By Lesley Lammers for the Green Chamber of Commerce
Policymakers. Activists. Celebrity spokespeople. These are familiar faces to the American public when discussing the major players working for a more sustainable society. But then there are those toiling behind the scenes as game-changers – the software and web developers – whose role is critical, but oftentimes overlooked. Socially and environmentally-minded leaders in this industry are using innovative and timesaving technologies to help nonprofits and social ventures on tight budgets, with little staff support, to be more effective and reach a wider audience with their message.
Among this unique and growing group of software development and IT companies are The Extraordinaires, Benetech, Social Actions, and Exygy Web + Mobile – all of which are trying to support clients that are making a difference. At Exygy, social ventures and nonprofit clients can qualify for discounts on services. Founder of Exygy Zachary Berke explains that their mission is to “empower visionary and innovative change-makers through transformative technology that allows them to be more effective at making the world better.”
One visionary organization that needed such assistance was the Story of Stuff Project, whose original video became such a sensation in 2007, that principal owner Annie Leonard decided they should do a whole series of other stories on specific products to encourage responsible consumer behavior. They needed multiple websites for each video, but building a new site for each one would be cost prohibitive for a busy, thinly-staffed nonprofit with limited funds.
So the organization approached Exygy, a custom software development company, when they were starting the Story of Bottled Water. As their values were aligned, Exygy worked on Story of Stuff projects to help widen the videos’ impact on the public. “A theme in our work is to help consumers make choices that are good for the environment. Clients like Story of Stuff are perfect for us. We make it so that they don’t have to dedicate their whole budget to technology and can focus on bigger, more important things.”
Story of Stuff needed to be able to launch each site cost effectively and quickly, without having to go through a custom software development every time they wanted to launch a new video. It was necessary for the sites to have a common identity for all the stories, but for each to have a distinct feel as well. Exygy used WordPress 3.0 to create the website for Story of Cosmetics and the much anticipated Story of Electronics that will launch this fall. According to Berke, this and any future launches will only take a few hours because of the new WordPress 3.0, which merged the WordPress MultiUser function into standard WordPress. This allows people use the multiuser feature to roll out endless sites from one installation.
Similarly, Exygy chose to collaborate with the Green Chamber of Commerce (GCC), a business network dedicated to supporting the development of sustainable business practices and green public policy. They used the WordPress multiuser function to enable GCC, with a few clicks, to launch a new site for a new chapter in any city, as they recently did with a new Las Vegas chapter. There is a separate login for different chapters, giving the chapter a way to organize members and still link back to the main GCC webpage. “They can be empowered to easily do payment processing, member registration, event organizing, and get new chapter websites up and running. GCC can offer to these new chapters a new service — a powerful, easy to manage website from day one. They don’t have to find a web developer or have one onsite.”
CarrotMob, a social venture with a whopping staff of two, needed outside technical support to help manage their fast growth in the beginning. CarrotMob uses a reverse boycott model (a “buycott”) that makes businesses compete to see who will be the most socially responsible. Consumers then use their pocketbooks to ‘mob’ the winning business to influence their purchasing decision. Exygy built a customized platform enabling CarrotMob to make each city’s mob its own website – helping them organize consumers for over 80 mobs all over the world. CarrotMob came to Exygy with a WordPress MU system that had served them well for two years. Exygy recognized that CarrotMob needed a more robust solution to grow on, and so is building them a new custom web application using Ruby on Rails.
For Exygy and others, sustainability means working to create intuitive, easy to use systems for organizations and entrepreneurs who are in their line of work for the same underlying reason – to leave this world a little better than they found it.
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Lesley Lammers is a freelance food and environmental writer and regular contributor to the Green Chamber of Commerce. The Green Chamber of Commerce represents the NEW voice of commerce, one that can envision the future – a future where businesses work to protect our planet.