Because it’s not how to build community, it’s how you build your community.

Every agency, office, and department is unique, each with a specific mission, culture, and constituency. If you want to make the most of what you have, you have to understand and leverage these fundamentals. Yep yep, we can help with that.

14 November 2015

Sign Up to Save the World

Filed under News |

WayneBurkeSo you saw me at TEDx Beacon Street, huh?!? Well, cool. If you’re here, I’m going to guess you’re inspired – or at least think I may be on to something. Excellent. I was hoping for that.

The theme of TEDx Beacon Street is Ideas into Action. The talk is about the idea. If you’re ready for action, add a comment below telling everyone what you’re ready to do! Depending on who responds and what you all want to do, we’ll find ways to work together and support each other. Because I truly believe this is the right path to saving the world.

Here is the direct link to the talk itself, but if you want the quick overview, here are some highlights:

  • To me, “How to Save the world” means “How to Solve Big Problems”
  • In order to do that, you have to create system change, and even more specifically, you have to change culture and policy.
  • It is easier to change culture first.
  • Unconferences are cool.
  • The industrial age was organized by hierarchy and run by bureaucracy.
  • The information age is organized by empowering individuals and the ease of information exchange that digital communication provides.
  • We are in the middle of a transitional change from a culture dominated by Baby Boomers to a culture dominated by Millennials. Boomers love independent thought and Millennials love working together. The result of working together for too long is group think, which independent thought breaks. The result of too much independent thought is the belief that only your idea is right and gridlock. Working together is necessary to break the gridlock and solve problems.
  • An organization built for Millennials in the Information Age would provide:
    • An issue-driven mission (ie, not perspective-driven)
    • Space for the magic to happen (the org is merely a facilitator)
    • Empowerment for its members (so they can connect, learn, experiment, share)

Let’s do this!

1 April 2013

No luck on Knight.

Filed under Project Updates |

Unfortunately, we didn’t make the final 40 list for the Knight Foundation News Challenge. C’est la vie! I suppose it was too much to expect this complicated a solution to be picked up in what is, at least in part, a popularity contest!

13 March 2013

Knight Foundation News Challenge Submission

Filed under Project Updates |

The actual submission is here.

Advances in communication technology can be combined with modern organizational principles to devise a new model for citizen organizing and advocacy that is more effective. Using these principles, we can create sustainable, grassroots culture change that is driven not by “experts” working at a distance from the actual problem, but instead by the passion of the members and the individuals that stand to benefit most from the change. We can connect members to one another and build powerful networks that will share lessons learned between geographically distant regions. We can empower members by giving them first the inspiration, and second the knowledge to implement change in their own families, towns, and regions. Blossoming from this, the members will have the capacity to develop practical and broadly-accepted solutions to age-old problems, and then successfully advocate for these solutions and for themselves on local, state, national, and global levels. »

24 September 2012

Online Engagement Tools

Filed under Articles |

I spent last week in the Ukraine as a tech trainer for TechCampKyiv. It was amazing. I was training on online engagement, both generally — and how it relates to expanding the audience for an in-person event. We started a list of desirable functionality along with tools that provide that functionality that I thought others might find useful, so here it is.

Under each heading, there is a generic search term that can be used to search for other tools that will work in your country or region, and then some examples of tools to consider. Most of these are free or at least have a free version that should work for a small event or when you’re just starting.

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Growing Community

Search Term: Social Network

Streaming audio

Search Term: broadcast online radio

Note: These tools also archive the streamed audio. If you are searching for a new tool, this will most likely be an important feature to look for so that your community can listen to the audio at a later time.

Streaming Video

Search Term: streaming video

Note: These tools also archive the streamed video. If you are searching for a new tool, this will most likely be an important feature to look for so that your community can watch the video at a later time.

Screen Sharing

Search Term: screen sharing

Conference Calling

Search term: conference call

Real-time chat

Search term: text chat

  • Public chat tools
    • Twitter – specify a hashtag, eg #techcamp
  • Included in these other tools, mentioned above (best to use what they provide if you’re using the other tool so that you don’t spread your audience among too many tools):
  • If your audience is super geeky (developers mostly):


Search Term: discussion forum, threaded comment system

  • There are plenty of open source tools that can be used for discussion forums but these require you to host the tools yourself. If you are just trying to build discussion around a topic, and you can lead that discussion with regular input, consider using blogging software such as or building on one of the social networks mentioned above.

Note: usually this functionality is part of a larger tool and rarely stand-alone. If using commenting functionality for discussion, look for threaded comments. This means that people can respond to individual comments and thus draw out the discussion instead of just responding to the original post.

Attaching or Linking to Documents

Search Terms: document sharing

Note: these tools allow you to provide additional documents for dissemination. Some of these tools will allow the documents to be read online, if you are self-hosting the documents, your users will have to download it to their computer to view it. Generally speaking, it is better to present information in a web-friendly format (eg on a web page, in a blog post, on Facebook, etc..) where possible. More people will then see it. Obviously, this is not always appropriate depending upon the document.

Accessibility for Disabled People

Search Terms: “508 compliance”

Note: Section 508 is part of US law that requires all US government to be available for disabled people. Accomplishing this is not so much using a specific tool, as it is knowing how to do it.

Video chat

Search terms: video chat

Note: this is an evolving field with many smaller players coming and going.

Online Ticketing

Search terms: online ticketing


Search terms: task management, online outliner

Scheduling Meetings

Search terms: meeting scheduling

Note: This tool helps you to figure out when people are available to meet.

27 June 2012

Virtual In-person Collaboration with Hackpad

Filed under Articles, Project Updates |

So I recently learned about what I thought was simply another EtherPad clone. We used it in Moldova for the hackathon, at the World Bank for the Development Data Challenge, and most fully this week at the Open Source Summit. Here is what I learned from that experience. »

31 May 2012

It was me.

Filed under Field Notes, Project Updates |

Okay, so the trip to Moldova was awesome for many reasons – the accomplishments, the international experts, the Moldovans, the food, the wine… but there is one thing that I haven’t explicitly said about it yet and that is that I ended up facilitating the Open Innovation Challenge “Apps for Moldova” three-day TechCamp/Hackathon and (all modesty aside) making it rock.

My hope is that this leads to more work like this. So much good in such a short period time, all led with a locals-know-best-but-international-experts-have-a-lot-of-good-advice-to-share mentality.

Good stuff.

25 May 2012


Filed under News, Project Updates |

It’s good to have friends when you’re spreading an important message. Thanks to the following blogs for helping to distribute Moldova Re-Invents the Hackathon. It has been cross-posted in these locations in order to reach all of the relevant audiences across the world:

I expect a few more to come online and will update this post as that happens.

24 May 2012

Moldova Re-Invents the Hackathon

Filed under Articles, Project Updates |

Moldovan Coat of ArmsThis last weekend saw the first hackathon ever to occur in the country of Moldova, and they definitely made it their own. For a country that is just starting to build its civic hacker community, the results were nothing short of remarkable: 85 participants set to work almost immediately within impressive, self-organized team structures to produce 18 functional apps.

In traditional terms, this hackathon could be described as more of a code sprint for the final three days of a prize challenge, but even that description understates the innovation and complexity of the event format. In addition, it doesn’t do justice to all of the accomplishments that were achieved by the organizers as well as the participants. »

17 May 2012

I’m published on OGP!

Filed under News, Project Updates |

Check out this nice post about the upcoming activities in Moldova:

7 March 2012 is Live!

Filed under Project Updates |

Just took live. This site is intended for civil society around the world working on Open Government Partnership (OGP) issues to share their progress and find out how things are being done in other countries.

We set up a US version of the site at and have already received requests from a couple of other countries for sites (we’ll not talk about who they are until they get their sites populated with content and ready to take live).