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Connecting Communities for Social Justice — Organization's Motto
UrbanMinistry.org is a website with over 70,000 items of Creative Commons licensed content to assist faith-based social service organization in bringing community change. This makes it the largest libraries of faith-based Creative Commons content on the Web (to our knowledge). UrbanMinistry.org is a part of the nonprofit TechMission, Inc.
Before founding TechMission, in 1996 Andrew Sears co-founded the Internet Telephony Consortium, a multi-million dollar research group at MIT which studied the social implications of the Internet. Through his research there, he saw the importance of addressing the “digital divide,” which separates those with access to and training in technology from those without.
Our vision is that UrbanMinistry.org would be a website where if Martin Luther King Jr. were around today and trying to equip a new movement online, this is the type of website he would want to build. Our dream is to imagine a world where…
…there are hundreds of millions of training articles, videos, podcast and resources freely available on every nonprofit and social change topic
…90% of media is user created and directly reflects the diversity of the world
…there are thousands of free college courses available online on every topic in nonprofit management
…every person is able to find the area of greatest need in the world where they can serve that matches their skills and interests.
To achieve that dream, over the next 10 years, the goal of UrbanMinistry.org is to use the Internet to deliver over $700 million in resources from the faith-based community to provide social services to under-resourced communities. This will include serving over 50 million web visitors, placing 1 million volunteers, provide 150,000 items of Creative Commons content for nonprofits, providing nonprofit college courses to over 6,500 students and funding 700 full-time interns. The end goal is that these increased resources would enable organizations to serve millions of more individuals in under-resourced communities, with hundreds of thousands of individuals participating in youth programs, being placed in jobs and college, receiving educational certification and participating in rehabilitation programs.
UrbanMinistry.org is a mash-up utilizing partnerships with the largest Christian social service organizations in the world that serve over 15 million individuals from low-income communities each year. Our partners include the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, World Vision, Youth Partners Net, Christian Community Development Association, Urban Youth Workers Institute and thousands of local social service agencies. We enable these partners to rebrand our online volunteer matching service and Web 2.0 portal to serve their individual communities. This enables us to provide a common database of opportunities and set of tools across many different partners. We also provide Christian brands and secular brands of our online services so that we can effectively target Christian social service organizations while also providing resources without faith-content to other communities.
In addition to UrbanMinistry.org, TechMission also runs ChristianFreeware.org, which is the largest directory of Christian open source and free software, ChristianVolunteering.org, which is the largest directory of Christian volunteer opportunities and TechMission Corps, and AmeriCorps program that serves at-risk youth.
Content published on UrbanMinistry.org are made available under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Any member of the UrbanMinistry.org online community , such as a fellow online social change organization or a social justice blogger, is allowed to Share (copy, distribute and transmit) content as well Remix (adapt the work). However as they post content they must comply with conditions of attributing the work, using it for no commercial purposes. Also, if they choose to alter, transform or build upon existing work, it must be distributed under the same or similar license of UrbanMinistry.org .
In the first 5 months of 2009, UrbanMinistry.org (and related websites) served 1 million unique visitors, making it the most visited web portal for the faith based social services sector. As of May 2009, we have 72,481 total pages of content, which is machine translated into 41 languages resulting in over 376,000 pages of content indexed by Google.
Just as in secular media, there has been dramatic consolidation of Christian media that has limited the viewpoints to those of a few large corporations.
Currently the top 10 publishers represent 78.5% of the Christian publishing market, and over 50% of Christian publishing is owned by secular companies. Currently, only 5 companies control 80% of television. People of color make up 34% of the US population, but own 3.15% of television and 7.7% of radio. Women make up 51% of the population, but own 5.9% of television.
“Digital Gleaning and the Digital Second Harvest”
We believe that the Scriptural concept of “gleaning” can provide the scriptural basis for supporting Creative Commons (and similar initiatives) for those coming from the Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith background (since this concept is a part of their shared scriptures). The idea behind gleaning in Scripture is that farmers are told they should only make a first pass at collecting their crops in order to leave a small portion of their crops for the poor to pick up. The faith connection is helpful because the majority of the World’s poor come from one of these traditions.
Here is how it translates in a digital environment.
(1) In most cases, 95% of the profit from a media item is generated in the first 10 years of its release.
(2) Providing digital copies to the poor would only result in a very small loss of revenue (1-2%) as most of the poor cannot afford it.
(3) The value of digital media to the poor can be enormous. As non-tangible products become the majority of global GDP, providing “gleaning” of digital media to the poor could be transformative. Based on this, we are promoting an advocacy campaign for to concept of a “Digital Second Harvest” license category under Creative Commons. The basic principles are:
1)A key strategy of any socially responsible business should be to evaluate their digital assets and make most of their assets that have either
(a) lost most of their revenue generating potential or (b) are not affordable to the majority of the world’s poor
2) They would license these under a new type of Creative Commons license that limits the distribution of the materials to the poor. 3) Only registered non-governmental organizations (NGOs)/nonprofits and governmental organization could distribute these items.
4) These distribution centers would need to ensure that the license does not get abused by ensuring it only gets distributed to the poor or organizations serving the poor.
An example of this in action is http://www.techsoup.org/stock/ which provides hundreds of millions worth of free and discounted software from over 40 companies. Their model needs the legal framework so that it could be generalized to apply to more media formats and companies, and spread in the same way that Creative Commons has spread.
This will be critical as wireless data to cell phones globally enables a level of content access to the poor not seen before in history. We believe that the majority of the world’s content could be made available to the poor for free with only affecting revenue of for-profit companies by less than 1%. This loss of revenue would be justifiable to these companies both because they would be seeding the market for their future customers (who will pay once they get out of poverty) and from the PR generated by being a socially responsible business.