Aspiration News

Information Activism Camp

Event Date(s): 
February 19, 2009 to February 25, 2009

Aspiration led development of the curricula and directed the facilitation at an intensive seven day, hands-on workshop that brought together 130 advocates at a retreat-style venue in Bangalore, India, in partnership with Tactical Technology Collective. The aim of the event was to enable advocates to creatively implement digital advocacy tactics by connecting them with others facing similar challenges, showcasing examples of successful tactics, helping them find the right solutions to meet their needs and giving them the hard-skills to implement ideas.

Gunner opines on "Social Media, Social Justice" at the California Endowment

Social Media, Social Justice at California EndowmentThe California Endowment invited Aspiration down to Los Angeles to participate in a panel discussion on Social Media, Social Justice. The event was a wide-ranging dialog on how nonprofit organizations and campaigns can employ social media strategies to support social justice work and build healthy communities.

Gunner joined Chris Rabb of Afro-Netizen and Jessy Tolkan of Energy Action Coalition on the panel, which was moderated by Sloane Berrent of Causecast.

A video of the Q&A part of the event is available on the California Endowment web site.

2008 Nonprofit Software Development Summit

Event Date(s): 
November 17, 2008 to November 19, 2008

The 2008 Nonprofit Software Development Summit was the second annual convening of people and organizations developing software tools, web applications and other technology to support social justice causes. Bringing together a diverse range of developers, technologists, managers, eRiders, integrators, users and other practitioners who self-identify under the umbrella of roles around “developing nonprofit software”, the 2008 DevSummit provided an opportunity both to gather as a community and to take stock of the field, while building connections and capacity.

The event targeted a range of audiences, including developers writing code to support nonprofit needs, nonprofit users with strong opinions about what software you need developed to empower your programs and operations, integrators deploying tools for nonprofit and social justice organizations, and individuals who just care about seeing better technology developed to address the broad range of issues we face as a global community.

The event was supported by the generosity of 2008 Dev Summit sponsors Sun, NetSquared, Google, Open Source Matters, and CiviCRM, as well as anonymous donors.

To learn more about what went down...

Check out the Event Schedule and Sessions List.

Check out the Facebook event page and join up so we can notify you about the 2009 Dev Summit!

Feel free to join the Event Mailing List to participate in discussions about this and the next Summit!

Send any outstanding questions or comments you have to

Goals of the Summit

The Summit had as its primary goals the following:

  • To convene and strengthen connections between the networks of stakeholders in the nonprofit software ecosystem, providing a fun and creative environment for celebrating successes and leadership in the field.
  • To share skills and knowledge in a highly collaborative, peer-to-peer fashion.
  • To map and discuss what is available and what is missing across the nonprofit software landscape in specific software “verticals”, and to posit solutions for addressing the gaps.
  • To offer a point of entry for software developers interested in offering their skills to nonprofit sector.

The agenda took a concrete and hands-on approach to topics and challenges, focusing on transferring skills and process knowledge in interactive and fun ways. Panels and slideware were in short supply as with any Aspiration event, supplanted by participant-driven collaborations and small-group formats.

Event partners working with Aspiration to design the agenda and sessions included Blue Oxen Associates, Brattleboro Technology Collective, Chandler,, Chicago Technology Cooperative, CITI, CiviCRM, Craigslist Foundation, DemocracyInAction, Drupal, EarthJustice, Floatleft,, Gotham Gazette, Jacob Appelbaum, Joomla!, MAPLight, MobileVoter, Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI), NetSquared, Newscloud, OpenMRS, The Open Planning Project, PICnet,, Radical Designs, Foundation, SFCCP, SproutBuilder, TechCafeteria, Tim Bishop, United States Institute of Peace and WiredForChange.

As with all Aspiration events, the agenda was extremely participant-driven, developed in collaboration with participants and session facilitators. Sessions for the event included:

  • Open Source CMS Mini-Summit
  • Listening to Users and Designing Appropriate Tools
  • eAdvocacy Platform and API survey
  • Open Source Case Management
  • The State of Nonprofit CRM
  • API Review: Where Are We At With Tool and Platform Integration?
  • Business Models for Nonprofit Software Development
  • Building Usability into Nonprofit Tools
  • Software Project Management
  • Engineering for Accessibility and Inclusion
  • Helping Non-Techies and Techies Build Successful Software Projects
  • Going Green: Serving Sites on Less Carbon

We thank everyone who helped to make the 2008 Nonprofit Software Development Summit a huge success!

Aspiration Paper: Open Translation Tools

Aspiration has published a paper entitled "Open Translation Tools: Disruptive Potential to Broaden Access to Knowledge", documenting learnings and outcomes from the first-ever Open Translation Tools Convergence. The event brought together two passionate communities: those creating open source software tools to support translating open content, and those with a need for better tools to support translation of the open content they create.

OTT07 VideoIn addition to the paper, participants were interviewed for the event video Voices From Open Translation 2007, sharing their views on the open translation movement, and reflecting on where they envision the field evolving in the future. In the 10-minute piece, developers and content creators discuss the mandates for open content and open source, and the natural marriage between the two communities of practice.

OTT07 VideoOTT07 participants also mapped out and categorized almost 50 open translation tools, and the results are now published using Aspiration's Social Source Commons platform. Have a look, and if we missed any tools you know about, please add them!

Open Translation Tools 2007 was co-organized by Aspiration and Multimedia Institute (MI2), and was supported by the generosity of the Open Society Institute, with additional support provided by TechSoup.

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Joomla! Day West 2008

Event Date(s): 
September 20, 2008

Aspiration was honored and delighted to direct the festivities at Joomla! Day West 2008, held at Google Headquarters. The event focused on building knowledge about Joomla!, a GPL-licensed content management system which is proving increasingly popular for publishing nonprofit web sites.

The event brought together members of the Joomla! core development team, the Open Source Matters team, and almost 100 members of the Joomla! community to talk about all things Joomla!, including the upcoming 1.6 release, template and extension design, and plenty of participant-driven sessions. Aspiration employed our open licensed, collaborative event methodology to drive a fast-paced agenda focused on knowledge sharing, interactivity and community building.

Aspiration Welcomes Matt Garcia as Social Source Commons Community Manager

Matt Garcia joins Aspiration as Community Manager for our Social Source Commons platform. Matt will maintain the SSC blog, engage users to learn how we can enhance the system to better serve their needs, and oversee community outreach for the project, working with the rest of the team to make SSC a more valuable resource for those looking for nonprofit software.

ZeroDivide Strategic eAdvocacy Trainings, Spring 2008 - Materials

Aspiration and Radical Designs enjoyed another California-wide road trip to offer one-day trainings on “eAdvocacy: Basics, Best Practices and New Tools.” Trainings were held in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. The trainings were offered to help members of the ZeroDivide community understand how to use email and the internet more effectively for advocacy, while also raising awareness about emerging technologies.

Open Translation Tools on Social Source Commons

The following are the FOSS tools which were represented and/or discussed at OTT07.

These are served from Social Source Commons using the SSC Toolbox API.

If you know of any open translation tools that we missed, please add them directly to the live toolbox on SSC.

Thank You for Registering!

Thanks for registering for the ZeroDivide Strategic eAdvocacy Training in Los Angeles!

The training will be held on Tuesday, June 17th from 10am to 5pm.

Please note that each participant should register separately for the training.

An email confirmation has been sent to the address you supplied in registering.

The training will take place at:

1715 W. Florence Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90047
Phone at venue: 323-789-7920

Managing Nonprofit Technology Projects II - West Coast!

Event Date(s): 
May 20, 2008 to May 21, 2008

Aspiration and Idealware hosted the second Nonprofit Technology Project Management event in Oakland, California.

Managing Nonprofit Technology Projects examined the tools and best practices that help nonprofits deliver successful technology solutions - whether websites, packaged software implementations, or custom applications.

Interactive sessions and demos allowed a diverse group of participants to compare processes, tools, successes, and lessons learned. Discussion topics included team collaboration, project planning, software selection, migration, and project rollout, and mapping out software tools – from project management packages to collaborative communication to issue tracking and more – that support successful technology projects.

You can check out the agenda and session notes on the MNTP Wiki

And feel free to join the MNTP discussion list, which we're be using to continue the dialog.

Aspiration’s skill in facilitating practitioner knowledge combined with Idealware’s experience in providing mental frameworks and research based information contributed to an informal, collaborative, and information-rich event.

What Are They Saying?

The feedback from our New York Project Management event was equally enthusiastic. Just a few of the comments from participants:

  • "The event was very energizing, and renewed my enthusiasm for tackling some complex issues"
  • "This gathering will inform everything I do in IT from here on."
  • "I used to be super intimidated - now I feel more empowered about what I do know and how to find answers to what I don't"
  • "It was a fun, casual, open, responsive learning environment for non-techies"
  • "I learned that I'm not alone, and I can learn from a rich community of people facing similar challenges"
  • "I was impressed with all that happened - it was amazing"

What were the Goals?

MNTP had three primary goals:

  • To strengthen the community of practice among those who identify themselves as nonprofit technology project managers
  • To enhance the knowledge and capacity of technology project managers within a rich, sharing environment
  • To map out the range of tools and best practices being employed in nonprofit technology project management

Participants exchanged project management tools and techniques that they could apply to the management of many projects, and discussed project management processes – from project initiation to project planning, project execution, monitoring and control, to project closure – in the context of stories and experiences. Participants inventoried resources and best practices for nonprofit IT project management, ranging from templates to trainings, and showed useful software packages as they are used in actual nonprofits.

Significant time was spent discussing appropriate practices and processes for defining requirements in nonprofit software projects to inform the "build, buy, or rent" decisions that vex nonprofit technology managers on a regular basis.

Who Came?

MNTP focused on the growing community of nonprofit technology project managers by providing support to those practicing as project managers, recruiting and offering support to those new to (or bewildered by) this craft, and creating a space for the "accidental project managers" to share their stories, discover their allies, and grow into more "intentional" project managers. A significant part of the event was built around mentoring relationships; experienced individuals with knowledge and stories to share collaborated with participants who wanted to learn more.

Participants were encouraged to bring real-world projects to MNTP, and were met with some real-time project management, coaching, and assessment.

What was on the Agenda?

The agenda was designed specifically to ensure participants interacted with and learned from each other, while also providing solid grounding in essential topics. The following workshops were included in the proceedings:

  • Nonprofit Technology Project Management 101: For those who self-identify as new to the discipline, this session provided an overview of nonprofit technology project management. Essential topics, truths, and tools were presented, with the second half of the session employing a question-driven format.
  • Anatomy of a Well-Managed Technology Project: Drawing from case studies good, bad and ugly, this session focused on key aspects of successful project management. The primary take-away was guidelines on how project managers can maintain control of their projects.
  • Designing and Redesigning Web Sites: Any nonprofit that has published a web site understands the frustrating nature of the process. This session considered how best to take on the task of casting organizational identity on the web while also serving target audiences and delivering value to web visitors accordingly.
  • What Should a Web Site Cost? One of the most vexing questions in any project is “what are appropriate costs for technology and labor?” This session utilized anecdotal data and participant input to explore costing for different types of web sites, from simple “brochure-ware” sites to custom, database-backed applications and points in between.
  • Mapping Communication Tools to Tasks: There are a range of ways to collaborate with partners and stakeholders in any project. But which tools work best for which types of collaboration? This session will sort out appropriate times to employ email, instant messaging and chat, wikis, phone calls, file sharing, forums and other tools.
  • Using Wikis for Effective Collaboration: Over the past several years, wikis have demonstrated their value as a key tool in certain project management processes. This session mapped out best practices and techniques for successfully utilizing wiki technology for project collaboration. Also discussed was when not to use wikis, and when more structured information sharing tools are advisable.
  • Selecting and Recommending Tools – The Idealware Process: Laura Quinn described the Idealware methodology for gathering collective software knowledge in specific software categories, as well as their approach to assessing tools and evaluating appropriate uses. Case studies detailed past tool reports, and participants work through key steps in the Idealware process, in a software category decided by the group in the session.
  • Managing Nonprofit Software Development Projects: While a best practice for nonprofits technologists is to try and utilize existing tools and services, there are invariably times when the appropriate tools and applications don't exist. But software development is not a core competency of most nonprofits, and too often nonprofit software development efforts spiral out of control or end in less-than-complete realization of vision. This session will explore how best to get from concept to running code with out losing focus on mission.
  • Managing Consultants and Dealing with Vendors: This peer sharing workshop invited participants to compare their processes and tactics for managing critical project relationships that fall outside of organizational boundaries.
  • Horrific Tales of Miserable Project Management Failure: Nothing is more instructive than the mistakes of others. Participants will be invited to swap stories and cautionary tales of the many speed bumps, pot holes, and multi-vehicles pile-ups on the road to project management success.
  • A Whirlwind Discussion of Project Management Software Utilities: This fast-paced session allowed participants to share the various project management utilities available, including time tracking, task management, source code control, and more.
  • Software Share: Basecamp, MS Project, DreamTeam and more – Nonprofit practitioners provided a variety of 10-15 minute software demos to allow participants to see the packages in real-life situations and compare the strengths and weaknesses.

Stay informed about key dates and registration information by signing up for our low-volume announcements list

Help to shape the agenda and focus by joining the agenda discussion list.

Want more information?

Contact us at or

ZeroDivide Strategic eAdvocacy Trainings, Spring 2008

PLEASE NOTE: Trainings in San Francisco and Los Angeles are now fully enrolled. New registrants in those cities will be placed on the waiting list and notified the week of the trainings.

Aspiration and Radical Designs invite members of the ZeroDivide network in California to participate in our upcoming one-day trainings on “eAdvocacy: Basics, Best Practices and New Tools.” Trainings will be offered in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco in June 2008.

Aspiration Publishes a Pair of Papers

As anyone familiar with our work knows, Aspiration is passionate about delivering high-quality technology events to a broad range of social change communities and sectors. But we're usually so busy designing and facilitating the agendas that we rarely enjoy the opportunity to step back and reflect on either our methodology or the specific learnings and outcomes from the events themselves.

Aspiration Paper -- Good to Great FOSS: Learnings from Africa

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) invited Aspiration to design and facilitate an event focused on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) development in Africa.

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Penguin Day New Orleans

Event Date(s): 
March 22, 2008

Penguin Day New Orleans was a grand success! Participants explored the potential and the role of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in nonprofit organizations, in sessions designed to answer questions and curiosities!


p>Penguin Day New Orleans took place Saturday, March 22nd, at Basin Street Station, right next to the Easy Rider Cemetery.

Penguin Day New Orleans was organized by Aspiration, NOSI, PICnet, Joomla! and Chicago Technology Cooperative.

What in the world is a Penguin Day?

Are you passionate or curious about the reality, the potential and the role of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in nonprofit organizations? Do you want to learn about latest free and open web publishing tools and technologies? Would you like to meet other like-minded and passionate participants, including developers, activists, and nonprofit "techies"?

Penguin Day New Orleans will bring together nonprofit technology staff with free and open source software (FOSS) developers for a day of learning and conversation.

We'll explore and explain open source for nonprofits, frankly address the challenges of developing open source tools for nonprofits, and celebrate strengths and successes of open source in the nonprofit sector. Leading open source innovators in the nonprofit sector will share their stories and knowledge, and focus on answering your questions!

If you are curious about open source software for your nonprofit organization, Penguin Days are for you!

Who organized Penguin Day in New Orleans?

Penguin Day New Orleans was made possible with the help of Aspiration, NOSI, PICnet, Joomla!, Chicago Technology Cooperative, local partners and YOU!

What will I take away from Penguin Day?

Penguin Day features a packed agenda of interactive workshops, round tables, and "SpeedGeeks." Topics include:

  • Introduction to Free and Open Source Software for Nonprofits
  • Local resources and who’s-who in the Free/Open Source community
  • Helping techies and non-techies communicate
  • Overview of Free and Open Source desktop applications
  • e-Advocacy platforms
  • Making sense of Free and Open Source Content Management Systems
  • Healthy and Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities
  • How Users Can Influence FOSS Development
  • Business Models for FOSS developers and providers
  • Content Management System (CMS) Crash Courses -- Plone, Joomla, and Drupal
  • Creative Commons and Open Content
  • SpeedGeeking (a lively tour of projects and tools)

What Are Others Saying About Penguin Days?

"I had a wonderful time at Penguin Day. It was one of the best IT related conferences I've been to. I'm definitely in a position to help my current and future non-profits with MUCH needed tools. I thank y'all on their behalf. Keep up the good work and positive energy." - Steve Garrison,

"Penguin Day was great - I had an excellent day - made new friends, put a lot of faces to email addresses, had a whole load of fun - and got introduced to some new applications and distributions! Thanks again to everyone who organised the day, ran sessions etc - it made my 4,500 mile trip worthwhile!" - Ian, from London, UK

"Penguin Days are a fantastic opportunity to get together with a wide variety of people and understand more about the issues that surround open source. Unlike a lot of conference/gatherings, the emphasis in these is on meeting people and making connections that you carry out of them room. And that works." - Marnie from San Francisco

"Now on to Penguin Day… Wow. For my part I was impressed by the international scope of the audience, folks from Great Britain, Canada, Kenya, Turkey, Ghana, Chicago and all points in between. The energy was great and the range of topics on the agenda meant there was something for everyone….suffice it to say Penguin Day set the mark against which all other events will be measured in my mind." - John from Chicago


Since 2004, Penguin Days have been held in Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon; London, England; Toronto, Canada, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Texas and Seattle.

Hundreds of nonprofit staff, programmers, and activists have attended Penguin Days. Penguin Days feature humorous "SpeedGeeking" sessions (playfully modeled after speed-dating) to bring programmers and organizations together to learn more about each other and free and open source software.

The Penguin is the symbol adopted in the early days of Linux as the mascot of this growing software movement.

To register for an upcoming Penguin Day, go to

About Aspiration: Aspiration, connects nonprofit organizations with software solutions that help them better carry out their work. We want nonprofit organizations to obtain and use the best software to maximize their effectiveness and impact so that they, in turn, can change the world. We identify what is available and what is missing in NGO software arena, and foster relationships, delivery systems, and sustainability strategies between NGOs around the world.

About PICnet: PICnet, empowers the missions of non-profits through the use of unique open source software solutions. PICnet moves beyond the nuts and bolts of technology, rising to find new and effective ways to assist organizations in meeting their goals.

About NOSI: NOSI was formed with three goals: to facilitate and encourage the use of free and open source software in the nonprofit sector, to bring nonprofit organizations together with free and open source developers and projects in ways that both can benefit, and to promote the understanding of the ways in which the fundamental values of each are similar.

The ANSWR Project

ANSWR is an online platform initiative to help create richer, more strategic levels of understanding about critical nonprofit software areas by enabling users to locate documentation, training, consulting, and community support for their specific nonprofit software needs, no matter where those resources reside on the internet. ANSWR will strive to connect and augment existing resources, rather than duplicating, and wherever possible will help users find and navigate to appropriate online destinations. ANSWR is an acronym that stands for Aggregated Nonprofit Software Resources.

5 Things Every Nonprofit Should Know About Their Hosted Data

Event Date(s): 
March 12, 2008

Download the seminar materials.

As nonprofits increasingly depend on hosted web applications to support their operations and programmatic work, each organization is creating a complex, unique and distributed set of information resources. These assets live on different servers, in different formats, managed by different software, under different licenses, in different jurisdictions. Online storage of membership and supporter databases, mailing lists, web applications, shared documents, remote backups, audio, video, and images comprise a larger volume of the nonprofit information lifeblood each day, but their long-term availability and cohesion is by no means a given.

And nonprofits are not always cognizant of risks raised by these new software and storage models. Data that is remotely stored can become unavailable and be lost in a number of ways. Ownership of hosted data is not always well-defined or well-understood, and control of hosted data is too often through individual staff members rather than through the organization. Nonprofits working on controversial issues expose themselves to new surveillance risks when information is managed by third parties, and security and backup take on new complexities when data lives outside the physical office. Just knowing where all the data lives is an ongoing challenge.

But there are concrete steps each nonprofit can take to retain control of their data destiny. The seminar will reflect on 5 critical things each nonprofit should know as they host their data remotely. The session will be interactive and participant driven, with specific scenarios addressed. Bring your hosted data questions!


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