Since last summer, NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program (OFP) members have been participating in an online learning community we started on Ning.com.
With 6 organizations based in California and 6 based in Minnesota in the OFP , NGEC wanted to experiment with ways to bridge the distances through an online accessible space for folks to stay in touch, share information, and conduct peer learning. Although there were many options out there for social networking platforms (including things like Facebook or customizable platforms like, Elgg) Ning has turned out to be a good choice for us for several reasons:
- simple to use & set up — great for experimenting with minimal staff time/resources
- ability to have a private log-in social network — to protect users’ privacy & allow for more candid peer discussions about challenges
- free! — (well, sort of) Ning has sponsored ads on the sidebar, which most folks don’t seem to mind; you can buy a paid account to remove them.
- sufficient features & functionality – free, of course, doesn’t include all the bells & whistles and has limited customization, but it had just about everything we needed: discussion forums, document sharing, blogs, groups, photos, etc. So for NGEC, the trade off for easy theming and set up was absolutely worth dealing with some of Ning’s limitations.
Perhaps the most important benefit, however, was in being able to introduce a technology that could be useful to the 12 groups beyond the OFP’s 3 years. It made more sense to build our groups’ technical capacity through an openly available online platform, rather than have folks start from scratch in learning a customized system just for their activities with NGEC.
Our hope was that by using Ning.com as the online community site for the NGEC program work & peer learning, that folks could then apply those new skills to create their own Ning social network for their organization, group, or campaigns. One concrete impact of using Ning so far is that one of the 12 OFP partners in Minnesota, Mu Performing Arts, created and now runs their own Ning site for their taiko drumming program!
If you’d like to learn more about how nonprofits can use Ning.com, watch this free online seminar (or “webinar”) hosted by TechSoup.org Talks! https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/schedule/display.do?udc=4mne2fxs4r1c
And if you’re interested in NGEC’s work and our approach to “educational technology” for nonprofits, drop me an email (Gladys Malibiran, Educational Technology Coordinator)… or let us know in the comments how your group/nonprofit has used Ning or similar web 2.0/educational technology tools in your work.