Sri Lanka photos. Mostly elephants.

I was expecting something like South India — a place I’ve never visited but imagine to be hot, crowded, and poor from all that I’ve heard and seen. 

Sri Lanka was nothing like that. Instead it was green and lush, rapidly developing (no obvious signs of extreme poverty), and full of friendly people working to rebuild a country stunted by and still recovering from 26 years of civil war that only just ended in 2009

I was lucky enough to visit the island in September at the invitation of the US State Department / US Embassy in Colombo to help lead a digital activism training for students across South Asia (see WICPER Training for Trusteeship). My colleague Susannah Vila posted some of her thoughts on the experience here on HuffPo. 

We didn’t have time to see much while there, but we did cover many hours of rough roads from rainforest-like mountain regions (Kandy, Kigale) to capitol city (Colombo) to — briefly en route to airport — tropical beach. I have many more miles of Sri Lankan beach to explore in my career. The elephant photos below are from the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which was more like a park/refuge but seems to have started as an orphanage.

By the way, the US Embassy in Sri Lanka has an impressively active social media presence; here they are on twitter and facebook.

Time capsule thoughts on rapidly changing role of NGOs in change-making; on successful “engagement” [vid]

What am I most inspired by these days? That’s the question the staff of Hollyhock threw my way while we enjoyed their edenic retreat center on Cortes Island — once again the setting for our annual Web of Change conference in September.

Here’s my answer, which feels particularly bound to this moment in time, immediately on the heels of the Arab Spring and on the cusp of the Occupy movement going to scale. 

And Jason Mogus (Communicopia), our founder, had some really smart things to say about opportunities for new thinking and radical digital approaches in the face of major recent setbacks:

Finally, the real prize. Charles Tsai wisely asked several participants and colleagues to give us a sense of what successful supporter engagement meant to them, and he captures some great quotes and thoughts from some brilliant minds in this video for the Knight Foundation:

My neighbor Ace at 92: Decorated vet, living legend

Ace is a neighborhood legend — with one arm, four purple hearts, and more than a dozen antique cars, he’s hard to miss.Nearly every weekend, Ace drives one of his old cars up Connecticut Ave to pick up his favorite meal at McDonalds. On a nice day, you can catch him outside holding court near while one of the cars is lucky enough to soak up some vitamin D.I caught up with Ace this past weekend, just following his McDonalds trip and a few days before Veterans Day. Here’s a brief clip of him summing up a remarkable military career and his passion for old cars. He’ll be laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Solider today and driving an old military jeep in the Veteran’s Day Parade. I could talk to Ace for hours. After a very full life, he has some of the best stories in the word.

Most widespread day of political action in history

This past weekend I had the honor of volunteering with the team during the final 48 hours of their global day of action on October 24, in more than 180 countries and every single time zone. It was filled with the same intensity and emotion as Election Day — complete with lots of under-slept bodies and a dank campaign office. I was thoroughly impressed, learned a good deal, and had a blast. I’m preparing a more in-depth write-up on lessons learned, but in the meantime I wanted to pull together my status updates from the day (start reading from the bottom!) as well as some of the videos i shot.  

ok, has basically turned into a porn site for online organizers. (and my coworkers have caught me sneaking peeks) #350ppm 11:49 PM Oct 26th

v cool: 200 Kayakers form giant floating 350 4 Day of Action. video: @amaser #350ppm #PDX via @350 @blakehschmidt 4:48 PM Oct 26th

RT @philaroneanu: Just about to enter the UN bldg in NYC. Going to deliver your @350 photos to Ban Ki Moon’s climate team @secgen #350ppm 1:40 PM Oct 26th

Grandiose q’s for a Sun, exploring future of citizen organizing + leaderless orgs in social change w/ @heif after ystrday’s @350 events 2:08 PM Oct 25th  

There’re few thing more beautiful to me than what @350 crew + thousands of vol organizers achieved today. all deserve much sleep. #350ppm 1:33 PM Oct 24th

RT @350 on ABC News: Boston to Beijing, Sydney to Delhi #350ppm (via @350buzz) 1:21 AM Oct 24th

video walkthrough of massive 350 Times Sq event: + smiles frm organizers after: #350ppm 6:40 PM Oct 24th cheers erupting from #350ppm HQ as global day of action photos hit homepage of NYT, IHT, Le Monde 6:05 PM Oct 24th

Photo: rallying in times sq under photos from #350ppm global day of climate action 4:19 PM Oct 24th

Photo: From times sq, proud organizers, mvmt builders #350ppm global day of climate action 4:16 PM Oct 24th

Big rally in times sq right now, showing pics of millions ppl taking action in almost every cntry to change our climate future #350ppm 4:07 PM Oct 24th

350 global day of climate action takes over TIMES SQ right now, photos frm around world. Unreal! VID: #350ppm 3:59 PM Oct 24th

this is what new organizing looks like. what’s happening behind largest distributed global action; VID: #350ppm 2:11 PM Oct 24th

athletes organizing events around the world for #350ppm global day of climate action; behind scenes video: 1:16 PM Oct 24th

McKibben re digital organizing: this is beta test of whether we can take this new arch. + make it serve some useful end 1:12 PM Oct 24th

RT @350: #CNN is SO our fav network right now: RT @Agent350: #350ppm on CNN this morning! Josh gets the story exactly: 1:07 PM Oct 24th

caught up w/ @billmckibben for realtime update on #350ppm day of action as it unfolds around the world: #350ppm 1:05 PM Oct 24th

incred photos coming in fast and furious frm #350ppm actions around the world: several of us tagging/sorting furiously 12:15 PM Oct 24th

Video: The volunteers behind Obama’s ground machine — 3 clips from Jackson, OH

I’m still reading and reconciling the flurry of ‘how Obama won’ articles — in particular the ones relating to field and internet. In the meantime, I want to share three short conversations I had with local volunteer leaders I was working with on Election Day in the Jackson, OH office. They’re a great snapshot of the backbone of the campaign’s ground efforts. I shot them during smoking breaks or down moments, but I still feel guilty taking 90 seconds of their time on E-day.

Some context: In just under a week, I drove close to 1,000 miles across half a dozen conservative Appalachian counties to assist the tireless field organizers in “Region 3” with their get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operations, the final push. As did Ben, Asher, and Jen in their respective regions. Ginny had been there for several weeks and was coordinating the entire GOTV picture for our part of the state.

Our work included everything from figuring out the logistics of getting tens of thousands of location-specific door hangers ready for volunteers to shuttling last-minute supplies around or training poll-watch volunteers. Asher and I both unknowingly ended up with Chevy HRR‘s from the rental agency. What some consider a herse, i like to think of as Dick Tracy’s pride and joy.

This first clip is of Sandy, who explains how she went from being an online volunteer to  running the entire office and staging location on Election Day, something she never imagined she’d be doing.

Next up is Betty, Sandy’s mom. Betty was classic, which i think is fair to say of anyone who lives in a town for 75 years. Betty explains how she got pulled into this massive volunteer effort along with her family and what she’s seeing for the first time:

Finally, Marleen, overseeing the phone canvassing (and big fan of pumpkin pie), on why this campaign is different from Kerry 2004 and more important than her wedding day: