One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for October 2012

Facebook’s Flawed Promotion

leave a comment »

For many non-profits and other agents of social good, Facebook is a key channel, allowing many organizations to build their communities, foster online communication, and tap into other networks….with a minimum of cost. In fact, both Hubspot and Tech Soup pointed to great guides that can inform non-profits about how to use Facebook more effectively.

However, Facebook also tends to change its policy and “add” features which – especially in light of going public – may not be necessary, and could be hurtful to them in the long run.  The first was switching users’ e-mail addresses over to a address, resulting in many articles (like this one) encouraging people to adjust their settings.

But ultimately, Facebook’s most recent gaffe has been the idea of “promoted posts”, or charging fan pages for the opportunity for their posts to be seen by a wider range of people.  Most posts are only shown to 15% of a page’s members, and so Facebook will – for a small fee of $7 per post – promote it.

Of course, for many non-profits and organizations, this can be a budget killer. But like my colleague Scott Kleinburg of the Chicago Tribune points out, it’s not only a waste of money….but there are some great strategies for giving posts more exposure.  Including photos, knowing your network, and staying brief are all great ideas.

And one final idea – ask your network to engage with Facebook posts. It’s relatively simple, and you can even cut-and-paste this example (which I’ve used on some of the pages I run):

You may not be aware of this, but Facebook has changed the way people interact with Pages so that they no longer appear in feeds but are dependent upon whether you like/comment/share updates. This applies to *all* pages, be they unofficial pages (like us) or official pages. When you see updates, be sure to like/comment/share them….and also be sure to visit our page more frequently. The more you do this, the more likely our posts will show up in your feeds. (You can also create interest groups and add pages to this, but you would need to click on your group list regularly….but either way, be sure you get the latest when we update).

Right now, this seems to be  a massive misstep on Facebook’s part….but one which non-profits and agents of social good can easily avoid, getting the same impact with different emphasis.

Have comments – then please leave them below. If you would like to contact me, please feel free to send a note (with a mention of  Chicago Now) via Linked In or my web site contact page.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

October 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm

“Peer Progressivism” and FUTURE PERFECT: A Review

leave a comment »

With next week’s election, we will be choosing the person who will be setting the agenda for the next few years. We’ll be setting our national agenda….and part of the success has been tapping into decentralized networks.

One of the great ideas proposed on Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect is the idea that a new kind of politics is emerging – one focused on driving civic engagement and building community via social networks. The primary focus of the book, admittedly, is on politics and culture – Johnson’s idea is that, much like Kickstarter, utilizing a decentralized network of individuals can lead to small – but significant – changes in our political and civic sphere.

His main thesis is that a new kind of political advocate – the “peer progressive” – is emerging. One that sees how using networks to advocate for change goes beyond simply being liberal or conservative – it means that driving collaboration and social change has become much easier. Using technology and social networks to collaborate helps move social change organizations from a simple marketing/fundraising perspective. In short, Johnson argues that being able to tap into networks provides for smaller, more localized results because people with a very strong interest are engaged on a deeper level.

It’s a radical idea – the fact that using online tools can lead to very localized results – but there are some great ideas in the book. However, the tone at times can be a little too academic, and sometimes Johnson seems to overstate his case. However, as we’re looking to drive digital excellence in Chicago, there’s plenty of food for thought in this book.

It’s a pretty short read, and available from the Chicago Public Library. As we head into the election, it might be a great motivator for many of us regardless of the results.

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. If you wish to contact me, you are more than welcome to send me a note via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now in your note) and my web site.

As always, thanks for reading.

Building Better Government One App At A Time

leave a comment »

One of the many ways in which tech can impact our communities is when citizens and software coders collaborate on apps that improve government effectiveness and/or allow greater access to public data. Recently, I received notice about a really  great opportunity for people to get engaged.

Code For America is a relatively new non-profit with a radical idea – that regular citizens, web coders, and others can collaborate on projects that make government more efficient, transparent, and which really create a more engaged citizenry. With an upcoming election, no matter what your political shading, this is a great opportunity to serve your community, and work on projects that could improve state and city government.

Their current initiative, the Race for Reuse, is focusing primarily on deploying (or redeploying) particular apps in a particular community.  Admittedly, I haven’t been as aware of Code for America’s efforts as I would like (short answer – family health issues have prevented me), but quite honestly, this sounds like a great opportunity, and one which I think many readers might find exciting.

This is also one of the great ways in which we can use technology to improve our neighborhoods – for many of us, knowing how to get involved without necessarily doing the “usual” activities can be a challenge. It’s also an opportunity for becoming more familiar with tech and web-based tools, especially for those who may not consider themselves “hackers”.

In short, this is a really great initiative, and which really deserves greater support and awareness.

Have questions or comments? Please leave them down below, and you’re more than welcome to reach out to me via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now) and my web site.

As always, thanks for reading!

Meet Your Neighbor: Pumping Station One

leave a comment »

It’s simply easy to focus on “tech and the social good” as merely about software, or data, or social media….but there are places around the city that take an open source approach, bringing together a community around a common goal.

Free Geek Chicago is one of those organizations; another is Pumping Station One, located on the north side of the city. Pumping Station One is a hackerspace – yes, it suggests people hunched around computer terminals looking at code, but more accurately, it’s a place for people to collaborate on common interests and projects….to engage in full-on creativity.

(And oh, how I wish I had thought of this for Blog Action Day. because it is a pitch perfect example of “The Power of We” – a community where people can find the tools and people to drive collaboration, community, and innovation).

Located on the North side near Belmont and Elston, Pumping Station One contains a plethora of resources – a nice, cozy lounge in front belies the large meeting area (complete with TARDIS!) off the hall. Computers hang out with more traditional tools. It’s probably one of the hidden gems of Chicago neighborhoods (and this video demonstrates the value that people find in PS1).

Your best bet is to visit one of their open business meetings on Tuesdays from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. They generously hosted a Net2Chi meeting earlier this year, and have been open to encouraging groups to meet and collaborate there. They’re one of the friendliest neighbors in the tech world, and anything that drives collaboration and community….definitely is worth checking out.

As always, please feel free to leave comments and questions below, and I’ll do my best to answer them. You’re also more than welcome to send me a note via e-mail….and as always, thanks for reading!

Blog Action Day: The Power of We

leave a comment »

(This post is part of Blog Action Day, a global effort to bring awareness about the social good. For more information, please visit

The Power of We.

A simple phrase, but one which has very obvious implications.

It’s especially true here in Chicago, where we are developing an incredibly diverse tech scene, with non-profit social media consultants vying for business; social entrepreneurs realizing that benefiting the social good has positive results on their bottom line; volunteer organizations mobilizing the professional community to make an impact; and grassroots coalitions struggling to find allies.

And the challenge facing our city is an excessive focus on “me” rather than
the power of we.

It’s a challenge that I find of great interest as the main (and currently, sole organizer) of Net2Chi (or Net Tuesday), an initiative out of Tech Soup looking to build collaborations focused on bringing tech resources to underserved agencies and communities. (As my Linked In profile suggests, I have a really strong background in community mobilization). City government has made digital excellence and access to technology a priority, and for six years, Net2Chi has been active in driving working collaborations. However, the challenge is daunting, especially with many non-profits, community groups,
and other organizations feeling isolated or – worse yet – that somehow they are uniquely gifted and/or charged with driving change.

But the work doesn’t just extend to one particular agency – it extends to those communities all over the city. Areas like West Lawn (my neighborhood) where efforts are being made to drive areas near Midway Airport into a major business corridor. Places like TRC Senior Village in Bronzeville, location of a new Community Technology Center (CTC), helping grandparents and their grandchildren learn to connect online. So many of these efforts are being made….and too many people are doing it alone. Collaboration gives us power, since the blending of a multitude of  skills and tasks can lead to greater results and accomplishments in a shorter period of time.

In the light of a well-deserved winter break, Net2Chi is reestablishing its partnership with the Chicago Digital Access Alliance (CDAA), and rededicating itself to digital excellence in our communities. Both our groups have successfully collaborated in the past, and with DexCon (a digital excellence conference) happening on November 10th, it seems like there’s less a renaissance, and more a renewal – a commitment to the idea that access to technology and digital literacy aren’t just “good things to have”, but are fundamental rights of every Chicago resident, advocating the idea that a more digitally literate populace better solidifies Chicago’s growing reputation as a hub of  technological innovation.

Collaboration is never easy – it means losing some of our uniqueness (or as many in the tech scene would say, “our awesomeness” and moving forward with familiar – and unlikely – allies. It means that there is no such thing as “too corporate” or “too radical” or even “not awesome” – every person involved is part of a greater community. We give up the perceived authority of being the sole gatekeepers,  and that we willingly acquiesce our perceived “power” in the hopes of accomplishing a greater good.

In short, it means adopting the idea that “we” is “me” turned upside down…and that great things result when we become more inclusive and willing to work with others. When we adopt an open, community-based philosophy independent of  agendas, we accomplish greater things and have a longer-lasting impact upon the community.

The time is ripe. It can be done. I’m glad that two organizations are reaffirming their commitment to make Chicago an innovative place for tech and the social good. But it will take time, and work, and a commitment to taking an active role in driving change.

Plenty of organizations do various tasks – from building apps to creating special events. But that’s not enough – if we want a better Chicago, we need to turn “me” into “we”. Two organizations have already started….let’s see what the future can bring.

If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below – otherwise, you are more than welcome to contact me via Linked In (Just mention “Chicago Now” in your note) or via my web site’s contact page.

As always, thanks for reading!

Jennifer Livingston and CyberBullying

leave a comment »

Recently, much has been made about Jennifer Livingston, the Wisconsin anchor who received a critical message from a viewer about her weight. There’s been great discussion about bullying in general….and cyberbullying in particular.

First, there’s a distinct age difference – when it happens with youth, it’s cyberbullying, and with adults, it’s cyberharrassment. Either way, it’s the same effect – using electronic communications to embarrass, humiliate, harass, or otherwise torment someone through e-mail, social media, and other forms of online communication. (The Illinois Attorney General’s office has a great online resource dedicated for cyberbullying of youth).  It’s behavior that is one the rise – after all, the relative anonymity and perceived lack of consequence make it easy to attack.

And one of the hardest things when it comes to changing our culture and working towards the social good is how frequently we hear justifications…or excuses. Often, we try to excuse such behavior without confronting it…or even expressing some slight displeasure. Things like

All he was doing was expressing his opinion – she does need to lose weight…

You’re being politically correct, and it’s a shame that a person can’t express an honest opinion without being criticized for it…

Quit whining – this is the kind of talk that builds character….

I’m sorry you don’t share my sense of humor – I was kidding, and you’re too thin skinned…

He/she is a good person, once you get to know them….they’re always giving people a hard time…

In short, when our online actions create a sense of shame in a person for who they are….that is crossing the line.

Part of the challenge is knowing the difference between just plain teasing…and what crosses the line. Although personal boundaries play a key role, thankfully there are online resources that point to specific state legislation focusing on cyberbullying.  Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have policies in place that empower individuals to take an active role in stopping harassment and cyberbullying. There are numerous articles and resources online that serve to educate, inform, and help create an online environment that fosters a stronger sense of community.

But for parents, educators, and other interested people, a very special invitation – my fellow Chicago Now blogger Carrie Goldman has been writing some great articles about bullying, and is hosting a conversation about bullying on Thursday, October 18th at 4:00 pm at Barnes and Noble, located at 55 Old Orchard Center in Skokie. (Educations can earn CTEs from this event). Think of this as a way for me to fulfill the mission of this blog – to highlight some of the ways in which technology can be used to further the social good.

If that means every once in awhile, I write about current news, so be it. If one less person is bullied or harassed online, it’s definitely worth it.

Always welcome your thoughts and comments, and please leave them down below. In addition, you can reach me privately via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now in your note) or contact page.

As always, thanks for reading!


A Marathon of Socially Conscious Events This Week

leave a comment »

Although I spoke a little bit about some of this past week’s events (including one tomorrow), I thought I would end this not-quite-a-three-day-weekend with some information about upcoming events focusing on tech and the social good….because, quite honestly, this might allow you to run your own mini-marathon of activity.

Thanks, and as always, you are more than welcome to leave comments below….and in addition, you can contact me via Linked In (with Chicago Now mentioned in your note) or via web site contact form.
As always, thanks for reading!

Blogs: The “Hidden” Social Network

leave a comment »

They are the “hidden” social network. This channel is one of the greatest tools an organization can use to promote the social good….and which is sorely underutilized.

I’m talking, of course, about blogs. You’re reading one, of course. (And I’m not the only socially conscious blogger on Chicago Nowor even in Chicago).

Why are blogs so powerful?  Think of it as DIY online publishing – it can be a way to promote your mission. It’s a way to build community by encouraging people to contribute and provide first-hand experiences to others. It’s a great way to create an online presence, with a variety of materials that you can post and use to move your organization forward.

There are many benefits to blogging – many blogging platforms are open source, or free to use; they can be easily syndicated via RSS  (meaning – people can have your posts “pulled” into a reader rather than you “pushing” out posts); and can often be done as part of an overall marketing/outreach strategy, and can be flexibly scheduled. (In addition, you can engage bloggers who may have an interest to write about you, and there’s a great guide for any disclosure requirements)

And finding blogs? It’s as easy as using Google Blog Search and Icerocket.

So for today, a very simple post about a simple tool – a web-based tool that rarely, if ever, gets any consideration in our Twitter/Pinterest/Facebook-driven conversation – but that can be powerful in building online communities and networks.

Have questions or comments? Please feel free to post down below, and as a reminder – please check out CISCFF and Net Tuesday this weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Making At-Risk Motherhood Easier Via Mobile

leave a comment »

A colleague once asked me why I attended corporate networking events rather than just stick with networking in the non-profit/social good field. From my perspective, “social good” is an all-encompassing idea, and I believe that any opportunity to engage the larger community can result in learning about something wonderful.

I was fortunate enough to volunteer at last week’s MobiU2012 conference, which was organized by Heartland Mobile Council. One of the afternoon presentations I attended was by Corey Bieber of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois, who spoke openly about a mobile application they created for expectant mothers.

Arising from the realization that taking a preventative approach for their members’ health can have a positive impact on their bottom line (and help build trust), Blue Cross/Blue Shield looked at a variety of information about who an app could help. Expectant, potential ask-risk mothers were chosen because they not only had a definite start and end point, but also had a finite period in which they were dealing with their health concerns. A smartphone app was developed in order to assist and connect mothers with specific information and guidance provided via Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

There were several insights presented, and the presentation will be posted at the Heartland Mobile site. What follows are a series of bullet points taken from the #MobiU2012 Twitter hashtag:

Now you’re probably wondering….how does this impact the social good? Simply put: although it’s easy to focus on non-profits and more community-based organizations as ideal audiences for promoting the social good, “community” includes everyone….and the private sector can provide some really good examples of how socially beneficial thinking can benefit both the greater community and the bottom line.

Please feel free to leave comments and questions down below – in addition, you’re more than welcome to connect with me via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now in your referral note), or drop me a line via my web site. As always, thanks for reading!