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Facilitated by Justin Massa, NetSquared

The NetSquared community has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years; 2009 has seen four challenges across two conferences and there are now more than 50 NetTuesday meetups around the globe. Critical to this expansion has been social media. This session will explore the successes, failures, and lessons learned about how to effectively use social media to expand a project.

Session Notes

What is Netsquared?

Started by Tech Soup Global 5 years ago: trying to leverage web servivces for nonprofit services (moving beyond putting stuff in a box and mailing it)

Year 1 Conference: Conversatiosn about what people are doing with tech. Not a lot of use cases: have a competition

Year 2: Web competition -- 20k submissions. Conference attendees divvied up $100k. Winners: MAPlight, Democracy Player (Miro), FreeCycle

Started hosting meetups (Tech Tuesdays) --- 20-30 people on 1,2,3rd Tuesday of the month. Now 56 across the glob

Year 3: Mashup competition. Winners: Ushahiti, KnowMore, Social Actions

Year 4: Mobile competition. Winners: Frontline SMS, The Extraordinaries

Over time it evolved into Nonprofit Techies and general social change (winners weren't necessarily nonprofits)

Run challenges/conferences for others: UC Berkeley, USAID

Netsquare Community Blog: Anyone can join and post.

Have 200-300k different projects in their database.

How do you get ^2ed

1. Join the conversation 2. Submit a Project 3. Collaboratie or fund a Project 4. Attend, start or sponsor a Net Tuesday (contact Amy Sample Ward) 5. Support our work, on or offline, around the world!

NetSquared has always put an emphasis on creating collaborative community spaces.

Net squared challenges aren't unique: $2 billion a year are given out through innovation challenges. What is different is that Netsquared is open and transparent about the process and who gets money.


How do you build online collaboration? Access each other to talk, share experiences and advocacy---get people to see (question from James @ YouthLine America -- Youth Community Mapping project)

Amy and others have done a really good job on community management.

To build collaboration: you must have people see the value in working together at the local level and must do it (you can't aggregate nothing)

Don't be tied to a tool. It's not about the tool, it's about the outcomes you.

There are 3 things to consistently organize around.Big ideas to organize around.

Transcending the "tools"-based mindset requires a high level of technical competency and literacy. One strategy: Start with the physical model--plan out how you would do it if you didn't have the internet (what paper forms, facilitator questions, distribution plans would you have?) Rotary Clubs are a model. Don't forget what you're good at.

Sometimes you try a tool and it doesn't work out. It might not be that you're doing it wrong, it might just not work right for what you want to do.


Participants have to fly out to the conference in order to vote (a narrow group of people. To get outside of this, set up local bar camps where people can vote locally/regionally. Ideas: Go back and forth between the local and the national conference: everyone meets at the same time... virtually: or report backs

Preventing gaming the voting: You can't vote for 1 project, you have to vote for 3, you can't vote for more than 5.

How do you find innovative ideas that haven't been turned into an actual project. Different models: Creating different classes of competitions (ready to scale, needs seed funding, . Tried: you get 5 "vote tokens" that you can either split up between projects or put all of them into one.

Projects don't have any incentive to come back and update their project if they don't win. Have competitions more often (every 2 months)

How do you measure your impact? Put in time limits for milestones and ping them "did you do it?" to track non-funded projects.

Look out for Netsquared is currently working on a whitepaper about the background and philosophies of what they've done