The Wiser.org website closed on April 22nd 2014 – Earth Day.

We are so grateful to everyone who has been part of this incredible journey towards a more just and sustainable world.

In this final blog, we wanted to look back over the history of WiserEarth and Wiser.org, to not only share some of our achievements but also why the decision was made to close our core website Wiser.org.

History of Wiser.org

Wiser.org History Timeline
(Click image to view in full size)

Wiser.org was launched on Earth Day in 2007 under the name WiserEarth. Wiser.org’s vision came from it’s former Executive Director, Paul Hawken, who recognized its need when researching his book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being, and Why No One Saw It Coming:

 “I knew that if we could understand the connections and visualize the breadth of global efforts on behalf of social and environmental justice, we would recognize the largest movement the world has ever seen. Wiser.org is where this movement can begin to see itself.” Paul Hawken.

Wiser.org_LogoAfter its release, the functionality and tools provided by Wiser.org co-evolved with its users. Starting out as a directory, it offered collaborative, social networking tools and groupware for people to connect and collaborate around issue areas.

The Wiser.org network became a vertical social network as well as a global village for sharing and kinship building among people that believe that a more just and sustainable world is possible.  Its’ tagline read ‘The Social Network for Sustainability’.

WiserEarth, the not for profit behind Wiser.org, was originally founded under the name Natural Capital Institute in 2002 by Paul Hawken, the well-known US writer, entrepreneur and environmentalist.

Wiser.org’s mission was to help the global movement of people and organizations working toward social justice, indigenous rights and environmental stewardship, to connect, collaborate, share knowledge and build alliances to address and solve the world’s problems. In 2012 it was officially renamed Wiser.org.

During its existence, Wiser.org welcomed some 79,546 members to its collaborative platform and hosted a global directory of 114,924 organizations working in the field of social change and sustainability. It published more than 8 million pages of indexed content over its existence. It also hosted some 3,000 working groups which used wikipages across which members could collaborate and share knowledge.

Volunteer translators from all over the world helped to translate the English website into 7 different languages including Spanish, Italian, French, German, Bahasa Indonesian, Chinese and Portuguese. The majority of members came from the US, India, UK, Canada, France, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and Indonesia, although visitors to the social network also came from nearly every other country in the world.

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In 2011, WiserEarth launched the WiserLocal program to further complement Wiser.org’s online platform and collaboration platform. WiserLocal gatherings were local events which offered the opportunity for members and non-members to gather face-to-face, provide support to local initiatives, facilitate community building and the sharing of resources, best practices and the forging of alliances. They were run volunteer members of Wiser.org in 22 countries and 38 different cities around the world. Thanks to the work of these many dedicated WiserLocal organizers, projects and networks were formed as well as many alliances between change-makers.

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While the network is now closed, the founders of Wiser.org are proud of the fundamental principles that are applied to everything we (the Wiser.org community) did including:

TRANSPARENCY. Wiser.org was open to full public scrutiny. Likewise, users who edited and added content were asked to fully identify and make themselves known to the community.

RESPECT: Wiser.org honored the uniqueness of each individual and organization with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, and religious beliefs.

COMMUNITY: Wiser.org was community-driven, not centralized, bureaucratic, or turf-based. Wiser.org was about understanding each other, building bridges, creating friendships, and celebrating the rich dimensions contained within the global community.

CONNECTIVITY: Wiser.org enabled connectivity and networking, the exchange of services or information between different individuals, groups, companies, or institutions. From a technical perspective, networking also meant that Wiser.org provided for all types of connections so that low-bandwidth Internet users could also access the information and tools provided on the portal.

COLLABORATION: Wiser.org brought people together to share information across the global not for profit, NGO  and social change community, and help create alliances. By working together, we could work smarter, and use our resources more efficiently and effectively. Almost all of Wiser.org was based on wikipages, which were ideal for dialogue and building shared understanding.

VISIBILITY: Wiser.org enabled small organizations, projects and grassroot leaders to become more visible. Individuals could show that they were present in the movement by being visible here, sharing ideas and their activities. Wiser.org made the entire movement visible – only by holding such a “mirror” up, was the movement able to recognize its value and power.

keywordsAfter many months of reflection and extensive feedback from Wiser.org members, editors and our board of directors, a decision was made to close and archive the Wiser.org website.

Since  launching Wiser.org’s global organizational directory and networking platform on Earth Day in 2007, the network helped facilitate many wonderful collaborations. The Wiser team saw an amazing amount of knowledge being shared and an incredible coming together of 10s of 1000s of people from all over the world who joined up to share their passions as well as a belief that a more just and sustainable world is possible.

Over the 7 years that Wiser.org existed, many new networking and online collaboration tools were developed. As time went on, many members of civil society, NGOs and community groups starting using these free tools (including Wiser.org, but also Twitter, Facebook and many others) to host their communities, support knowledge sharing and to get connected.

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It has been an exciting and fast-paced few years with new movements springing up, revolutions such as the Arab Spring in 2012, communities, fledgling groups and not for profit organizations starting to harness the potential of technology and social media to re-balance the levers of power and to create change both locally and globally.

However, maintaining social media platforms and tools comes at a cost. The software technologies that we were being used by Wiser.org needed continual maintenance and upgrades. And to do this, they require constant funding, development and innovation.

After looking at budget projections, the Executive Director and WiserEarth’s board, which helped run Wiser.org realized that they had to make some tough choices. Do they compromise ethics by opening up to advertising? Do they continue to invest resources in fundraising just to keep the technical tools relevant? Or do they instead let go of the constant need to keep up with the latest, shiny new objects?

The technical questions were made all the more challenging as Wiser.org had been fortunate enough to set aside funds that could have helped keep the platform running for the next 7 years. However, these funds did not cover the necessary upgrades that would be needed for maintenance and staff costs. After many conversations with core members of the Wiser.org community, including discussions with our editors, the board and staff, the core team came to the realization that the community needed to fly to new heights in terms of the technologies it uses and that members are now able to use many free networks to carry on the work that Wiser.org started.

The Wiser.org network was originally founded on the belief that the world needed to hold a mirror up to the movement of environmental and social change to further inspire, support collaboration and reduce the duplication of efforts. It truly walked the talk by showing that not for profits always need to ask: What is the value that they bring? Is there duplication in what we are offering or doing? What should we stop doing? These and other tough questions like these need to be asked by more not for profit organizations. Often we have found that they are simply not asked enough.

The Wiser.org network was initially born as a directory of thousands upon thousands of organizations. Its role was to help map out this incredibly diverse and beautiful movement.  It was developed so that all could see, find and touch kindred spirits – activists and people representing organizations working in community around the world to restore peace, justice and hope.

This work is now supported by a host of networks and partner organizations which will now carry on our work.

While we know that this decision was difficult for many, the board and the staff  invited the community to embrace this ‘return to the earth’ .

What next?

While the archiving of the site took place on April 22nd 2014, Earth Day. 7 years to the day since it was launched. Wiser’s priority was to ensure that all the hard work over the years is nurtured and continues to thrive in the hands of other community leaders in the field.

To this end, the Wiser team has set up partnerships with other organizations who are helping to re-purpose parts of Wiser.org’s content and support our community. These include:

  • Guidestar – “Revolutionize philanthropy by providing information about non-profits”
  • TechSoup Global – “Leverage technology for social change”
  • Founding Family – “Evolving American democracy”
  • Earth Deeds – “Transforming carbon footprints”
  • Amp – “Find and share best sustainability resources”

For members who would like to continue to network, build collaborations and take action on the ground, we recommend the following networks:

  • Idealist – “Connect with 90,000 organizations to help build a better world”
  • Bioneers – “Revolution from the Heart of Nature”
  • The Pachamama Alliance – “Educates, inspires and empowers committed people everywhere to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world”
  • Transition US – “Building Community Resilience through local grassroots actions”
  • Netsquared – “Connecting People for the Common Good’
  • Women’s Earth Alliance – ‘To invest in grassroots women’s leadership to drive solutions to our most pressing ecological concerns

As Paul Hawken, the founder and visionary behind Wiser.org said, “The Wiser community will not go away. Websites are not the glue that sticks humanity together, though they may be helpful. It is our hearts and smiles and intentions and those will keep forth. “

Peggy, Bowo, Jane, Laura, Yatin, Oz and Camilla,  the team behind Wiser.org, would like to thank all Wiser.org members and supporters for their kind messages and well wishes that were sent after hearing the announcement of  Wiser.org’s closure.

We wish you well in your future endeavors.

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