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As ELAW’s Information Technology manager, I help ELAW partners around the world use technology to further their work protecting communities and the environment.
Most recently, I helped Emilio D’Cuire from the Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de Honduras (IDAMHO) create a website using the open source content management system, Drupal. Drupal is amazing software that will allow IDAMHO to create news, blogs and other types of content without help from experienced website developers. The website will enable IDAMHO to connect with local community members and international supporters to further its goals of protecting Honduras from mining abuses and preventing damage to the Mesoamerican Reef.
ELAW supporter and collaborator Josh Vincent of Eugene is designing a logo and color scheme for IDAMHO’s website and Emilio and I are learning to use the new Drupal version 7. (ELAW has developed websites for other NGOs using Drupal version 6, but version 7 introduces additional features and administration techniques.)
While Emilio was in Eugene, I worked with him to identify components he would like the website to have and trained him to manage the website’s content using Drupal’s tools. Now that Emilio has returned home, he will train his colleagues to use the new system.
I am always looking for ways to help ELAW partners use open source software, which improves our network’s information technology systems and saves money compared to purchasing proprietary software licenses. I have believed for years that the open, collaborative nature of open source software is a perfect match for the NGO world. Based upon this belief, I have steered ELAW’s technology use toward open source projects such as Linux and the Drupal Content Management System. Other examples of ELAW’s successful use of Drupal include our website, the Grand Slam Alliance’s website, and the Belize Institute of Environmental Law And Policy’s website.
Information Technology Manager
ELAW has long used cutting edge technology to connect communities across borders. In the mid-1990’s, we brought Internet and email tools to partners in places as far flung as Mongolia, Indonesia, and Zimbabwe. Today, we’re using open source software to help our partners build websites.
The beauty of open source software is that our partners can use it in their home countries at very little cost. Software like Plone and Drupal is versatile and allows our partners to obtain just about any functionality they need. By using website content management systems (CMS), even non-technical staff can create and upload content to a website very easily.
Most recently, we’ve been helping our partners at l’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) build a website. Attorney Rolès Théard visited Eugene earlier this month for an ELAW Fellowship. While here, Rolès worked with ELAW staff to learn how to use Drupal and make updates to AHDEN’s site. Now, Rolès will teach AHDEN staff and volunteers how to do the same.
By helping our partners build websites, we hope to enhance their capacity to use technology tools and demonstrate the impact of their work to the world.
I hope you will visit the following sites to learn more about our partners’ great work:
If you are considering building your own website, I highly recommend the Drupal Installation Profile, “Drupal and NGO” (DaNGO). DaNGO provides a collection of Drupal modules commonly used on non-profit websites in one convenient package. It includes tools for blogs, wikis, discussion forums, photo sharing, donation processing, and membership management.
Many thanks to the programmers who make open source software available to all. With your help, grassroots advocates are connecting across borders to protect people and wildlands all around the world.
Information Technology Manager
Since I began working with ELAW in September, 2000, I have been looking for ways to help the organization and our international partners use open source software to improve the network’s information technology systems and save money compared to proprietary software licenses.
For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia says:
“Open source describes practices in [software] production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials. Some consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology.”
I have believed for years that the open, collaborative nature of open source software development is a perfect match for the NGO world. Based upon this belief, I have steered ELAW’s technology use toward open source projects such as the FreeBSD operating system, the Sympa mailing list manager and the Apache webserver.
FreeBSD and the Apache webserver along with the Drupal content management system (CMS) were at the core of a recent redevelopment of ELAW’s website. ELAW is using our experience gained by deploying our own website on the Drupal CMS to help other international NGOs build or refine their web presence using this tool, for example:
The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1995 by professionals in the fields of law, education, science, natural resource management, and grassroots organizing. BELPO is working to address serious and growing environmental problems, to ensure better management of the environment and natural resources, and to safeguard public health now and for future generations.
The Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia (Green Advocates) is Liberia’s first and only public interest environmental law organization. Green Advocates is dedicated to protecting the environment; advancing human rights protection and advocacy through sound environmental practices; and giving voice to rural, indigenous, and tribal people, who historically have been denied access to benefits accruing from the extraction of timber and other natural resources from their tribal and ancestral lands.
The Grand Slam Alliance is a collaboration between Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development, Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development, and the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide. The alliance is working together to ensure that tarpon, permit and bonefishing habitats are preserved and protected from unsustainable development practices.
Each of these sites enables non-technical members of the host organization to modify and publish the contents of the site using point-and-click tools similar to a standard office word processor — a major improvement over sending content drafts to a single “webmaster” to mark up in HTML and post to the site. This allows the NGOs to maintain a much fresher and relevant site.
I believe that Content Management Systems that allow NGOs to safely distribute content authorship tasks to a variety of staff and volunteers is a key component of any strategy to raise awareness in this globally-connected age.
ELAW Information Technology Manager
 See the Wikipedia articles on “Open source” and “Open-source software” at “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opensource” and “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_software” for more information about the open source software movement;  “http://freebsd.org”;  “http://sympa.org”;  “http://httpd.apache.org”;  “httpd://drupal.org”;