GuideStar International's Blog

February 14, 2012

Tell Your Story In 1 Minute To Win – TechSoup Global’s Digital Storytelling Challenge is on!

Filed under: civil society — guidestarinternational @ 10:45
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We’d like to invite you or your organisation to participate in our 2012 TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge. We’re in the midst of an exciting challenge with learning opportunities and a chance to submit your one-minute video or five-photo slideshow to win excellent award donations from our partners.

This challenge is open to all social benefit organisations regardless of registered status or location.

How to get involved this year

  • Submit a one-minute video or five-photo slideshow to win prizes
  • Register for our upcoming free webinar on post-production (2/16) with David J. Neff of Lights. Camera. Help.
  • Join us for a tweet chat (2/14) about social sharing to learn how to get your video in front of the eyeballs that matter most to your org
  • Encourage everyone you know to participate! Spread the word:
  • Subscribe to our Google group to stay up to date on all of these exciting happenings

Remember that video is the content people are spending the most time with online these days, and digital stories are a powerful way to share the passion and hard work your organization has for its mission! The video is yours to keep and use after the challenge is over.

What’s your organization’s story? Share it now!


July 26, 2011

TechSoup Launches Mirco-volunteering Initiative, Donate Your Brain

Filed under: civil society — guidestarinternational @ 09:57
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This post was authored by Becky Band Jain, a TechSoup guest blogger and volunteer.

TechSoup is launching a new micro-volunteering initiative called Donate Your Brain. It allows anyone, anywhere, to help nonprofits and other community organizations with quick answers and suggestions for their Internet, software, and other tech needs.

TechSoup’s Donate Your Brain is a way for nonprofits, NGOs, libraries, government agencies and other social mission-based organizations to ask tech-related questions and get quick answers. Questions posted in our forums, LinkedIn group, or on Twitter will get a rapid response from volunteers. This new initiative is ideal for those of you who would like to get involved with providing tech assistance on the social networks where you are already active.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Search and save the hashtag #TechSoupDYB, and respond either via tweet or following a link to the forum post.
  • View questions & share answers in the TechSoup Global LinkedIn group.
  • Use GoogleAlerts or a similar service to let you know about any new forum posts, blogs or tweets that have been tagged with #TechSoupDYB.

See here for further instructions, or to jump in to the discussion. You choose which questions you want to answer, whenever you want to answer them!

April 11, 2011

Enter to Win the European Open Data Challenge

This was first posted on the NetSquared blog

Are you interested in using open data for good in Europe? The Open Data Challenge is designed to encourage interesting ways of reusing public data for the benefit of European citizens.  The competition encourages anyone from programmers to non-technical idea-makers to help create a useful app using public data.

Do you have a great idea? Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Ideas – Anyone can suggest an idea for projects which reuse public information to do something interesting or useful.
  • Apps – Teams of developers can submit working applications which reuse public information.
  • Visualisations – Designers, artists and others can submit interesting or insightful visual representations of public information.
  • Datasets – Public bodies can submit newly opened up datasets, or developers can submit derived datasets which they’ve cleaned up, or linked together

The Open Data Challenge is open between now and June 5. Enter your ideas to win one of several cash prizes!

April 8, 2011

Mobilizing Online Communities in the Face of Disaster: Tips from NetSquared Local Organizers

This post was originally posted on the NetSquared Blog by Alicja Peszkowska, Network Coordinator, Community-Driven Innovation at TechSoup Global

On the 12th of March, one day after the tragic earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan Ichi – Hiroyasu Ichikawa – the NetSquared Local organizer from Tokyo sent an e-mail to our NetSquared Local Organizer listserve asking for the best practices for mobilizing online communities in the time of a disaster. In the weeks that have followed, Ichi’s e-mail provoked a series of responses from all over the world. In this post, we hope to voice many of the tools, resources, and tactics that have been shared, in hopes of encouraging others around the world to get involved with the digital relief efforts.

In response to Ichi, Paula Brantner from the Washington DC Local group suggested taking advantage of the international project called Crisis Commons that sprung into action after the recent Haiti earthquake. Crisis Commons is specifically designed to crowd source the technology needed to leverage communications in the event of a disaster, it helps in finding volunteers and is summing up all of the hand-on actions designed to support the cause.

Amy Sample Ward from the New York group has followed Paula’s e-mail with further suggestions on how and where to aggregate information. One of the online spaces she mentioned was the Google Crisis Response page where you can find the latest information about the crisis as well as make simple donations to the organizations involved in supporting the efforts in Japan. She has also provided the link to the Wikipedia page devoted to the 2011 Tokyo earthquake and tsunami. This resource is an important point of reference for everyone interested in the latest events related to the tragedy, as it has been visited and edited by a lot of people and therefore appears high in the search results.


Shufang Tsai from the Taiwan group shared information from one of her community members about an experience with the previous Chilean earthquake that occurred in 2010. The ideas that came from the Chile earthquake experience included setting up a situation map using Ushahidi on the site and asking the volunteers to search through the media news and put them all together in an easily accessible Google Doc. The information could be then added to the Ushahidi map. Other suggestions of the community member in Japan included the usage of the Tweak the Tweet to collect the information from the twitter and facebook. He has also highlighted the importance of keeping the volunteers data saved somewhere (i.e. a Google Doc).

Sarah Schacht from the group that meets in Seattle has put Ichi in touch with the representatives from Crisis Commons and suggested he should list himself at the Honshu Quake Activities @ Crisis Commons wiki. Sarah has also forwarded his information to the Web of Change to attract tech volunteers.

Jonathan Eyler-Werve from the Chicago group added another wiki link to the conversation – the example of how the source has been used to aggregate the information about the Libyan uprising.
Shufang then summed up the online response information and sent links to (among others):

  • Open source disaster management system Sahana (in Japanese language only)

and to various online sources that work with maps such as:

  • ESRI distaster reponse

The next day (13th of March) Ichi sent us the result of this facebook group work (in Japanese language only) as well as a link to the articles he has been writing (in Japanese language only). He also highlighted the importance of learning the lesson from all of the social media crisis responses and planning a long term strategy for the digital curation in case of disaster.

In a response to Ichi JD Lasica from the group in San Francisco shared links to the interviews with Andy Carvin who had been instrumental in setting up the Hurricane Information Center and the subsequent Crisis Camp for Haiti:

Rachel Weidinger from TechSoup Global sent the group links to resources and recovery guides available on the site – Disaster Planning and Recovery Toolkit.

JD Godchaux from NiJel – a community mapping platform seconded Shufangs’ suggestion to work with Crisis Mappers and encouraged Ichi to join the CrisisMappers list. The project was launched locally on March 11th by a Japanese member of the Open Street Map (OSM) community. The crisis map is being supported by onsite volunteers (mainly in Tokyo) along with a group of students (mainly Japanese) out of Boston lead by The Fletcher School. JD also mentioned another instance of Ushahidi to track radiation levels from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The last comment in the threat came from Ichi, who shared the link to the socialmedia dashboard on Netvibes set by him to catch up the current event. Netvibes is a free web site that allows users to set up their own customized start page composed of “modules” which can contain a wide variety of information from dozens and dozens of other sites. It is a great tool to fetch, store and manage various web sources and make the process transparent and easy to access for everyone.

The entire conversation happened within the 72 hours from the Japanese earthquake and wasn’t stopped when the radiation threat became an issue, nor was it paused by the power outage caused by the disaster.  As the Japanese tragedy proves the role of social media in times of a disaster remains a subject of an ongoing conversation. It highlights the importance of connecting with like-minded people to pool the efforts and delegate responsibilities in the times of crisis. We hope that this post will help others who would like to contribute to the relief of the Japanese tragedy and other disasters that will inevitably happen in the future.

Do you have any other tips or tools for Ichi or anyone else who is interested in using the web to provide digital disaster relief? If so, please share your suggestions in the comments below!

March 28, 2011

Reflections from GSI’s CEO on the TechSoup Global Contributor’s Summit

Filed under: civil society,ICT for Development,Philanthropy — guidestarinternational @ 10:45

By Tinsley Goad, CEO, GuideStar International and Senior Technical Director, TechSoup Global

During the week of 14 February it seemed as if our entire world came to San Francisco.  The TechSoup Global Contributors Summit offered TSG staff the opportunity to interact with the members of TechSoup Global Network over the course of 3 days and 4 nights.  Unlike most “conferences”, the TSG Summit was very much a “user” driven event, with the entire second day’s agenda determined by participant suggestions following the first day.  Throughout the week, partners were able to interact with TSG staff, potential collaborators, each other, and a wide array of third parties to delve into some of the most pressing issues faced by the collective group.

Several key theme emerged over the course of the week.  Clearly the power and potential of the network itself was a focal point for the group.  Our reach now spans more than 35 countries, and the collective wisdom, experience, and entrepreneurial spirit in this group is extensive; and if leveraged properly can lead to amazing outcomes across the world.  For the first time a Partner Advisory Council was seated and the members are clearly very excited about the opportunity to formally influence the strategic direction of our global programs and their tactical implementation throughout the network.

Another topic of vigorous discussion was cloud computing.   As many have said, “nothing is certain save for change”, and the group seemed unanimous in accepting that the move to the cloud is both inevitable and will have a profound impact over the long term.   But, in line with the spirit of this group, many conversations involved the opportunities that cloud computing could offer.

Not surprisingly, the greatest value of the Summit was in providing our network partners and other contributors ample opportunity to connect with old friends and make many new ones.  The nature of our global reach dictates that face time is rare, and as such is ever more valuable when we do have it.   The many side-bars during the course of the day; along with more relaxed discussions over breakfast, lunch, dinner…and afterwards, were absolutely invaluable in establishing and strengthening the relationships that are not only critical to our collective success, but in fact define our lives in so many ways.

While we all came away weary from these intensive days, I know that we also arrived at our homes with renewed energy and dedication to our critical work around the world.

March 8, 2011

How Safe is the Cloud?

Filed under: civil society,CSO reporting,ICT for Development,Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 10:18
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This is the last of a three part series about Cloud computing as it relates to civil society organisations (CSOs) by Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International.  You can also read the first post TechSoup Global: Teaching CSOs About the Cloud and the second post What is the Value of the Cloud for CSOs in the Developing World?.

Information held by and about a CSO in the Cloud can be requested by governments for a variety of reasons and this can be done without the CSO’s knowledge. As one TechCrunch blogger Paul Carr noted on his post Why I’m Having Second Thoughts About The Wisdom Of The Cloud, a request for information letter can be sent by the government to a provider without any requirement to notify the organisation or person that their data is being accessed. Such stories only serve to heighten CSOs concern about privacy and make them more wary of the use of the Cloud, particularly if they take a position that is publicly in opposition to a government that has jurisdiction over the information they hold in a Cloud.

It isn’t only governments and businesses that are concerned about security, for CSOs also want information about their development related activities and those they serve to be safe in the cloud. A common argument among cloud service providers is that putting data into the Cloud is far safer than keeping it on your computer, disc or server.  However, there is still not enough overarching standardisation and regulation to help ensure the security needed is in place within this emerging market.  In a data driven and data dependent world if the information that an organisation depends on for its work is lost and irretrievable they have little recourse. Such fears have lead to services like Backupify being introduced to back up information from social networking sites and Google apps.

A Computer World article by Bernard Golden lists a number of predictions for Cloud Computing in 2011, speculating that its use will continue and expand to more countries and as 3G mobile phone services become increasing available in the developing world this will most likely be true. The Cloud presents unprecedented opportunities for civil society organizations to be more efficient in their work. However I would also argue that while CSO will undoubtedly increasingly using cloud computing services, if answers to questions like: What happens if I lose my data in the cloud? What are the local and international regulations governing the Cloud? and How can I transfer all of my information from one Cloud to the next are hard to come by, some CSOs may yet cling to the wise old adage that says you should ‘never place all your eggs in one basket’.

February 8, 2011

TechSoup Global: Teaching CSOs About the Cloud

Filed under: civil society,Data visualisation — guidestarinternational @ 09:44
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This is the first of a three part series about Cloud computing as it relates to civil society organisations (CSOs) by Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International

Civil Society Organisations are waking up to the benefits of using cloud computing services (the Cloud) for their work. Nevertheless, issues like interoperability, security, privacy and lack of a supportive technology infrastructure persist, leading many CSOs unable to decide if it is right for them.

TechSoup Global is educating CSOs about the value of Cloud computing as well as the problems they may encounter as more and more cloud computing services are introduced to the sector. The TechSoup website and blog contain a lot of useful information about cloud services available to nonprofits and their forum facilitates useful discussion among civil society organisations such as Cloud Computing: Is It More Secure? and Is Cloud Computing Greener?.  Cloud computing services are available from some of the many partners that TechSoup Global works with in countries throughout the world.

Have a look at some blog posts on the issue from the TechSoup blog below.

Jim Lynch, Co-Director of the GreenTech and Electronics Recycling & Reuse Programs at TechSoup says “TechSoup Global is working hard to find out what is and isn’t useful for CSOs as the Cloud descends upon all of us. It’s pretty clear that cloud computing is a major transformation in the way that people will use IT as the use of mobile phones, computers, and Internet converge. To quote Nicholas Carr in his book The Big Switch“What happened to the generation of power a century ago is now happening to the processing of information. Private computer systems, built and operated by individual companies, are being supplanted by services provided over a common grid—the Internet—by centralized data-processing plants. Computing is turning into a utility, and once again the economic equations that determine the way we work and live are being rewritten.”

For those who want to get a more in depth and overarching view of the technical, security, legal, economic, development and environment issues involved in the use of the Cloud, read transcripts from some Cloud computing sessions held at the last Internet Governance Forum. At the Forum, Cloud providers, CSOs, governments, corporations, cloud evangelists and skeptics from around the world gathered to discuss and try to resolve some of the issues involved, in an attempt to ensure sure that cloud computing services develop in an environmentally friendly, secure and interoperable way.

January 28, 2011

Fast track registration for GuideStar India NGOs to get software donations

Filed under: Access to information,civil society,CSO reporting — guidestarinternational @ 14:48
This was originally posted on the GuideStar India blog.

A special offer from NASSCOM Foundation for GuideStar India NGOs to register for its  software donation programme BiGTech in partnership with TechSoup Global.

BiGTech has so far donated software worth Rs7.5 crore across 27 states of India. Over 1000 NGOs are already registered under this programme. Currently their donation products come from Microsoft, BUSY accounting, Eagle teleconferencing, Bytes of Learning & Quick Heal Anti-virus.

NGOs registered with GuideStar India are put on a fast track registration process as BiGTech will access their registration details and supporting documents from This essentially means GuideStar India registered NGOs do not have to go through their usual process  All they need to do is fill in a very short form providing contact details of the person authorised to request for the software  donations and provide answers in Yes/No to their eligibility criteria. 

In less than 10 minutes, a GuideStar India NGO could be registered with BiGTech!

If you are registered with GuideStar India, follow this link to fill the short form created especially for you by BiGTech. Do remember to quote your GSN (GuideStar Number). Register NOW and start taking advantage of software donations under BiGTech!

If your NGO is already registered with BiGTech, you need not register again.
If your NGO is not yet registered with GuideStar India, please complete the process as described at: We will send you an invite for BiGTech registration thereafter. NGOs that have recently completed their GuideStar India registration will receive an invite with their GSN in Feb.
Thank you, Prashant at NASSCOM Foundation for simplifying the BiGTech registration process for GuideStar India NGOs!

January 11, 2011

GuideStar International’s 2010 Year in Blogging

Filed under: Access to information,Aid Effectiveness,civil society,ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 12:07

A happy 2011 to all of you and many thanks to everyone that contributed to the thousands of visits this year. Your subscriptions, comments, pingbacks, reposts and link referrals to our blog in 2010 have been great. Here is a list of 2010’s most popular posts!

1.      Haiti: ‘A Republic of NGOs’ – but how do all these local NGOs help?

2.      UK Government’s new watchwords: Transparency, Accountability, Responsibility, Fairness and Empowerment

3.      The link between ICT and Science and Technology in Africa: Implications for Civil Society Organisations

4.      British 2010 budget extends ‘GiftAid’ tax break to the rest of the EU

5.      2010: A Year of Online Clouds, Crowds, and Data Visualizations for CSOs?

6.      Innovative Geocoding Project Maps Aid Data

7.      GuideStar India shares its experience with Taiwan’s voluntary sector

8.      Interview with Royi Biller, CEO, NPTech on GuideStar Israel

9.      PDF Conference discusses Open Data and Social Media in Europe

10.   Philanthropy in Russia: Public Attitudes and Participation

If you would like to be a guest blogger simply email your post to us for consideration at We look forward to hearing from you this year!

November 25, 2010

Using technology to map data and information for development efforts

Filed under: Access to information,civil society,Data visualisation,ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 14:43
Tags: ,

by Keisha Taylor (GSI’s Communications Manager)

This post is cross-posted from the NetSquared Community blog– you can read the original post and any comments here

Maps have emerged as an important asset in publicly revealing data and information needed for development efforts at the community, national, regional and international level. They have become a useful way of providing and finding information on what exists and where.   Private companies like Google for instance have been collaborating with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to help unveil the power of statistics in the region. They have been working with UNECA to provide train the trainer events throughout the African continent, which can aid the development of collection and use of statistics using not only mobile applications but Google Map Maker, Google Earth Google Maps, Google fusion tables, and Public Data Explorer.  This is also proving useful for mapping of the vast African landscape is in the face of lack of street names and route numbers for instance. Local knowledge is key to this type of mapping for development effort.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) are also utilising maps to help aid development efforts. Global Map Aid is one nonprofit that provides specialist maps to help those that need information for aid and environmental relief efforts. InterAction is also developing a web-based mapping platform and database that will eventually map all of its members’ work worldwide. Haiti Aid Map is one example of their work in this area. There is also the Ushahadi, a crowdsourced mapping platform, which provides real time information needed to help with issues related to things like disasters, voting, xenophobic attacks and the environment to name a few.  Taking into consideration that geo-data is not free in some parts of the world Open Street Map is also another useful and free service which allows anyone with the necessary skills to utilise and edit information on their map, and in turn ‘the data and software is owned by the contributors’ and the general public. According to Steve Chilton, “The OpenStreet Map project is the leading global example of the effectiveness of crowdsourcing of geodata”.

Maps are also being used by governments, for example councils in the United Kingdom and in this new e-volution of government data, e-data is becoming more and more important. As Michael Batty, Bartlett Professor of Planning at UCL puts it “The advent of map services from Google Maps and Microsoft Bing Maps, as well as more specialist archives of photographic data constructed from the bottom-up systems such as Flickr, are forcing new kinds of applications in data processing that are no longer the prerogative of specialist users but are widely available to anyone who has access to the web”. Intergovernmental organisations have also started providing mapped data and information on their development finance projects. The World Bank for instance have launched a Data Visualiser, which maps a subset of the United Nation Statistical Division (UNSD) Commodity Trade (COMTRADE) database and the AidData mapping for results project has proved a useful and successful way of geo-referencing development work. Additionally, Aidflows launched in October is another tool developed collaboratively by the OECD and the World Bank (also working on to map the flow of the development aid they provide.

These are some of the mapping tools and projects currently available and as their availability increases hopefully so will the public’s ability to utilise them effectively. CSOs, governments, the private sector and technologists will no doubt increasingly utilise these types of mapping services to inform their work. Hopefully mapping for development and results continues to develop in a way which is useful not only to them, but also inclusive and useful to the ordinary citizen.

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