Posted 22 November, 2011 by Alix Dunn

New Tools on Display at Aspiration’s Non-Profit Dev Summit

It seems that technology converges more and more often with social change missions. While this convergence doesn’t always lead to success, it can produce great new projects and tools. Aspiration Tech, an excellent support organization working with social change organizations and technology, held its annual Non Profit Dev Summit last week in Oakland.

The event brought together technologists, advocates, and civil society from the US and beyond doing cutting edge work for social change. Here are some of the ventures that caught my eye:


The Guardian Project’s Derek Holiday presented the Orbot Android app in a break out session during the conference. Orbot acts as a Tor app for Android phones. In lay speak it offers mobile phone users with anonymity and circumvention capability – Orbot confuses any would-be monitors by pinging your website requests all around the web. This makes it possible to access websites blocked in your country (by making it seem as if you are in another country) and also makes you really tough to track because your web surfing goes through so many intermediaries before reaching the server of the website you are visiting.


Using new features in HTML5, Skye Bender-deMoll and Greg Michalec have developed open source code to help turn relational data into revealing visualizations. Angels of the Right, a visual representation of how conservative funding foundations spend their money, provides an excellent sample of how they have used the code. The data used for the project was culled from 990 forms of each of the foundations. The code for the mapping is called NodeViz and can be found here.

Social Coding for Good

Benetech, the non-profit organization dedicated to developing technologies that support advocacy and humanitarian efforts, is in the process of launching a clearinghouse for developers wanting to use time on “social coding for good.” The aim of the program is to provide a space where non-profits can list projects, and developers can surf projects based on interest and availability. Seems like an excellent way to make processes of finding the right talent for the right programming challenge more efficient and easier for developers looking to support social change.

Document Cloud

Have you ever wanted to analyze, upload, and share primary source documents that help you tell a story? The Document Cloud, managed by the Investigative Reporters and Editors, can help. The service provides private space for document comparison that is shielded from other users, but also allows for documents to be uploaded into the public cloud. This process allows journalist’s to link to clear, supporting documentation; it also encourages readers to raise their expectations – if a primary document is referred to in an article, a reader should have no difficulty tracking back to the document by hyperlink.

There were many other inspiring projects underway by participants at the Non Profit Dev Summit – if you were there I encourage you to add the ones that you found to be the most useful for your work.

Related articles