Friday, February 23, 2007

Extra-organizational Activists & Nonprofits Using the Social Web for Their Cause

As I mentioned last week, I am talking with a marketing class at New College's Green MBA program on Sunday about how nonprofits can use social media for marketing. I figured I'd share my link lists of resources with you, as well as with the students. Besides, it is a lot greener for me to post the links for them than to give them printed handouts!

Many of my examples are of what Allison Fine, author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, calls "extra-organizational activists." During my interview with her for NetSquared she said, "Some of the most exciting things going on are what individuals are doing by themselves online, through a meet-up or through a blog or an email, and how organizations learn how to leverage that passion, I think, will prove how successful they can be in this new era."

I've also created lists of environmental and other nonprofits using blogs, podcasts, videos, Flickr and MySpace along with some resources to create your own blog, podcast or video.

Feel free to add any other examples or resources in the comments.


Beth Kanter raises $800 for the Sharing Foundation using the ChipIn widget plus her blog, social networks, Flickr and video in 26 days.

Darren Rowse celebrates ProBlogger's two year anniversary by raising $830 US ($100 AU) on his blog for Oxfam Australia with his Blogging for Chickens campaign.

Beth Kanter raises $50,000 for the Sharing Foundation using a Network for Good Badge and similar tools to the ChipIn campaign, in three weeks.

Chez Pim: raises almost $62,000 with her Menu for Hope Campaign in 2.5 weeks from the through her food blog and an online auction.

Green LA Girl and City Hippy raise awareness about Fair Trade coffee by launching the Starbucks Challenge in October 2005. Readers are asked to go to Starbucks and ask for a cup of fair trade coffee to see if Starbucks sticks with the policy advertised on their web site: They will French press a cup of Fair Trade coffee for anyone who asks for it. Readers were asked to write about what happened when they asked for Fair Trade coffee on their blog, or to email Green LA Girl or City Hippy. As of January 2006, more than 200 blogs had joined the challenge.

Other tools used:
* Starbuckschallenge feed
* Starbucks Challenge Map
* Starbucks Challenge photos tagged on Flickr


ONE Campaign. Goal: Make poverty history.
Tools: Videos on Google Videos, podcasts on Gcast, blog posts on site, photos on Flickr, questions on Yahoo! on Answers, networking on Yahoo! Groups, and ONE T-shirts for Yahoo! Avatars.

I Love Mountains. Goal: Stop mountaintop removal.
1. Sign a pledge and email it to friends. Track the impact of your email on a map.
2. Watch a movie about mountaintop removal on YouTube.
3. View the National Memorial for the Mountains on Google Earth. Each flag represents a mountain that has been destroyed.


Fight Hunger Viral Video Contest
Nature Conservancy photo contest on Flickr
March of Dimes photo contest on Flickr
Freedom from Oil photo contest on Flickr
SFMOMA podcast invitational. If you show your MP3 player loaded with the current SFMOMA podcast at the Museum box office, you get $2 off admission. They held a podcast invitational. Winners received one year free membership and were featured on the podcast.


Chevy Tahoe "create your own commercial" campaign.


Green Maven

BLOGS-The "gateway drug" to social media

Environmental Nonprofit Blogs
Urban Sprouts School Gardens
People's Grocery
Rainforest Action Network
Climate 411--Environmental Defense
Sustainable Table
Jane Goodall Institute's Gombe Chimpanzee Blog (uses Google Earth--very cool)

A Few Green Blogs to Read to Know What the Green Blogosphere is Buzzing About
Green LA Girl
Carnival of the Green
Groovy Green

Blogging Resources
5 Tips to Start a Nonprofit Blog
10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs
Blogging Platforms: Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, Vox, Movable Type
Blog Search Engines: Technorati, Google Blog Search
Feedreaders: Bloglines, Google Reader, NewsGator, Rojo (there are many, many more).


Environmental & Other Nonprofit Podcasts
NRDC: OnEarth Podcast
Nature Conservancy
Environmental Society of Australia
Friends of the Earth Brisbane (Australia)
Doctors Without Borders

Podcast Resources
7 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Podcasts
• Directories
iTunes Music Store
Podcast Pickle
Podcast Alley
• Transcription
• Hosting
Liberated Syndication


Environmental & Other Nonprofits Using Online Video
Rainforest Action Network
Sustainable Table
UN World Food Programme
Fight Hunger Viral Video Contest
* Have Fun * Do Good SplashCast of Nonprofits Using Videos

Video Hosting
Liberated Syndication

Vlogging Directories
iTunes Music Store

Vlogging Tutorial


Environmental and other Nonprofits Using Flickr
Nature Conservancy
March of Dimes
National and Global Youth Service Day
Susan G. Komen: Race for the Cure
Freedom from Oil


MySpace: Nearly 40,000 students in Southern California left class to protest anti-immigration laws. They organized using MySpace, email and instant messaging.

Sampling of nonprofits and green businesses on MySpace.
Other Do-Good Social Networks

Photo credit: Portrait of the Artist at Work by Chris Kirkman.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Who Controls Water Controls Life: Watch "A Drop Of Life" Trailer

"What was most alarming about creating "A Drop of Life" is that it began as a pure fiction, and as I began to do my research, I began to realize that the sci-fi [water] meters that I had created, already existed in ten countries. Two thirds of the world will not have adequate access to water by the year 2027. Just twenty years from now. Your right to quench your thirst could depend on how much money you have in your pocket."-Filmmaker, K. Shalini from "A Drop of Life" trailer

The privatization of water will become one of the most important issues in our lifetime. Filmmaker K. Shalini, a Fulbright Scholar and American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Performing Arts Fellow, has entered her short film about water rights, "A Drop of Life" into Steven Speilberg's On The Lot reality competition. During the series, scheduled for this spring, 16 filmmakers will be asked to make a short film each week, and viewers will vote for their favorites. According to Brahm Ahmadi, the Executive Director of People's Grocery who forwarded the trailer link to me, the selection process for contestants looks at how many people view the applicants' trailers.

I encourage you to watch and pass on the link to this important film, not only to help K. Shalini be considered for the competition, where the prize is a 1 million dollar development deal with DreamWorks, but also to raise awareness about this crucial issue. As the end of the trailer states, "Who Controls Water Controls Life."

To watch the trailer on the "On The Lot" site, click here. To learn more about the film, order the DVD and download "11 Reasons to Oppose Water Meters," go to

Photo Credit: Classic Water Drop Shot by Randy Robertson.

Friday, February 16, 2007

MyBLOC.Net & Future 5000: Social Networks for Youth Activists & Organizers

The January/February issue of Colorlines has named ibrahim abdul-matin, the Technology Organizer for the Movement Strategy Center, as an Innovator of 2007. Thirty-year-old matin is helping to develop a new social networking site for youth activists, MyBLOC.Net.

From the article:

Aside from a new place to post your profile, is set up to host self-selecting groups, create alumni circles to provide long-term connection between participants at a training or conference and individually tailor learning circles to strategize on particular issues or campaigns on your block, or globally. The site connects individuals to organizations, and to each other, as well.

The site will launch publicly this spring. You can read ibrahim's blog here.

In 2002, an awesome directory of youth activist organizations was published called the Future 500. Five years later, the Generational Alliance has created a searchable online directory and networking site called the Future 5000.

From the site:

Built from the ground up by dedicated youth organizers, Future 5000 will evolve to meet the needs of organizers, not just as an online directory, but truly as an instrumental vehicle engineered to maximize resource and information sharing between youth organizations. . . . While it can serve as a directory, organizers will also be able to share strategies, tools, stories, and even visuals in one central place. You can search for groups with similar missions (across the street or across the country) and begin/continue to forge powerful relationships. You’ll also be able to post campaigns, create coalitions, show organizational relationships, and share resources needed and available with other organizations. In it’s simplest form, Future 5000 is powerful—because you are.

Oooh. I just got goosebumps.

Logo from Future 5000's MySpace page.

Originally Posted on NetSquared.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Apply to Give Money Away on Oprah's Reality Show, "The Big Give"

If someone asked you, and ten other contestants, to come up with the most creative way to, "take a given amount of money and other resources and multiply them before giving them away to help others," would you win?

That is the premise of Oprah's new reality show, "The Big Give." You have until February 23rd to send Oprah a 3-minute tape explaining why you should be on the show. It also looks like they are doing open casting calls in Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago and New York at the end of this month and the beginning of next month.

Go for it!

via Getting Attention blog.

Photo Credit: Oprah at Her 50th Birthday Party by Alan Light.

How Are Green Businesses & Nonprofits Using the Social Web for Marketing?

You were all so helpful with posting your favorite nonprofit blogs to help me prepare for a talk I'll be giving at the Professional Development Conference for Nonprofits sponsored by the United Way of Kern County that I thought I'd ask for your ideas again!

I will also be talking with students in a marketing class at The New College of California's Green MBA program about how nonprofits and green businesses are using the social web for marketing. I have some examples that I often use, but would love to hear some of your favorite examples of nonprofits, NGOs and green businesses that are using the social web (i.e. blogs, podcasts, vlogs, wikis, news aggregation, social networking, social bookmarking) for marketing.

Just like last time, I'll send the first person to send me links to five examples a Have Fun * Do Good tote or mug.

Thanks for your help!

Photo Credit: Symmetry by Petra Broda.

The School for Social Entrepreneurs

Being part of the Nonprofit Blog Exchange is kind of like Secret Santa for bloggers. Every few months or so the organizer asks members of the Exchange if they would like to write a post about another blogger writing about nonprofit-related themes. If you say yes, a few days later an email arrives with the name of a blog for you to profile.

For this Exchange, I was giving the School for Social Entrepreneurs blog from the School for Social Entrepreneurs written by Nick Temple, SSE's Network Director. Before coming to the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Nick was the Director of the Global Ideas Bank, "an online democratic think-tank devoted to social innovation: creativity for social benefit."

Here's a little blurb about the school:
The School for Social Entrepreneurs exists to provide training and opportunities to enable people to use their creative and entrepreneurial abilities more fully for social benefit. We also want to recruit more innovative and capable people into voluntary and other organisations.

The school was founded in 1997 by Michael Young (Lord Young of Dartington), a social innovator who'd previously launched the Consumer Association, the Open University and around 40 other organisations.

Following successful Millennium Awards programmes around the UK, the SSE is now expanding outside its base in Bethnal Green, London, and supporting the establishment of local schools across the country.
Most recently Nick did a roundup of awards for entrepreneurs and linked to a fun looking website called CareerShifters. He also wrote an interesting post in response to the Shaftesbury Partnership's response to his response to their post about system social entrepreneurs vs. community social entrepreneurs.

I'd never heard of social entrepreneurs being divided into these two categories.

The community entrepreneur is defined as being: "people-orientated, and possess significant local political and social capital - enough for reforms and new ideas to really take route [sic] in their communities. This does not mean they cannot at the same time then build scaleable initiatives, but there is ultimately a localness about the community entrepreneur related to the number of people they can genuinely and personally influence"

The system entrepreneur is defined as being, "opposite in temperament - their inclination is to really understand the systemic problems to be addressed and then identify the key solutions to them in a top down fashion, but aware that part of the solution must involve the inclusion of community entrepreneurs if the initiative is to succeed and culture change is to be brought about"

If you are a nonprofit blogger, or write a blog about nonprofit-related things, and would like to be introduced to a new blog a few times a year, be sure to join the Nonprofit Blog Exchange.

Photo of Nick Temple taken from The School of Social Entrepreneurs Extranet.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Columnist Boycotts Chocolate in February to Protest Child Slavery

Last August I wrote a post, Pink M&Ms and Fair Trade, about child slavery in the chocolate industry. Looks like Steffanie Rivers read some of the same disturbing statistics I did. She writes in her column for EURweb:
"We could talk about the 12,500 child cocoa workers in Africa who have no relatives in the area - a sure sign of trafficking. We could present evidence that shows 284,000 children perform hazardous tasks on cocoa farms, and that more than half of the Ivory Coast child cocoa workers don't attend school, creating a permanent underclass.

We could listen to M&M/Mars President Paul Michaels tell us that his company, the fourth largest, privately owned company in the United States wants American consumers to trust their voluntary standards agreement; an agreement that doesn't guarantee fair and stable cocoa prices. But to do so would be like watching a movie for the tenth time - been there and done that."
The Washington DC based Rivers has initiated a 28-Day Chocolate Fast that started on February 1st, and she is organizing a silent protest outside of M&M/Mars headquarters on Tuesday, Feb. 13th. If you would like more information about the protest, you can email her at or check out the Washington DC Fair Trade Coalition Meetup page for information about another DC-based M&Ms/Mars protest.

Please be sure to buy your sweetheart fair trade chocolate this Valentine's Day. Here is a list of chocolate brands that are fair trade certified. I'm partial to Dagoba myself.

You can also send that special someone a cute fair trade coffee e-card from Oxfam's Generation Why site that says, "Love Coffee; Love Fair Trade; Love You."

Photo Credit: M&M by Josh Swieringa

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Do you ever feel like a religious misfit? None of the religions really do it for you, but you are pretty sure that there is some kind of something "out there", you think it is important to be a good person, and sometimes you would like to be a part of a community of people who share your beliefs and values.

Recently I came across an intriguing quiz called, Belief-O-Matic that asks you 20 heavy duty multiple choice questions like, "What happens to humans after death?" "Why is there terrible wrongdoing in the world?", and "What are the origins of the physical universe and life on earth?" In addition to choosing the answer that is closest to your belief, you also prioritize how important that belief is to you.

Living in the Bay Area, I don't come across many people who would call themselves religious. Many like me, were raised in a particular faith, but no longer practice it, and very few would make reference to God in the course of regular conversation, but I have been amazed at how many people, have said, "I wonder what I am?" when I told them about the quiz, and wanted to take it, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Turns out my beliefs are closest to those of a "Liberal Quaker." Who knew? Even more interesting to me, is that I am least like a "Roman Catholic", which is how I was raised. What does it say about you?

Photo Credit: by Alan L.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Looks Like Obama is Going to Run--Wahoo!

Check out this "Announcement Preview" message from Barack Obama.

He is making his official announcement tomorrow, February 10th. You can watch a live video feed of it tomorrow on, at 10:55 AM Eastern / 9:55 AM Central / 8:55 AM Mountain / 7:55 AM Pacific.

I hope that this decision only brings good things for him and his family and that he will be safe along the campaign trail. . . .

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Empowering Change: Caitlin Cohen of the Sigida Keneyali Project

"Many people imagine international health as this fashionable, sexy, and fun job. Nope. Most of it is administration. Plus, malaria, hookworm, ringworm, and typhoid are distinctly unsexy. Yet, it is remarkably rewarding."--Caitlin Cohen of the Sigida Keneyali Project.

In December I wrote a book review of Monique and the Mango Rains, the story of a Peace Corps worker's two years working with a midwife in Mali. Below is an e-interview with another woman making a difference in Mali, Caitlin Cohen, one of two US coordinators of the Sigida Keneyali Project. Caitlin tells it like it is--the nitty gritty of starting up an NGO, and why she believes it is important to help the people you are serving to create the change they want to see, not to create the change for them.

Thanks to Michael Stein for referring me to Caitlin. If you know of a woman doing amazing, world changing work that you think I should interview, please email me at britt AT brittbravo DOT com.

What is the Sigida Keneyali Project?

Sigida Keneyali means “Health in Our Homes” in Bambara, the most common language in Mali. It is a collaboration between American students and residents of Sikoro, a dusty periurban town of 65,000 people outside the capital city of Bamako, Mali. The project is part of the start-up NGO, “Mali Health Organizing Project” (MHOP, not to be confused with a Malian conglomerate of IHOP. We’re not too good at making pancakes…)

Sigida Keneyali
is about improving a community’s capacity to advocate for itself, and improving its health situation using lay knowledge and civil society. Practically, what this means is that the principle component of our program is a Community Health Action Committee (CHAG), responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating their own public health and social development projects. The CHAG is given considerable liberty with what they do, but they must rely mostly on local resources and advocacy. Some funding is exterior, but we are and will remain a low-budget organization, relying on the volunteerism of American students and Malian citizens.

Sigida has existed on the ground for only seven months. In addition to establishing the CHAG and its Malaria initiative (see below), we have fixed and furnished a community center and started women’s occupational training and health courses. Soon, we will be starting a microfinance program, and also an “emergency loan” program to help people seek medical treatment when they need it, not when they happen to be able to pay for it. The CHAG conducts peer education with 1400 people, but the advocacy and development programs work with the entire village.

How did you get involved in the Sigida Keneyali Project?

I came to Mali two years ago to work on a sociological study on HIV and vaccine use. In this process, I discovered that I dislike research and dislike the way most NGOs work (big cars, obsession with AIDS, self-promotion at the expense of effectiveness). But I love Mali, and particularly the communality and generosity evident in Malian culture. Two friends and I decided to co-found Sigida as a result of these three impulses. I am currently on leave of absence from my university to work on establishing this project.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?

The biggest challenge is definitely the fact that an “NGO” in Mali is seen as a “waritigi” (money owner). The people here have seen wells built and schools constructed at inflated prices. Three years later, the wells are polluted, the school cannot recruit any teachers, and the NGO is nowhere in sight. As a result, it is hard to convince people that we are about helping them lead their own projects using existing resources. Certain members of the community want to get as much money out of the project as they can, expecting that we will not be around in two years time. It takes a lot of effort (and a lot of going to baptisms, chatting with neighbors, and making people tea) to overcome this perception.

The other big challenge is logistics… I spend inordinate amounts of time filling out IRS forms, transcribing focus groups, writing grants, writing emails to volunteers, talking to lawyers about liability, etc. Since I live in Sikoro, much of this is conducted with an INFERNALLY slow internet connection on a computer with a French keyboard running off of a bus battery. It is hard to help my host family wash laundry, make this goopy millet dish called “to”, and then retire to my room to read the fine print on tax forms! They think I am being antisocial, and they have very little perception of what my work is, or how much time it takes. (Plus, tax forms aren’t fun, no matter where you are.)

Many people imagine international health as this fashionable, sexy, and fun job. Nope. Most of it is administration. Plus, malaria, hookworm, ringworm, and typhoid are distinctly unsexy. Yet, it is remarkably rewarding.

What is the Sigida Keneyali Project's biggest success story?

Sigida is an accumulation of many small success stories, nothing flashy. We’ve only been on the ground for seven months! However, I think our biggest success story has just started…

Sikoro has one two-bedroom clinic. They get 40,000 patient visits per year. It is 3 km from one end of the town to the clinic. I was at a wedding the other day, and found that the father of the family had died four days prior because of diarrhea. He couldn’t walk to the clinic because he was too sick. Similarly, I came across a woman giving birth on the side of the road. I spoke to one of our CHAG members about this, and she started crying and told me she had lost her 21 year-old son to a motorcycle accident because no taxi would come up the unpaved hillside and take him to receive health care.

I asked the CHAG why no one had constructed a clinic in the far end of Sikoro. They informed me that the community had formed an oversight committee, bought a parcel of land, described the clinic they wanted, and set up a system to finance its personnel through the sale of pharmaceuticals. Four years ago they went to the municipality, and asked them to build the clinic. The municipality essentially said, “no taxes, no services.” The community came up with some tax money, and it disappeared to the netherworld of Malian bureaucracy/corruption. The municipality then shirked its responsibility, telling the community to go find some NGO to foot the cost of the clinic. Now the villagers (most of whom are squatters, and do not own their land) say “no services, no taxes.”

Our CHAG is advocating with the mayor’s office to assert their right to civil services. If the mayor’s office agrees in writing to fund the majority of the cost of the clinic, the committee will again go door-to-door as impromptu tax collectors, and MHOP will match what they raise. The CHAG will manage the funding so that it doesn’t fall victim to corruption as it did in the past.

This project has great potential because it not only provides a necessary service, it helps ameliorate the impasse between the community and the municipality, proving both that the municipality cares about the community, and the community is willing to sacrifice to get services. It establishes a positive precedent for taxation with local accountability. Our committee gets the chance to assert the community’s rights, and see that it has an effective voice. Plus, it releases some existing tension between the two sides of Sikoro. I will be ecstatic if it all pans out this year. It would, of course, be much easier for us to just fundraise and build the clinic ourselves, but then we wouldn’t get any of these other positive results.

You did a survey that revealed that the village's most serious health problem is malaria. What will the Sigida Keneyali Project do to help?

Malaria is a proximal problem… the real health problem is the extraordinary poverty in a peri-urban desert. The real problem is social exclusion. As I mentioned above, how Sigida works is as important as what we do.

That said, in a study we conducted of 1400 people, two thirds of the deaths last year were due to Malaria. All but one of the deceased was a woman or a young child. Right now the CHAG his planning on asking the Malian health system for mosquito nets for all pregnant women and children under 5 in a community of 1400. They are going to hold festivals every six months to educate about malaria and to treat these nets with insecticide en masse. They are acting as peer educators and conducting educational counseling in the homes of these residents about the use of mosquito nets, proper malaria treatment, identifying when to visit a hospital, and maintaining a clean household. Though it has little to do with malaria, they are also organizing village cleanup days, public trashcans, and (we hope) some system for the disposal of trash.

How can readers get involved with the Sigida Keneyali Project?

We can use any help we can get! If you are interested in volunteering your time, we have two volunteer positions open at any point in time Mali, preference given to students or recent college grads. We also need folks who know data analysis, native French, engineering, graphic design, web design, newsletter production, grant making, investment, or law. Also, we are a very small organization, and because of that (and our untraditional approach) we are eligible for very little grant money… as such we always need help fundraising. If you are interested in any above, contact me by email. ( If you wish to donate directly to the project, you may make a tax-deductible donation to “Mali Health Organizing Project” PO Box 20 Westminster Station VT 05159 or go to our web page in about a month and donate using paypal (

Is there anything else you want people to know about the Sigida Keneyali Project?

The majority of development projects act on tight time frames with large budgets and material goals. They operate on a “Give us money and we’ll build six wells within two years” kind of attitude. Unfortunately, in so doing, the replace rather than develop local institutions and state services. We feel that true development is about civil society, laws, attitudes, and institutions. It is about a society’s capacity to provide for itself, not about having services provided. Poverty is not just about material need. It is, above all, about security and choice. Sikoroans don’t want a hand out, they want to work hard and see that their hard work produces results. We can provide local initiatives with institutional access to resources and information, as well as a little seed funding. We can help them see that their hard work can produce results. But it is THEIR hard work.

“Empowerment” is a word that has become completely cheapened through overuse. However, empowerment is what we strive to create. The Mali Health Organizing Project’s name in Bambara, “Setigiya Sabatili” means “the validation of the entitlement to power”. Empowerment is not something that happens during two-year grants analyzed by logframes. As the chief of the village of Sikoro regularly tells me, dondoni kononi b’a nyaga da: Little by little a bird builds its nest.

Photos of Caitlin Cohen and "Woman with Green Door Sikoro" provided by Caitlin Cohen.

Shout out for Nedra Weinreich and Social Marketing University

The first person to list their five favorite nonprofit blogs, and the winner of a Have Fun * Do Good tote or mug, is Nedra Weinreich, author of the social marketing blog, Spare Change and the book, Hands-On Social Marketing.

Nedra asked me to let you all know about her Social Marketing University March 28-30 in Washington DC. She is offering Have Fun * Do Good readers $75 off the registration fee if they use this code: HFDG75.

I've included some info. about what you will learn that Nedra sent to me below. If you have questions, you can contact her at weinreich AT social-marketing DOT com
You Will Learn:
  • How social marketing uses commercial marketing tools to create behavior change
  • How to think like a social marketer
  • How to segment and understand your audience
  • How to develop a strategy using the 8 Ps of the social marketing mix
  • How to follow the social marketing process to develop an effective program
  • How to use audience research techniques to build and test your strategy, including an in-depth discussion of focus groups
  • How to design effective messages and materials
  • How to work with the media to get your message out through news and entertainment programming
  • How to use cutting-edge technologies to put the new media to work for you
  • How to get the most out of your social marketing budget -- even if it's small

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What are your favorite nonprofit blogs?

What are you favorite nonprofit blogs? Not personal blogs about nonprofits, or by people who work for nonprofits, but by the nonprofits themselves.

I am giving a talk about nonprofits and blogging at the Professional Development Conference for Nonprofits sponsored by the United Way of Kern County and would love some fresh examples. I have my list of favs that I often use, but I would love to highlight some new ones.

I'll send the first person to post the names of five amazing, effective, fun to read nonprofit blogs a Have Fun * Do Good mug or tote bag (your choice).

The guidelines are:
• The blog must be written by staff of a nonprofit of NGO
• It has an RSS feed
• It allows comments
• You enjoy reading it!

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Art and Activism: Olivia Greer and Women Center Stage

" I think there is a really powerful understanding that I came to, that we in movements, and not just the women's movement, we have a tendency to fight for the space that we have, rather than fight to expand it.
From the perspective of our work, it really means that the more we amplify different voices, the more we are doing our job. It's not enough for us to tell the stories that we connect to, or that we believe in, or that we think are the most important ones, but that we really need to be seeking out people who challenge our opinions, and who have different views, and to be telling those stories as well."

--Olivia Greer, Producing Director, Women Center Stage, about her experience at the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi.

Just over a year ago, musician, Olivia Greer, was commissioned by Culture Project, a New York City theater company, to write a song for the Women Center Stage Festival. Now she is the Producing Director of Women Center Stage.

Culture Project's mission is to present work that is socially relevant and that calls attention to issues of human rights and social justice around the world.
"Women in an ongoing way have not had the opportunity to have their work seen as it should be," says Greer, "Women Center Stage was conceived as a place to celebrate women's work and to be a launching pad for it in other arenas. Women exist in a unique position of being both mainstream, as half of the population, and also consistently marginalized wherever they are in the world. That tenuous position gives them a very unique view from which to call attention to issues of human rights, not just 'women's issues', but any issue."
Women Center Stage has launched women artists' work like Iris Bahr, who wrote and performed "Dai" at the festival, and is now performing her piece on Culture Project's main stage, and Staceyann Chin, who did a workshop of, "Border/Clash" as part of the Women Center Stage festival, and went on to produce fuller productions of the piece.

Working with Women Center Stage has helped Greer to connect her interests in art and social justice activism as well. Growing up in a family of activists, she struggled with how to bridge her art and activism. In addition to her work as a musician, Greer and her boyfriend, Aaron Rudenstine, produced the book, Actions Speak Louder Than Bumper Stickers, a collection of progressive, often hilarious, bumper stickers. She was also included in the list of The Real Hot 100: See How Hot Smart Can Be.

This year's Women Center Stage festival will run from mid-June to the end of July. Performances will include the play, "St. Joan of the Stockyards", by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Lear DeBessonet, the founder and Artistic Director of Stillpoint Productions. Greer says that it has been reconceived as an, "updated, country, bluegrass, really short, concise, and very insightful piece about modern day economic realities."

The play "Terrible Virtue" by Jessica Litwak, which looks at the history of reproductive rights and the legal system in the United States, will also show at the festival.

Additional programming will include, Women Make Movies, a film series featuring documentary films made by women filmmakers; performances and workshops by the young women of We Got Issues; and the Emancipate Concert, which will bring together women musicians from around the world who are using their work as a platform for social justice activism in their communities.

The festival's programming will embrace a, "culture of conversation."
"It's one thing to hear about art and change; it is another thing to really see it happen," says Greer, "We're really invested in helping folks to take away some real tangible action from the work that we present. When you come and see a show, you will have an opportunity to see a panel afterwards, or to engage in sort of a town hall type of conversation. There will be some way for you to plug-in in a deeper way, and to explore issues together. "
Greer recently returned from the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi. You can read some of her reflections on the Women at the World Social Forum blog.
"I went mostly for my work at Culture Project," she explains, "If our mandate is to be doing work that is relevant, we need to be part of, and trying to understand, movements for change that are happening all over the world. I really went to listen.

I was incredibly heartened to bear witness to the fact that there is extraordinary work happening all over the world, and that people are really engaged in meaningful work constantly. That is not a story that gets told all that often. We get very stuck in what's problematic and what we're fighting against, but to be able to take some time to celebrate what's really happening was a really powerful thing."
If you are an artist who is interested in participating in Women Center Stage's programming, or if you are interested in helping to bring Women Center Stage's work to other locations across the country, you can contact Olivia at oliviajanegreer (AT) earthlink (DOT) net.

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Photo Credit: Photo of Olivia Greer and Women Center Stage logo via Olivia Greer.