• SocialForges

last modified August 3, 2008 by strypey

A list of websites that are examples of the sort of collaborative, solutions-orientated tools we want to have as part of the Alternatives site.

Strypey: Originally the idea of this page was to collect a list of sites trying to do similar things to what Alternatives IMC was intended to accomplish. Then we used it as a networking base to invite more like-minded alternatives enthusiasts to get involved in the Alt-IMC project. If we keep adding relevant sites to this list, we could use it to invite participation in the Alternatives IMC beta site when it goes up. However, this page is getting messy. I think it would be good to come up with some categories and make separate pages for each one.

Strypey: I have added more information about each of these sites as well as adding a couple more sites to the list. Eventually it would be good to list the following information for every site:

  • Title (linked)
  • Host/ Owner/
  • Political/ editorial structure
  • Philosophy/ Mission/ Goal statement
  • Style (wiki, blog etc)/ Level of interactivity/
  • license applied to content
  • means of output/ application of solutions ideas generated/ connection to real communities

I think the top 5 of the general section come closest to what Alternatives IMC is setting out to achieve.



  • Hosted by mutualaid.org
  • "Socialforge.net is a collaborative laboratory of social research and action, a multilingual meeting place for all those who are interested to make the world a better place to live and to directely act, as individuals, for a positive social change."

Jay: DIFFERENCES: Socialforge is the closest of all the sites on this page to the spirit of the intended collaborative/participatory elements of the Indymedia Alternatives project. The difference would be that the Alternatives IMC would also have a traditional IMC "front end" -- an information-oriented IMC site layout and feel with features about alternatives and an open publishing newswire. This will enable the Alternatives IMC site to be familiar to anyone who has ever visited an IMC, inspiring them to post their information about alternatives to the newswire and get involved with the editorial collective. It will also build the Alternatives IMC as an indispensable resource for information about all kinds of alternatives. People who want to learn about alternatives in a straigtforward way will come to the Alternatives IMC site, as well as those who want to participate in building them through the participatory parts of the site.

COLLABORATION: Magius is one of the people involved in making both projects tick so I'm sure he's already light years ahead of me in thinking how we can weave them together. I'd imagine the Alternatives IMC site basing our participatory components fairly closely on Socialforge.


  • "The idea behind the ourproject.org initiative is for it to be a tool which encourages the cooperative work effort of all types of people from every part of the world, promoting the coming together of people and the exchange of ideas and solutions to problems, with the condition that the results of the projects will remain freely accessible to whoever may find them useful, within this tool."
  • licensed under Creative Commons

Jay: DIFFERENCES: The same "difference" from above applies. In addition to a participatory workspace, the Alternatives IMC site will be a place for news and other information about alternatives, provided in a familiar Indymedia format.

COLLABORATION: I'm wondering if/how we'd be able to blend the collaborative groups involved with sites like socialforge and ourproject so people working on similar things could know that others are out there working on the same stuff. Perhaps rather than just create an entirely new participatory space as part of Indymedia Alternatives, we could act as a meta-site, coordinating between all these other collaborative alternatives-oriented sites to make sure everyone knows about each other and the work they're all doing. In a sense that's what we'd be doing in the other, informational aspects of the site, regarding news about alternatives. Rather than creating all our own content, the site will be gathering information and news from those who already create content and allowing people to publish their own content to the newswires. So, maybe rather than create a new alternatives-oriented collaborative site, we could start to think of ways to act as a coordinator of "information" that already exists on other collaborative sites. Just an idea I'm having as I'm looking at some of these other already-existing projects.


  • Hosted by the Open Planning Project
  • "OpenPlans is the work of The Open Planning Project (TOPP), a New York City-based non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing citizen and public interest group participation in community planning processes through technology. TOPP imagines OpenPlans? as a free, hosted, and shared suite of community organizing tools, and we look forward to providing you with an ever-increasing toolkit for getting things done."
  • develops their own open source CMS, OpenCore?
  • no clear licensing scheme

Open Coop

  • "Our current projects are guided by these principles. We see them as the first steps towards a global network of self-organised Local Open Co-ops which we hope will eventually become entirely self funding as an ethical trading network with unique features including reputation and trust feedback mechanisms, flexible (user-definable) group-based policy/decision making rules, and complementary barter and micro-credit currencies."
  • aims to develop their own CMS, PlaNet?
  • CreativeCommons?-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licensed


  • A project of the Natural Capital Institute
  • "WiserEarth is a community directory and networking forum for not for profit and non-governmental organizations addressing the central issues of our day: climate change, poverty, the environment, peace, water, hunger, social justice, conservation, human rights, and more. Content is created by people like you from around the world."
  • structured as open directory and wiki pages
  • Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Global Ideas Bank

  • "The Global Ideas Bank aims to promote and disseminate good creative ideas to improve society. It further aims to encourage the public to generate these ideas, to participate in the problem-solving process. These ideas we term social inventions: non-technological, non-product, non-gadget ideas for social change. These are a mix of existing projects, fledgling initiatives and new bright ideas."

Jay: DIFFERENCES: I love the Ideas Bank site! It has a great energy around it and is a lot of fun to visit. Same differences as above.

COLLABORATION: I have a sense we'd like to gear the participatory aspects of the Alternatives IMC site more toward practical action around creating alternatives than just random ideas for alternatives (focusing more attention on people actually working together than those sitting alone thinking up neat stuff). On the other hand, I love the idea of featuring ideas and trying to inspire action around them. Perhaps we could work with the ideas bank to feature some alternatives-oriented ideas as they come up. This could be pretty inspirational -- I, for one, get inspired by the idea that people today still have ideas! -- but could also work into some of our efforts to gather information about alternatives-oriented theory and proposals. (i.e. our section about ideas for a viable alternative to the current economy).

A quite active collaborative space for people doing work in varying areas, most of them having to do with alternatives. It's apparently a project of a large social action funding network started by own of the founders of EBay and there seems to be controversy on the site about the fact that the source code for the project is proprietary, but there do appear to be a lot of people involved with some very active ideas.

Jay: DIFFERENCES: Same. [as Global Ideas Bank]

COLLABORATION: Same. I especially like the way they call their project-wikis "workspaces." That makes a whole lot of intuitive sense.

Projects for a Participatory Society

  • Hosted by Zmag.org
  • "Projects for a Participatory Society exists to propose, investigate, debate, explore, and advocate radical ideas for a desirable future. It focuses on social, economic, cultural, and political life. It's membership is responsible for this site and for related projects which include struggling, writing, speaking, and acting on behalf of attaining a better world. The PPS core values include solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, justice, and sustainability."

Jay: DIFFERENCES: Projects for a Participatory Society is a really exciting collaboration of some of the most interesting writers for Z Magazine. It's a "closed collective," in the sense that the people who write the pieces on the PPS site are voted aboard by members of the current group. IMC alternatives would obviously be more open than that, and would feature news about alternatives in a comprehensive manner rather than the ideas of a very (albeit visionary) visionaries. Plus, I don't see a place to comment on the ideas presented on the PPS site, hence no participation from the public.

COLLABORATION: Yes yes yes! Some of us probably already know a few of the PPS collaborators, or at least are familiar with their work. I think we should be in touch with them to weave some of their content into the Alterantives site. I don't get the idea they're actively seeking new members, in the sense that they probably don't want a hundred random readers of the Alternatives IMC writing in asking to join the PPS group, but I'm sure they want to get their visions and ideas around, perhaps placing them in a more participatory context on the Alternatives IMC site.

Crimethinc network

  • Hosted By Crimethinc Ex-Worker's Collective
  • "Some of you might be wondering: Where are the forums? In short, they’re the entire site, minus some banter. Instead of free-for-all discussion, everything is topically and structurally arranged to stimulate activity and collaboration."

Jay: DIFFERENCES: Same as above [Our Project].

COLLABORATION: Similar thoughts.


  • Hosted by TechSoup?
  • "Welcome to NetSquared?'s collection of [[http://www.netsquared.org/catlist/list/1][case studies] from nonprofit innovators. Each case tells the story of a project that has made an interesting or groundbreaking use of technology to support a particular strategic goal."


  • Hosted by Wikimedia foundation
  • "Wikipedia... is a multilingual Web-based free-content encyclopedia wiki cluster. Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers, allowing most articles to be changed by anyone with access to a web browser."
  • licensed under GNU Free Documentation License

Jay: DIFFERENCES: Wikipedia is the best practical example of the theory that on-line collaboration can work, and work wonders. Obviously Wikipedia deals with a zillion topics rather than just alternatives.

COLLABORATION: At the very least we could use Wikipedia entries about alternatives to serve as an informational backbone to some of the discussions. We could do that by linking directly to the entries without necessarily contacting anyone who contributes, but I'd be more excited about actively contacting contributors to wikipedia who work on alternative-oriented entries to see if they'd like to be involved with the alternatives IMC project.


  • Hosted by Everything Development Company
  • Mission: "E2 offers you and the entire Web world a huge amount of original writing of many kinds. You can find informative articles on just about anything you can imagine, but there is also humor, poetry, fiction, opinion, criticism, personal experiences and other things that are simply hard to categorize."
  • License: "You can become a member of the community and publish your own writing. Unlike some Web publishing venues, you retain all rights on what you share with us and the world."


  • "The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors."
  • Various open-source powered search engines use DMoz as their database including MozDex

DIFFERENCES: DMOZ is a collaborative directory of the web. It doesn't have much focus on alternatives.

COLLABORATION: I don't know if there's really a way we could collaborate with DMOZ, but perhaps we could communicate with the people who are gathering links about alternatives-oriented projects for the directory.


  • Hosted by Robot Co-Op (private company funded by Amazon.com)
  • Allows users to list personal goals and look at each other's goals.

DIFFERENCES: 43 Things is a neat collection of things people post that they'd like to accomplish. Not essentially an alteratives-oriented site.

COLLABORATION: This fits into the the ideas-bank genre of random ideas people have for stuff they'd like to do or see done. I don't know if there's really a way for us to collaborate.

World Changing

  • Hosted by Polycot
  • "...works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together."
  • Invites comments and submissions

Jay: DIFFERENCES: WorldChanging?.com appears to be a project that generates some really content about alternatives and ideas relating to alternatives. People can comment on articles and can suggest stories but can't post directly. They don't have a "community" element like some of the above sites.

COLLABORATION: I think we should definitely approach worldchanging.com to see if they'd like to work with us on content of the Alternatives IMC. At the very least we should pull their RSS feed onto our newswire and try to direct people to their site.

Demos - The Everyday Democracy Think Tank

  • Hosted by EthicalMedia
  • UK-based think tank which offers free downloads of it's publications under it's own Open Access license
  • Not particularly interactive
  • Also potentially dodgy according to Spinwatch

Ground Action

  • "The forums on this site are for people to use for helping each other to develop *plans of action* and for discussing *specific projects* that will contribute to the process of decentralising wealth and power worldwide. The forums are NOT for discussing WHY we need to create alternatives. Instead they are for discussing HOW."
  • Badly spammed: 21/11/2006
  • Bulletin board style forum (PHPBB)
  • No clear content license or indication of who established and maintains it


  • "It's about living and doing business in a new way... a way that doesn't bring harm to the planet, to people or to other living things."
  • Hosted by Dianovo, Inc.


  • "You can learn from, and meet, amazing people here. You'll discover wonderful organizations working on the front lines."
  • Hosted by Care2.com, Inc


  • uses open source software also called LiveJournal?
  • one of the earliest free blog communities









  • "A collaborative platform for practical knowledge and simple technologies, (i.e. technologies that require no complex machine, that are easily explainable and usable by individuals or small communities) for a sustainable and ecological future [...] We are convinced that sharing low-tech know-how across borders and organisations is essential for an independent and self-sufficient form of sustainable development."
  • supported by Practical Action (formerly Intermediate Technology Development Group), started by EF Schumacher
  • also supported by International Network for Technical Information
  • uses MediaWiki? (GPL)


  • "wikiHow is a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest how-to manual. With your contributions, we can create a free resource that helps people by offering clear, concise solutions to the problems of everyday life."
  • uses MediaWiki? (GPL)
  • content licensed under Creative Commons Non-Commercial

Tip The Planet

  • "Tiptheplanet is a project to create a green wiki website that encourages discussion and the generation of tips that benefit you and the planet - From tips for individuals about staying happy and healthy to tips for multi-national companies to limit their carbon footprints, with accompanying explanations."
  • Uses MediaWiki? (GPL)
  • Content licensed under CC Non-Commercial, Share-Alike

Jay: SUMMARY: The Alternatives IMC project appears to be unique in its goal to be a comprehensive, participatory information source with a sole focus on alternatives. Other alternatives-oriented content creators, like WorldChanging.com, Projects for a Participatory Society and magzines like Yes Magazine, are currently closed resources (i.e. with closed editorial collectives). Plus, the IMC Alternatives project has the advantage of being able to work with more than 150 IMCs around the world and all the activists arleady participating in them to generate a tremendous amount of local content, as well as a tremendous amount of energy. In this respect, I think this project is clearly unique.

Some of the above sites seem to have successful communities building through the collaborative elements of their sites. I think in building our community/workspace elements we have to put some very specific thought into how our resource would be different. If we decide to develop our own community, similar to the others, would it be different because, placed in the context of a huge project like indymedia, already composed of thousands of social-change activists, we could inspire more particpation? Would we be more active in making sure the projects that work through the Alternatives site work together toward results rather than just providing space for them to work on their own? Would we try to make the community-building features of the site comprehensive, like we're trying to do with the information-gathering part of the site, offering wiki space to every alternatives-oriented project we can find, therefore developing a more integrated consciousness among those working on these projects alone? That would involve a lot of active outreach on our part, but may well be worth the effort.

Topic Specific:

specific: corporate PR watch
Project of Centre for Media and Democracy
"to produce a directory of the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. SourceWatch?'s primary focus is on documenting public relations firms, think tanks, industry-funded organizations and industry-friendly experts that work to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of corporations, governments and special interests."
Formerly Disinfopedia
licensed under GNU Free Documentation license

One Global Community
specific: community centres, networking
Very messy site with limited interactivity.

specific: activism, culture jamming

specific: critical theory texts
"Developing texts like Free Software according to the principle »rough consensus, tasty text!« -- This is the basic idea of open theory, in short: ot."
cool idea but mostly in German

Open Source Development Network
Hosts Sourceforge.net, Freshmeat.net, newsforge.net, slashdot.org amongst others
specific: software development
fairly business-orientated

Specific: freedom of information
group blog-style with wiki

Specifc: economics, esp. local currencies

And finally a nice quote from 'Open Source Democracy' by Douglas Rushkoff:
"These three stages of development: deconstruction of content, demystification of technology and finally do-it-yourself or participatory authorship are the three steps through which a programmed populace returns to autonomous thinking, action and collective self-determination."