How the Revolution will be Wired
Communication is becoming increasingly web-based as the use of database-driven social media tools and apps becomes standard for social interactions, business, networking, and project management.
While this technology is being used by many, it is in the hands of relatively few. Larger businesses and organizations with the resources to build and maintain comprehensive custom database driven technology platforms have an edge in a market where a users attention and participation online is a benchmark for success.
Smaller organizations, with much smaller technology budgets, and fewer technology professionals on staff, are often unable to afford or master a comprehensive technology solution to manage their programs, stakeholders, and communications in a way that meets their needs.
These organizations who are unable to leverage, capture and manage the interest of their stakeholders online are increasingly less able to support their own programmatic goals.
There is a great and distributed need for a comprehensive web-based technology platform for the management of organizations that is: affordable, easily customizable, easy to use, requires minimal administrative overhead, and has built in user training and support systems.
Approach: Power in Numbers
Part of what makes these kinds of technology implementations un-affordable for smaller businesses and organizations is that they are one-offs. When an organization or business decides to implement something this comprehensive, they typically hire a developer or development firm to design and build it.
Interestingly enough, while the particular implementation of a technology might suit the needs of a specific organization, the general needs organizations and businesses tend to have more similarities than differences. A successful platform will leverage those similarities using two fulcrums: technology and community.
The beauty of information technology is that it can be easily replicated/cloned. The trick is to build this capacity into the platform from the beginning. A successful platform/framework would serve many organizations (as opposed to just one) while still allowing for customization and different scopes of work individually.
The goal would be to put the capacity of building database-driven websites and developing online databases into the hands of the organizations (and small businesses) who need them. This platform would be designed to lead an organization through a guided process for planning and implementing their technology in a way that a 5th-grader would understand. In addition, tutorials, demonstrations and a technical support system will be built into each implementation.
The platform would, of course, be built using existing free / open source software platforms and modules/plugins as building blocks. Free and Open Sourse Software is the shizzle to this project's nizzle: it provides the playground for this kind of collaboration.
Working with the developers of these existing open source building blocks, this kind of development would connect the software/modules with one another programatically. The result of these connections would be very simple to use 'wizard'-like automated user interfaces that clearly guide the user through the process of building out different comprehensive and connected infrastructure for their organizations and businesses.
The technology platform itself will focus around the following capacities:
- Customizable User Profiles and the ability for different categories of users to assemble into groups and dialog with one-another around particular goals, projects and subjects,
- Membership systems including the ability purchase membership online, send out mass communications, and expose specific tools and information to members.
- Donation and Commerce Systems that track purchases and donations and enable the development of customizable reports.
- Event Management, Ticketing and Registration Systems
- Classroom Management Systems
- Blogging, Magazine, Newsletter and other Web Publishing Systems,
- Native and External Social Networking Mechanisms
- Multimedia Submission/Curatorial Systems
- Customizable Database Framework
- Invoicing and Business Accounting Systems
- Feedback Mechanisms
Community: Software Silos vs. Collaboration
The pivotal issue here is the difference between:
- paying for the building of information silos for one organization, as opposed to
- contributing to the development of a replicable and evolving platform of functions that enable any one organization to have more access to a broader and more integrated technology than any one of them would have individually.
Inter-organizational collaboration in the development of technology infrastructure gives organizations access to more tools and better solutions than they would have access to or capacity to build otherwise. It distributes the financial and resource burden of developing the tools, while at the same time enabling the development of a smarter set of tools; better honed for their purposes and comprehensive enough to meet a broader set of needs.
Most importantly, the design and implementation of the tool would be done by a collective of people actively problem solving and collaborating together (and using the tools being developed to facilitate their collaboration). Tools built within the framework of this kind of inter-organizational collaboration will, by design, be geared towards activating community participation, and educating/empowering individuals to make a difference in their world by connecting them with their neighbors.
Case Study #1: Non-Profit/Small Business Suite
Non-Profit Organizations and Small Businesses will have a great deal to benefit from inexpensive yet well built tools that will guide them through the process of setting up website/database/social-media suites that enable them to engage their constituents and customers easily. Networks of distribution for this software could include post-secondary institutions, networking organizations, foundation recipients, small business development help centers, non-profit resource sites.
As well as very affordable software licensing for these suites, complete documentation and instructional tutorials and other similar resources would be made available on the site for all organizations who have become 'members' of this collaboration. If a 'member' organization decides to 'sponsor' software development, included in their package of their 'sponsorship' is the complete guided set up and theming of their site, and membership in the collaboration for in perpetuity.
Licensing of the software developed would become available to members at a very low cost. Any updates to software made while an organization is a member get released for use by members (to encourage and provide value added for returning memberships).
Other potential income sources from this project would be the individual tutorials and documentation materials, and any services (theming, customization, maintenance,etc) that the organizations need over and above the training and tools we provide.
Case Study #2: Rebuilding after Catastrophe: the city of New Orleans
There are numerous organizations and citizen-based movement that have sprung up in New Orleans out of a need to sustainably and justly rebuild the city. These organizations are woefully underfunded, and in need of comprehensive technology to administer the programs they are overseeing and mobilize their community towards the efforts they are all making. The opportunity here is to create different collaborative groups of organizations (based around technology needs), get subsidy from foundations and civic/governmental agencies, that develop different wadules for local small businesses and organizations will enable them to easily manage their business and information flows. This scale of project would invite projects geared towards mobilizing at the scale of the local, and connecting communities with resources, projects information and tools.
Case Study #3: Charter Schools
The purpose of technology for this project would be to develop a comprehensive learning and learning administration framework of technological tools to support, serve and inform the field of education.
Typically, schools keep records in a variety of different databases on computers served by the school itself. A single student moving through the typical high school might exist five times in five different databases or information silos. Aside from increasing the incidence of error (they also might have five different spellings of my last name) it also represents a high expenditure of resources in terms of the kind of administration involved in managing that kind of information in so many different database silos.
Internet technologies present schools with an unprecedented opportunity to securely house data, facilitate interactive communities, create virtual classrooms, and engage an entire community around learning.
The fountainhead of this project, that would put it in a class beyond the typical scope of development that is state of the art for virtual systems for education, would be the integration of customizable matriculation systems. Connecting the virtual education environment with the database/s of record for the administration of students through their programs is the future of these systems. For a school to be housing the entire scope of information in a format that is easily accessible online, is remarkable in its own right. The real value added by this project is that all of these systems will be connected.
If you are interested in collaborating, or have something you are working on that is similar, please contact ana(at)jellobrain(dot)com. I am actively looking for people to collaborate with.
How the Revolution will be Wired by Ana Willem is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.