Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm Speaking at the Writing for Change Conference in San Francisco

Guess what? I'm going to be speaking about blogging at the Writing for Change Conference that I mentioned in my Writing to Change the World post earlier this month. When I contacted them about a possible bloggership for the Conference, they asked me to speak. Wahoo!

If you're interested in coming, the conference is August 23-25 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, which is known for its labyrinth. I'll be speaking at 3:30 pm on Friday.

Here is a little blurb about the Conference from their site:
"Writing for Change 2007 is a conference for writers of nonfiction books who believe that it is time for their book to be published. From the personal to the planetary. The San Francisco Writers Conference believes that great nonfiction is Changing the World One Book at a Time. This is why we are devoting this conference to empowering non-fiction writers who write for positive change in realms as diverse as the environment, spirituality, politics, health, technology, personal growth, business and the economy.
If you have a book or a vision that should be shared with others, then we want to increase your skills and your support system to create your pathway to publication. Attendees will have the chance to network, learn from and share their ideas with authors, agents, editors and publishing professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York."
The conference is being produced by a husband and wife literary agency, Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen. When I interviewed Elizabeth last week for the Big Vision Podcast, she described the publishing process as being like a labyrinth.
"You have to go through a labyrinth to get from your page, the computer, to the readers' eyes. And this is one of the things that we're going to help people do. Not only walk the labyrinth, but live the labyrinth of publishing."
I am looking forward to hearing Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal; Riane Ensler, author of the The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics; Starhawk, whose book Fifth Sacred Thing I often think about as water issues become increasing important; and Blanche Richardson, whose parents started Marcus Book Stores in Oakland and San Francisco, one of the oldest black bookstores in the United States (it's awesome).

For more info. about the conference go to www.sfwritingforchange.org, or call Elizabeth Pomada at (415) 673-0939. The conference fee is $395 and covers breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday, and a reception on Thursday evening.

How to Respond to a Racist Joke by Carmen Van Kerckhove

If you haven't read anything by blogger, Carmen Van Kerckhove, you are missing out. She is the co-founder and president of New Demographic, an anti-racism training company. She hosts the podcast Addicted to Race and blogs at Racialicious, Anti-Racist Parent, and Race in the Workplace.

Her recent post on Race in the Workplace, "How to Respond to a Racist Joke," is brilliant. I know whenever I'm in the presence of someone who says something racist, I freeze up and don't know what to do. Just like you practice emergency plans for things like fires and earthquakes, here is a response you can practice so you're ready the next time someone says something racist. Carmen's advice is:

"The best strategy is to play dumb.

Put on a bewildered expression, act as if you don’t understand the joke, and ask your co-worker to explain it to you. He will not be able to explain why the joke is funny without evoking a racist stereotype. You can then question the veracity of this stereotype, thus pointing out the racism of the joke, without being confrontational and without humiliating your co-worker.


Co-worker: Did you hear that Angelina Jolie adopted another kid, this time from Vietnam?

You: Oh really?

Co-worker: Yeah. The poor kid probably doesn’t even know he’s Asian yet. He certainly doesn’t know he’s going to be a horrible driver. Or that he’s going to be amazing at doing nails. He has no idea! [Laughs heartily.]

You: [Look perplexed.] Sorry, I don’t get it.

Co-worker: What do you mean?

You: I guess I’m missing something. Why is that funny?

Co-worker: [Looks embarrassed.] Um, well you know how people say that Asians are bad drivers. And a lot of people who work at nail salons are Asian.

You: But those are just stereotypes, aren’t they?

Co-worker: Well, all stereotypes have some truth to them.

You: So you actually believe that all Asians are bad drivers and are good at doing nails?

Co-worker: No, no, it’s just… Never mind."

You can read the rest of her post here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Social Change Website Directory

Last week at the BlogHer Conference I had the pleasure of meeting Rochelle Robinson, the Online Program Manager for Ms. Magazine. Rochelle specializes in online advocacy using technology for positive change in public consciousness, law, and social policy.

One of the cool things on her site is a link to Social Change Websites, a directory of nonprofit, grassroots and advocacy campaign web sites. The site is Rochelle's brainchild.

You can submit your social change web site here. (Check out the guidelines before you submit).

Photo of Rochelle Robinson taken from her site.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Meet Some Do Good BlogHers

I'm having a great time at the BlogHer Conference this year connecting with lots of do-good, good-hearted BlogHers like:

Zoe Chafe, Staff Researcher and blogger for Worldwatch Institute.
Rochelle Robinson, Online Program Manager for Ms. Magazine.
Sheila Bernus Dowd, who writes about nonprofits in Silicon Valley on her blog, Starfish Circle.
Jennifer Pozner, Executive Director of Women in Media & News.
Green LA Girl, Contributing Editor for BlogHer's Green section
Morra Aarons, Contributing Editor for BlogHer's Politics and News section
Birdie Jawarski, Contributing Editor for BlogHer 's Life section
and, of course, Beth Kanter, Contributing Editor with me for BlogHer's Social Change, Nonprofits and NGOs section.

Give 'em a click!

Photo Credit: Photo of Birdie Jawarski at the Scrapblog Stand at the BlogHer Conference 07 by Alex de Carvalho.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nonprofits Celebrate New Home in Second Life: Nonprofit Commons Grand Opening Gala Event on August 14th, 2007

Hey Have Fun * Do Gooders,

Many of you know that I work as the Community Builder for NetSquared, a project of TechSoup. Part of my job is to help put together Net Tuesdays in San Francisco, monthly meetings for social changemakers and web innovators to socialize, network and share resources.

This month's Net Tuesday will be a special "mixed reality" event in San Francisco and in Second Life to celebrate the opening of the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life, a community space for nonprofits. I thought some of you might want to check it out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 5:30 p.m. PT/SLT (Second Life time), 32 Nonprofits and their supporters will host a grand opening celebration in their new offices in the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life.

The Gala event will be a mixed-reality launch party, complete with networking, a panel of speakers (featuring Susan Tenby of TechSoup and Jeska Dzwigalski of Linden Lab in the live-event, and Anshe Chung in Second Life). Audio and video content will be streamed live between the two worlds.

I am a total Second Life newbie. I can't move around very fast, my avatar has bad hair and outfits (I can't figure out how to change them), and sitting is a real challenge for me. So don't worry if you barely know how to do anything. If you can get to the event location, you'll be fine.

I found this Second Life Basic Help page today which might help.

Here are the basics you need to attend:

1. Download and install Second Life, it's free. It doesn't run on all computers so check the system requirements.

2. Create an account and avatar for yourself, also free.

3. RSVP via email to Susan Tenby at susan@techsoup.org to attend the Second Life event, or IM Glitteractica Cookie in Second Life. This event is free of charge, but space is limited.

4. To find the Nonprofit Commons search the Places tab in Second Life for "Nonprofit Commons," or click here.

If you want to come to the real life event in San Francisco, RSVP on the San Francisco NetSquared Meetup page.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Top Five Things to Ask When Your Nonprofit Wants to Start a Community

Last week Seth Godin wrote a post suggesting that the #1 job for the future is being an online community organizer. He's probably right. With all the hoopla around MySpace, Facebook and social networking these days, it seems like everybody wants to start their own "community."

Next week, Katya Andresen is hosting the weekly Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants created by Kivi Leroux Miller. The theme is "your top five anything" with extra points if you use one of the following words: “bikini,” “martini” or “Fellini.” So here it goes, the Top Five Things to Ask When Your Nonprofit Wants to Start a Community:

1. Why do you want an online community?

If the answer is because everyone else has one. Stop right there. Just because bikinis are in style doesn't mean everyone should wear one, right?

Be honest with yourself. Do you want an online community to have more site hits to show potential donors, or so you can gather emails for your mailing list? That might be a result of having an online community, but if it is your motivation, your supporters will smell it and they won't stick around long, which brings us to your next question. Ask not what your supporters can do you, but . . . .

2. What can you do for your supporters?

How would having an online community benefit your supporters and potential supporters? We are always asking our organization's supporters for things: donations, volunteer time, to spread the word. How do you feel when you have a friend who is always asking for things, but never returns the favor? You stop calling them after awhile, right?

If you are going to create a community, ask your supporters directly . . .

3. What need would an online community fill for you?

Whether it is through a poll, survey, focus group or informal chats, find out if an online community is something that interests them, and if it is, find out what need it fills.

You don't need to fulfill all their needs, just one or two. Are they looking for a place to learn new things, to meet people with shared interests, to organize around an issue, to collaborate, to share resources, or to just have fun?

Once you know why you want to build a community and what need it will fill for your supporters you can ask . . .

4. What online tool should we use?

Whatever tool you choose, please make it simple not only for your users, but also for your staff to manage. Bells and whistles are great, but if the only the person who can use it is the one who set it up, your community will contain only your tech savviest members.

Once you have chosen the tool you are going to use, your fifth question is . . .

5. How will we engage people?

Just because you build it doesn't mean they will come. You need to create an outreach strategy to spread the word. Which bring us back to why it can be helpful to hire an online community manager to help with the outreach, as well as to be a moderator once the community is up and running.

For more information about building and managing online communities, follow Nancy White's Full Circle Online Interaction Blog, and check out her Online Community Resources.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My 10 Second Bio

Mocha Mama has launched a "You in 10 Seconds" meme for the bloggers attending the BlogHer Conference next week so that they can learn a tiny bit about each other. The number of women attending this year has doubled!

Even if you aren't going to BlogHer, you can still continue the meme.

Here's my blurb:

I grew up in Mystic, CT (the town Mystic Pizza was based on) and live in Oakland, CA. I'm a Leo who shares a birthday with Bill Clinton, Orville Wright and Kyra Sedgewick. I love to bake, eat and read blogs about cupcakes.

Most asked question: Is that your real name?

Yes, but it is my husband's last name. My maiden name is Aageson.

Favorite quote:

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
-Rabindranath Tagore

You can read more 10 second bios on BlogHer, or follow the tag.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Nonprofit and Activist Women Bloggers in Chicago

With just nine days until the BlogHer Conference in Chicago, where I'll be moderating the panel, "Getting It On(line) for a Cause: Raising Money," I thought I'd search around for nonprofit and activist women bloggers in the Chicago area.

Here's what I found:

Chicago Books to Women in Prison
, a volunteer collective that distributes free books to women in prisons across the country, has a blog as their front page. They recently posted about the Chicago Tribune article, "Behind Bars, But Still Girls". According to the article, "The fastest-growing population in adult corrections is the female population."

Chicago Community Midwives also uses a blog as their site's home page. Today they announced that through their advocacy work, "
Governor Blagojevich has issued a Proclamation honoring the Founders of La Leche League and declaring July 16-23rd La Leche League International Week!"

Christine Cupaiuolo is a Chicago-based blogger who
created MsMusings.net, Ms. magazine's daily blog on media and culture. She writes for Our Bodies, Our Blog (about women's health and feminism) and manages the web site, Women's Voices for Change.

Journal of a Young Activist write about her travels and human rights work in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Afghanistan, and her life as a Chicago Seminary Student.

Finally, the blog, reappropriate, although not based out of Chicago, posted about the Asian Pacific Americans for Progress Activist Training and Midwest Summit on Saturday, August 4th in Chicago. Attendees will learn, "the basic tools of political organizing including volunteer recruitment, networking, planning events, targeting, phonebanking and other useful campaign skills." The training will be lead by Parag Mehta, Director of Training at the Democratic National Committee and filmmaker Eric Byler.

What other nonprofit and activist bloggers based in Chicago do you read?

Photo Credit: Chicago Skyline from Navy Pier by Michelle.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Green Coworking: An Interview with Chris Messina and Ivan Storck of Citizen Space

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost half (49 percent) of the nation’s businesses are operated from home. Working from home provides amazing freedom, but with that freedom can come isolation. Community and opportunities for collaboration can be lost when it is just you sitting down to work each day.

Coworking, a group of individual entrepreneurs sharing a work space, can provide that community while also being an environmentally sustainable choice. I talked to Chris Messina of Citizen Agency and Ivan Storck of SustainableMarketing.com about their green coworking space in San Francisco, Citizen Space for the Big Vision Podcast and have posted a transcript of the interview below.

For more information about coworking, read the Coworking Community Blog, check out the Coworking wiki, join the Coworking Google Group, watch this short video, and see photos of coworking spaces in the BusinessWeek article, Where the Coffee Shop Meets the Cubicle.


Chris Messina: My name is Chris Messina. I co-run a company called Citizen Agency with my partner Tara Hunt. We opened up Citizen Space in San Francisco in November of last year, of 2006.

I guess I got involved in coworking originally because I was working out of cafes and wanted a more collaborative, productive environment to go to and work around other people in. The green part sort of just came naturally, both by being around Ivan and finding out more about what he does, but also holding that value as well, and wanting to figure out a way to change the worklife environment so that you don't have to give up your values when you go to work.

Ivan Storck: I am Ivan Storck from SustainableWebsites.com, and SustainableMarketing.com. I got involved in green coworking, being here in Citizen Space and trying to bring some of the green values that I promote on my Internet sites into actual practice here in the work place.

The first part was realizing that I could go out and freelance and not be involved in a huge corporation anymore. That made me realize that I could bring my environmental values to my work. I think that is a big realization that you get from freelancing. When you find other people that are into the same thing, it's great, because it just helps to reinforce that and gets things moving.

Britt Bravo: What is coworking, and how can you make it green?

CM: The idea of coworking is actually a very old idea. It is simply a matter of getting people together, maybe of similar character and working in the same place. You can work for a big company, you can work for a small company, you can work for yourself. You can even be a student, or anybody who frequents cafes, or you can work from home.

The broad general idea is to no longer work all alone and so that you can be in a much more productive environment around other people. The idea was actually sort of a prototype that a friend of ours, Brad Newburg, had done in The Mission. Essentially, one day a week people would get together and they would work together. I met Brad, and I had previously worked on a project called CivicSpace, which was actually a Drupal site for organizing people.

One of the things that always struck me as being missing from that project were physical spaces where people to get together in. I mean if you are creating this organizing software for any purpose, people need a place to actually meet up, and talk and to connect and to have those face-to-face and one-on-one interactions. So I had always wanted CivicSpace to have that component.

So when I met Brad, a little while after I had left CivicSpace, it seemed like, "Hey here is someone who has already sort of had this idea and has gotten a very small example of this started. With this idea we can actually take this bigger and we can start creating our own space."

So last spring we started a space called -- at the time it was called Teh Space, but then it was renamed, after we left it, to the Hat Factory, that is still running. It's another coworking space in San Francisco. The idea of that space was to make it a much more egalitarian sort of "Kumbaya" place where everyone chipped in for the rent and made it work.

We realized that after four months of running it that you needed a little more structure and you need a little more, I guess, rules, or people to guide the existence of the space, who are really bought in the idea of making the coworking space happen, and then there are those who are clients of the space, or who come in, and are part of the community of the space, but aren't as interested in the day-to-day management of running a space, and that only makes sense.

So anyway, that's kind of where coworking came from. Since then, we've tried to really open source our practices and our processes and the things that make it work openly on a website and a wiki. As a result of that, and as a result of sort of evangelizing the idea, we've seen 50 or 60 different spaces around the world start to crop up where interested independents are seeing this model and are really excited about no longer working from home by themselves, but are actually meeting with other people and saying, "Hey, just two or three or four of us, let's get together and work regularly, even out of a cafe, and then eventually let's move into a regular space that we ourselves run and manage that is the workspace of our dreams."

IS: I can add to that. I think also it's really exciting to be involved in a space like this because since you are designing it from the beginning, you get a chance to bring your values into it and for me, the sustainability part of it is really important.

I strongly believe in the triple bottom line -- which is people, planet, and profit. That for me is a truer definition of sustainability than just being an environmentalist. I don't think you can get to the part where you work on the green stuff if your people aren't happy.

So I think the primary focus is to create a very collaborative, creative environment where people can really get stuff done. Also since we're doing it from scratch, to make sure that the green things are built in as much as possible from the beginning. And that we can share ways of doing green things, even on a budget while you're getting started, because you don't have to spend a lot of extra money to be green. You can even save your money. It has already saved us money on our energy costs.

BB: What are some of the things you've done in the space to green it?

IS: From the beginning Chris and Tara purchased compact flourescent light bulbs, which are CFLs. They're energy saving light bulbs that last forever. We just had a little mini energy audit and we realized that our electricity bill is very low for the space that we have. They are the primary factor for that because we know that the computers use a lot of energy. We have a list of other stuff. Chris can talk about the floors.

CM: So when we moved into our space, it was actually previously a carpenter shop. The guy who was basically using it to make furniture and things like that. So when we first came to the place, we were actually kind of shocked at the condition that it was in.

We were like, "Well, I don't know if this can work, but we see the potential here. It's in a really great location, being close to downtown, and it also is something that we can really fix up and put a lot of effort into and make it our own." So that's what we did, and we worked with the landlord, David, who has been really supportive of us, and worked with him to find and source renewable bamboo flooring -- not only was it super cheap,which was surprising, but it is also sustainable. I mean, bamboo grows like grass, so that was really good.

Then we've done what we can to really just make sure that we're using fewer and fewer throwaway paper supplies, using mugs and things like that, dish ware. Then, as Ivan mentioned, the lighting, but we also have a low flush toilet and various things like that.

So these are all pieces that -- some of which already were here, other things we decided very explicitly, when we had the choice, to make sure that we did the right thing and so on. It's also good because where Tara and I live is just down the street, and so we're saving a lot just in terms of commuting, whereas before Tara worked previously in Redwood City and I had worked in Mountain View and in Palo Alto for a while. Not having to rely on transit to get there and back and forth I think helps as well.

IS: A big part of where we've gotten our inspiration and help has been the Bay Area Green Business Program. We're lucky to have that here in the Bay Area. The cities and counties around the Bay run this program, and they provide you with a checklist. They have this one that is specific for offices, and it's full of ideas that you can implement.

One of the things that we've done is to actually put that checklist up on our wiki, online, so that anyone involved in the space can go in and edit it and write down an idea or check off something that they've done. It makes it more of a collaborative process, and also makes it possible for us to work on it, to pick it up one day of the week and then leave it, to just pick it up when we have time to work on it.

It definitely has been a little bit of a challenge to work on because it's not billable work. But it is one of our long term goals to get Green Business Certified. I believe it will happen this summer, so we are actually making progress on it. A lot of the stuff is really easy to do.

CM: There are some other things that we will be doing that aren't currently done. This is sort of an ongoing greening process. It isn't the kind of thing where you just take three steps and you're done. It's actually something you have to remain vigilant to.

We have back bay windows that go out and, unfortunately, look over the highway. But, as it is, they are single pane, so not only do we lose a lot of heat there, but there's a lot of noise and things like that. What we're going to be doing is replace those with dual pane glass, and that'll provide extra insulation in the winter when it's cold and we have the heaters running, because we don't have central heat, and it'll also dampen the noise and just make the space a little bit more friendly.

We're also going to be installing ceiling fans in the main area of the space, so that, especially during the winter, which we just went through, and it was actually pretty cold, the heat from our heaters, our electric heaters that we use, will actually be kept forced down, where people are, as opposed to just rising to the top and heating the ceiling.

IS: We're also using Energy Star compliant electronic devices. That's actually really easy to do. Almost anything of good quality that you buy now is Energy Star, but it does help with the Green Business Certification here in the Bay Area. There's also the EPA's Energy Star Partner program that you can apply to be a part of and get a recognition from the EPA.

That actually is fairly easy for small businesses to be a part of, so I encourage people to look on the EPA site to check that out. Just being a web-enabled company is a big part of saving resources, like paper. You can actually see our Green Business checklist online if you go to citizenspace.us and then click on the wiki.

You can see that a lot of the office requirements for the Green Business program are about reducing paper, not making copies when it's not necessary, and using things like the wiki and the blog, and stuff that we think of naturally being web companies, actually really makes a big difference in the amount of paper that we use.

Also using two monitors is a great way of saving paper. Almost all of us here are set up with the laptop screen and the main monitor. It allows you to put documentation on one side of the monitor, and also do your work on the main screen. So it is another way of saving paper. There's actually about a hundred different suggestions in this checklist and we've probably done about thirty or forty of them now. We're almost basically certified. We just haven't finished every single area.

CM: This is sort of basic and could fall into some of the logistics, but we have three types of trash that we gather. One is, obviously, just regular trash--stuff that is, unfortunately, not recyclable, or reusable. Another is the recycling itself, which is normal. And then we have compost -- so that is a service that, I think, we have to pay a little extra for, but it's very minimal on a monthly basis.

We are able to make sure that food extras and things like that are done away with in a proper way. I think that you have to check locally to see whether or not your area provides services for that, but it's something that you could do locally as well. For example, we have a few plants, not a lot of plants in here, but we do have coffee grinds or things like that we're able to use as sort of a fertilizer internally.

BB: What are the benefits of green coworking?

IS: The primary one, as I said, is on the people side of people, planet and profit, although in terms of profit, we're definitely saving money every month on our energy bill, but people-wise it has been an incredibly collaborative space.

Everything from being able to hang up the phone and say, "Oh that was such a bad client call," and being able to commiserate with someone, just to have that emotional support, but also to have some really creative ideas, and flow of ideas going back and forth between everyone that's here and all the visitors that come through.

It's been really inspiring and we've had visitors say that being here in the space, interacting with just maybe three or four people, is more inspiring than being at a web conference for the entire week. When someone says something like that about your space, it just really brings a smile to you.

CM: I would agree with Ivan. I think that the personal interactions are really the fundamental benefit of getting involved in any kind of coworking thing, but it also, for me, is a really important piece of my independence from working at another place, or working for someone else. The people of the space really do have a lot of influence and can add a lot of benefit. I mean it is their space as much as it's ours so when someone has an idea, it really is up to them to kind of add that piece to it.

Rather than working out of cafes for as long as I did, being able to come into a coworking environment where I can influence what goes on, I can have events when I want to, we can bring in trainers and things like that, even just suggestions to see what's possible, means that we're getting a lot more out of our work environment, our space, then for example if we were just working out of our living room -- which we did for a long time -- where you just, you can invite people over for dinner, but I wouldn't want to have 40 people there as part of a training or seminar.

So there's that part of it, the local, personal interaction that you get. There is the shared creativity. But I think what we've seen, because of the way that we've gone about organizing the coworking community, is there's a much broader impact and a wider community to actually draw from.

There are people literally all over the world in cities all over the place where we're able to show up. And not only do we get a tour of the local environment, but we have a place to work where we can just meet really interesting people and continue the experience that we've had here.

For example, Tara and I went to Vancouver this past weekend and we spent time at the workspace there. We had a little board room and we had desks to work out of, and it was really productive . It allowed us to sort of escape for the weekend, to be in a new environment, and yet to never really lose a beat.

There are coworking spaces being started up in Europe and even I think in -- I'm not sure if it has hit Africa yet, but I know that, especially all across U.S. and Canada, there are coworking spaces being started up almost every weekend.

That just suggests that there is a real desire for people to get together and work together, people who are finding themselves working from home and are feeling alienated. Or just spending too much time locked in the den or locked in the bedroom or something, when they really could benefit from being out and about with other folks.

BB: Who are the kinds of people who are getting involved with coworking?

CM: You know, I think actually the people who are attracted to coworking varies greatly. I think so far it's similar to the BarCamp event model where it started out as being a lot of geeks and people online, because it spread through online vehicles.

But now, and I think more into the future, we're going to see a lot of other people who maybe don't call the Internet home, but are either familiar with that, or who friends who are into that, and can hook them up, because they want to see a local community emerge of independent workers.

So we've seen a lot of people actually in Berkeley. A number of disparate groups, kind of slowly finding each other and getting together because they want to be able to work out of their homes and neighborhoods. They don't want to have to travel either into the city or an hour away.

Where a lot of people are able to telecommute now, or just work from home generally, rather than doing the work from home -- which is again sort of an alienating, disempowered feeling -- getting together and sharing resources and sharing knowledge and sharing experiences is really I think validating and rewarding. It gives you an incentive to actually show up and go to work and feel good about it.

So while it's starting out again now with people who are online, I think we are starting to see the trend migrate outwards into other communities -- whether it's artists, writers--I've heard about some lawyers actually, and I guess other folks who can do a lot of their work online.

BB: Can you talk about how your space works?

CM: To get into the nuts and bolts a little bit of how the space works, right now we have three different ways of getting involved in Citizen Space in particular. Every coworking space is little bit different, but we are trying to work on bridges between coworking spaces so that if you're a member at one, you can actually show up at another one and sit down and start working. Whether if it's a low fee or no fee or whatever.

As Citizen Space the way that we work it is that we have a monthly subscription rate. If you're a "month-er", you get a desk and you get a key, and that's $350.00 a month. So you essentially can bring in a monitor, you can leave your documentation, you can leave your stuff. You bring in a seat and you've got a little workspace.

We recently created a second model to meet additional demand, and also to extend the size of our coworking community here. It's called "coworking lite," and that allows people to get keys, but without a permanent desk. So it's kind of like a hot desk kind of situation where we have space in the back where people can come in and work.

It's a little less expensive, and a little less of an investment, but you can come in whenever you want to. So if you happen to be someone who works at 6:00 a.m., when most of us don't, you can get a key and basically know that you're going to be able to come in and have a seat.

The third is probably the best way to get involved, and that's the free -- well I won't call them the "free rider", but the idea is that it's both beneficial to the folks who can come in, spend an hour or two, maybe even once a month or once a week or whatever, and just are looking for a random space to sit in, that's an alternative to cafes. It's also a benefit to the renters to have interesting new people coming in, keeping the space fresh, keeping new ideas flowing and so on.

You essentially can come in whenever there is a renter here who has opened up the space. So there's no guarantee that the space is going to be open, which is different than a cafe. But we give a lot of different opportunities for people to contact us whether it's through our website or through Twitter or through anything like that so that if you want to stop by and spend an hour or two, you can do so. You can know with some assurance whether or not someone will be there to let you in.

IS: I think that the "coworking lite" plan really just captures the ethos of what Citizen Space, and other coworking environments are about. I mean it's really heavily influenced by the open source community and the ethos of sharing. That fits in so well with sustainability, because it's making the best use of limited resources -- and actually making better use of limited resources to create something that you wouldn't normally have if you just had resources that were used by just one person or one group.

BB: What are some of the challenges?

CM: I think some of the challenges revolve around some of the business stuff. Personally, my background isn't really business or finance, so that's been an interesting challenge. Tara and I run a consulting company, and either way we'd have to get an office for our business.

What we decided to do was rather than just have an office that is for ourselves, and make limited usage of a scarce resource, we decided we'd have an office, but we'd open it up for other companies and individuals who previously were in our situation of working from home, working out of cafes. And we'd provide this as a resource.

As such we're not really breaking even quite yet on the space. In fact it's costing us some money, but we figure that if we had an office space all our own, we'd be eating the entire cost without the social benefits and without meeting our triple bottom line either.

So the cost, the investment we make in the space, doesn't come back as a money-making venture right now. But as well, we are in a position that we don't have to be making money for it to work. Finding a sustainable business model from a business perspective, and one that is generalizable for other spaces, is something that we like to do and a challenge that is put to the entire coworking community. I'm pretty optimistic that we'll come up with something and some way to actually share in each other's resources and extend the network, maybe along the lines of a Zipcar model or something like that.

I think for the most part it's been a really good experience. You're going to have the occasional setbacks and the occasional questions about how to handle things and what to do, but given that our attitude so far is that we are running this kind of as an experiment - and there are really no wrong answers, the best we can do is to fail lightly and just keep moving on . As such if we can learn from those things and share our experiences with other people, who are also trying to start their spaces, that sets the model for other people to in turn share what they've learned.

As Ivan said, it's very much applying the open source model and principles to a real-life situation, and that's something that I think is really exciting. So far I don't think there's been too many bad challenges.

The one thing that we have done, that's been an interesting challenge -- I mean this is not unexpected -- we run community centered events in our space. We're a little bit judicious about the ones we let in; we don't just allow any events to come in. But there have been occasions where people have--and before we weren't charging anything for hosting events in our space because we felt it was a community resource to be shared--There was one event in particular that sort of left a mess and weren't as respectful of the space, given that it was free, as we had hoped. So we talked with the organizer, who didn't quite understand the ethos of the space. So we had to ask him not to return with his group.

But in other situations where there have been questions about how we run the space, and the cost to us and so on, I think that we've worked it out, and helped people to understand where we are coming from, why we make the space available, what it costs us to do it -- more in terms of effort and attention and stress than in terms of dollars. When that is made known and people understand that we are doing this as independents, I think that there is sort of a mutual understanding.

IS: I think also it's been such a social space it's been really fun, but also we have had to remind ourselves that it is a working space, it's an office first. I don't think we've really crossed that line but maybe we've come close. It's a challenge.

It's not a hard challenge, it's kind of fun, because we do enjoy ourselves here. This is one of the places I really look forward to coming to, and I don't think I've ever really felt that about a work space before. But we definitely have to remind ourselves that this is an office and we want to have times for productivity as well as welcoming the community, too.

BB: What do you think is the future of co-working?

IS: I think what people have realized this time, or this year, finally, is that sustainability is an integral part of running a company. It's not just another marketing effort; it's actually a core part of operations and competitive advantage. We feel the same way here -- that we're always going to have the sustainability element of what we do, whether that's on the people side or on the planet side, and of course the profit side too would be nice.

So, it's continuing to meet the certification requirements of our local green business program, continuing to communicate what we're doing to others, so that they can copy our model, and not have to reinvent the wheel on their own. Even if they don't have local certification, they can take ideas from what we're doing. A lot of what we're doing is equally applicable anywhere else, and easy to adopt and take pieces from, just ones that will apply to any other co-working space.

CM: So I guess I see a couple things. One is that I see more people ending up in the situation of working on their own, working for themselves, and wanting to find an alternative to just cafes. I mean, I love working out of cafes, and I think cafes are great, but they're not great for everything. Eventually what we've found is that they're not really great for the individual who is working out of the cafes, or the cafes themselves.

In fact, I talked to my friend Eileen, who runs Ritual Roasters in The Mission, and she gave me a really interesting figure, that in I think it was on a monthly basis, to operate one power plug in the wall of the cafe was costing her up to four hundred dollars a month. And she had like, you know, five or six different outlets.

So you can imagine how much that's costing the cafes and how much they're trying to figure out, "Well, what do we do about this? Because clearly, these are, our patrons, they're coming and they're buying coffee and so on, but then they're staying for five to six hours, on a three to five dollar drink, and that's not really working for us."

Meanwhile, the web warriors, the web workers, are trying to figure out and are trying to come to grips with, what is their roost; what is their place, you know? Can they keep going to these cafes if it's not working for the cafes, and furthermore, are the cafes providing the kind of environment in which they can thrive?

The more that coworking gets out there and the more we establish models that will work for other people and in fact, establish even alternative forms of this. . . . The folks in New York came up with this idea called Jelly, and the folks in Philly came up with a similar thing called The Cream Cheese Sessions, I think, it's all around food.

The idea is actually instead of just getting a physical space and an office space, to find someone's home, and work there for a day a week. So, they'll say, "Let's go meet up at Amit's house on Wednesday afternoon and we'll spend six hours, just working amongst each other." It's a social thing, and you know, in New York it's really expensive to find spaces, and so that works for them.

What I see happening in Philadelphia, where our friend Alex Hillman is putting these things together, he's able to get people together, even if it's out of Panera or something, for these Cream Cheese Sessions, and drum up interest, to the point where people will say, "Well, why are we going to Panera all the time? You know, this isn't our space, we can't really run it the way that we want to. We can't have events and meetings here. Why don't we take this group and branch off and get our own space?" And so I see that those small efforts run locally to gather interest are really important to what I call, "the life cycle of co-working."

So that's, I guess, how I see this sort of playing out, and really giving people an option, and a choice in the kind of work environment that they find themselves in.

In terms of green coworking, and the greening of the independent, in general, what I'd like to see over the next coming years is more and more knowledge given back to the individual about their green and environmental impact. One of the things that we'd like to do, and that we're working on with coworking is, Ivan and I, and some other folks who have talked about this idea, have talked about a green API.

What we're going to be doing actually, one thing that we didn't mention, is that we're going to be doing carbon offsetting, if not already, for our space. So essentially, for all the power we consume, we're going to be putting back an equal amount of solar, wind, or whatever other types of power, onto the grid, to offset our consumption.

What we'd like to do is to extend that model, into almost anything, into web services in particular, so if we're using applications like Blinksale or Basecamp, that those folks can add an additional charge, which probably is actually pennies per month -- but you know, even a dollar a month would make a huge difference.

To offset our usage of these services, so that essentially not only are we being green locally, but we are being green in the services that we touch online. Over the long term, this kind of idea is such that we'd be able to run statistics on ourselves, to see what our impact is, and to see what more we can do as individuals in our work environments, in our practices, and just the things that we can do to continue to make a local difference.

IS: I think the carbon offsets are definitely a great idea, and they're a very powerful means of having an easy impact on getting your ecological footprint to be smaller - for the individual, and for the space, and for companies. It's going to expand over the next five years, to not only being able to offset your impact, but to actually come up with ways of measuring your ecological footprint, and working on ways of just reducing that off the bat, rather than just being able to offset it.

So, offsets are really the first step. They're the easy step we can do right now; but once we have systematic and web-enabled ways of calculating your ecological footprint, we can offer that to people that are in the spaces, other companies, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of those methods being available.

CM: I guess, one of the things I do want to see happen as coworking builds itself out--in terms of this generation of coworking, it's only about a year old, or a little bit older than a year--as I've tried to do with BarCamp and making diversity, especially gender diversity at conferences, be a big issue that BarCamp attempts to at least address and to open awareness to, I would like coworking to sort of do the same for the environmental impact of a workspace.

And so, green coworking is that; is our effort to come up with a name and an idea, and a way for people to identify, Well, what kind of space do you want to work in? Do you want to work in a big corporate office with a bunch of cubes, or do you want to work in a green, coworking space?

And, hopefully coworking becomes somewhat synonymous with green working and so on. We are, as Ivan said, somewhat at the beginning stages of that, but I do think that even simple things like the carbon offset program is a way to just get people thinking of those things, first and foremost, almost to have an instinct to ask questions like, "What's the impact of this? Should I really buy this equipment or should I buy something else?" And furthermore, "What resources are the coworking community providing, or showing me, that will help me make better green decisions?" Because other people are invested in this problem as well.

IS: It's kind of like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Once you start measuring your impact, you really start thinking about it and it has an immediate impact, because all of a sudden you realize all of these things that are really pretty easy that you can be doing to reduce your impact and to lower the price of the carbon offsets that you'll need to purchase.

Britt: If a listener wants to start or join a coworking space, what should they do?

CM: The first thing to do is to check out the blog/wiki, and you can find those things at coworking.info, or wiki.coworking.info. That's essentially where our web resources are, and once you're there, I'd strongly encourage anyone to join our coworking group. It's a Google group. It's very easy to join, and to get involved with, and there are a lot of supportive people on it. A couple of months ago when we checked, it was about 500 people, but there's probably more now on it. These are people around the world who are trying to get places started up.

So, the first step really, is to get on the list, ask other people, "Hey, is there anybody in my area who is trying to start up a coworking space?" Because, you know, more often than not, there oftentimes is.

The second step, if no one is there, or if you do find other people who are interested, but haven't actually put a stake in the ground, is to go to the wiki, and create a page, usually named after your location. So for example, you'd have, "CoworkingBoston," or "CoworkingSanFrancisco," all in what is called CamelCase.

And that becomes your organizing point where you can devote your resources, you can send people to, you can link to it, you use like "CoworkingBoston" as your tag if you're blogging about things, to get people interested and find out about what you're doing, and just become part of the community.

I think that's a really important aspect to it because even if you're in, for example DC, you might find that there's a space being started up in Virginia that's close enough by, or you can cross the border and work there.

If starting a full space is either beyond your budget or beyond your available time resources at the moment, there's no reason why you can't do some of those smaller type of community gatherings or even just organize a local event.

It took us about four to six months to get the original Hat Factory off the ground. It was actually a really passive type thing because Tara and I were mostly working out of our living room. We'd just walk around downtown and I would take digital photos of "For sale" or "For rent" signs in offices and I would post them to Flickr. We'd get together, actually at Ritual Roasters, and have meet ups to talk about starting a space.

We had a very small mailing group to get things started off. So it was really, really basic. You don't start with a full on space and start renting right away, I mean, that's beyond what you need to do, but you can start with just finding other people.

I think that looking at that as being the ultimate goal, and not just getting a space, but getting people together, is what you should look at. As well, BarCamps have been really influential if you want to run your own event, to find people in your area. That's what they did in Philadelphia, and that really spawned a lot of interest, and they are now creating a space that can support the BarCamp community in an everyday sense. So that's where that's coming from. Just let people know -- and I think the easiest way is through the mailing list -- and then they'll find you and you can go from there.

BB: And how can they start making their space green?

IS: Well, the three most basic things are energy, water and waste. If you started thinking about things that way, it is a good way to get started. Energy in an office environment usually means lighting and computers. So compact flourescent light bulbs and Energy Star certified equipment and you're well on your way.

Water usually means in an office environment, the toilet. So if you don't already have a low flow toilet -- which you might, because we discovered that we already had one; it was already in the code for San Francisco, for the city. So you can take advantage of maybe installing a new toilet or any other device that uses a lot of water. Waste is a big one definitely, if you're not doing a recycling program, get that started and think about composting too.

CM: The one last resource that I would point out is to take a look at an organization called Freecycle. We've recently started working with them and they basically provide -- they're sort of an alternative to Craigslist-- it's locally run people getting together and swapping free stuff.

If you're going to start a space, there's no better way of doing that "reuse, recycle" thing than actually to reuse stuff that's already out there. Going to your local business bureau, or any municipal organization that can point you to companies or businesses that are either getting rid of all their old desks, or that are going bankrupt, or whatever it is. There are going to be people out there that have stuff that you don't need to buy new necessarily to get started.

In fact, the Hat Factory was totally furnished by mostly other Valley startups that were upgrading their offices and were going to just get rid of all their stuff. Also don't put the cost of buying new things and great things in your way. I mean people just want a nice place to work, they don't need to have Aeron chairs. We like to say that we furnished our entire space for the cost of two Aeron chairs, or something like that. Both IKEA and Freecycle and Craigslist can go a long way towards helping you just getting started on a threadbare basis.

IS: Really, just do it. Just get people together, get people talking about it. We're not talking about rocket science here; we're talking about just getting people together and working together and sharing.

CM: There's also just a whole community of support that will help you get started. I think that the barriers to getting going are so much less today than they have been. It is a natural evolution, I think, of the workspace environment.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter Alliance Raises Awareness About Darfur

The Harry Potter Alliance is celebrating the release of the last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with house parties to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur

According to the Alliance, the world of Harry Potter is more like our world than we might think:
"Genocide, Poverty, AIDS, and Global Warming are ignored by our media and governments the way Voldemort's return is ignored by the Ministry and Daily Prophet.

People are still discriminated against based on sexuality, race, class, religion, gender, ethnicity, and religion just as the Wizarding World continues to discriminate against Centaurs, Giants, House Elves, Half-Bloods, Muggle borns, Squibs, and Muggles

Our governments continue to respond to terror by torturing prisoners (often without trial) just as Sirius Black was tortured by dementors with no trial."
In May 2005, Andrew Slack and his friend Justin Oberman started a MySpace site to discuss the connections between the Harry Potter series and social justice. (Interesting tidbit: Harry Potter author JK Rowling used to work for Amnesty International). When the site took off, 27-year-old Slack created the Harry Potter Alliance.

On Saturday, July 14th, the Harry Potter Alliance, in conjunction with the Genocide Intervention Network, and other human rights groups, are encouraging Harry Potter lovers and human rights activists to hold house parties to learn more about the situation in Darfur, and to take action.

Party goers can listen to a Pottercast with Joe Wilson, former U.S. Ambassador; John Prendergast, Senior Advisor to the International Crisis Group; Dot Maver, Executive Director of the Peace Alliance; and John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace.

Participants will also be asked to take action in a number of ways:

1. Use 1-800-GENOCIDE to call your Governor, 2 Senators and Representatives and ask them to take action. The Genocide Intervention Network has created the first anti-genocide hotline. When you call you will be connected directly to your elected officials for free. All you need is your zip code.

2. Sign the AsktheCandidates petition asking all of the 2008 Presidential candidates to commit to ending the genocide in Darfur.

3. Go to DarfurScores.org, and find out how your elected leaders have been graded regarding Darfur. Thank the ones who are doing well and ask the ones who are "failing" to take action. My Senators, Boxer and Fenstein, and Representative, Lee, all got A's!

You can get more information about how to take action, and about the event, on the PotterCast web site, MuggleNet and of course, the Harry Potter Alliance

In addition to raising awareness about Darfur, the Harry Potter Alliance also created the (hilarious) YouTube video Harry Potter and the Dark Lord WaldeMart about Wal-Mart's employees policies. You can watch their newest video and learn more on Waldemart Watch.

Image Credit: Harry Potter Alliance logo from the HP Alliance MySpace.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Blogathon 2007: Raise Money for Your Favorite Cause with your Blog

Who needs a walk-a-thon when you can join a Blogathon!

Starting Saturday, July 28th at 6 AM PST, 2007 Blogathon bloggers will post a new post every 30 minutes for 24 hours to raise money for their favorite cause. As of this writing, 240 bloggers have registered for the Blogathon and $16,161.91 in pledges have been made.

For bloggers with other commitments, such as religious observances, that cannot be rescheduled, there will be a B-Schedule which will begin at 9 PM PST on Saturday, July 28th and will continue until 9pm the following night.

Unfortunately, the Blogathon coincides with the BlogHer Conference again, so I won't be joining this year, but if you'll be blogging, check out Lorelle Van Fossen's fantastic Blogathon Tips like:
  • Choose a charity people can identify with
  • Give readers a reason to donate
  • Blog to more than your fans:
  • Plan for 48 blog posts
Here is how some bloggers are participating in this year's Blogathon:

Nancy's Baby Names will be blogging for First Book and is encouraging her readers to pledge any amount, "For instance, just $5.00 — not much more than the price of a Starbucks Frappuccino — will buy two books for a child. (See? You can lose weight and bolster literacy at the same time!)"

JilBean will be blogging for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Connecticut Chapter. As of July 8th she had already raised $297 in pledges towards her $900 goal.

Lone Prairie will be blogging for the Joni and Friends International Disability Center. She will be posting drawings each half hour.

Tish and Mike of The Kat House and Ordinary Folk will be blogging on Blogs We Luv for The Glaucoma Foundation. For each $5 you donate you will receive one entry to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

If you do decide to join the 2007 Blogathon, let folks know in the comments of this post.

Image Credit: The 2007 Blogathon mascot, Meme the Sheep, was created by the Ryan Estrada.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

When Is Natural Food Natural?

My husband and I like to tell the story of the first time he met my parents. We had to take separate flights to get to their house and his arrived late at night. I wanted to have something on hand for him to eat when he got in so my parents wouldn't have to worry about it.

"Just get me stuff for a PB&J," he said.

My parents are aduki beans and brown rice kinda people. They eat fruit for dessert. They didn't have the makings for a PB&J

So I picked up a few things, including the kind of bread he liked, Oroweat's Oatnut.

After the initial "wonderful to meet you," we settled into the kitchen while my husband ate his sandwich. My mother picked up the loaf of Oroweat on the table, turned it over to read the ingredients and announced,

"This stuff could kill you."

So much for impressing your future mother in-law.

My husband would say later,

"I thought it was natural. It says it has oats and nuts!"

What he didn't know is that it also contained high fructose corn syrup.

In Sugar Coated, San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Kim Severson, writes about the unexpected presence of high fructose corn syrup in our food:
"Because high fructose corn syrup mixes easily, extends shelf-life and is as much as 20 percent cheaper than other sources of sugar, large-scale food manufacturers love it. It can help prevent freezer burn, so you'll find it on the labels of many frozen foods. It helps breads brown and keeps them soft, which is why hot dog buns and even English muffins hold unexpected amounts. "
Its hard to know what is "healthy" and "natural" based on labels. The Star-Ledger reported yesterday that a New Jersey woman filed a suit against Snapple because their labels say that their drinks are "all natural" and "made from the best stuff on Earth," but they contain high fructose corn syrup.

Even the organic label can be hard to trust, not to mention the food from the 180 Chinese food factories that were shut down, "after investigators found illegal ingredients being added to food products. The ingredients included 'mineral oils derived from the processing of petroleum, paraffin, formaldehyde and the carcinogenic malachite green, a synthetic dye used to color fabrics.'"

It's no wonder that eating local, organic food is becoming increasingly popular.

But how do you do you eat locally? It sounds kind of daunting doesn't it? I think so.

Last spring Treehugger shared a number of resources in its post, "Get Ready for Earth Day: Eat Local Food." I thought the two most helpful sites were Local Harvest, a web site you can use to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, and 100 Mile Diet, a site and blog, created by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, who only ate food grown within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver, British Columbia for one year. They recently published a book about their experience called Plenty, which I think I'm going to add to my summer reading list.

If you want to get really inspired by the yumminess of eating locally, check out the show The Endless Feast on PBS this summer (air times vary). Eight hosts, including the authors of Grub, Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry, meet local farmers and eat their food at "feasts" in the US and British Columbia.

Sustainable Table, the nonprofit program that produced The Meatrix and the Eat Well Guide will be taking off on a similar trip next month, the Eat Well Guided Tour. They will travel in a bio-fueled bus approximately 5,000 miles in 38 days, stopping in over 25 cities on their way to the Farm Aid concert in New York City. You can join the tour online or on the road.

Eating local organic food is not only good for the environment (less fuel is used to transport the food), and for the local economy, but hopefully you'll have enough information about what you buy to know if it is truly "natural."

Do you try to eat locally? What have been the successes and challenges? What resources and tips can you share for people who want to eat locally, but don't know where to start?

Photo Credit: Grocery Story by About What Rhymes with Nicole.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Writing to Change the World

For the past five years, the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati has honored Harriet Beecher Stowe's birthday by asking a writer to give the annual Harriet Beecher Stowe Lecture about, "Writing to Change the World." This year's speaker was journalist, Samantha Power, who received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. She also won the 2005 National Magazine Award for Reporting for her article, "Dying in Darfur," in The New Yorker.

Clearly, not all writers are cut out to do the kind of work Power does, but if you want your writing to have a larger purpose, here are a few resources for you:

August 23-25th is the Writing for Change 2007 conference in San Francisco. It was co-founded by two
literary agents, Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen.

Anya Achtenberg will be teaching an online workshop, Writing for Social Change: Re-Dream a Just World, later this year. You can subscribe to her blog here.

Achtenberg and Demetria Martinez co-taught Writing for Social Change at the Taos Summer Writers Conference last year. This August they will co-teach a workshop on memoir, “The World Outside-The World Within, Living and Writing Your Story," at the Leaven Center in Lyons, MI. The Leaven Center is a, "retreat and study center nurturing the relationship between spirituality and social justice."

HECUA (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs) in Minnesota has a Writing for Social Change Program. Kristi Gee describes the program in her post, "Everyone is a teacher and a learner":
We take classes all day Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the opposite days, we work for a non-profit related to our study. So I will intern at the Loft, prolly with young writers or spoken word.

The idea is that students get to put social justice-ee ideas into practice. See how theory actually works. Everyone is a teacher and a learner. Engage in the world. Learn to think critically. That whole bit.

Whoop whoop! : Should be a really valuable learning experience.
Hopelark is hoping to join the program as well.

The nonprofit, Fahumu: Networks for Social Justice, produced Writing for Change: An Interactive Guide to Effective Writing, Writing for Science and Writing for Advocacy in 2000. You can order the CD-ROM, or read it for free online.

For more summer reading, check out Mary Pipher's, Writing to Change the World, or Jessica Singer's Stirring up Justice: Writing and Reading to Change the World. I haven't read either of them yet, so let me know what you think.

If you are a relatively unpublished American novelist whose writing has social change themes, you can apply for Barbara Kingslover's Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Past winners include Donna Gershten for Kissing the Virgin's Mouth, Gayle Brandeis for Book of Dead Birds, Marjorie Kowalski Cole for Correcting the Landscape and Hillary Jordan for Mudbound. You can check out Gayle's blog, Fruitful, here.

Finally, if you want to encourage young writers to write for change, the National Writing Project has published Writing for Change: Boosting Literacy and Learning Through Social Action in 2006. In her post, Diary of Writing for Social Change Research Project, Kris writes about a project she'll be doing with a group of teachers who will conduct research projects in their classrooms about writing for social change. They will be using the National Writing Project Book as their text.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Toni Morrison said, "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."

If you mix the two together, you've got writing to change the world.

Photo Credit: Royal by Dianna

Monday, July 02, 2007

I'll Be Moderating, "Getting It On(line) for a Cause," at BlogHer

Would you like to use your blog to raise money for an organization, campaign or issue that is important to you?

You can learn some blog fundraising tips if you come to the BlogHer Conference in Chicago where I'll be moderating a panel on Friday, July 27th from 2:45-4:00 pm called, Getting It On(line) for a Cause: Part 1 - Raising Money.

The panelists will include my co-editor of the Social Change, Nonprofits and NGO section of BlogHer, Beth Kanter, who will be talking about how she raised over $800 for the Sharing Foundation using a ChipIn widget and her blog; Pim Techamuanvivit of Chez Pim, who raised over $50,000 in 11 days for the UN Food Programme with her annual Menu for Hope campaign; and VITA, an Australian blogger who helps arts organizations raise money and sell tickets.

After our panel will be a complementary session: Getting it On(line) for a Cause : Part 2 - Raising Consciousness moderated by Rochelle Robinson. Presenters will include Green L.A. Girl (aka Siel), who will talk about the Starbucks Challenge, and Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, who will talk about BlogHer's new community activism initiative: BlogHers Act.

The BlogHersAct survey is live until July 8th if you want to vote on what issue the members of BlogHer should put their energy towards this year.

If you go to the Conference, come say hi!

, Bloghers Act, Bloghersact,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How to Get Someone Other Than Your Mom to Read Your Blog

Did you just start blogging and are wondering how to get more readers? I get asked about this a lot so I thought I'd share some advice that I sent to my friend Wendy, who just started a blog about homeschooling called, Playing Hooky (where this photo is from). Please feel free to add your own tips in the comments.

1. Read other blogs about your topic. Search on Google Blog Search and Technorati--two blog search engines, for other people writing about your topic. In Technorati you can search for when your topic, in Wendy's case, "homeschooling" and
"homeschool," shows up in a post, or by posts tagged with "homeschooling" and "homeschool." Do both searches.

2. You can also find other blogs writing about your topic by searching on del.icio.us and ma.gnolia for sites and blogs that people have bookmarked with a tag related to your topic like, homeschooling and homeschool.

3. Link to other people's blogs about your topic in your posts.

4. Put blogs about your topic in your blogroll.

5. Comment on other people's posts about your topic.

6. Tag your posts with tags related to the post, like and
, so that Technorati can find them. To create a tag, put a piece of HTML code, that looks like this into the bottom of your post, when you are writing in the HTML mode (rather than Compose mode).

If you look at the bottom of any of the posts on Have Fun * Do Good, you'll see Technorati tags.

7. You'll also want to register on Technorati, "claim" your blog and "ping" them whenever you post. "To ping" just means to let a site like Technorati know that you updated your blog.

8. You should also register on some other pinging services like Pingoat and Pingomatic and "ping" them whenever you write a new post. They will let other blog search engines know that you have added a post.

9. Add a stat counter to your blog like sitemeter, StatCounter or Google Analytics so you can see when someone links to your blog. If they link to you as part of a post, you might want to write a thank you in the post's comments. If they add you to their blogroll, you might want to reciprocate and add them to yours.

10. Write regularly.

11. Be passionate about your topic. If you are excited about your post, your readers will be too, and they might pass it on to their friends.

12. Add images at the top. People decide within seconds if they are going to read something. Images can sometimes grab their attention. Same thing with the title and the first sentence. What will grab their attention during the millisecond that you have it?

13. If it is appropriate, write about current events that people might be searching for on Google.

14. Make sure your blog has an rss feed so that people can subscribe to it in a feed reader.

15. Add an email subscription capability with Feedblitz so that people who aren't familiar with rss feeds can subscribe via email.

What are some other things that you think help to attract more readers?