Daniel Atwood works with organizations in the social sector to craft meaningful experiences for customers and constituents, and to find innovative product, campaign and messaging ideas in unexpected places.

We live in a world where new digital products are solving problems daily — from managing our finances to remembering the groceries. Often, they’re solving problems we didn’t know we had, like the need to connect several times a day in 140 characters or less. Occasionally, they’re creating new problems (but that’s a topic for another conversation).

What we’re just starting to see, and what is for many the most exciting trend in technology, is the emergence of digital products designed specifically to provide social services at scale. This isn’t a rant about the death of the traditional non-profit, but a birth announcement. Non-profits (and other organizations aimed at making a social impact) are taking new approaches that look less like direct service and more like Google. These aren’t just brochure websites. They’re tools — proprietary, unique and scalable. And this means there’s an increased need for talented digital product managers in the social sector.

Let’s take a quick look at where organizations have been focused for the past several years; we’ll call it Non-profit Digital Engagement 1.0.

In this phase, a handful of tools came to dominate our understanding of how non-profits could engage in the digital space. Specifically, these were tools that enabled people to email Congress, sign a petition, tell-a-friend, send a letter to the editor or make a donation. This toolset focused on two activities: fundraising and advocacy — raising money and making noise. Those activities are important for most organizations, but they represent only a small slice of how non-profits actually aim to create change. And partly as a result, too many organizations were applying the same tools to engage people around wildly different problems.

So, what’s next? In short, less focus on tools that aim to engage more people with causes, and more focus on a new wave of customized digital tools that provide social services at scale to constituents.

Some examples:

  • Kiva: This is an early one, but one worth noting. Kiva created a digital platform to connect small-dollar funders with nascent social entrepreneurs. This let it scale its model in a way that would have been nearly impossible had it not put a significant focus on technology.
  • Brighter Planet: Actually a for-profit company, Brighter Planet is a great example of using digital thinking to find new ways of adding value to social causes. It created the CM1 platform to calculate carbon impact and opened it up with APIs that allow others to plug in and do the same. MasterCard has signed on and will soon be providing carbon impact reports to its corporate clients based on its employees’ travel habits. Brighter Planet has focused on a specific need, and it’s offering a scalable solution for it.
  • Google’s Haiti Person Finder: When an earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, Google teamed up with the State Department to rapidly create a tool that let people submit and search for information about missing loved ones. It has since deployed it several times for other disasters, including the 2010 earthquake in Chile and the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan.

These examples go beyond the traditional paradigm of raising more money and sending more emails to Congress. They are each providing a real service in a constituent-centric, scalable way that would have been impossible just a few years ago.

A corollary to this promising growth in digital services is that it’s going to require more money invested in work that is traditionally viewed as ‘overhead’ in the non-profit world; namely, the significant staff time, design and development costs associated with creating and maintaining great digital products. Donors will have to think differently about investing in these types of projects. And organizations that hope to undertake them will have to lead the way by educating and inspiring donors in new ways.

For those groups that do want to create and scale digital services like these, the key to success will be putting the right people with the right power in the right positions. There is still a dire need for campaigners and organizers — no question about it. But as often happens in this still-evolving field, we’re seeing a new core role emerge naturally: the digital product manager. Product managers — people who can envision, build and market digital tools that add real value — will play an increasingly critical role. Good product managers thrive on strategic thinking, but are also obsessed with ensuring that the final detail is just right. They care as much about design as about sustainable coding. They are tireless, tenacious and patient.

As many have already noted, we can’t solve all of our problems with technology. But technology has opened up new opportunities for organizations to create scalable, innovative services in the social sector. And we’re just beginning to realize the implications of that shift.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

More About: contributor, features, Google, non-profit, Social Good

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From Foursquare to Angry Birds to Farmville, there’s no denying social gaming is exploding. Riding this trend, new ideas and inspiration site PSFK recently challenged designers to use social gaming to combat climate change.

At this month’s Gaming for Good in New York City, 10 finalists presented gaming concepts, which address challenges presented by The Climate Reality Project. Environmental activist and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore selected five gaming concepts he believes have the potential to change conversations about climate change.

In his opening remarks, Gore said private companies — such as the PSFK gaming entrants — rather than governments, are leading the way to slow the rate of climate change. “Our democracy has been hacked,” he said. “It no longer functions with the integrity of our founding fathers.”

Gore is a known supporter of climate change prevention and believes the U.S. government does not do enough to protect the environment. Despite the evidence, some people are still not convinced that climate change and its effects are real.

SEE ALSO: “Trash Tycoon” Brings Eco-Responsibility to Social Gaming

One innovative gaming solution Gore loved was REALiTREE, a digital representation of the local environment and our role in sustaining its well-being. As seen in the photos below, large video screens, powered by renewable energies, display images of conversation-provoking trees. Creators Stark Design compare it to a communal Tamagotchi, essentially a digital environment where you’ll feel compelled to take care of the trees.

Other favorites included Zemoga‘s Climate Trail, based on retro favorite Oregon Trail, in which players follow a money trail tied to false information, and use that information to work toward a healthy environment in 2036. Awkward Hug‘s Greensquare is a geo-location game where you get points based on your checkin’s green scores. Arnold Worldwide‘s Reality Drop provides you with the tools to win any climate change argument on online discussion boards — and gives you points for each time you “drop” a reality fact. Parlor’s Climate Reality Patrol users tag their online comments with deeper explanations relating to climate change, earning rewards and badges.

While these games might not share the addictive appeal of World of Warcraft their combination of a pressing topic and points and badges make them exciting educational tools and conversations starters. If these concepts come to fruition, do you think they can impact climate change?

Disclosure: PSFK is a publishing partner in the Mashable Publishing Platform

More About: climate change, Gaming, Social Good

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ONE and (RED) have jointly launched (2015)QUILT, a digital crowd-sourced tapestry built in HTML5, to bring people together behind the cause of an AIDS-free generation by 2015. The launch coincides with World AIDS Day Dec. 1 and the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the disease.

The organizations hope that by 2015 the transmission of the HIV virus between mothers and their babies will end, 15 million people will be on medication and new prevention techniques to drastically reduce infections will be implemented.

“What we’re doing now is saying that we’re at this moment in the fight against AIDS, where people can come together and bring the beginning of the end of AIDS,” Chrysi Philalithes, (RED) chief digital officer, told Mashable. “(2015)QUILT represents everyone standing with us to fight for an AIDS free generation by 2015.”

You can join the initiative by visiting www.2015quilt.com, creating a panel expressing your support, pledging to take action to help fight AIDS and sharing your panel on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ (see the gallery below for a walk-through). The quilt integrates Facebook’s latest Open Graph to connect the user and the app. Once you’ve added your pledge, you can choose one of six free song downloads from The Killers, including a Christmas song made for (RED) “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.”

In addition to The Killers, you’ll join celebrities such as Coldplay, Paris Hilton, Zach Galifianakis, The Black Eyed Peas, Barbara and Jenna Bush, Perez Hilton, Martha Stewart, Chelsea Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks and Tom Brady, among others, who’ve already created panels (see some below). U2′s Bono co-founded both ONE, a non-partisan advocacy group, and (RED), which uses corporate and consumer power to fund the fight against AIDS, so he too is supporting the quilt.

Barbara Bush

Click here to view this gallery.

The (2015)QUILT is inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt, begun in 1987 in San Francisco, which grew to become the largest community art project in the world, now containing some 94,000 names and weighing 54 tons. Its just-launched digital counterpart has the potential to gain as many participants while taking up much less physical space.

You can pan through the HTML5 quilt, designed by @radical.media, and hover over panels to reveal their creators and pledges. You can also search for names and locations within the quilt.

“After 30 years and 30 million funerals, we have the potential to finally turn the tide on AIDS,” Michael Elliott, president and CEO of ONE said in a statement. “With the right scale-up of effective treatment and prevention programs, we can prevent babies from being born with HIV, keep more people alive through treatment, and simultaneously reduce the number of people becoming newly infected with HIV.”

Will you make a panel and pledge to join the fight to begin the end of AIDS by 2015?

Select a Quilt Pattern and Border

You can chose your panel background or border.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: AIDS, HTML5, one, Social Good, world aids day

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Hacking for social good is more than just a hacktivist reaction to injustice. Many developers and designers are taking a proactive approach to affecting social change by making web apps that aim to improve individual lives and whole communities, too.

At a recent event in San Francisco, about 100 hackers of all stripes gathered to do exactly that: work around the clock for 24 hours to create apps for social good. This resulted in 17 (still quite new) web and mobile applications with a slightly higher aim than that of your average consumer app.

The hackathon, called Hack for Change, was sponsored by Change.org, and was intended to allow some of the smartest people in the Bay Area to create “any feature or app that does good.”

Most of the apps are not yet launched, but you can click through on the links below for early access and sign-ups.

SEE ALSO: Hacking for Good: Three Ways for Devs to Get Involved

The winners of the day, all of whom received a small cash infusion to help continue building and launching their apps, were three stellar ideas from local devs.

The first-place winner was Good Neighbor, which lets users get quick SMS messages when their neighbors “need a hand with quick tasks or errands.”

Runners-up were FindMeAPet and AnonyMouse. The former is a simple SMS app that notifies users when new dogs arrive at nearby animal shelters. AnonyMouse’s goal is to help people looking for anonymous advice to find guidance and mentorship. Initially, the site will be geared toward closeted LGBT folks.

Other apps built during the hackathon include:

  • AnonyMissing, an anonymous location-based app to report missing persons.
  • Corrupt, an app for tracking and reporting corruption in your area.
  • GoChipIn, which allows users to find volunteers for events they’re organizing.
  • GovContrib, a browser tool that helps users find information on government contributions to charities and lobbies.
  • IGotUGot, a food exchange for home gardeners.
  • PDB, which stands for “personal daily brief,” the kind current and former U.S. presidents receive. These briefs are tailored to each user’s locations and interests.
  • Picketline.us lets would-be activists share the word about boycotts.
  • Piece of Mind aims to create a Kickstarter-funded mosaic of stories from veterans.
  • Safehood lets users keep an eye on their neighborhoods through web and mobile interfaces.
  • ShoppingAdvisor shows users how their decisions as consumers might be affecting the rest of the world.
  • GreatDebate helps community leaders and activists get connected with policy and decision makers.
  • WhatsaboutmyCity is an app for identifying and fixing finite, local problems in a community.

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Hack for Change

Image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Top image courtesy of Flickr, kshep

Disclosure: Mashable is a media partner of Hack for Change.

More About: change.org, developers, development, hack for change, hackathon, hacktivism, hacktivist, social good

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If you’re a developer and you’d like to use your powers for the greater good, we have three ways for you to use your unique talents to affect positive change.

Random Hacks of Kindness

Random Hacks of Kindness is a community that focuses on developing practical and open-source solutions to global challenges. These challenges can range from disaster risk management to climate change adaptation. Solutions so far have included apps such as I’m OK, an SMS app that lets people in disaster-afflicted areas notify family members of their status, and CHASM, an app for landslide risk visualization.

These apps are made by thousands of software experts, volunteer devs and designers from 26 cities around the world. Currently, 120 distinct projects make up RHoK’s opus. Projects continue year-round, but events can be organized to create sprint scenarios.

Random Hacks of Kindness was founded in 2009 as a partnership between Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank.

Hack for Change

From Change.org comes Hack for Change, a weekend-long event to be held in San Francisco on June 18 and 19, 2011. (Disclosure: Mashable is a sponsor of this event.)

At the hackathon, 50 devs and designers will split into teams and spend 24 hours creating web or mobile apps they believe will affect positive change. Devs can use any publicly available APIs in their apps, and several companies with APIs popular in this arena will be presenting before the hacking begins.

Anyone can apply to attend and hack in this event, and invitations will be confirmed at the beginning of June.

Code for America

Code for America is still seeking fellows for its 2012 cycle. This organization assembles teams of crack developers to build open-source apps for governments. Each year, many cities and states apply for the CfA program, and many more developers vie for a spot as a CfA fellow.

The chosen hackers are sent to the cities where the apps will be built and used. Each dev is given a stipend, as well as mentorship and post-program recommendations.

CfA Fellowship applications are due July 31, 2011 for the 2012 fellowships.

image courtesy of iStockphoto, nyul

More About: developers, development, devs, hackers, hacking, social good

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The results are in for the Doodle 4 Google U.S. competition. Matteo Lopez, an aspiring space explorer, has come out on top.

The second-grader from California won a $15,000 college scholarship and a $25,000 technology grant for his school for his doodle, which played on the theme “What I’d like to do someday.” More than 107,000 U.S. school kids grades K-12 entered the competition, the fourth of its kind in the U.S.

“I want to wear a space suit, fly in space, walk on the moon and make friends with aliens (on) other planets,” he wrote by way of describing his entry.

How would you render the iconic logo if given the chance?

More About: Google, google-doodle-4, social media, space

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Code for America seeking devs for its 2012 Fellowship Program, a year of public service that puts coders to work for communities.

The fellowship gives developers, researchers, entrepreneurs and designers a chance to build customized web and mobile apps for communities and governments. Their work is used to solve pervasive public problems and connect citizens to governments. Each app built will be open sourced, as well.

The 2012 fellowship will be the second annual program of its kind. This year, recent graduates are encouraged to file early decision applications, which would allow for better planning of internships, employment or continued education. Those applicants would be notified of CfA’s decision by May 1, 2011.

Early decision applications are due April 15, 2011, and all other applications are due August 1, 2011. Would-be fellows can apply now on Code for America’s website.

Last year, the fellowship program had room for 20 fellows, and more than 350 applications were received. Given the stature of government applicants for the second cycle, competition is expected to be even more fierce this year.

Fellows in the year-long program will receive a living-wage stipend, travel expenses and healthcare. They’ll also get leadership training, networking opportunities and future career support in the form of guaranteed interviews at top web companies.

More About: cfa, code for america, developers, fellowship, hackers, internship

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If you run your own site — and we know lots of you do — you can use your pageviews and influence to help Japanese people struggling to recover from yesterday’s devastating natural disasters. All you need is a couple lines of code from the Hello Bar.

We showed off the Hello Bar a while ago; it’s a slender bar that floats at the top of your website, giving visitors a brief message and a link.

Best of all, you only have to insert the code snippet on your site once. From a convenient web dashboard, you can customize the bar with your colors and text. You can also tweak the behaviors of the bar and easily turn it on or off from the dashboard. All of this makes it incredibly easy to solicit donations for Japan now, then turn the bar off or change the message and link later, if you so desire.

For example, you might set your Hello Bar to read something like, “Japan has been hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Click here to make a Red Cross donation.” Then later, when Japan is well on its way to recovery, you can change the bar to contain a message about your favorite charity instead, or simply switch the bar off for the time being.

You can set the bar to appear for a brief interval at the beginning of a website visit and hide itself afterward. If you run multiple websites, you can run multiple Hello Bars, again controlling them all from the same dashboard.

The Hello Bar comes from UX design shop digital-telepathy. If you haven’t used Hello Bar before, you’ll need a new account; just sign up with the invite code “helpjapan.”

And if you don’t feel like signing up for a new app, you can just use this code anywhere in the <body> tag of your site to display a standard donation request:

That code can be used on a Tumblr, WordPress or Blogger blog, too; here are some detailed instructions.

As for which links to use, that’s largely up to you. Here are a few reputable organizations that are collecting funds and working with organizations in Japan to meet the needs of Japanese people:

More About: design, development, hello bar, japan, social good, trending, websites

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Code for America, the non-profit organization that creates government-changing apps for communities around the U.S., has received applications from 19 U.S. city, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of State.

Each of these government entities will compete to be one of the three to five communities that gets Code for America fellows to create a customized, open-source app to solve a pervasive problem in public service or government administration.

For example, in the last Code for America cycle, five cities were picked for projects such as an Open311-type project and an application that allows citizens to monitor and give feedback on city hall proposals.

The 19 applicants will compete for a spot in the next Code for America cycle. Applications will be judged based on the government’s commitment to the partnership, funding to support the project, and the openness, efficiency, and reusability of the proposed application or project. The selection process will be guided by a committee, which will announce the winning applicants in June 2011.

Once three to five candidates are selected, the custom apps will be developed by Code for America fellows, a team of 20 crack web and mobile developers hand-selected by an all-star committee that includes Irene Au of Google, Paul Buchheit of Facebook, Anil Dash of Expert Labs and many more.

Code for America’s Government Relations Director Alissa Black said in a release, “It’s great to see not only this much interest in Code for America, but also enthusiasm from public officials in using technology to change the way government works.

The response we’re seeing proves that government is thinking creatively about ways to innovate in response to our fiscal crises, and that the open government movement is really taking hold within government itself.”

Here’s the full list of applicants:

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Austin, Texas
  • Balboa Park – San Diego, California
  • California Department of Economic Development
  • California Department of Energy
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Hartford County, Maryland
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • New York City
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Palm Bay, Florida
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • San Francisco, California
  • Santa Clarita, California
  • Santa Cruz, California
  • U.S. Department of State

More About: code for america, developers, government, social good

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It’s been another busy week at Mashable. We’ve hired a San Francisco Bureau Chief and sent our own Pete Cashmore to Davos. Still, the team was able to turn out another lineup of tools and resources from the past week or so for your reading pleasure.

Scroll down for infographics on the size of the web and an illustrated history of social media. We’ve also got some hands on demos and a look at some nifty LinkedIn features to help your company.

Looking for even more social media resources? This guide appears every weekend, and you can check out all the lists-gone-by here any time.

Social Media

For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Tech & Mobile

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