For some time, Sean Larkin of ThinkShout and I have been collaborating on projects, none bigger than Watershed Now, a Drupal distribution targeted at conservation groups. I am not being modest when I say that I have played a bit role and Sean has been the main force behind the concept and implementation. As with any project that is not directly billable, though, it needs some dedicated funding to help move it forward and that's why we are applying for a Knight News Challenge grant.
Watershed Now is a Drupal distribution developed to support the common content management, social media, online advocacy, fundraising, and mapping needs of conservation organizations.
Among other features, Watershed Now provides easy-to-use content management tools, email-to-blog features, online event registration, donation pages and reports, online mapping tools, e-petition tools with legislative lookups, and advanced multimedia and social network integration. The distribution also ships with three stock Drupal themes in a variety of color options. Watershed Now websites are highly-customizable. For example, there are more than 60 available variations on the homepage layout.
Watershed Now builds upon our team's more than 4,000 hours of custom Drupal develop for conservation organizations over the last 2 years. Drawing from this experience and pulling together the best of the tools we've developed, Watershed Now drops the production time of a robust, beautiful conservation website by more than 300%.
Watershed Now was released this quarter. We will end the year with 17 paid installations.
What makes our hybrid "open source product and paid service" model unique is that in addition to providing the platform, we are actively collaborating with communications trainers and media specialists to provide regional, paid "Web Sprints" - in which we bring together 12-20 conservation organizations for a weekend boot camp to train on the platform, work on messaging, and launch new websites. Because of the economies of scale, we can provide these trainings at a highly-reduced cost, while also building community around the Drupal distribution and its suite of tools.
Watershed Now is self-sustaining right now as a software development tool - as well as a training/collaboration model. We are proud of that. We work with national and regional conservation organizations to host the web sprints. We work with regional foundations to make matching-grant scholarships available to further reduce the costs of participating in the sprint trainings.
However, with additional resources we could do much, much more. We seek to expand the sprint program to provide better training materials and more convening opportunities for the community. We also seek to enhance the Drupal distribution in four areas:
First, to provide better CRM (constituent relationship management) database integration with 3rd-party fundraising and communications management platforms. Second, to provide better data and news visualization tools. Third, to provide an aggregation tool that allows organizations using Watershed Now to share data, multimedia content and other information that bring the human narrative and personal stories of environmental conservation to life. And finally, we'd like to build a mobile web interface for the distribution such that environmental advocates out in the field can more immediate share their experiences in the field and on the river.
About the The Knight News Challenge
The Knight News Challenge is a media innovation contest that aims to advance the future of news by funding new ways to digitally inform communities. As much as $5 million will be given away this year. The contest’s slogan is “You Invent. We Fund it.” And we mean it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can apply. Applicants must only follow three rules. The project must: 1) Use digital, open-source technology to 2) Distribute news in the public interest and 3) Fit into one of four categories.
It is seeking projects in these four categories:
- Mobile: Seeks projects that use mobile devices to produce, deliver, consume, share and otherwise engage with news. The category reflects the fact that the mobile phone, with 5 billion units in use, has become an important tool for news.
- Authenticity category: Looks for projects that help people better understand the reliability of news and information sources. We're hoping to identify promising ideas for helping citizens negotiate our oft-chaotic media world. How can we help news users better evaluate the validity and trustworthiness of news and information? How can we better filter and assess the credibility of what we read and watch?
- Sustainability: Considers new economic models supporting news and information. New ways of conducting and consuming journalism may require new ways of paying for it. We're open to ideas for generating revenue as well as ways to reduce costs.
- Community: Seeks groundbreaking technologies that support news and information specifically within defined geographic areas. This is designed to jump-start work on technologies and approaches that haven't arrived yet. Unlike the first three categories, submissions in this area must be tested in a geographically designated community.
We feel that Watershed Now strongly addresses needs in all four! We would love for you take a moment and review our application, and, if you're so inclined, show your support by voting on it. Thanks!