Thursday, May 22, 2008

Connecting Up 2008 conference - Brisbane - the wash-up

Just back, tired but immensely satisfied, from our organisation's Connecting Up 2008 conference in Brisbane. Over 320 delegates attended over the 2 days, including the 2nd annual Australian Community ICT Awards and a full-day workshop with Beth Kanter on the third day.
This year's theme was 'Online and Off to the Future', with a special emphasis on the growing importance of the social web or Web 2.0 to the nonprofit sector globally and locally. Over 40 break-out sessions over the 2 days covered topics ranging from using mobile phones to connect to homeless young people, to saving the traditional languages of Indigenous peoples.

Keynote speaker on Day 1, Bill Strathmann (CEO, Network for Good) highlighted the way that social web tools are transforming the online giving and volunteering experience of US nonprofits. Book-ending the day was the vastly entertaining Australian futurist, Richard Neville, who enthralled not only those who remembered his days as a media enfant terrible but young people looking for signposts to 'where to from here?'

The conference dinner, at the Brisbane Ruby League Club overlooking the Brisbane River, included the 2nd annual Australian Community ICT Awards presentation. Proud winners accepted their Awards with both humour and moving passion.

Karma Currency, of Melbourne, was named Innovator of the Year for its pledge to cut down the billions of dollars spent on unwanted gifts by diverting these funds to charities using a web-based Charity Gift Voucher scheme.

Sydney-based GetUp! won the Best Web Strategy for its social activism site, which has successfully encouraged Australians to stand up for social justice, environmental sustainability and economic fairness. GetUp has made the most of the social web’s potential to influence and channel widespread opinion to gain political outcomes. It has even been credited with helping shape the outcome of the 2007 Federal Election. As GetUp executive director Brett Solomon says, “The GetUp culture is deeply Australian – a cheeky mate-to-mate callout for change in the face of bad leadership.”

Queensland’s Quicksites won for its use of ICT to connect to the community. The company’s UCare system began as an online database designed to help the local METRO church keep in touch with members and visitors, and has evolved into a smart, low-cost customer relationship management tool for any nonprofit setting. Unlike sales-oriented CRM tools, the judges said, “UCare has been designed to build a true sense of community, encouraging a profound sense of belonging”.

Young People Connected won the Telecommunications award for its mobile phone technology, which reaches out to some 46,000 young homeless people every night, across Australia. YPC is the result of collaboration between the Vodafone Australia Foundation (VAF) and three not-for-profit organisation, Barnardos Australia, Mission Australia and Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets, and their young clients.

The Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association and Support Link Australia were joint winners for Best Use of Software.

Arwarbukarl impressed the judging panel with the Miromaa Language Program, which uses technology to help preserve and reclaim our native languages. Miromaa allows users to gather all evidence of language in one place, whether the language is in text or audio formats. It was developed through a process of consultation with community based language groups from all around Australia and is now being used in programs in all states.

The SupportLink Referral Communication and Management System is a web based application that enhances early intervention outcomes for vulnerable individuals and families. It does this by establishing web-based ground rules for police officers and other intermediaries to proactively refer persons they come into contact with for social assistance.
This eliminates the need for people to self navigate their way to support. The system was designed to overcome agency and service fragmentation within the area of referral communication.

Day 2 keynote was Beth Kanter, who took us on a journey to the bleeding edge of the social web but in a way that that made sense and infected us all with her enthusiasm for blogging, Twittering, mobile web streaming and a myriad other tools. She was followed by Stephen Alexander, strategy advisor from End Point, who emphasised the importance of strategy in connecting with the people that are important to your organisation. At the end of Day 2 a panel involving Bill Strathmann, Beth Kanter, Aba Maison from the UK, Rufina Fernandes from India, John Fung from Hong Kong-China, Tina Reid from New Zealand, and Lisa Harvey from Australia shared their take-outs from the conference.

The excitement and energy coming out of the conference this year were palpable and it was clear that the social web theme had attracted a younger audience than normal. It was also clear that moving the conference from Adelaide to Brisbane was a popular choice. When I get my own full energy back I'll try to draw oigether some of the threads that emerged but, in the meantime of you were there it would be great to get your comments.

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