Tag: mobile apps

There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.


It’s the mantra of cause marketers everywhere: the key to success is reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message – one that will motivate immediate, positive action from your intended respondent.

For advocates, this “holy grail” of marketing campaigns is even tougher than for brand marketers in the for-profit world. Advocacy outreach is already complex, and exacerbated by the fact that the “right audience” can vary from those who could most benefit from their services or those of their preferred industry, to those most able and willing to support their activity. Sometimes these audiences are so different that even the advocate’s core messaging has to change to accommodate them.

Such a dichotomy is often tough to pull off in social media, where each online “persona” is relentlessly tested for authenticity. But there is one medium that has become at once so pervasive, and yet so personal, that it can uniquely deliver relevant messages that inspire immediate action: targeted mobile advertising.

Mobile Outreach – by the Numbers

Last month, Nielsen reported figures from Q3 of 2016 showing that the number of monthly users of apps and web via smartphone for adults 18 and over outstripped the number of people accessing the internet via desktop or laptop. (Tablets – another mobile device that can be targeted with video and rich-media messaging – are the digital device of choice for U.S. children.)

Moreover, more adults viewed video via smartphone than on their computers. Some 90% of those 18-24 watch video via smartphone or tablet; 86% of those 25-34 do, and 79% of those 35-49 do. Even more than half of adults 50-59 watch video via smartphone or tablet. The connection between a millennial audience and mobile media is undeniable:
• 95% watch video on mobile at least once a week
• 48% ONLY watch videos on their mobile devices (the so-called “unplugged” you’ve heard so much about.)
• 58% watch video on mobile as their sole activity (compared with 28% for TV)
• 80% find video helpful during initial research for a purchasing decision.

In its January report, US Time Spent with Mobile: A Deep Dive into Mobile App and Web Time, eMarketer reported that mobile video viewing time skews more heavily toward apps, with U.S. adults spending 20 minutes daily in apps vs. 11 minutes per day via mobile websites.

Mobile App Indicators: Persuasion’s Secret Sauce

Not all mobile video is created equal, and finding a willing audience where the “exit” is just a thumb-swipe away, is critical to the success of mobile ad campaigns. There is a “secret sauce” to those that have been able to leverage this technology to best effect, and it goes back to the holy grail scenario cited above. Those most persuadable to your point of view probably share common characteristics and interests besides their age, gender, income, and even location. Sometimes, what people DO on their most personal of information device – specifically via the apps they download and use every day – says as much about them and their potential affinity for your cause or your campaign as where they live or their demographics.


To be fair, many of the same targeting techniques that can be used in mobile advertising can be applied to online and social ads as well. But using the apps on users’ phones to “crack the code” of audience psychographics has proven remarkably powerful for us in targeting both branding and political campaigns.

We like to say “you are what you app,” which means that the app ecosystem on each person’s phone can be a roadmap to their personality, preferences and passions. Some of these indications are simple: you may be an in-market car buyer if you have Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book or Car Checker. You can spot a mom with small children by their K-12 educational apps combined with apps on great 30-minute meals. I’m a hockey fan, so of course I’ve downloaded the app from the Washington Caps (something you wouldn’t guess by my demographic, and I’ll leave it at that!)

Discerning differences in today’s party-hopping, populist era might be a bit tougher, but you might be a Democrat if you get your political news from Atlantic Monthly, NYT.com and Mother Jones. You might, conversely, vote Republican if you sport an NRA app and stream Fox News.

What does this look like in real life? When SONY Pictures wanted to herald the release on DVD of a movie about the transformative power of prayer at WalMart, we targeted mobile users when they were within a few miles of a WalMart that also had either Bible or church apps on their phones. The resulting synergy between messaging and target audience drove one of the highest sales days among the retailer’s movie releases.

On the political front, we mobile voters in Georgia who had an NRA app with a 30-second video endorsement by the NRA of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) for his recent re-election campaign. And, we didn’t stop there. We also targeted a different, 15-second ad spot talking about how Isakson was the “most effective” legislator in Congress to people whose apps resembled those of NRA members. (In digital marketing, we call this a “look-alike” campaign.) Both ads were charged on a “cost per completed view” basis, meaning the senator’s campaign only paid when someone watched the ad to its completion. Because the ad was so relevant to users to whom it was delivered, the video completion ratio was greater than 80%.

Only as Good as the Gardener

Like any tool in the shed, mobile targeting may not be for everyone. Advocacy marketing funds are always limited because organizations want to use the maximum amount of resources in driving the kind of change for which they were created – not just in ad campaigns. When the money does become available, non-profits either want to “go big” – grab the highest number of eyeballs possible via broadcast TV – or spend the least amount of money possible, perhaps by building out a social profile and trying to activate the organization’s own users.

The first step in figuring out whether a targeted mobile ad campaign could help your organization could be to conduct a “super-user” survey to find out their media habits. Do your most supportive followers cite mobile media as a key activity? Does commonly available media research tell you the same thing? Consult your website stats; most analytic programs will tell you how many of your web visits are from users on their mobile devices.

Start small, and learn fast. If you can instantly think of apps that would be commonly used by your potential constituents, if you have a cultural target that is hard to discern in other ways, if your target falls strictly within a specific geographic area (high-income ZIP codes, or voters within a single state or other locale), or if your audience is overwhelmingly millennial or younger, then it’s probably worth a test. Posit a demographic, geographic and psychographic “bullseye” for a test campaign, then – when it succeeds – stretch its boundaries as far as practical so long as your goals are met.

Be realistic. It is possible to over-target in terms of the specific audience characteristics of the people you think might join your bandwagon, and targeting can’t make up for missing the mark on poor media choices generally. As with all technological advances, nonprofits may lag their brand marketer peers in adoption, but Sabio is committed to both inclusion in the political process and supporting nonprofits as much as humanly possible.

Telling a story from the perspective of those people that advocates are trying to help, or communicating surprising truths to the uninitiated, still requires creative skill. Don’t hesitate to try out your messaging in social video first and let the audience weigh in on its effectiveness before delivering it to a wider audience. Just don’t assume that the people you’d most like to influence will necessarily find it without some help.


The 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference is just around the corner and we’re getting more and more excited (and more and more ridiculous, if you go by our Instagram posts).

Today, we’re launching the 17NTC app, generously sponsored by Community IT Innovators, so you can start planning your conference experience and connect with other attendees.

The 17NTC app lets you:

  • View session and speaker information
  • Add sessions to create your own personal agenda
  • Check out exhibitors ahead of time
  • Connect with other attendees through the activity feed or direct messages
  • Get real-time alerts during the conference

Read on for some tips and frequently asked questions to help you get the most out of the app.

Where can I find the app?

You can find the iOS or Android app or access the HTML5 version here. Or, you can search for “17NTC” in the App Store or Google Play.

I have an older smartphone or don’t want to download the iOS or Android app. How can I participate?

Access the app content through your web browser via the HTML5 version. Note: When you get to the sign-in page for the first time, click the link to sign up instead. Create an account and then go to town!

What email and password do I use to log into the app?

You will create a brand new account to access the 17NTC app. It’s not connected to the 16NTC app or your NTEN account. Use whatever email address and password you wish.

How do I create my personalized agenda?

  • From the sidebar menu click Agenda.
  • Scroll through the list then click the calendar plus sign icon next to the sessions you want to remember.
  • View your agenda by clicking the My Agenda tab at the top of the Agenda screen.

Reminder: Adding a session to your agenda does not reserve your spot. NTC sessions do not take reservations. Arrive at the session rooms early to ensure a seat. Additionally, we recommend selecting a second or third session as a backup plan.

How do I share posts I make to the Activity Feed to my social media accounts as well?

You can simultaneously post to both the app’s Activity Feed and to your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account.

  • To share an update in both the app and in your social media accounts, first go to your profile and give the app permission to access these accounts.
  • Go to the Activity Feed, then click the pen-and-paper icon in the top right corner.
  • Choose a social network by toggling the Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn icon in the lower right corner.

Pro Tips:

  • Be sure to include the conference hashtag (#17NTC) on your posts if you want to share them via social media. The app does not do this automatically.
  • If you share a photo, it will display as a photo in the app but as a link in your social media posts.

There’s the conference app, the online conference forum, and social media. Which platform should I use during the conference?

Once we get on-site, we encourage attendees to use the app’s Activity Feed and the #17NTC Twitter hashtag for real-time conversations. The online forum tends to be the most active before and after the conference.

As always, please direct any customer service-related questions to info@nten.org or find an NTEN staff member (distinguishable by a staff lanyard). Our response team is 💯 but we don’t want to risk your question getting lost in the forum or app discussion feed.

I’m having trouble with the app. Where should I go for help?

For questions on how to use the app, we recommend the app’s attendee support center. You can also check out our FAQs for help with the app and everything else conference-related. If you need additional help, please contact us via info@nten.org or come to the NTC tech help desk (open during registration hours) when you’re on-site.

Thanks again to Community IT Innovators for sponsoring the app!


This article was originally published in ThoughtWorks. It is republished here with permission.

Within a few days of Typhoon Yolanda’s collision with the Philippines, UNICEF organized a team to deploy RapidFTR (Family Tracing and Reunification system) as part of the Child Protection program’s efforts to speed up the process of identifying children separated from their primary caregivers and reuniting them with their families. The team included the Innovations in Emergency Lead from HQ in New York, Mac Glovinsky; RapidFTR Technical Project Coordinator based in the UNICEF Uganda office, Cary McCormick; and two employees of ThoughtWorks from India,  Sri “Batman” Prasanna and Subhas Dandapani. ThoughtWorks has been supporting the development of RapidFTR for the past three years, and offered two of their colleagues with RapidFTR experience to the UNICEF emergency response as volunteers.

Not many of us are aware of the damages caused by the typhoon. To understand the impact of RapidFTR, first we must know a little about Typhoon Haiyan.

UNICEF representatives walking through disaster-impacted neighborhood in the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

It started out as Tropical Depression with wind speeds of 48km/h on November 3 and then declared a “Super Typhoon” on November 7. On November 8 at 4:40 am, Typhoon Yolanda moved inland at Guiuan with a wind speed of 315km/h, making it the strongest typhoon ever recorded. Along with the wind came the rain and storm surge, in some places up to 13 feet. In Leyte Province, the water came 1.5km inside the city. The three natural forces, together, caused unspeakable damages to the island provinces of Visayas, Philippines.


The water washed away thousands of men, women, and children. The wind shattered glass, tore apart huge buildings, smashed vehicles, uprooted large trees, and snapped coconut trees. People lost their lives, loved ones, and livelihoods. All modes of communication were dead; there was no electricity. Airports and roads were damaged, which subsequently delayed the relief efforts. People were left on the streets looking for food and shelter. Curfew was imposed shortly after people looted shops for food, clothes, and medicines. (“Loot” is not the right word, when you haven’t had food or clean water for days you don’t think about morality or consequences and I certainly would have done the same if I were in their shoes.)

 Damages to the people and their livelihood we saw on the field were shocking, unbelievable, emotionally haunting.

Two women sitting at a table looking at a phone


RapidFTR, a volunteer-driven, open source technology, has a website describing its function in further detail. 

In the Philippines, RapidFTR’s mission was to find as many unaccompanied and separated children as possible in the disaster-affected region, collect their information, and send it to the appropriate people who can provide support. RapidFTR speeds up the process by providing the child protection specialists with a web application (deployed on the cloud as well as on netbooks for offline use) and the field workers with a mobile application, eliminating the previously used paper forms completely. Since we regularly sync the data between the cloud, netbooks and mobile, the child protection specialists can get the data within minutes (unlike collecting data with paper forms) and take immediate actions.

Police and relief workers looking at a laptop in an incident headquarters

Initially, the humanitarian responders didn’t believe that there were many unaccompanied or separated children. However, there were 14 million people affected, 4 million people displaced, 5,982 reported dead, and 1,779 people missing. Claiming there weren’t many unaccompanied or separated children is ridiculous. Since collecting data was made easier through the mobile application, the social workers and the policewomen were able to expand their searches. They were able to find unaccompanied/separated children in places where the local officials believed that no such cases existed in their towns.

These children and their needs probably would have remained invisible if it hadn’t been for the work of these social workers, policewomen, as well as RapidFTR. 

To the officials, this came as a shock and surprise, but it showed the true potential of the application; without hesitation, they started taking actions to support these children. There’s a team of government officials on the ground here visiting every child on the records we have and supporting them. This wouldn’t be possible if they were still using paper forms (which of course in some places they used, and it did not go well as they expected).

Our Experience

The deployment was physically demanding and mentally exhausting. The children we met and their stories got everyone of us on the field. What pulled us together and kept us going were the people we were working with. They lost everything they had, but they were still out in the field helping others. A policewoman, for example, while driving through her town with a big smile pointed at an empty plot and said “That’s my house.” A social worker who lost her grandson had been working without a break since the typhoon, while another had lost her daughter. Everyone had their own tragic stories but kept going because they wanted to save and help millions of others.

When we found more and more children, I did not know how to react. Should I be happy that we found so many children; or should I be sad that there are so many more children like these? Unfortunately, there are lot more of them out there, displaced, without their families, and living in horrible conditions.

To summarize my experience in one sentence: I am grateful for everything I have in my life, and I feel more human and alive for contributing to software products that serve humanity.

Just before President Obama’s historic visit to South by Southwest (SXSW) this year, The White House announced the launch of “The Opportunity Project,” a new effort to put public data in the hands of communities to help them navigate information about critical resources such as access to jobs, housing, transportation, schools, and other local amenities.

The initiative provides collections of federal and local open data sets, which tech developers and communities can use to build new digital tools. The announcement is a gamechanger for organizations like the True Colors Fund, which is developing a mobile app to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth experiencing homelessness in the United States can find support wherever they go—and be themselves when they get there.

Turning to Technology for Answers

In America, up to 1.6 million youth are homeless each year, and up to 40% of them identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Once they are out of their homes, LGBT youth are at a greater risk for victimization, unsafe sexual practices, and mental health issues than non-LGBT young people. In particular, transgender youth often experience homelessness for longer periods of time because access to services can be hindered by discriminatory policies and/or lack of protections (they also may not have government issued identification that matches their appearance, name, or gender identity, which can create additional barriers.) So what do LGBT youth experiencing homelessness do when the systems we’ve put into place are unable to serve them? More and more, they are turning to technology to find the answers.

According to a recent study, 83.5% of youth experiencing homelessness use the internet at least once per week; and 62% own a mobile phone. In fact, many young people will forego basic necessities in order to maintain their mobile data connections, as it ensures they have access to the resources they need to survive. Mobile technology is the ideal way to engage with this unique population, which tends to be transient in nature. That’s why the True Colors Fund is incorporating Open Opportunity Data into our soon-to-be-released True Connect mobile app, which is being developed to help LGBT youth experiencing homelessness across the country find the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

The True Inclusion Directory

Over the past couple of years, the True Colors Fund has been building our True Inclusion Directory, a database of shelters and community centers across the United States that provide inclusive and affirming services for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness. In order to be listed in the directory, providers need to be assessed by True Colors Fund staff to ensure that LGBT young people will feel safe and welcome when accessing services. The first phase of development for True Connect will involve adapting data from this directory, which tends to use more clinical language, to make it more accessible for young people. For instance, rather than searching for “Emergency Shelter,” a young person might just be thinking, “I need a place to stay tonight.” The True Colors Fund will engage youth focus groups to develop appropriate language for the app.

We understand that LGBT youth experiencing homelessness need more than just shelter, so the second phase of the project will focus on expanding on our True Inclusion Directory by integrating datasets from The Opportunity Project. We want True Connect to link youth experiencing homelessness to a myriad of resources, including mobile charging stations, gender-neutral restrooms, food, shelter, job readiness programs, mental/physical health services, WiFi hotspots, and more.

“The Experts of Their Own Experiences”

LGBT youth experiencing homelessness are the experts of their own experiences—and their insight is crucial to the success of True Connect. Users will have the opportunity to provide feedback on their experiences with the services they find in the app, which will allow the True Colors Fund to ensure the integrity of our directory. Through data analytics, we’ll also be able to measure users’ success at finding the resources they need, and identify where there might be a lack of services in a particular area.

In addition to integrating data from The Opportunity Project into True Connect, the True Colors Fund has committed to contributing our own data on safe and inclusive services to the project under an open source license. Our goal is to give future Opportunity Project teams the opportunity to include LGBT-friendly resources in their own digital tools.

Many communities across the country have already begun building web and mobile applications to help vulnerable populations find and access local resources. These communities can now use the datasets provided by The Opportunity Project to enhance their projects and ensure that their efforts are informed by the most thorough and accurate public data available. In return, they can contribute their own data to the project, which opens up a world of opportunities for software developers who are looking to create a positive impact through technology.

Although technology has changed the world for everyone in the last three decades, it has been nothing short of revolutionary for people with vision loss. The personal computer, along with the digitization of data and the world wide web have arguably had more of an impact on living conditions for the blind than the advent of braille or the development of guide dog training. The explosion of accessible mobile devices and smart phones of the last decade has literally changed what it means to be blind.

Closing the Gap

It is hard to really describe the impact of this revolution to sighted people. To the sighted, information that was always available was made more compact, efficient, and economical to access. For the blind, information which was never or scarcely available before became accessible to us for the very first time. And much of this information went even further. It helped close the gap of the sensory impact of blindness by describing the missing visual information. This changed everything.

Let me count (just a fraction) of the ways:

  • Books, newspapers, and periodicals that were not available before or required months of wait time to get are now instantly available in both audio, digital (using voice synthesizers), and braille (either via an embosser or a refreshable braille display) on demand and instantaneously.
  • Print material (e.g., mail, bank statements, medical records) that used to require a live reader or transcriber can now be scanned and read via computer. Blind people were never before afforded this kind of privacy to access their own information.
  • Day-to-day print material and signage that the sighted take for granted is now available in real time and on the go. Bus schedules, restaurant menus, and bulletin boards (the real corkboard kind) are now largely available in a hand-held device.
  • With accessible shopping websites that deliver groceries and other necessities, shopping for goods has become something a blind person can do independently, without a shopping assistant or a driver.
  • Orientation and mobility—the skills a blind person uses to get around—got a huge boost with turn-by-turn GPS directions and map apps that could let the blind traveler know not only what intersection was coming up, but what businesses were nearby and how to get to them.
  • Thousands upon thousands of jobs not before thought accessible entered the realm of possibility for a blind person to perform with competitive ease.
  • Mobile devices are becoming a mode of communication that allow the deafblind to communicate with everyone—from a barista to their doctor or banker—for the first time without the help of an interpreter.
  • Camera and bar code scanner apps help the blind do everything, from identifying the color of their socks to reading the directions on the back of a box of brownie mix. They can even identify who or what is in a photograph.

Yet the Information Famine Persists

As much as technology has, and will continue to open up access to the world for the blind, it is still largely a hit-or-miss minefield out there due to poor coding and inaccessible design. Disability rights attorney, Haben Girma, who is deafblind, describes it as an information famine that still exists in large areas of the web and within applications. These obstacles create a wall between the blind user and access to the same information or functioning that everyone else enjoys. These barriers come in the form of inaccessible websites with disorganized formatting that don’t allow a screen reader to access the information in a way that makes sense. Many pdf files are not created with appropriate labeling and headings, making them impossible to read. Apps can have mislabeled or unlabeled buttons that mean nothing to the blind user and thus make the entire app dysfunctional. Pictures are not described and videos are not described or captioned. Websites and apps are made with sloppy code that confuses a screen reader or braille display and makes the information almost meaningless or takes the user hours to frustratingly wade through.

Enter the Conscientious Tech Designer

Fortunately, the answers to these problems are largely readily available and easily doable for the conscientious tech designer. The problem here has, for the most part, not been the technology itself. It has been in getting those responsible for developing and designing the online and mobile device environments to be aware of and care about these issues. Ensuring tech accessibility may take a bit longer and be a bit inconvenient at times, but this type of design usually has very little impact on the overall project.

It is an added feature that–like other universal design strategies–helps everyone, not just blind people. Like ramps that help parents with strollers and hand-truck wielding delivery drivers, good web and application development helps many more people than just the blind. Accessible tech design makes cleaner, more efficient code that is easier for others to understand, search, and revise. People with dyslexia, deafness and communication disabilities, as well as people with motor impairments, also benefit from accessible web design. Pre-reading children and older folks or just a person who multitasks can use accessibility features to their advantage.

Besides, it’s the law. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), require that services, information, and facilities be made accessible to those with disabilities. Organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind are also working to implement more specific laws and regulations that would cover tech accessibility exclusively. Although technology development still may have a small amount of legal leeway as it has advanced faster than legislation could keep up, that gap is closing fast. Those who are on top of the game early will be much better off in the long run.

Getting Started for Accessibility

To ensure good web and application accessibility, here are a few tips:

  1. Commit from the beginning of any project that it will be made accessibly. Just like architects and building contractors integrate ADA building codes without much thought anymore, so should tech designers and developers.
  2. Educate others on your team about good aspects of accessible design. We still get questions like, “How can a blind person use a computer or a smart phone anyway?” When people are that ignorant about how disabled people adapt, they tend to have low expectations for them and for what they need to do to accommodate them.
  3. It is so much easier to develop with accessibility in mind from the start rather than as an afterthought. Make accessibility a part of your initial planning and discussion. No one enjoys retrofitting.
  4. Teach yourself the guidelines (see links below for a start). Soon they will become second nature.
  5. There are several accessible testing “bots” out there. Use these only as a starting point. They are very limited in effectively testing your design. Field-test your project with actual users of this technology. “Narrative or Manual Accessibility Testing” will give you a much more comprehensive assessment of your design. (Google the term for companies that provide this service.)

Links to get you started:

Mobile Accessibility: https://www.w3.org/WAI/mobile/

Web Accessibility: https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/uaag.php and https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/

Distributed content is all about reaching people where they are, instead of expecting them to come to you. Gone are the days of driving people to your website to complete important calls to action, like signing up for your email list or making a donation. Increasingly, your constituents can take those actions directly from social media sites.

It’s 2016. Distributed content is everywhere—especially distributed video content. From videos uploaded directly to Facebook, to Periscope streams in your Twitter timeline, to native ads inside of Snapchat stories, the place where your video content shows up is now just as important as the content itself.

Each piece of video content should be slightly different depending on where it will end up. Here are some rules for creating engaging content on video-driven networks.

  1. Captions are a must-have on Facebook

Have you ever found yourself halfway through a video on Facebook before you realized you didn’t have the sound turned on?

Don’t worry—we’ve all been there. Part of the allure of Facebook’s autoplay videos is that they are so easy to engage with, you don’t even need to turn the volume on. To make sure you’re still getting your message across clearly when using Facebook video, make sure to add burned-in captions to your video. Burned-in captions are added during the editing process, and will show up on your video whether a user decides to turn on captions or not. This will ensure that your video can be understood, even without the sound.

  1. Design for vertical phone viewing on Snapchat

Producing video that’s intended to be viewed in landscape mode on your mobile device feels like a no-brainer, right? When your phone is oriented horizontally, there’s more room to watch the video on your screen, which leads to a better overall viewing experience.

While that is true for some social media networks, it’s definitely not true for Snapchat. Look at any Snapchat Discover story and you’ll notice that the brands sharing content there all produce vertically-oriented videos and images.

Vertical and horizontal images, together!

This is because Snapchat users are already holding their phones vertically, and most users won’t turn their phones horizontally to view content in a different direction. Call it lazy if you want, but it’s an important nuance of distributed content to be aware of. The best first step to creating engaging Snapchat content is to design for vertical mobile phone viewing.

  1. Authenticity rules on YouTube
    If you have a pre-teen in your house, chances are you have heard the names of famous YouTube celebrities, like Tyler Oakley, Connor Franta, and Franchesca Ramsey.These and other YouTube celebrities have built massive followings through their silly, frank, direct-to-camera videos. Fans love YouTubers because they portray themselves as honest and approachable in their videos, and most make a real effort to make their YouTube Channels feel like supportive communities. Organizations can follow their lead by creating content for YouTube that feels real, authentic, and not overly-promotional.

Want to learn more about distributed video content? Join us for “Facebook Auto-Play, Periscope, Snapchat Stories and More: Making Video Content That Rules the Web.” In this session, See3’s Michael Hoffman and Humane Society’s Carie Lewis Carlson will guide nonprofits through a distribution-first approach to video strategy, and share tactical advice on how your video should be produced depending on the platforms where you plan to distribute it. We’ll also will share some of the best video advice we’ve received from our friends at YouTube, and describe how nonprofits can approach video creation from a YouTube star’s point of view.

See you in San Jose!

At a gathering in Bellevue late last year, documentary filmmaker Tim Matsui’s acclaimed “Leaving the Life” project about sex trafficking in the Northwest turned out police detectives, trafficking survivors, social workers, concerned citizens, and even an ex-pimp.

Also in the house: our digital sidekick Harvis.

Harvis is an interactive web app we developed at A Fourth Act to help storytellers integrate authentic community engagement into their creative productions. It works like this: First, audience members point their mobile devices to our mobile web app and self-identify by category (e.g. police officer, survivor, social worker, etc.). Then, once the film begins, participants swipe up when they feel motivated to act and swipe down when they feel helpless, generating digital data that helps guide an analog discussion following the screening.

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We’ve now taken Harvis on the road about a dozen times with several different projects, but Bellevue remains the site of one of our favorite ‘huzzah’ moments, a stirring example of what’s possible when all the perspectives and expertise and emotions in a room are given a vehicle for expression. It started with a chilling scene in the 17-minute video chapter: Lisa, 19 years old and high on heroine, arrives at a Seattle shelter for sexually exploited women, picked up by police only minutes earlier while giving a client oral sex in his car. Viewers learn that she’s been working the streets since 13 years old, stuck in a cycle of sexual exploitation to support her drug addiction.

If the scene offers any silver lining, it’s that Lisa appears to be in good hands. A police officer at the center wraps a fresh robe around her shoulders for warmth and lets her know that she can drop by anytime. “We care about you,” he says. “If you ever had a dream, we’re going to work night and day to help you achieve that dream.”

As all this unfolded on the big screen in Bellevue, the mobile web app captured the audience’s emotional responses in real time. The police officers, we found, weren’t particularly moved. It appeared that for them, the film clip depicted business as usual—a rather ordinary example of officers doing their best to comfort a victim. Not much emotional tug. So not many swipes.

But the mobile web app also revealed another insight, captured in colorful spikes on our interactive data visualization shared with the audience immediately after the screening: The social workers were swiping en masse. In their eyes, the police officers (both of them male) were towering ominously over the female survivor, perpetuating a power imbalance that hinders trust. Using Harvis’s comment submission feature, several of the social workers explained their reactions.

“This whole film snippet just feels so paternalistic,” one wrote. “It is patriarchy that created this whole problem in the first place, where girls and women are seen as helpless victims who need to be saved… These police have so much power and privilege that is not acknowledged.”

Added another: “The police officers need to ASK FOR CONSENT before they touch someone! That scene with the bathrobe was very disturbing.”

At a traditional film screening, these are the types of insights that exist only as passing thoughts—or, at best, as isolated comments in an open mic discussion dominated by the most outspoken voices. We created an app that creates a space where both introverts and extroverts (and everyone in between) are empowered to share an opinion.

It also creates compelling points of entry for the post-screening dialogue. In Bellevue, the social workers’ critical comments sparked a lively conversation about how police can more effectively support survivors of sexual exploitation. The police officers and social workers in attendance both offered their perspectives, allowing mutual understanding to emerge between two communities united by their shared purpose—but often separated by rigid silos in their professional practice.

Beyond Bellevue, one of our long-term goals in our collaboration with Tim Matsui is for the app to act as a training tool for police departments and other community organizations that serve vulnerable populations. The feedback we’ve received so far is heartening. The professional facilitator in Bellevue — initially a tech skeptic—raved about the app’s real-time data visualization and mobile-app feedback. And Tim gave the app a ringing endorsement: “It exposes the differences in opinion and helps create starting points for facilitated discussion,” he told us. “I’m integrating Harvis into my model for audience engagement, and [I’m] turning my movie into a movement.”

We love putting our app in the hands of creative minds who share our vision for connecting storytelling with social change. When the defining metric of success shifts from “awards won” to “ideas generated” and “change inspired,” exciting new opportunities emerge for storytellers.

Imagine, for example, what would be possible if city planners and urban residents came together to watch a stirring documentary about gentrification—and then discussed the possible solutions? Or if a film about criminal justice policy became the seed for an inclusive community conversation featuring the voices of police, prosecutors, community members, advocates, victims, and inmates?

What’s possible is collaborative social action—and not just for communities with a resident documentary filmmaker. We see our app as a tool for book writers, university professors, professional mediators, community organizers, and nonprofit activists—basically anyone aiming to convene conversations that are focused, inclusive and productive.

You can check out our video walk-through of Harvis or drop us a line.

It’s horrific and heartbreaking to watch the video of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, being shot in the back and killed by a North Charleston, South Carolina cop in April 2015, but that video is the very reason that Officer Michael Slager was charged with Scott’s murder. Following the incident, many South Carolina police were equipped with body cameras, but it was the video from bystander Feidin Santana that revealed discrepancies with the official police report.

Everyone has the right to film the police, says the ACLU, and the civil liberties organization has launched Mobile Justice apps to record police encounters in several states. The apps involve the public in holding police accountable for their actions. An immediate upload of the video to the ACLU means the recordings cannot be confiscated or destroyed by officers who wrongly interfere with the public’s right to record police on duty.

The ACLU’s Mobile Justice apps are already in use in seven states—California, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Oregon, patterned after the Stop and Frisk app launched by the New York affiliate of the ACLU in 2012. So far, more than 250,000 people have downloaded the apps.

The Mobile Justice apps are coming to 11 more regions this fall—Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, DC. The ACLU of Oregon is relaunching its app with an iPhone version, after advocating for and winning state legislation to clarify that recording the police is a constitutionally-protected activity.

This free app for mobile devices allows users to record and automatically submit videos of interactions with law enforcement to their local ACLU, safeguarding evidence from possible destruction and empowering the public to document the truth about individual police encounters.

The ACLU has come to understand the terrible reality that, without mechanisms for the immediate and indisputable tracking of law enforcement conduct, the most vulnerable among us will continue to suffer unconstitutional, inhumane, and even fatal mistreatment at the hands of certain public officials.

The Guardian estimated in July that police in the United States were killing people at a rate that would result in 1,100 fatalities by the end of this year. According to the Guardian, Black men killed by police are twice as likely to be unarmed as White people. In August, the Washington Post published the startling fact that police had shot an unarmed Black man every nine days in 2015.

So how do we stop the growing number of police encounters that end with fatalities of unarmed people, most often Black men? The ACLU is working with police departments nationwide to instill a culture where arrest and use of force by law enforcement are last resorts, not first options. ACLU advocates are calling for police to develop greater collaboration with and inclusion of community stakeholders; adopt training, policies and practices to reduce the use of force; and establish stronger mechanisms for transparency and accountability, such as independent civil review boards with disciplinary authority. As police departments across the country begin outfitting cops with body cams, the ACLU is working with them to develop effective policies regarding their use. And the ACLU is calling on bystanders to record police activity.

When recording police, remember two rules to keep yourself out of danger. 1) Be cautious when getting out your cell phone so police don’t mistake your movement for reaching for a weapon. 2) Be an eyewitness, but do not interfere with police actions.

While having video footage of a police encounter doesn’t necessarily change the outcome, it can help clarify disputed facts. Even if there is police body camera footage, footage shot by eyewitnesses shows a different perspective. And publicly shot video submitted to the ACLU endures even if police body cams don’t capture an incident, or if police video disappears. The Mobile Justice apps put evidence in the hands of an individual and the ACLU, not law enforcement, providing an independent check on government officials.

All of the ACLU’s Mobile Justice apps are available for use on Android and iOS phones and can be downloaded free through Apple’s App Store or Google Play. They enable users to register, record, witness, and report interactions with law enforcement and also offer information on your constitutional rights.

Record allows citizens to capture exchanges between police officers and themselves or other community members in audio and video files that are automatically sent to your local ACLU.

Witness sends out an alert when someone is stopped by police so that community members can move toward the location and document the interaction.

Report gives the app user the option to complete an incident report and send it directly to your local ACLU. Know Your Rights provides an overview of what rights protect you when you are stopped by law enforcement officers.

With or without the Mobile Justice app, pressing record on your mobile device could make the difference in holding law enforcement accountable. Police body cams may prove to be effective tools in curbing police abuse, but bystanders’ cameras can be more powerful. Those images are not subject to police control, and the footage they capture is immediately available for the whole world to see.

When everyone watches, police are far more likely to held accountable for any unlawful behavior.

Get the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app and keep justice within reach.

Start-up diagramFor this month’s Connect theme, we are highlighting some of the speakers, facilitators, keynotes, attendees, sponsors, and scholarship recipients of the 2015 Leading Change Summit in Washington, DC September 13-16.

Starting a start-up was the last thing on my mind when I pitched the Say This Not That (STNT) idea at the 2014 Leading Change Summit’s Idea Accelerator. But taking home the top prize and the Community Choice Award, as well as the continual positive feedback after the 14LCS, were strong indicators that it’s an idea worth pursuing!

So here I am: I’ve jumped on the start-up bandwagon. The path of this bandwagon has a lot of twists, turns, and potholes! Here are some of the ways I’m learning to ride this bumpy path.

Put the Idea Accelerator Prizes to Work

The Idea Accelerator offers amazing prizes, so take advantage of them. I have gone as far as where I am today because of LimeRed Studio’s “Fixie Dust” consultation package. Demetrio Cardona-Maguigad of LimeRed Studio guided me right from the get-go with his expertise in strategic communication, technology, and community engagement. Other prizes have also helped kick start STNT, from the web services by Pongos Interactive, to the Microsoft Surface tablet.

Embrace the Potholes

LimeRed Studio and I worked on a competition proposal for six weeks. We felt hopeful, so we were disappointed when we didn’t get into the competition. While this pothole may seem like a failure, in the scheme of things, it wasn’t. The exercise of proposal writing within a due date helped us to refine STNT concepts, develop talking points, and create content for the website.

It was also a humbling experience. All the start-up people I’ve spoken to took months, if not years, to develop their concepts and to pitch and get funding for their ideas.

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Work Your Network

I continue to lean on several people that I met at the Leading Change Summit for moral support. I also set weekly networking goals—reach out to at least one person I haven’t connected for a while and ask someone in my network to introduce me to someone else totally new. Working my network has paid off in several ways—from receiving invitations to speak to having a prototype made.

This month, a group of diverse people in my network helped design engagement activities at an upcoming activists’ conference in Portland. Through our collaborative process, we developed the “STNT Pursuit” (based on Trivial Pursuit) game to spark conversations with conference participants that will help expand the STNT lexicon.

Get Out There

Opportunities to speak about STNT not only generates interest, it is also a good feedback loop that strengthens the STNT concepts and talking points. I’ve sought out opportunities through conference open calls for proposals and by asking friends who are teachers to speak to their students.

Set Aside Ego

Getting out there involves being vulnerable, since I’m bound to come across people who may think STNT is a bad idea. Just like the potholes, I’ve learned to embrace negative feedback with open arms. The start-up sweet spot diagram has become a constant reminder to not only tolerate negative comments, but to welcome them. Setting aside my ego isn’t easy, of course. It takes practice. However, every time I let go of a specific view, I am surprised by the new things I learn from someone else.

Image credit: Sam Altman