Posted by: Nathaniel | March 20, 2008

The Story behind “”

As you know, we’re currently competing in Netsquared’s Mashup Challenge competition with our project, “”

The project is built around the simple idea that average citizens could play an important role in helping community-led development and civil society transition after conflict around the world. As we write on the “big idea” page of, the challenge is that disaster-relief organizations like Doctors Without Borders face institutional prerogatives to move their resources towards new crisis areas, leaving the community institutions which sprung up to support their original, vital work left struggling to find resources.

The idea behind is to give average citizens, whose priorities don’t necessarily change conflict-to-conflict, the information they need to better collaborate and align their efforts with ongoing work. By helping people see what projects are happening where, which issues they seek to address, and what actors are involved, provides the vital foundation for collaboration.

It was in Kosovo that the notion of community-to-community support in post-conflict situations first popped into my head. In July 2005, I was visiting community-based organizations and nonprofits all around the Balkans, Middle East, and East Africa, exploring how young people were getting involved in local and global civil society.

We had the good fortune to meet with a number of youth-led peace forums. These were associations of students and young people who came from diverse ethnic backgrounds and undertook activities such as discussion forums and youth journalism to explore the ethnic stereotypes and divisions that divided their society but which seemed intolerable to them.

These young people were far more comfortable with the notion of pluralism and volunteerism than were their parents, who had grown up in a divided socialist society, under which ethnic tensions were allowed to fester. For a time, as the international community raced to intervene in the Balkans, these youth associates found themselves with the resources to carry out their programming. They had access, for example, to office space and printers.

By the time my friend Alex and I arrived in 2005, however, the money had started to flow elsewhere. Darfur and the Tsunami had caused a major diversion of resources. The civil society organizations and youth peace forums were had to quickly adapt or die away. While there is an element of natural selection necessary in any nonprofit sector in a specific location, we found so many good projects carrying out productive conversations within a vital and at-risk population who were simply fading away. These community leaders needed support.

There is an opportunity however. Relief and development work around the world are largely funded by average citizens. Individual Americans, for example, give more than six times as much to philanthropic causes as foundations. It is these same Americans who grow inflamed when they see needless conflict destroying lives around the world.

We believe with the right information, their frustration can be channeled to long-term, collaboration with community leaders around the world.



  1. […] After Ory Okolloh had to drop out due to medical restrictions, we are pleased to announce that the new co-panelist for our panel at TEDC on July 31 at Makerere University. Read more about the project she’s involved with at “The Story Behind Uganda“. […]

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