Category Archives: Community Development

Online collaboration tools for effective Virtual Communities

I am continually searching for tools and new technologies that I can use to build virtual communities and to more effectively collaborate with colleagues in diverse locations. While email is still a useful tool for communicating, it’s functionality is quite limited. I’ve done a little bit of research to try to discover tools that can extend the range of functions available to me and enable closer more productive working relationships with people in my far-flung networks. Here are some of the results that I have gleaned from various sources.

I have, for some time, been using Skype, Dropbox, and Google Docs, but have not yet tried some others that appear below.

I am eager to have readers contribute by providing comments and suggestions of their favorite tools.

Checklist of Features

  • Action Planning
  • Brainstorming
  • Contact Management
  • Content Management
  • Discussion Board
  • Document Management
  • Email Integration
  • Group Calendars
  • Instant Messaging
  • Project Management
  • Task Management
  • User Access Controls
  • Version Control


6 Free Easy-to-Use Online Collaboration Tools – Make Teamwork Simple

From Trendblog:


Dropbox is probably one tool that we use most for collaboration. With this little software, we are able to have access to all our documents, files, articles and everything else.

As we are all tech junkies, we own quite a few pieces of technology, including multiple notebooks, tablets and smartphones. And we can access our files from each gadget we own. Dropbox is compatible with all popular computer- and mobile platforms. There are native apps built for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Android, iOS and Blackberry. Also, you can access your Dropbox from the internet browser. Check out the Dropbox system requirements.

If you aren’t using Dropbox for teamwork, you should definitely consider doing it immediately. This tool allows you to create so-called “shared folders“, which will appear in every team member’s computer. Any file, which has been uploaded to those folders, can be accessed by every person with access to it.

Make sure to check out our post about unusual ways to use Dropbox and how to get more Dropbox space for free!

Dropbox is a must-have for everyone. Seriously.

Screenhero is one of the best tools for screen-sharing&  voice chat collaboration.

For instance, if you are working on some kind presentation or any other document, you can simply share your screen with your team and work together on your screen. With Screenhero, all participants will have their own cursor on your screen and will be able to edit documents.


If you happen to be in the same situation as us, Skype is probably an application, which you never close. For me it is the most used application on my computer.

All internal communication within the team happens via Skype, either through IM Messaging or video-calls. In spite of being separated by at least 1.500 miles (2.500 km) from each other it seems like we are sitting together in one office.

Google Docs

Sometimes we need to work on one document together at the same time. With Google Docs you can do that very easily; This tool allows you to create online documents, presentations and spreadsheets. You don’t even need to have any office software installed – everything happens right in your browser or via the mobile app for iOS and Android.

Just create a document and share the link with other people. Now you can edit the document together at the same time in live-mode.

Google Hangouts

With Skype you can only video-chat with 2 people for free. And that’s the reason why we sometimes use Google Hangouts. This tool allows you to have a video-conference with up to 100 people for free.

The new Google Hangouts are great to keep all your communication in one place and synchronized. For the sake of testing the new Hangouts we have ditched all other online communication tools. Make sure to check out our review.


Over the last few months we have tested pretty much every free team/project collaboration tool out there, including popular ones like Asana and Podio. After trying them we didn’t really feel that these tools were making our lives easier. Instead, managing our projects has become a complicated chore.

But there is one tool out there which is different. Trello uses a card-based system for keeping your project overview as simple as possible. You can create custom columns like “To-Do” or “In Progress” which you will use to organize individual tasks. The tasks will be then added as a small card to the column. For each card you can set a due date, write comments, assign people to it and many more.

Asana, Podio and alike are made for managers. Trello is made for people.

One especially great thing about Trello is the user experience. The interface is very simple to use. For example, you can drag every card from column to column (i.e. after completing a task) and assign people to the card by dragging their profile picture onto the card.

Also, Trello probably has the best mobile and tablet collaboration app out there. The experience is exactly what you would expect from an app, with many features taken from the system it runs on. For example, you can delete tasks on your iPad by swiping them to the left, which will reveal a red “delete” button. This looks very much like the native iOS deleting feature. All of these combined make sure that your learning curve is as smooth as possible and you won’t get a headache while using it.

Check out the video below for a demonstration of how Trello works.


I will also add which combines most features the above six apps have in one package.

Great list and as owner of a start-up, I would recommend Dooster. It takes care of all my virtual collaboration needs. Check them out

Thanks for the detailed post . I would like to add iCoordinator Free. You can add read more and register it here.…

Also have a look at It is a great online collaboration and project management tool that makes handling work easier, faster and better.

These are some good tools. But we use Drum ( which combines all of the collaboration tools into one easy to use (WebRTC) browser based tool with no downloads. At the moment they allow you to use it for free which is an added bonus!

Thanks for the list. I agree with the usefulness of most of the tools you listed excepted for Trello. Trello is fine but I think it lacks a note taking feature. For people having many meetings like most of white-collar professionals, a good note-taking feature is a must-have. This is why I prefer using Beesy (… ). me, that has a dynamic note-takign feature from which all the To-dos, calendar, project management feature are updated and managed. More generally, I think all-in-one apps like Beesy are the best tools if you want to get more productive.

Some great tools there Daniel! We have been using a tool called Drum ( here at CIM with a couple of the additional ones up there. Dropbox has been a good place for us to centrally store reports etc. However we use Drum to host our web meetings and collaborate on documents. There hasn’t been any need to download anything and everyone can join. Its also free which has been an added bonus for our budget!

Just a couple of tools, which we use in our team:

Evernote for knowledge sharing. instead of Dropbox instead of trello.

I will also add which combines most features the above six apps have in one package.

Affordable Housing: Here’s a great article to help you find it.

An article in Shareable, describes, 11 Affordable Housing Alternatives for City Dwellers.

“After World War II, white, middle-class Americans flocked to the suburbs from the city. Today, that trend is reversing. As post-suburbanites move back into cities, escalating housing costs are forcing low and middle income folks and people of color out to the suburbs. This shift was described by Alan Ehrenhalt in his 2013 book, The Great Inversion. The result is that the diverse communities that make cities resilient creative centers are being displaced or forced to find new, affordable housing options.

“In June, Shareable partnered with the San Francisco Public Press to explore the housing crisis. Through a series of articles and an event dubbed Hack the Housing Crisis we looked at causes of and solutions to the housing crisis. While the event was focused on San Francisco – the most expensive housing market in the United States – cities around the world are facing similar problems or soon will be.

“Through the month of June, we published articles about public housing done right,  new rules for in-law suites in San Francisco, biourbanism, housing auctions in Detroit, a follow-up to Hack the Housing Crisis, and more. Our partners at San Francisco Public Press also ran a number of housing stories online and are issuing a special housing-themed print edition of their paper this month.

“Here, we’ve rounded up 11 affordable housing alternatives for city dwellers because if we want cities to thrive, we need to rethink how we house everybody, not just the rich.”

Read the rest of the story.

Preserving the commons

On The Commons is a “commons movement strategy center.” It provides a great deal of useful information via its website, newsletter and magazine. A recent post describes Legal Structures for Protecting the Commons. You can read it here.

Group process: creating safe space

I recently attended a conference in Michigan (2011 Local Future Conference: Vision, Action, Leadership) which also had some elements of a retreat. The organizer, Aaron Wissner, presented participants with some guidelines that I think are generally useful in group situations, especially those in which the sharing of deeply personal experiences and feelings are important to achieving the goals of the group. I’m not sure where they originated but here they are:

1) COME TO WORK WITH 100% OF THE SELF. Set aside the usual distractions of phone mail, e-mail, things undone from yesterday, things to do tomorrow. Bring all of yourself to the work, not just the parts of yourself and your experience that would be obviously relevant to this work. “I” statements–speaking for oneself–help to support this full presence.

2) PRESUME WELCOME AND EXTEND WELCOME. Understand that in so doing it is possible to emerge refreshed and less burdened than when you came, even with some surprises!

3) UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS GENUINE FREEDOM IN THE CIRCLE. The rule is INVITATION not INVASION, OPPORTUNITY, not DEMAND. It requires that we acknowledge Silence as an honored and eloquent member of our community.

4) LISTEN WITH “SOFT EYES,” WITH COMPASSION. The safety of our space will be enhanced as we listen without interruption to each other’s stories, with compassion and understanding, finding that of ourselves in each other, and in our varied experiences. This is what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke called being present with “soft eyes.”

5) DEEP CONFIDENTIALITY, DOUBLE CONFIDENTIALITY. Our work requires us to commit ourselves to a special, deep confidentiality which promises that you will not speak outside this group of what is shared here. Further, double confidentiality requires us to commit ourselves to never raise again with the sharing person, or others in the group, the deeply personal confidences shared especially in a clearness committee, or walk-and-talk.

6) WHEN THINGS GET DIFFICULT, TURN TO WONDER. Commit yourself to a new approach to being together: when you hear difficult things, mysterious things, or perhaps ideas which seem to fly in the face of your usual way of looking at things, let your first response be that of WONDER rather than harsh judgment or criticism. Switch from saying to ASKING–from stating to QUESTIONING, from advocating for your opinion to INQUIRY about the other’s…move from knowing WONDERING. Thus we are open to learning from each other.

7) NO FIXING. Believe in the voice of the Inner Teacher; believe that there is wisdom resident in each of us which allows us to bring extraordinary light to bear on our own issues. No “SAVING” allowed here!

#     #     #

Does Democracy Have a Chance?

Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute does some fine work. For several years he’s been compiling a list of resources for democracy and participation.  In a recent newsletter, he provided some recent additions to the list. Here is what he said.-t.h.g. 

Here is what we’ve found so far.  Please spread the word and share with us any other sites that describe multiple resources on these subjects.

1. Participedia –

2. ParticipateDB –

3. The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation’s Resource pages –, especially

4. Orton Family Fund’s “Community Matters” –

5. Craigslist Foundation’s LikeMinded –

6. WiserEarth – e.g., and and others

7. – e.g., and and others

8. A Pattern Language for Group Process –

9. People and –

10. Deliberative Democracy Helpline –

11. Co-intelligence Institute lists:

a. Community Resources from the Co-Intelligence Institute – (includes extensive materials on multi-process programs)

b. (which features )

12.  Involve:  e.g., (they used to have a great glossary wiki with methods and ideas but it seems to have disappeared…)

13. E-Democracy –

14. Tom Atlee’s list of participatory budgeting resources –

Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding Resources

Here is a brief compilation of some Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding websites I’m aware of. Crowdfunding is being increasingly used to fund enterprises that serve the community and the common good.–t.h.g.

Updated January 18, 2012

“Everything and anything crowdsourcing”

Learn about the explosive growth of crowdsourcing to share ideas, information and content. Search our communities to see how crowdsourcing is being used to create, raise funds, engage customers, innovate, share knowledge, make predictions, promote social and environmental causes. Discover what crowdsourcing tools and platforms are available.

Share your knowledge of who’s doing what in crowdsourcing by uploading articles, documents, videos, blogs and news posts and also get involved in our question and answer forums. Assign your content submissions to the crowdsourcing communities of your choice to make your content easy to find. Educate and inform others and grow your knowledge.

Connect. is the place to connect and network with others that can learn from you and teach you. Join in the dialogue, share your views, interact online with other members. The more active you are the more you will benefit from being part of a network of Crowdsourcing followers and experts.



IndieGoGo helps you raise more money, from more people, faster.

Have something you are passionate about? You can create a funding campaign to raise money quickly and securely by tapping into your network of supporters and beyond. Our trusted platform has helped to raise millions of dollars for over 15,000 campaigns, across 157 countries.

Designed to meet your funding needs, anyone can start raising money immediately on IndieGoGo. Offer unique perks or tax deductions to your contributors in lieu of offering profit, but always keep 100% ownership. Each campaign has the opportunity to be featured on our homepage, placed in the press, or exposed via social media.

Join the tens of thousands of people that are visiting IndieGoGo everyday – start your campaign or find something to fund!



Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.

We believe that:

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.



Go Get Funding lets you raise money for personal plans, events, causes and more.

Use our site to support people you know, or others you can get to know!
Along with the satisfaction of helping people, you´ll also enjoy any rewards offered by fundraisers.

The Amazon Mechanical Turk

The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that enables computer programmers (known as Requesters) to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do. It is one of the suites of Amazon Web Services. The Requesters are able to pose tasks known as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks), such as choosing the best among several photographs of a store-front, writing product descriptions, or identifying performers on music CDs. Workers (called Providers in Mechanical Turk’s Terms of Service) can then browse among existing tasks and complete them for a monetary payment set by the Requester. To place HITs, the requesting programs use an open Application Programming Interface, or the more limited Mturk Requester site. [from Wikipedia]

Harvey Wasserman on ownership and class warfare

It may not really be “socialism,” but community ownership seems to be both sane and fair. The new Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are the prime example. They are the only community-owned team in the NFL, but as Wasserman points out that ownership structure is no longer allowed. Why not? It seems to fit the pattern of privatization and dispossession that has been going on for a very long time. Recent examples are the demutualization of banks and insurance companies that I wrote about in my book, The End of Money. What will it take to reverse that tide and bring freedom back to organized sports? A boycott by fans might be a place to start, followed by the creation of new teams and leagues that make community ownership a requisite condition.–t.h.g.

Socialism triumphs at Super Bowl as class war looms
Harvey Wasserman
February 7, 2011 

Socialism has again triumphed at the Super Bowl.

The only major sports team owned by the community in which it lives has toughed out its fourth modern-era National Football League championship.

But the billionaire bosses of the rest of the league may be about to again assault the players—and the rest of us—who make it all possible.

Predictably, though FOX broadcast the Super Bowl, CBS refused to air a player’s union ad that was to air during another game on February 5.

The Packers’ gritty win underscores the kind of ownership that should be in place for all major sports teams. As a part owner (3 shares) of the Packers, I hate watching greedy union-busting bosses blackmail whole cities for tax breaks and new stadiums. They whine about “losses” but won’t open their books to the public or players.

The owners’ poster child is Daniel Snyder, whose Washington Redskins bears the most inexcusably racist moniker in America. Snyder is now suing the local alternative paper for an in-depth article he claims libeled him.

With some notable exceptions—like the now deceased Abe Pollin, who changed the name of the cross-town NBA Bullets—the owners treat these franchises like toys. They get taxpayers to fund obscenely overpriced arenas that double as private palaces and that always drain the communities that can afford it least. Then they threaten to leave town unless they get whatever they want.

Which now includes a huge give-back from the players and numerous other concessions.

The players are certainly well-paid by current national standards. And they’re hardly a band of angels. But unlike the owners, the game doesn’t happen without them.

And we’re only beginning to grasp the seriousness of the injuries many endure. Countless concussions suffered as “part of the game” could have been mitigated throughout league history by facing up to the issue and demanding better helmets and thoughtful rule changes.

The issue is doubly serious because the game as played downstream from colleges to little leagues mimics the NFL. Thousands of young people copying the big leaguers have suffered needless injury, often with lifelong impact.

But owners will almost always protect the status quo. And their corporate media will bill this likely lockout as a fight between “millionaires and billionaires.”

In fact, it’s between workers and owners.

As the superb sports commentator Dave Zirin has shown players who dare to speak out on issues of social justice often face serious repercussions from owners and the mainstream media.

Network sports bloviators love to rhapsodize on the small-town “cheese-head” roots of the Packers. But they never mention its not-for-profit status, or that the league now bans such ownership for other teams.

This is the great tragedy of American professional sports. Those of us who love these games, and the communities that support them, deserve to own the teams.

As the Packers have shown yet again, a not-for-profit enterprise can win the big games. And when owned by the towns in which they play, players and the society as a whole can win too.

Congratulations, fellow cheese-heads. May the rest of professional sports crumble at the feet of our community-based, not-for-profit ownership model.

And at those of the people who make the game possible by actually playing it.

HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is and This article was originally published by The Free Press,

The Progressive’s Guide To Raising Hell by Jamie Court

Watch this three minute video for some ideas on how you can change things.

Crowd Accelerated Innovation

I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to how humans might achieve the levels of sharing, cooperation, and organization that are needed to address the global mega-crisis that threatens civilization and our very survival as a species.

It is evident that web-based video is developing to the point where it can become a revolutionary force in communications and information sharing. This TED lecture highlights what it is doing right now to enhance creativity and realize the potential of group intelligence.  This is only one aspect of the power of the crowd when it has the necessary information, motivation, and common purpose.   — t.h.g.

Security and Survival

I don’t like to think about it either, but in conditions of instability and disintegration, it is only prudent to give some thought to possible scenarios and acquire some basic knowledge that you may need.

I am very impressed with the quality of the advice provided on the Survival Podcast. This latest episode addresses the topic of  Security During a Breakdown.

Here’s a description from the website:

We are going to look at a bit of a darker subject today.  We are going to discuss security and not security on a day to day basis against say robbers, thugs and general low life.  We are going to discuss secruity and security planning for large scale and long term break downs.  Today’s show was prompted by Episodes 1 and 2 of season two of Discovery Channel’s show “The Colony”.  I have watch thus far in disbelief at how little attention the people on that show have paid to security and how little they understand the threat and honestly survival as a whole.

Today’s show won’t be totally based on The Colony, it will simply use it as a jumping off point so even if you haven’t or don’t plan on watching it today’s show should be a good one for you.  Security is one of the five primary components of survival and the one that is most overlooked, often not an issue but the one that when needed can get you killed in a milisecond.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • The five primary components of survival
    • Food
    • Water
    • Shelter
    • Fire
    • Security
  • Understanding the threat to your safety
  • Consideration about where you “make your stand”
  • Six methods of attack mitigation
    • Appease
    • Impede
    • Repel
    • Evade
    • Misdirect
    • Terminate
  • Identifying the weak spots
  • The lesson of 300 – Funnel an enemy to counter large numbers
  • How and why guns change the entire equation on both sides
  • The importance and difference between security “protocols” and “procedures”
  • Splitting up resources – no central storage points
  • Developing and deploying decoy resources
  • Developing timberlines and evac plans

I highly recommend it. A little bit of forethought can make a big difference in the quality of your life, in any situation. — t.h.g.