PeaceGeeks & Amani: Interview with Renee Black

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Tuesday Chutter

PeaceGeeks is a Vancouver-based organization that matches various specialized volunteers with grassroots organizations focused on the promotion of peace, human rights, and accountability in developing and conflict-affected areas around the world. They provide valuable support to improve the digital reach of these organizations, on everything from strategic planning to technical training. The Jibe Team boasts two of our own as PeaceGeeks contributors–Steve and Sheila.

PeaceGeeks latest project is Amani–an open source web platform to get robust websites up and running for NGO partners. The platform will include: a user-friendly interface for non-technical users to manage site content, responsive theming across devices, a volounteer and contact management tool, data mapping capabilities with filtering, multi-language capabilities, and Google analytics to understand visitor interaction.

Project director Renee Black is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. From a background in business analytics she transitioned towards international peace and security issues; working with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UN Women, and the Global Network of Women Peacekeepers. This inspiration culminates in PeaceGeeks.

We thank Renee for answering some questions on Amani for us!

What encouraged PeaceGeeks to build Amani, where did the idea start?

We had been working for about 18 months on projects with different PeaceGeek partners, and were seeing two things: that our partners were asking us to do the same things over and over again, and while we were building we faced bottlenecks in recruiting specific skills. Forseeing that we would continue to run into these problems in the future, Amani was designed to help us rapidly deploy new sites that have almost everything a small NGO would need to get started, as well as the ability to scale as their needs changed over time.

Will Amani enable you to reach more organizations, and thus what are your long-term goals for PeaceGeeks? Absolutely. Our plan for 2014 is to triple the number of partners we are helping to 24, and to extend the capabilities of the platform so it meets even more core needs facing our partners. What was your greatest resource in bringing this project to fruition? Without a question, it was our amazing volunteers, and particularly the contributions from The Jibe and Affinity Bridge. We would not be where we are today without the incredible support we received from them. What is a key feature of the Amani platform that will improve the impact of your partners? There are many features that are really important to our partners, but if I had to choose a couple, I would say that it is the ease of use in administering content and the mapping tool that our partners can use to track important issues affecting their communities. All of the organizations PeaceGeeks works with are significant advocates for awareness and change. What is one partner organization that you are particularly proud to have teamed up with? We recently started working with a group in Kenya called Young Women Entrepreneurs Kenya. They began operating in 2008 in response to the election violence, with a specific focus on young women who were personally affected by violence. In many cases, these women could not return to their communities once the conflict had passed, and were very vulnerable. YWEK was formed to help these women help each other to get the support they need to get back on their feet, but also to get training and skills so they could start small businesses and become self-sustaining. They currently have no way of telling the story of the work they do and the women they support. We have recently designed a new logo for them, along with business cards and letterhead, and are getting ready to launch their first website in January 2014! They are very excited to be able to tell the world about their work, so they can develop strategic partnership and provide greater support to vulnerable groups. Their enthusiasm is extremely contagious. And finally, what do you look for in a volunteer and how can individuals get involved? We look for skilled volunteers in web and mobile development, graphic design, writing, marketing, communications, film making, and project management. We look for entrepreneurs and self-starters who have ideas about how they can help us help our partners to affect change on the issues that matter most in their communities. To get involved, all you need to do is register on our website.