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Wiser.org, formerly WiserEarth.org, was a user-generated online community space for the social and environmental movement. As one of the social networks for environmental sustainability and social change, Wiser.org was the primary initiative of the non-profit organization WiserEarth, which tracks the work of non-profits around the world. The site mapped and connected non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses, governments, groups, and individuals addressing global issues such as climate change, poverty, the environment, peace, water, hunger, social justice, conservation, human rights, and more.
On 6 January 2014, Wiser.org's Executive Director, Peggy Duvette wrote an open letter to all members (which she updated on 24 January 2014) explaining the need for changes and the possibility of archiving the Wiser.org website to the Wayback Machine; and on 17 March 2014 she officially announced that the closure and archiving of the Wiser.org website would occur on 10 April 2014.
Wiser.org was launched as WiserEarth.org on Earth Day (April 22) 2007 as an online directory of the 100,000+ organizations touched upon in Paul Hawken's book, Blessed Unrest. Hawken had amassed a collection of business cards from thousands of organizations over the years, but had not found a comprehensive directory listing all non-profit organizations involved in the social justice and environmental sector. Estimating the total number of non-profit organizations around the world to be well over a million, Hawken launched Wiser.org, which stands for the World Index for Social and Environmental Responsibility, as an online directory to help map out the work done by these organizations. Wiser.org incorporated additional social networking features, such as status updates, likes, walls, groups, and email messaging to provide greater possibilities for collaboration. Wiser.org expanded its organization directory to include listings of for-profit businesses and government agencies.
In 2017, the domain WISER.org became the website for the Workie Institute for Social and Educational Research, a non-profit focusing on social exclusion, including bullying and systematic barriers to society, based on the work of the late Dr. Abaineh Workie.
Facts and figures
As of September 15, 2012, Wiser.org provided a directory of more than 114,000 organizations worldwide, over 71,900 registered members, and more than 2,800 groups. It featured resources and information on various social issues ranging from women's rights to climate change. These resources and information are organized into 47 distinct issue areas and 381 sub-issue areas. Wiser.org was available in English, Chinese (simplified), French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
The Wiser.org Directory was organized around a master list of issues which are "networked" in such a way that registered users could edit the "connections" of each issue to organizations, resources, jobs, events, and groups. The website featured groupware and social networking components including graphical "Network Maps". A unique "Solution form" allowed any logged in user to state a serious social or environmental problem and propose a way to solve it. The Solution then becomes a named entity that can be shared, modified, and acted upon as the proposed solution is implemented in the real world. The solution form included a place to record results and observations. Each Solution was provided with a publishing and networking page and a discussion forum. Wiser.org also incorporates embedded Google Maps integrated with the geographical data. The website was a non-profit venture and was free to the public. The data is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.
As of June 2009, Wiser.org offered a RESTful API developed under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. The Wiser.org API provides access to an extensive database of "entities" such as Organizations, Groups, Jobs, Events, Resources, and Solutions. There is an associated FAQ and a Developer's Documentation page.
On 6 January 2014, Executive Director Peggy Duvette published an open letter on the website beginning "Dear Wiser.org Member," in which she wrote:
Snippet from Peggy Duvette's open letter of 6 Jan 2014:
Wiser.org and its community of over 80,000 members will be going through a number of changes over the coming months as we explore a new strategic direction.
These changes are happening after gathering extensive feedback and input from editors and active members of our community. It means that my team and I will begin to look for a new home for Wiser.org's community and content. The avenues which we are exploring include:
- working with a partner organization
- data archiving i.e. preserving a publicly accessible archive of all site content including personal profiles, for example through a service like the Wayback Machine.
- making Wiser's API data publicly available.
If you might be interested in repurposing any of Wiser.org's content, please let us know.
The letter was subsequently updated on 24 January 2014 to include a "More information about these changes...." section, which disclosed that the need for the changes is largely due to the ongoing cost of maintaining the organization's website, and upgrading it as will be needed.
Snippet from Peggy Duvette's open letter of 6 Jan 2014; updated 24 Jan 2014:
...maintaining social media platforms and tools comes at a cost. The software technologies that we are using need continual maintenance and upgrades. And to do this, they require constant funding, development and innovation.
After looking at budget projections, WiserEarth’s board, which helps run Wiser.org, has realized that it is going to have to make some tough choices. Do they compromise their 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? At the same time, the WiserLocal program that was launched in 2009 continues to grow. How can they continue to protect and scale this program?
The technical questions are made all the more challenging as Wiser.org has been fortunate enough to have funds put aside that could help keep the platform running for the next 7 years. However, it does not cover the necessary upgrades that would be needed for maintenance and staff costs.
On 17 March 2014, Duvette published another open letter to "Wiser.org friends, members and supporters," in which she wrote: "After many months of reflection and extensive feedback from Wiser.org members, editors and our board of directors, we have decided to close and archive the Wiser.org website. The archiving of the site will take place on April 10th 2014." She continued:
Snippet from Peggy Duvette's open letter of 17 Mar 2014:
Our priority now is 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, we have been working with partners who will help re-purpose parts of Wiser.org's content and support our community. Once our site is closed, the following partners have offered to build upon our data set:
For members who would like to continue to network, build collaborations and take action on the ground, we are recommending 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?
She concluded with: "We trust that the members of the Wiser.org community will continue to create lasting impact across the many global and local networks that we are part of and through the wonderful organizations and communities we work with." Further information about what will happen to individual and group listings was provided.
For a time, the Wiser.org website contained the words "WiserEarth 2005-2014," as if on a tombstone, in the upper-left corner of the dark brown footer area of each of its website's pages; along with the words "Wiser.org is closing," followed by a "read more" link to the details, just beneath the header of its website's front page.
- "WISER Earth: User Created Directory of 'the Largest Movement on Earth'".
- "WISER | Workie Institute for Social and Educational Research". WISER. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
- "WiserEarth tracks the work of nonprofits around the world" by Elsa Wenzel cnet news, October 21, 2007
- Duvette, Peggy. "Original Jan 6 2014 Open letter to Wiser.org members". WiserEarth. Archived from the original on 2014-03-19. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Duvette, Peggy. "Jan 24 2014 update to Open Letter to Wiser.org Member". WiserEarth. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Duvette, Peggy. "Open letter to "friends, members and supporters" of March 17, 2014". WiserEarth. Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Hawken, P. (2007). Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-03852-7
- "Blessed Unrest - Metropolis". Metropolis. 2007-04-01. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
-  Beth's Blog - How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media
- "Workie Institute for Social and Educational Research - GuideStar Profile". www.guidestar.org.
- "WISER - Workie Institute for Social and Educational Research". WISER.
- "Paul Hawken Speaks about Social Change:The New Global Movement" by Felicia M. Tomasko Santa Barbara Independent, Thursday, May 10, 2007
- "Organization". www.wiserearth.org. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
- Wiser.org Members
- "Groups". www.wiserearth.org. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
- "Issues". www.wiserearth.org. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
- "Wiser.org API FAQ".
- "Wiser.org API Documentation".
- "Wiser.org's website's front page". WiserEarth. Archived from the original on 2014-04-11. Retrieved 18 March 2014.