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Skagit Valley Hospital

Thinking Without Borders

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You’ve probably heard by now that Apple has just released a white iPhone 4.  In celebration of this “I can’t believe this is really news” event, I want to highlight a few very smart innovations in nonprofit use of the iPhone technology.

Amnesty International iPhone App

In my rural Idaho high school, I was one of perhaps five members of our local Amnesty International club.  Though we were few in number, we were a mighty force under the inspired leadership of our president Holly, who was also my biology lab partner. During several of our lunch hours, we took messages of criminal justice and human rights to our classmates in an effort to raise awareness and encourage them to sign a petition applying citizen activism in an effort to create change.

Amnesty International’s new iPhone app shows a very creative, highly symbolic resource for building an army of activists.  Modeled around a symbolic burning candle (which virtually smokes when you interact with it) the app displays the organization’s newest headlines along with an immediate opportunity for the user to take action in support of the causes of greatest significance to them. In doing this, they’ve made activism as simple as a click and as private as the activist desires.

While iPhone apps can be costly to develop, the outcomes are important: convenient ways for your supporters to show their support of your work, an opportunity to give each supporter a voice in your work, and a “reward” for their support (the candle is lit after you read articles or take action).

Reporters without Borders

The next interesting innovation in the use of iPhones comes from Reporters without Borders .  In print ads, larger-than-life headshots of Muammar Gaddafi, Vladimir Putin, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were printed along with a QR Code (little black and white squares that link to data sources) which would load a video of a talking mouth that when strategically placed over the headshot gave the impression of the world leader speaking.  With the tag “Some mouths will never speak the truth” the content of the speech was actually that of a reporter informing the listener of the injustices that foreign journalists face at the hands of these governments.  Learn more about it here.

While political activism is not for everyone, the key lesson from the Reporters without Borders strategy is this: creativity doesn’t have to be costly to make a significant impact.

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