Aspiration News

First-ever MobileActive Convergence a huge success

MobileActive is over and all of the fabulous participants have gone home.  Together with Green Media Toolshed and Marty's great vision, we brought activists from around the globe together.  All are using mobile phones in their campaigns in new and innovative ways -- in the Congo, Philippines, Argentina, US, South Africa, and the UK, among other places. 

Here are a few excerpts and stories from people who attended: 

MobileActive Conference gets underway - I just arrived about an hour ago in Toronto for the MobileActive conference....From what I have heard, it is going to be a cool crowd from all around the world. For example, I took a cab from the airport to the hotel with Bukeni, a documentary film maker from Congo who was just in New York presenting his films on child soldiers. [Aspiration Aggregation]

Ungana-Afrika is the 2005 Dirk Award Winner!

We here at Aspiration and all of the previous recipients of the Dirk Award are happy to announce the 2005 winner of the award:  Ungana-Afrika.  Here is the official announcement. Congratulations!

Dirk AwardThe Dirk Award Committee is honored to announce Ungana-Afrika as this year's winner of the Dirk Award.

The Dirk Award is given annually to those circuit or eRiders who have shown extraordinary contributions to the nonprofit and international NGO technology communities while paying tribute to the principles of social justice and the role technology can play in empowering other
communities and individuals.

Ungana-Afrika provides innovative technology support to NGOs in Southern Africa. Ungana-Afrika believes that information and communication technologies (ICTs) offer new opportunities for African community-based and development organizations to do what they do better.

With its emphasis on technology, social justice, and community empowerment, the small staff of Ungana-Afrika has taken the principles of eRiding to innovative new levels with its trainings and capacity-building workshops and innovative projects such as those focusing on community radio and free and open source software within an African context.

Ungana-Afrika further works tirelessly to assure that the eRiding model takes hold in the Southern Africa region by working with other organizations in the region on developing their own eRiding projects. It makes its learnings and materials widely available under Creative Commons license and its staff are active community participants in the
international eRider Network. The organisation is supported by the Soros Foundations Network and the Government of Finland.

eRiders are one of the largest global resources of ICT capacity building for development organizations and work in a world-wide movement with growing representation in more than 20 countries.

The Committee of previous Dirk Award recipients and the global eRider and nonprofit technology support community congratulate Ungana-Afrika and its staff Toni Eliasz, Ryan Jacobs, Angel Kgokolo, Tshepo Thlaku, and Rudi von Staden for visionary and exemplary work!

For more information about Ungana-Afrika, please visit More information about the Dirk Award for eRiders is at


MobileActive: Cell Phones for Civic Engagement


CONTACT: Katrin Verclas, Aspiration
413-687-9877 or 413-884-0094
katrin [at]

Activists from Around the World Gather for First-Ever “MobileActive” on Use of Mobile Phones in Human Rights,Emergency Relief, and Democracy Campaigns

Washington, DC, September 6, 2005 – Ring, ring …Social Change is Calling: Green Media Toolshed and Aspiration, two US-based nonprofit organizations, are convening technologists and activists using mobile phones and text messaging for advocacy, human rights work, democracy campaigns, and mass mobilizations.

MobileActive: Cellphones for Civic Engagement will take place in Toronto, Canada on September 22-24, 2005.

“Call me on my cell phone -- Send me a text message -- You can get me on my cell when you need me. These are not just words among friends anymore.  Now that power is being used by activist working for mass mobilizations, human rights campaigns, environmental protection, and democratic elections,” says Katrin Verclas of Aspiration: Better Tools for a Better World.    

Marty Kearns, one of the organizers, says: "Email is dead. The cell phone is the real tool for moving voice and connecting on the go.  In a world on the move, we need to connect the voice of the people to civil society campaigns. The voices of the world are on mobile devices and the leaders of social change need to be there to engage and mobilize.” and the MobileActive strategy meeting bring together campaigners, technology experts and communications strategists to reconnect campaigns, issue work and civic engagement to people on the street.  MobileActive will help speed the dissemination of innovative practices and technology by skill and knowledge-sharing among activists. Attendees will explore strategies and tactics for the use of cell phones as an organizing tool, and develop useable guidance for practitioners, donors and campaigners to be disseminated widely. The overarching goal is to help civil society activists capitalize on the global wireless phone infrastructure for advocacy communications and organizing.  

Activists and technologists from the Philippines, England, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and the Congo representing Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Fahamu,  Working Assets,,, the Open Society Institute, MacArthur Foundation, MIT Media Labs, EchoDitto, Association de Defense des Droits des Prisonniers, Txtmob, Mobile Voter, Movement Strategy Center, Surdna Foundation, Mobile Reporter, 160Characters, ACORN, and many others will attend.

Strategists and activists interested in participating, please go to

About Green Media Toolshed:  Green Media Toolshed is a nonprofit environmental organization that provides communications tools to our members, environmental nonprofits, so that they can more effectively project their messages to the public and decision-makers. We provide tools and membership services to more than 165 environmental groups across the U.S. --

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.  

Gave money already? Give an hour of your time right now to the Katrina PeopleFinder Project

David Geilhufe, Jon Lebowsky, Ethan Zuckerman, Donald Lobo, Steven Wright, Kieran Lal and others are coordinating a volunteer effort by open source developers, web designers, online activists and ordinary citizens to create a single database of all the people missing in the aftermath of Katrina that their friends and family can use to connect with them. David writes:

Refugees can search 20 web sites for lost relatives and still miss their entry on the 21st web site. There is a need to combine all the refugee data from big databases like Red Cross, large posting forums like Craigslist and many other sources on the web. The Katrina PeopleFinder Project seeks to create a single repository combining as many sources of refugee data as possible from all over the web without interrupting existing momentum.

We need help for both regular people and software engineers. Everybody is critical to building a central repository of ALL the refugee records we can find on the web. The Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and Foundation are coordinating hundreds of people and organizations, including Craigslist and Earthlink.

Please consider giving us just an hour of you your time to do volunteer data entry. The PeopleFinder Project is seeking volunteers in four primary areas:


Network Facilitation Training Convergence

Event Date(s): 
September 1, 2005

At the invitation of Bellanet’s Harambee project, Aspiration offered a second training in our event facilitation methodology for nonprofit technology gatherings. Participants explored how the Aspiration approach can be used to build or strengthen collaborative networks, and to lay the foundation for concrete online and offline post-event collaboration, including the effective use of wikis and other online tools used to produce documentation in real time during face to face events. The workshops also provided a springboard for planning subsequent Harambee events via the Aspiration process.

Extreme Usability Redux

From Eugene Kim, our partner at the last Usability Sprint: 

Extreme Usability Redux -

Another great FLOSS Usability Sprint is in the books. As usual, great people make for great gatherings, and this event was no exception. But we did have a new goal for this event, and it resulted in some different outcomes, many of which were related to this new notion of ExtremeUsability. (JOS)

FLOSS Usability Sprint II: Extreme Usability

Event Date(s): 
August 22, 2005 to August 24, 2005

This event brought together programmers, usability experts, project managers, and users to prototype new methodologies for improving the usability of Free/Libre Open Source Software (F/LOSS) and to apply those processes towards specific software projects. Aspiration’s own Social Source Commons platform was one of the focal projects, along with the Chandler project, CiviCRM, and others.

Computer World on Linux in Africa

Computer World has a brief article in this month's issue about Linux in Africa.  Aspiration's Co-Director Allen Gunn notes in the  article that, ""People in some of the least connected areas are doing some of the most interesting work." Colleagues of ours in Europe and Africa are quoted as well. Check it out.  We love getting press.

We are indeed seeing lots of innovation coming from various countries in Africa in regard to open source and NGOs in particular:  Schoolnet Namibia, the growing eRider Network in Africa, Ungana Africa's work, the newly established Ubuntu Foundation, and Linux Chix Africa who are lively and wonderful.  There are also a number of good reports, most recently one from, comparing proprietary and open source software in telecentres and community technology centres in Africa.  Tectonic provides up-to-date information on Linux in Africa.

MobileActive: Cell Phones for Civic Activism on WorldChanging

There is a nice write-up on WorldChanging about MobileActive, the convergence of mobile phone activists from around the world that we are convening with our friends at Green Media Toolshed. Emily Gertz, a woman I have long wanted to meet, writes: "Mobile phones: How we love their transformative potential on Worldchanging. With all the ways mobiles a becoming key tools for economic and political development world wide, it's probably a great time for strategic gatherings to share stories and lessions learned from the field."

Penguin Days Featured on "Mad Penguin"

Mad Penguin is featuring a series of interviews with Aspiration co-directors Allen Gunn and Katrin Verclas about Penguin Days and the Aspiration strategy and methodology of building an ecology of developers and users of software for nonprofit and social change organizations.

Reporter Christian Einfeldt writes: "If you thought that free open source software is a natural tool for non-profits, you were half right. The potential is there, but as this series of Mad Penguin™ interviews with the co-directors of the non-profit group called Aspiration Tech will show, we're really only about half way there in the journey to complete Tux's domination of the non-profit sector (and then the rest of the world). There's still a whole lot of teaching and learning that's gotta be done as the non-profit and free open source communities get to know each other better. And teaching is what Aspiration Tech is all about. In this series of two articles, Mad Penguin™ talks with the two co-directors of Aspiration Tech, Katrin Verclas, and Allen Gunn, aka “Gunner,” about the apparently mysteriously weak presence of free open source software in the non-profit sector (at least in North America) and what Aspiration Tech is doing about it."

Advocacy Dev II

Event Date(s): 
July 11, 2005 to July 13, 2005

The second convening of practitioners of open source tools for online advocacy took on an international flavor, with participants traveling from Asia and Europe to join in the festivities. Sessions included Mapping the State of F/OSS eAdvocacy Software, discussing F/OSS Database Tools for NPOs and NGOs, Introducing Aspiration’s eAdvocacy Training Curriculum, Open Database Standards, Hacktivism, Inter-Cultural Issues, and a range of peer-to-peer skillshares.

AdvocacyDev II Concluded Today in Oakland, California

AdvocacyDev II concluded toay in Oakland, California. Developers, activists, and nonprofit/NGO staff from Southeast Asia, the United States, and Canada creating and using open source eAdocacy applications came together to strategize, map, and socialize about this emerging field of tools. The discussions about online organizing and engagement were incredible! Thank you to all who made this convergence fabulous. The wiki documenting proceedings is at, pictures are here.

Inspiration: Localizing F/LOSS

mekhalaInspiration can come from the most unexpected places. I'm a little past halfway through AdvocacyDevII. As I expected, there are a lot of really interesting people here, and I have had some great conversations, and learned a fair bit. It has also been great to meet face-to-face with a fair number of people that I have corresponded with over the last 2 years, but never met.

Developers and Activists Gather for AdvocacyDev II


Katrin Verclas
413-687-9877 or 413-884-0094

Developers and Activists Gather for AdvocacyDev II: Open Source Software for Campaigns, Advocacy and Mobilization

San Francisco, California, July 7, 2005 -- Aspiration, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting better software for a better world, is convening programmers and activists developing free and open source advocacy tools to share skills and knowledge at the second annual Advocacy Developers Convergence. AdvocacyDev II will take place in Oakland, California on July 11-13, 2005 –

Groundspring's Advocacy Applications Released Under GPL

Jeff Reifman reports that the advocacy tools formerly developed by Groundspring -- EmailNow, DonateNow, and AdvocacyNow -- are released by him and Kellan under the free software GPL license.

AdvocacyNow is now available as eAdvocacy as a hosted solution at Jeff's Action Studio. The other two apps are unsupported at this moment, though a growing community is certainly possible. The source code is available here.

I am pretty excited about this development and look forward to exploring at greater length how DonateNow and EmailNow as well as eAdvocacy can be viable solutions for a broader set of nonprofits, especially in conjunction with tools such as CivicCRM, for example. The ecology of open source advocacy applications got suddenly a whole lot more interesting.

Shoutout to CivicSpace

Nice, <a href:" short article on Newsforge about CivicSpace and the ecology of organizations and businesses evolving around CS.

CivicSpace developers will be at the AdvocacyDev II convergence> that Aspiration is hosting in Oakland In July 05.

Quote from NewsForge: "CivicSpace's philosophy might be summed up as "open source inside, open source outside," as Rosen and Hoppin say that one of their organization's core ideals is to "enable citizens to collaboratively conduct what are essentially open source marketing campaigns for causes they believe in." For CivicSpace's staff, the extension of this philosophy is "actively helping organizations that might be thought of as our competitors by a more traditional closed organization," and even being willing to "hop on the bandwagon and help" if another organization improves on what CivicSpace does."

Activists Think Mobile

News: Activists Think Mobile

Submitted by Mike Grenville on Fri, 24 Jun 2005 22:31,

Two technology NGOs are convening a strategy meeting of global activists and technology experts using mobile phones in political campaigns, human rights efforts and field organizing

The organisers of the "MobileActive" convergence, to be held in Toronto, Canada on September 22-24th, are Two US-based technology NGOs - Green Media Toolshed and Aspiration.

Katrin Verclas, Co-Director, Aspiration and one of the organisers of the event said that "There are unique characteristics of mobile phone communications. For campaign organizers, there are technical hurdles and questions about using the tool for one-to-many message delivery. For communicators, there are challenges to crafting messages that work in a sms, text message or voice appeals. In spite of these challenges, a growing body of evidence suggests that under some conditions, mobile phones are a powerful new tool in the hands of civil society organizations, organisers, and activists."

Thanks, Mark Surman!

Mark Surman, our friend and ally from IDRC's network, gave us just the nicest plug ever. Thanks so much, Mark! Best of luck and good wishes as you embark on creating the telecentre network.

Nonprofit Software and Nonprofit Missions

Aspiration board member Michelle Murrain writes on her personal blog about Convio's recent decision to take on an anti-gay marriage organization as a client. She argues:

CivicCRM 1.0 is out

From David Geilhufe. CivicCRM is an open source constituency relationship management application running on Drupal (for now):

"Progress on CiviCRM is coming along well and now is the time to get involved!...CiviCRM is now ready to be integrated into other applications. If you have or are considering an NPO application that stores CRM data (contacts, relationships, actions), please take a look at CiviCRM as a basis for your project.

CiviCRM is open source and as long as you contribute your modifications to CiviCRM back to the community, you can do anything you want with the software. CiviCRM is already being adapted by consultants for custom applications in fundraising and member management.


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