Now code alone isn’t enough. Knowhow and confidence are crucial. A framework like Creative Commons to ensure intellectual property is respected is helpful. But without trust and a sense of affinity between people, nothing will be freely offered to others.

That’s why international movements such as NetSquared are so important: they foster sharing, both locally and globally. When we get together with others a lot is possible: we can learn about what is possible, inspire and support one another, and share what we know.

The 50 #net2 active groups are meeting all the time (see “Together we’re strong”). For those of us in Aotearoa, there are some upcoming opportunities to participate.

NetSquared Wellington is coming up to it’s second birthday, 18 meetups down the track. In June we are talking: Advocacy – how can using a digital soap box work for you?

The Auckland Net2 meetup group will resume meeting again on Tuesday 8 July, with Vivian Chandra and Stuart Young taking co-leadership. The title of the upcoming meetup asks it all “#net2aklREVIVE : So what is #tech4good anyway?”

For anyone interested in setting up a NetSquared group in Christchurch or Dunedin, you’re welcome to join a conversation with me and others next month:

  1. 5.30pm Wednesday 16 July, Joe’s Garage, 7 Leslie St, Upper Riccarton, Christchurch
  2. 12.15pm Thursday 17 July, Dunedin Community House, 301 Moray Place, Dunedin. RSVP/ details

While using the web and other technology gives us a reason to meet, it’s the possibility of working together where the real promise lies.

I’m looking forward to the day when someone turns up to a meetup to show us how to print out a trophy. Or perhaps something of our own design.

CAD file showing 3d printer file

Mbau3d: “We share the trophy that will be delivered in #netsquaredgt the best project 🙂
EDIT: downloadable files source of this trophy in the link below!”
http://bit.ly/1o4QCHO

[Presentation] Getting a great result workshop, 13 May 2014

First slide in Getting a great result workshop presentationHere are links, slides and other resources from the “Getting a great result workshop: knowhow for managing digital projects” workshop presented by Stephen Blyth at the Techsoup NZ/ Connecting Up conference, 13 May 2014, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland.

Use the comments to ask about anything that you would like more information.

Getting a great result: knowhow for managing digital projects workshop by Stephen Blyth

Website development brief

Use the headings in this generic website development brief to create one for your project. This is shared under a Creative Commons license which encourages sharing, remixing provided the Common Knowledge is attributed and it is for non-commercial purposes.

Download: Common Knowledge website development brief, template

Links

“The Nonprofit Website Project Handbook” by Yesenia Sotelo, SmartCause Digital

“A Practical Guide to Managing Web Projects” (2012) by Breandán Knowlton – Five Simple Steps

“Tips for Designing (or Redesigning) a Nonprofit Website”, article by Chris Peters, TechSoup

usability.gov – Improving the User Experience (USA)

TechSoup RFP Library

Is It Time to Rethink Your Website? by Farra Trompeter

Rethink your website Webinar
Rethink your website flowchart

13 Things Your Website Needs in 2013 (PDF) by Rich Dietz (very detailed)