Since I’ve started spending most of my free time paying attention to what nonprofit organizations are doing with their organizing and advocacy agendas, I have stumbled upon some innovations that are absolutely amazing. Many times, I have to do some research just to understand what they’re talking about (hence my discovery of RSS!), but I am often really impressed once I figure it out! Many of these new strategies involve the use of emerging technologies, but others reflect new ideas for bringing diverse constituencies together, new target populations, new ways of framing social problems.
I had actually stumbled on advocacy in Second Life when preparing a lecture for my Advanced Advocacy and Community Practice course on the use of technology in macro social work practice. When I saw all of the Flickr pictures of protests by avatars, I was stunned. And then, this week, I found Nonprofit Commons, a project of TechSoup Global that donates space to nonprofit organizations that want to set up shop, so to speak, in Second Life. The link is below–check it out.
In class this semester, we had an interesting exchange about the merits of virtual reality organizing for nonprofit organizations. One of my students expressed some doubt about the wisdom of spending time in a virtual reality when, as we all know, the real reality offers plenty of work to occupy nonprofits’ attention. I argued that, when it augments rather than supplants, ‘real world’ organizing, such virtual work can enhance an organization’s presence, allow for experimentation with little risk, connect with people and organizations around the globe, and bring in supporters who would not typically even know about your organization, let alone get involved with it in the real world. But her questions got me thinking, so I’ve spent some more time this week looking at Second Life, reading testimonials from organizations that have a presence, and exploring this whole Nonprofit Commons project, which seems to be a way of easing organizations into a virtual presence. This is not just a “fringe” activity–the American Cancer Society, KIVA, and other organizations I know you’ve heard of are raising money (and, yes, converting it to US currency!), generating supporters, and building their profile on Second Life.
In the materials section here, I’ve posted some of the resources I found. But I’d love to hear from organizations, particularly if there are any in Kansas or Missouri, that have Second Life presences. What do you do in SL? How is it translating into impact on your real-life organization? What do you see as the advantages and the disadvantages? What would make it more beneficial for you? If you’re considering adding a virtual component to your work, what are you weighing right now?