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Zazengo and the Social Resume

Last month around the inauguration of President Obama – and the day of the service centered on the celebration of Dr. King’s life  –  there was a ton of focus on creating a lasting online movement for citizen-powered change. As the economic crisis deepens and the new Administration deals with that challenge on a day-to-day basis, some of that January enthusiasm has been tempered by the reality of February – but during a recent conversation with the CEO of online social venture Zazengo.com brought back a bit of last month’s spark.

“This concept of challenging others, of making people do something, of a very focused call to action – that’s a big part of this call for national community service,” said Vicki Saunders, a serial entrepreneur and chief of the two-year-old online social change platform.

I think Vicki is exactly right, and that there’s an opportunity – even in the downturn – to create that “focused call to action” on the Web. And Zazengo is a very interesting platform: its motto is “What happens after the call to action?” and the emphasis is very much on impact. In Zazengo’s case, impact of members – in volunteering, raising money, taking actions and the like – is measured through a handsome user interface that favors graphs over pure numbers. This recognizes, I think, the idea that activism isn’t always about pure metrics (dollars raised, for example) but about impact over the longer term. Zazengo’s cool graphics offer a kind of friendly and light feedback loop that emphasizes encouragement over spreadsheets.

But Zazengo is also highly cognizant that the world may not need another destination website, with actions focused on a single URL. “People looking at destination sites, but that’s old thinking,” says Saunders. “It’s really all about getting your unique value proposition out to other sites, to where people live. We really want to be about tracking the impact.”

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Ourmedia Evolves into CauseWired Platform

JD Lasica has been one of the true guides in the evolution of Internet-based communities and networks for well more than a decade. His 2005 book Darknet was a seminal piece of reporting about the personal media revolution, and certainly an inspiration for some of what I’m trying to accomplish with CauseWired. And I’ve been reading JD’s blog for years. So it’s big news to me when his nonprofit startup platform for hosting user-created media, Ourmedia, shifts its business model – and in our direction. Writes JD:

This summer we’ll be relaunching Ourmedia as a social media platform and tools provider for cause organizations. We just hired a programmer and we’re in the process of upgrading the site to Drupal 6 as we build “cause pages” with specific calls to action (many more than are available on Facebook Causes) and customizable widgets — all part of an effort we call cloud campaigning.

I think that’s a fascinating shift – and clear evidence that user-created content is deeply embedded (no pun intended) in the world of online social activism, peer-to-peer philanthropy or whatever you want to call it. It will be interesting to see how Ourmedia develops in the “cause” sector and we’ll certainly be watching.

And speaking of JD, I wanted to point out his excellent interview with Hal Plotkin, the founder of ReelChanges.org, a video platform for social change. Here’s a bit, but please read the whole thing:

“ReelChanges.org reflects some of what I think many of us hoped could be achieved once we had better technology. I don’t mean to sound too utopian, but I think many of us born somewhere near the middle of the last century hoped that as more sophisticated technology came online over the last few decades it would enable more highly-evolved ways of living and of organizing our lives and our society, including greater empowerment of communities of interest and an overall decentralization of power. It hasn’t quite worked out that way in all cases. But ReelChanges.org advances that overall vision…”