The Social Media for Good roundup for non-profit ICT professionals

The “Social Media for Good roundup” is an infrequent series of posts where I share interesting links I found on the web. This week with: Open Street Map for dummies, examples of multimedia storytelling, social media guidance for civil servants, community based humanitarian response and tech tools for emergency management.

I love maps and whenever I’m in the field, I’m extremely grateful for anyone who can show me on a piece of paper where I am and where I am supposed to go. Because of this, I have followed the Open Street Map project with a lot of interest. The American Red Cross and the Ugandan Red Cross, for example, have just used OSM to map parts of Uganda.

However, if you have never used OSM, GPS devices etc, it can be a bit daunting to get started. People and organizations who want to explore Open Street Map can now take advantage of a website that includes well written, heavily illustrated user guides to Open Street Map in multiple languages. 

A collection of six outstanding examples of multimedia journalism which are can also be a source of possible inspiration for how NGOs might tell stories online. The blog post itself is in German, but the links go to sites in German, English, Spanish, Arabic and French – just click on the images or links you can read.

My personal favourite is the feature about “Flüsterwitze”, i.e. whispered political jokes in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), aka East Germany. The feature includes a video where people tell jokes, a joke-database and a Google map with examples of political jokes aimed at repressive regimes worldwide. As one of the interviewees points out: Nothing is as vulnerable to ridicule as a totalitarian regime. One example from the GDR: “Why is the toilet paper in the GDR so rough?” “To make sure that every last asshole is red.”

Government employees and aid workers should think twice before posting certain things on their social profiles. If they are lucky, their employer has clear guidelines about what is acceptable and what isn’t (see the IFRC social media guidelines I wrote a few years ago). Unfortunately, without clear guidance, posting and liking on Twitter and Facebook can turn into a minefield. In this post Kim Stephens talks about the restrictions that apply to US military personnel and US federal employees.

Some of them were quite surprising to me such as:

“Posting of any direct links to political parties, partisan candidates, campaigns, groups or causes is the equivalent of distributing campaign literature on behalf of the individual or party, which is prohibited.”


“Active-duty members may not post or comment on pages or send “tweets” to political parties or partisan candidates, as such activity is engaging in partisan political activity through a medium sponsored or controlled by political entities.”

Well, at least the guidelines are unambiguous …

Gisli Olasfsson has written a very interesting blog post about the need to involve communities in the case of a humanitarian response. Based on somebody else’s academic work, he categorizes the different kinds of community involvement into three categories, Nonparticipation, Tokenism and Citizen Power, arguing that what you think of as participation might just be window dressing (though, strangely, Facipulation is missing from the list). What does that have to do with Social Media for Good? For one thing, I think that ICT can help to increase community engagement. Secondly, I think the Ladder can be a good instrument when designing ICT projects for communities.

One Response

  1. Philip Alex January 3, 2013