Nonprofit Tech: Do It Yourself Social Networking

Last last week, the one millionth site was created on the social network Ning.  For individuals and organizations (including nonprofits) for whom Facebook is not giving them exactly what they need, there's Ning, which allows users to build their own social network.

Ning sites are created around a specific topic (nonprofits, cats, ninjas) and allows users to control the visual design and what features are available.  Although a far cry from Facebook and it's 200 million users (that's more than the population of Japan or Brazil), Ning has 22 million registered users, about 6.1 million of whom are considered active.  And out of the million Ning networks, a fifth or so are active.

For an example of how nonprofits are using Ning, take a look at the site of our friends at National CAPACD, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development.

Ning is free, with ads.  The premium version gets rid of that.

To read more from The Opportunity Agenda, visit our blog.

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Torture, Dignity, and America

Article 1 of the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment provides, in simple terms, that "torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession...." The Convention reaffirms the basic principle that intentionally inflicted suffering destroys the dignity of victim, the torturer, and the society that allows it.

Article 2 of the Convention provides that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture," and that "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture." In other words, "no torture" means no torture. Ever.

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Opportunity Calling

As the Dow Jones Industrial Average inches upward, there will be a strong temptation—especially from financial news outlets—to equate recovery by shareholders with the recovery of economic security in our country. When the Dow returns to, say, 10,000, we're likely to see "Mission Accomplished" signs going up in a number of media and financial quarters. Undoubtedly some in the administration, too, will begin patting themselves on the back.

That would be a mistake. New research from The Opportunity Agenda shows why the Dow—and even average unemployment rates—cannot be the primary measures of our national economic health. The State of Opportunity in America analyzes government data across a range of sectors—from jobs to education to housing to poverty and beyond—to measure our national progress in fulfilling the promise of Opportunity.

Opportunity is the profoundly American idea that everyone deserves a fair chance to achieve his or her full potential, and that affording that fair chance to everyone is key to our common national prosperity. Opportunity is about national conditions, but viewed in the context of national values like equal treatment, economic security and mobility, a voice in decisions that affect us, and a chance to start over after misfortune or missteps.

This year's State of Opportunity report is particularly revealing, because it looks primarily at economic and social conditions from 2006 to 2007—the year before the current economic recession, which economists say began in December 2007. The report makes clear that our national infrastructure of opportunity was fractured and unequal before the current crisis took hold, and that a meaningful national recovery will require attending to structural reforms as well as short-term job creation. Simply restoring the economy to its 2007 conditions will fall far short of the change we need.

The Dow topped 14,000 in 2007. Yet, in 2007, 11% of full-time, year-round workers lived in poverty. Eighteen percent of U.S children (over 13 million kids) shared that condition, despite a still-humming stock market. Almost as many American kids (17%) experienced "food insecurity," meaning that their eating was disrupted because their families could not afford adequate food. Over 45 million Americans—15 out of every 100—lacked health insurance.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's blog roundup will cover state news and lots of new studies and reports.

This week's highlight is the announcement from the top two labor federations, AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation of a framework for comprehensive immigration reform, including support for legalization of undocumented immigrants.

Last Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina, activists marched in protest of the 287(g) program. The march was part of a five-day “Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace" by 33 organizations and churches.

In Maryland, lawmakers passed a law that prevents motorists who cannot prove legal status in the country from obtaining a Maryland license, and allows those who currently have licenses to keep them until 2015.

New Jersey police are profiling Latinos, according to a new Seton Hall Law School report.

In New York City on May 1st, immigration advocates will rally in Madison Square Park to push for immigration reform and immigrant healthcare.

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A Community-Minded Generation

Much has been made of the vitality that President Obama brings to the White House.  To be sure, this is in part the story of his relative youth—only Clinton, Grant, Kennedy, and Theodore Roosevelt were younger when assuming the office—but it’s also a function of his ability to convince the millennial generation (or vocalize the millennial generation’s belief) that their voices matter.  Given the size and scope of the challenges facing our nation, we need young people to see the stake that they have in their communities.    

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The Next 100 Days

As Obama’s first 100 days draw to a close, new research shows that addressing today’s economic crisis will require reinvesting in a bedrock American principle: Opportunity. The State of Opportunity, released last week by The Opportunity Agenda, measures our nation’s progress in ensuring that all Americans, and our nation as a whole, have a fair chance to achieve their full potential. The results are sobering.

Drawing on a large body of government data, the report charts opportunity on a range of indicators—economic security and mobility, equal access, democratic voice, the chance to start over after missteps or misfortune, and a coherent sense of community—across a variety of sectors—from employment to education to housing to criminal justice and beyond. Because the most recent year for which most government data is available is 2007, the report provides a unique picture of opportunity just before today’s crisis took hold.

It shows that Opportunity was both highly uneven and highly unequal for millions of Americans before the recession that began in December of 2007. Over 37 million Americans—12.5% of our nation’s population—were living in poverty in 2007, while the rates for Latinos and African Americans were a staggering 21.5% and 24.5%, respectively. Almost 11% of full-time workers were already living in poverty that year.

Significant gender and racial wage gaps existed in 2007, with women making just 78.2% of men’s median wages, and women with a college degree earning just 65.2% of the wages made by equally-educated men. Latinos earned just 72.6% of the white median wage, and African Americans earned 75.2%. Latina women earned just 58.7% of all men. Overall, the richest 20% of Americans earned almost half (47.3%) of all income in the country, and the richest 5% earned 20.1%.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's roundup covers local election news, the economic crisis, and more actions, as well as a handy flowchart to help you navigate the U.S. immigration system.

In Waukegan, Illinois, voters mobilized to defeat Mayor Richard Hyde, who supported the 287g authority that led to racial profiling and harassment of Latinos. Latino activists helped over 1,000 Latinos register and vote for the first time, making them the swing vote that put Mayor Robert Sabonjian in office. Also, in the race to fill former Rep. Rahm Emanuel's seat in District 5, Illinois Minutemen founder Rossana Pulido lost to Democrat Mike Quigley.

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When an Insurance Card Isn't Enough: The Need for Enabling Services

The New York Times reported recently on the staggering number of hospital readmissions within one month, three months, and six months after release, too often with no intervening visit to a primary care provider:

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The State of Opportunity in America (2009) Released

The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to announce the release of our 2009 State of Opportunity in America report. The report documents America’s progress in protecting opportunity for everyone who lives here, and finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality.

By analyzing government data across a range of indicators, this update of our 2006 and 2007 reports assesses our progress in attaining opportunity for our nation as a whole, as well as for different groups within our society. The report paints a vivid picture of opportunity at the dawn of the current economic crisis. But even before the downturn, different American communities experienced starkly different levels of opportunity. The nation has made great strides in increasing opportunity in some areas and for some communities, but many groups of Americans are being left behind in ways that hard work and personal achievement alone cannot address.

These past few years have seen an economy in turmoil, impaired financial mobility, marginal prospects for educational advancement, and a broken health care system. These conditions thwart the nation as a whole as it strives to be a land of opportunity for the 21st Century. At the same time, women, people of color, and moderate- and lower-income individuals and families are being hardest hit and left behind as they face multiple barriers to opportunity.

These barriers are a problem not only for individuals and families, but also for our economy and nation as a whole. They also present an opportunity. Addressing them now would translate to thousands more college graduates prepared for a 21st Century global economy, millions of healthier children in stronger communities, higher wages and greater productivity for American workers, far fewer mortgage defaults and bankruptcies, and far less strain on our social services and justice system. Conversely, the areas of improved opportunity revealed by our analysis represent a foundation and lessons on which to build as the nation works to restore the American dream for everyone who lives here.

To download the report, please visit

Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's blog roundup includes coverage on immigration-related news from a few states, including New Jersey, and some reports reviewing DHS.

The Blue Panel report on integrating immigrants in New Jersey, commissioned by Governor Corzine, is finally out.  Recommendations include:

-Outline a clear path to accreditation for immigrants who were professionals in their countries of origin;
-Establish appropriate language support for limited English proficient persons, so they can be civically engaged in local communities;
-Establish an Ombudsman within the Division of Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety, which would be the entity to which school discrimination cases are reported; and
-Support current proposed legislation that would provide for charging the full in-state tuition rate to persons who meet specified NJ residency requirements, regardless of their immigration status under federal law.

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