February 2010 Archives

Crisis in CISV.

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IO just published the new Crisis Communication guide. Even if situations like

  • Infectious diseases i.e. H1N1 'Swine Flu'
  • Injuries/Fatalities
  • Missing participant/volunteer
  • Civil disturbance
  • Community evacuation
  • Natural disasters

probably only happen very rarely, it's great to have a document that helps getting yourself organized.


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Testing an experimental Facebook Application with CISVfriends' functionality.

I'm the kind of person, who doesn't spend hours of thinking and drafting, but loves putting on a jumpsuit and turning any idea straight into reality- even if it may cause trouble once in a while. So, I challenged myself last night, to see how long it would take me to set up a Facebook application that has the basic functionality of CISV friends - register camps, find friends, etc.

So, after three hours, here it is: CISV & Me, the new application for Facebook.

Disclaimer: I don't want to start a rival project to CISV friends - nevertheless I have criticized it in the past for not developing into a social network. CISV friends has been around ages before Facebook became popular, but never had any of the great functionality. So today, I think CISV friends should become an administration tool, and leave the social networking to the professionals. However, I have no intention to develop this app until it is perfect, I just want to experiment to see if it works (I may add some tweaks and a few more features, for the un of it, though). Also, I'm ready to take it down anytime, if people have valid privacy concerns.

I'm curious to hear your comments and suggestions!

Inbox zero.

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How to deal with massive amounts of e-Mail (CISV-Hacks)

How to you deal with e-mails? I've hinted at this concept before, but now I want to elaborate on this issue: The more people are involved in CISV, the more you are spammed (in the original sense!) with CISV e-mails. When I was still NJR and in the IPP taskforce I was already one step away from e-mail bankruptcy: I was on at least 8 different e-mail lists, not to forget e-mails I received from work, friends, university etc. I easily received about 25 e-mails a day, in 2002. At that time I already found an article on the web that said something like, you should always remove all e-mails from your Inbox and put them where they belong: Archived, in the calendar, on the to-do-list, etc., which I tried to apply. Meanwhile, with the invention of Gmail  handling big amounts of e-mails has become a lot easier, but still remains a challenge.

Today I found this presentation by Merlin Man, who spends a whole (worthwhile!!!) half an hour on explaining how to achieve emptying your e-mail inbox.

A lot of people right now are, for practical purposes, living in their Inbox. They leave their e-mail open all day long, it's auto-checking through out the day. Little bleebs come up, about every minute. An E-mail becomes the access for everything they do with work
They use it as a to-do-list manager, they use it as their calendar [...] scroll through their inbox, to decide what meetings they have to go today.

I'm pretty sure, the following 30 minutes (the rest is discussion, also a goodie!) are easily saved in your future time dealing with e-mail:

I especially like his analogy to a person working in a deli, that keeps checking orders, instead of processing them. I also know a lot of people that are addicted to sorting their e-mail into  folders using crazy taxonomy the way Merlin describes.

So, for the last two weeks, I've been trying to get all e-Mails down to zero by using the delete/archive-defer-delegate-do-respond-system. My aim is to organize my life more through my calendar and to-do-list. I've also disabled a program that pops up a window, anytime a new e-mail arrives. So far it feels liberating: What do I want to do next instead of which of all these e-mails needs my attention right now?


Merlin Man, by the way, is also working on a book, and everything about Inbox Zero can be found on this website.

The funny thing is that while I was trying to divert my attention away from my e-mail inbox, Google introduced Buzz and also integrated the Calendar into the e-mail page - it's if they are trying to suck me back into my inbox!

Sidenote: Other challenges in the age of electronic management are "desktop zero" and "RSS feed zero".

CISV France has a new website!

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I discovered the (apparently draft) new website of CISV France today - It looks like the standard CISV website (that is managed with OpenCMS) but has a bunch of feaures more: The calendar, and up-to-date news columns, an integrated discussion forum. I  like that somebody has put a lot of effort in creating the site, without the narcissism of pushing for an individual design and sticking to the brand guidelines instead.  - nice work!

Maybe someone with better French knowledge than me can check for Smashing Magazine's 10 rules of NGO website best practise?

Year of Diversity kicks off.

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Many of you received an e-mail a few days ago, introducing CISVs new "Diversity" theme for 2010. Among other things the mail suggested looking into a website called United against Racism, and announced a future "CISV Library" with educational resources.

All, very promising...

Update: Now today I received an e-mail announcing "Identity and Peace Education" as the JB and YM theme of the year. This is a bit strange - can't we agree on a common theme altogether?

Intergenerational Learning

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Recently, a new buzzword has appeared in the German youth programme scene: Intergenerational Learning. For me, the first thing that came to mind, is that this is already happening in IPPs: I remember loads of participants that described the challenges and opportunities of "older" participants in their IPP. Of course also other prgrammes have leaders that are beyond the usual 21-25 scope, and also in any village leaders and kids learn together, but in IPPs the participants - the very subjects of that programme - cover a wide range of age.

I wonder if intergenerational learning could be added to the official objectives of an IPP?

If it were, we would have to make sure, that indeed every IPP has participants from different generations, and that the issue is discussed, appreciated and evaluated during the programme. I don't think this is hard to achieve, and would give the programme another compelling element.


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Websites that could help CISV chapters raise funds online.

globalgiving.pngI recently subscribed to the paper version of GOOD magazine - I've been enjoying their website for a while, I've even linked to a few articles here on FTB. Insterestingly, when signing up, they didn't want to keep my subscription fee of 50 US$ for themselves, but instead redirected me to a website called GlobalGiving. Here I could chose between a wide range of small projects that are in need for smallish donations. These projects range from educating HIV-positive kids in Bangladesh to saving a square-meter of rain forest in Brazil. Check out GlobalGiving's about page featuring an excellent video that explains the idea.

The funny thing is that, just about a few months ago, while researching fundraising opportunities for the upcoming AIM, I met with a girl that works for an organization called Betterplace.org, a Berlin-based non-proft that seems to be doing exactly the same thing as GlobalGiving - displaying a range of projects by NGOs or even just groups of people and offering different ways of donating online.

What in it for CISV? I don't think that either of these websites will generate funds from people that don't know about CISV - poverty, education and saving the planet have a marketing advantage compared to us. But - since our own online donation set-up is in such a poor condition, why not rely on one of these websites to help collect funds for specific projects from people that already know about CISV?

At least with Betterplace (haven't looked into the details at GlobalGiving) you can generate e-mails that you send to your members and friends to promote a new poject. You can embed a progress bar on your website, there's also Facebook widgets you can use. Moreover, Betterplace  provides the infrastructure of donating online with a credit card, PayPal etc., something that would otherwise be difficult to set up and take care of.

What I especially like, is that since you can donate within a few minutes from the comfort of your living room sofa, even small donations like 5$ make sense. Furthermore, I think presenting CISV on these websites will also help promote our organization in general, and isn't that one of our strategic goals? Finally, compared to huge humanitarian organizations where a high percentage of any donation is spent on administration, at least with Betterplace 100% goes directly to the charity (us).

Obviously this is not a top-down way of fundraising, but has to be initiated by the indiviudal chapter: In need for a new copying machine for the office? Or a printer for the upcoming village? How about fundraising for camp t-shirts? I think that GlobalGiving and Betterplace provide a fantastic opportunuity. We're currently trying to use Betterplace for our upcoming AIM, and I'll keep you posted on our progress.

I actually did search for any CISV projects listed at GlobalGiving, but couldn't find any, so I will probably donate to a children's project in Nepal (I have a personal connection). But here's my challenge: If any chapter manages to set up a project at GlobalGiving within the next two months, send me a note, and I'll be glad to donate my GOOD subscription fee to whatevery you are planning.

Leadership is overglorified?

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Maybe our strategic priority should have been "Following is the key to success"?

CISV & Carbon.

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I just now started working myself through the latest issuse of IJB Thinks which contains a ton of fantastic articles, many dealing with the Copenhagen conference. Personally I found Clemzi's points most interesting, which he nails with the folling quote:

If climate change and natural resources depletion cause or aggravate conflict and war around the planet, then are we really working towards peace by continuously traveling on planes?

He goes on and draws the conclusion that we should focus on local programmes instead, which of course is the most logical solution.

I had plans to discuss the Carbon question of CISV here at FTB, which I won't, because Clemzi already did all the maths and brought most of the arguments. Just two points, I'd like to add:

  • The IPP committee proposed to offset all of CISV flights through a motion in 2008. It was defeated for pretty lame reasons (my opinion), that were that a non-profit organisation can't donate to another organisation. And that we can't trust another organisation to use that money well.
  • As far as I'm informed Carbon offset (check Wikipedia) goes beyond planting trees: You can also use the money to save CO2-emission by for example using the money to replace a coal-powered power plant through a wind mill. (I'm sure Clemzi is aware of this, but the article makes you think, planting trees is the only way...)
"Peace with the Planet" is one of our core values - says the Mosquito Tactics book, but
how to save the planet, and what CISV can do about it is a topic that I regard as underrepresented in all levels of our organisation, so I'm glad the latest issue of IJB Thinks brought us this fantastic input.

Twitter Widgets.

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How to easily create a multiple users news area for your CISV website.

Some, maybe even all CISV websites are pretty static. Really, content changes most of the time only when a new design is applied to the site. A number of NAs have adopted the OpenCMS system - which is a "content management system" enabling CISVers without in-depth knowledge of HTML to make changes to the website. But even those websites really only rarely make an up-to-date appearance. Now here's a suggestion to make your website even more interesting using Twitter:

Twitter provides users with a detailed intstruction to create a Twitter widget. What's that, you say? Scroll down this page and you will find a new Twitter Widget in the right column - I chose to display all Tweets that  contain the word "cisv". I'm not 100% happy with the layout - for some reason it's very long but narrow, even if I specified otherwise. But it does display the tweets fine.

I could imagine using a Twitter widget to rapidly make news updates to your CISV website. The good thing, is that 1. setting up a Twitter account and posting is really easy, 2. you can collaborate in adding news posts and 3. you can use all of Twitter's functionality like posting by e-mail or phone.


On Online Social Networks.

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I know I'm preaching to the choir here on this issue, but the extraordinary interesting special report on social networking in the latest issue of The Economist ends with the following paragraph (after dealing with privacy and "waste-of-time" concerns):

But arguably the most important contribution that the sites have made is to offer a free and immensely powerful set of communication and collaboration tools to everyone on Earth who has access to a broadband internet connection. This democratisation of technology is driving the socialisation of the web and fundamentally changing the way that people interact with one another, as well as with businesses and governments.

It has also made it easy for anyone to form a globe-spanning discussion group of their own with just a few clicks of a mouse. Not so long ago that would have been the preserve of an elite group of companies and institutions which had the necessary financial and technical clout to perform such feats. Now, thanks to the technology created by Facebook and its peers, millions of these conversations can take place simultaneously with the greatest of ease. The world is better off for it.

I believe CISV is profitting increadibly from these technological developments. People who share the same area code with most of their friends and co-workers might never grasp this.

(My post on Google Wave goes in a similar direction...)

Best of 2009

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CISV from the Balcony exists for a year now, and I've been enjoying writing posts, reading your comments and following the discussions. Today I spent some time picking out the best posts of 2009 - I chose from most comments, most viewed and personal favourites. It may be a bit of self-adulation, but some of you may not have checked this blog regularly or just disovered it recently, so with this list, you can cherry-pick the most interesting stuff:

- Two retrospecitves on logos: The CISV logo and the AIM logo.
- A book that describes the story of a boy discovering his homosexuality after being a JC.
- Lot's of graphs can be found here, but the bubble ones are the best: Here and here.
- IJR statistics that shed an interesting light on JB Canada and Sweden.
- A visit to the websites of Great Britain (that still looks the same) and Uruguay.
- An attempt to quantify the "motivational effect" of hosting an AIM.
- Discussion on the regions here and here.
- Doris Allen's original proposal to UNESCO.
- On issuing certificates and the overall value of volunteer work.
- A look back into CISV Argentina's devastating development after the economic crisis in 2001 - with an excellent comment explaining the details and recent events by Maru/ARG.
- Starfish or Spider - an artictle that was also published in IJB thinks.
- Debating "Social Entrepreneurship" on the basis of lemonade.
- Has CISV secretely rebranded?
- An interview with Adam/SWE, formerly national secretary.
- Discussion on whether it's ok or not that CISV USA aren't hosting Youth Meetings (much).
- A suggestion to measure an NAs strength by a Balcony Index (BI) - which received more than 25 comments to date, including a series of formulas to calculate an even more refined one.
- A guest post by Sarah on how her CISV education doesn't always support her professional career.

All of the posts are still open for comments - so if you have something to add, please do so: You will be noticed - on the front page ("Recent Comments") and through the comments feed (RSS).

Thanks for everybody that contributed to this site in 2009 - you make the Balcony alive!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2010 is the previous archive.

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