Sustainability (and such)

Coming soon, Global Spark!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on February 17, 2012

It’s official:  I’m a co-founder of Global Spark, a nonprofit based in Seattle, WA.  While the formal launch is still a month away, here’s a glimpse:

Global Spark’s mission is to advance community development with a focus on education, social equity and the environment. As an educational partner and charity, we provide low-resource communities, public agencies, and other groups with holistic and sustainable tools such as:

  • Strategic planning
  • Technical support
  • Grantwriting assistance
  • Training

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Komen, Twitter, and Public Awakenings

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on February 3, 2012

Never underestimate the power of the public.  Because of a phenomenal public outcry, the broken Susan G. Komen brand is flunking basic crisis communication and alienating global audiences.  One thing we know:  Even the most popular do-gooders can’t quiet our quick messages that shine light into buried messes.  Yes, necessity is still the mother of invention, and we (as media producers AND consumers,) will scorn those who scorn us; for instance, Twitter’s new policy of censorship may kick it to the curb very soon.

I want to share a few points gleaned from “Arab Tech Emerging:  Enabling the Next Generation of Innovators”, a lecture sponsored last night by MercyCorps to spotlight the Arab Developer Network Initiative in Gaza and the West Bank.   Technology is especially brilliant in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, which is reforming IT sectors powered by citizen creativity. For example, while most reports measure a 13% Internet connectivity rate in Gaza, it’s probably closer to 60% because so many people cobble together connections.  Staying connected is a community effort including  power outages; if we lift up floorboards, we may see car batteries that are strung together and hidden as backup home generators.

Such scenarios of citizen journalism are critical to human rights and information sharing.  According to those on the ground, more citizens trust the news from Twitter and Facebook than CNN reports. And these young, unemployed, and well-educated Palestinians are revitalizing economic and communication opportunities. It will be fascinating to watch the fruits of their labors unfold over the next few years.

It’s also inspiring to learn how NGOs such as MercyCorps and others are not colonizing these countries, but simply assisting with the tools for their voices to be heard and hidden when necessary; for instance, the Guardian Project protects the location and other identifying factors of Android users.

It’s a brave, new, PUBLIC world.

Click here to read about the first Gaza Startup Weekend  that brought a group of Google and other experts to incubate tech efforts.  And imagine how such new organizations are preparing to replace the Komen, Twitter, and other powers that forget, at times, that we don’t ignore controversy anymore.

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Consequences of Our Clicks

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on February 1, 2012

Here’s my belated New Year’s Resolution:  I vow to stop knowing who and what the Kardashians, Lohans, and Snookis are doing in our world.  I’m pinky-swearing (with you) to stop letting the market think I crave the junk food of media.  And here’s why:

As Clay Johnson points out in today’s L.A Times article, we’re paying the price for random cruising.  “Each time you click on a salacious headline on the Huffington Post, you are not only consuming junk information you don’t need (how much more do you really need to read about J-Lo?); you’re also all but ensuring that the Huffington Post will continue to push that kind of story. Every search you make on Google is analyzed by news editors looking to see which topics are “trending” as they choose what stories to assign and put on their websites.”

SIGH.  He’s right, of course.  SO, I vow to steer clear of random clicks that might be measured as interest in what Johnson calls the junk food of media.  I’ll no longer care about relating to students and the marketing world when it comes to such poor media consumption.  And I’d better walk the walk — Back in my days as an Earth Mother, I even wrote a book about steering clear of sugar, fat, and artificial sustenance.   It’s time to alter my media diet, as well, from an obesity of ignorance.

Want to join me in creating new trending topics?

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Power of viral loops and the Ford Explorer

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on January 29, 2012

I’m posting a video that’s about to go viral, if it hasn’t already, of two young boys who’ve adapted “A Thousand Miles” to honor their mother.  But it’s much more than an homage; because their mom died in a first-generation Ford Explorer rollover, these boys are urging people to stop driving the cars and demand that Ford buys them back.  This isn’t the first time that social media has pushed this story forward — in 2010, Fast Company’s Adam Penenberg tweeted the $131M verdict against Ford because of the rollover death of Mets star Brian Cole.  It’s another instance of viral loops that increasingly force light into the darkest, most hidden stories that mainstream media skips.

Google “Ford Rollover” and see the building issue…Ford had better surface soon.

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Moving into a different realm…

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on January 5, 2012

It’s official:  I am now the Global Civic Education and Leadership Fellow for the Center for Legislative Studies at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.As a research fellow, I work to improve civic leadership outcomes tied to the Global Civic Education Leadership Program. I do this by helping guide:

– Curricular,
– Research,
– Service,
– Networking,
– Resource and grant building, and
– Publication projects tied to the Center.

Awesome new job, yes?  Yes!  I am honored to return to BSU (I used to teach in the Communication Studies Department) and this new realm of projects.  If you’d like to collaborate on any projects — especially anything relating to equity, education, and the environment — please let me know!

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While waiting for Keystone…

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on December 17, 2011

Bill McKibbon and others in the Twitterverse are trading readings, which includes this great NYT report on the dangers of permafrost.

“Experts have long known that northern lands were a storehouse of frozen carbon, locked up in the form of leaves, roots and other organic matter trapped in icy soil — a mix that, when thawed, can produce methane and carbon dioxide, gases that trap heat and warm the planet. But they have been stunned in recent years to realize just how much organic debris is there.”

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SEO, simply explained

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on October 19, 2011

Curious?  Check out this intro piece and GREAT video!  I’ve been looking for a quick, simple look at Search Engine Optimization and here’s a good piece from the GovLoop folks.  Good stuff about SEO and marketing!

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Measurement of SM traction…

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on August 16, 2011

That pesky “evaluation” piece is part of every good project; that is, what makes continuing work valuable if it can’t be measured for success/engagement?  So, does it matter that a gazillion people have watched Charlie bite his brother’s finger?  Or that President Obama just joined Foursquare?  Here’s a great social media marketing infographic to visualize how clicks and likes may or may not show momentum.

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Is it real or is it revisionist? Does it matter?

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on April 26, 2011

The blogosphere is abuzz about murky truth in nonfiction, aka the Greg Mortenson scandal.   Whether you think he’s a bonafide liar or celebrated humanitarian, the incident summons up ghosts of previous fallacies, ranging from the Oprah/James Frey debacle or the world’s response to Rigoberta Menchu’s autobiography about her life as An Indian Woman in Guatemala.  I’ve known of Menchu’s work for years and thus think of it more as a symbolic; that is, what I first read as a suspicious story of family and heritage is now more a global symbol of oppression and philosophy. 

The book elevated Menchu to near-celebrity status when she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage.  On one hand, she publicizes many of the indigenous traditions that she so desperately seeks to keep alive while also wishing to keep them secret for fear that others might steal her culture.  On the other hand, the autobiography seeks to speak for an entire people as Menchu announces, “This is my testimony.  I didn’t learn it from a book and I didn’t learn it alone.  I’d like to stress that it’s not only my life.  It’s also the testimony of my people…My personal experience is the reality of a whole people.” In speaking for all poor Guatemalans, Menchu also lays out how one individual might turn toward a life of collective revolution in the hope of turning back a cycle of oppression and poverty.  She told her story, I believe, to remind the world that such struggles “know no boundaries or limits” in a quest to deal with modernization and continuing colonialism. 

So, Menchu spoke for others.  And she spoke with much help, given that anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos-Debray interviewed and edited the book, later declaring, “Rigoberta has chosen words as her weapon and I have tried to give her words the permanency of print.”  But it’s not the last time:  Just as critics ripped Menchu’s truthfulness, Mortenson is now being trounced for possibly embellishing the truth to lift our eyes to horizons similarly lined with despair.  We thus continue a cycle in recognizing readings that depict the dialogue between historical constructions of identity – that was actually built and experienced by several cultures – and the self-representation of those who now hope to seize the power of words, ink, and collective history.

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Long Live the Doctor!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on April 25, 2011

The Doctor is dead –Long live the Doctor!  I’m loving all the leaks for “The Impossible Astronaut”, this season’s opener of Dr. Who.  Watch this BBC series and all will be much will be clearer, even Nixon’s paranoia; turns out, the President was crank-called about aliens.  And they’re creepy spacemen, the monsters you forget as soon as you look away.  I love this show because time can be rewritten and solutions are nearly always found – the kind of optimism we naively carried forth during that Watergate era when everybody realized The President of the United States can be as flawed as Everyman.  And that sudden sameness lit a fuse of power:  Simply, we could change the world.  We just needed to trust each other, listen and talk to each other, and climb from awareness to action.  As the Spring 2011 fall semester ends, I look at the students of Presidio Graduate School through Dr. Who’s eyes, shaking things up for a sustainable future, perhaps with a regeneration or two.   As you go through the “timey-wimey” bend on this planet, I hope you look directly at everybody and rely on each other to raise the bar.  And stay in touch!

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