Plugging in the public square

By Todd Cohen

Developing, improving and using web technology to reach and engage people in civic activity is the focus of a new collaborative effort launched by San Francisco-based CompuMentor.

The Net project aims to enlist nonprofits and commercial tech developers in working together to foster the creation and use of civic-engagement and social-action technology in the nonprofit sector.

The effort will culminate in a conference in San Francisco this May and will include online conversations at through collaborative blogging, tagging and posting, and through a series of meetings, initially in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition to contributing to a blog, participants can use to post examples of new technologies already used by nonprofits.

Participants also can “tag” other websites that feature innovative technologies used for nonprofit activities such as fundraising or volunteering, and contribute those tags to an automated news feed on, says Franziska Marks, a CompuMentor spokesman.

Many of the tools likely to be the focus of the project use open-source technology, she said, and a goal is to make it easy to adapt those tools for nonprofit use and make them available for free as “community property.”

“Many of these are open-source, so you can change it and make it work for nonprofit applications, and nonprofits can work together and with industry people to make it more effective,” she says.

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