Archive for the ‘social networking’ Category

Cusco on My Mind


If you haven’t heard, there have been terrible floods in Cusco, Peru in the past week. Since we are in the thick of la epoca de la lluvia (the rainy season), rain is expected but the level of destruction seen in the area is unimaginable.

Affected house in Oropesa

Tourism is the main industry in Cusco, and the damage produced by the rain does substantial damage on the Cusco economy. From the February 3rd warden message from the U.S. Embassy in Peru, I read that Machu Picchu is closed and the rail line between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes is closed due to landslides until possibly March. I also read that tourists were stranded in Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Incan archeological site Machu Picchu) and that the conditions were excruciating. Luckily, helicopters eventually evacuated all the tourists from the town.

Unfortunately, my Kiva clients in Cusco don’t have that luxury.

I met a Kiva communal bank called Virgen Estrella de Oropesa in Oropesa, a small town south of Cusco in November while working as a Kiva Fellow for Asociación Arariwa, a microfinance institution that has worked in the Cusco region of Peru for the past 25 years. This town is known as the capital of bread because of its delicious “pan chuta.” In fact, the town has so many bakeries that the smell of baking bread permeates the town’s air. In their Kiva profile video, the from Virgen Estrella de Oropesa are laughing and smiling as they get together for their Kiva profile photo. If you had the pleasure of meeting them in person like I had, they were even more animated, making fun of their loan officer Jacob for not having a girlfriend. Unfortunately, most jokes told outside of the city are told in Quechua, so I just got the translated version (definitely not the same!)

Now the town of Oropesa is under water, and many of the talented entrepreneurs I met in Oropesa have lost their homes and businesses.

I wrote in my last La Vida Idealist entry about when you live somewhere you feel a much closer connection with your adopted home than if you had visited for a week or two for vacation. And if you work or volunteer in your new home, like I did in Cusco with Arariwa, you feel an even stronger connection to the place and its people. I am sure the volunteers in Haiti feel similarly, like fellow climber and volunteer Krista.

My friend and colleague, the Kiva coordinator at Arariwa, Raquel Villafuerte, recently wrote me an email in which she said (translated into English):

“Hi there,

…Arariwa is collecting money from employees to help. We are also collecting food at the offices here. If you want you can send money to buy supplies. In reality all you have known – has been for the most part lost – the main avenue of Aguas Calientes and many houses in Anta and south from Saylla to Urcos are under water.”

Organizations like Kiva have responded with updates about how the tragedy has affected Kiva/Arariwa entrepreneurs, including links on how to help victims.

I read a La Vida Idealist post about the tragedy, which included photos of the flooded streets of Cusco city. But from other photos I have seen, the provinces of Cusco were harder hit by the floods than the city.

Citizens have been collecting supplies in the Plaza de Armas, while virtual support, fundraisers, supply collections and updates have come through online and offline news sources and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I have also heard many updates through the Couchsurfing La Paz group, of which I am a member.

Now living and volunteering in La Paz, I see homes located on the edge of cliffs where there has been and continues to be severe erosion. As I go by, I always think that one day when the rain is strong enough, these homes could fall. I recently heard of landslides in Chasquipampa, a neighborhood of La Paz (and I do have Kiva clients in Chasquipampa). A friend of mine here works as a volunteer gathering and distributing supplies, which she did last Friday after the landslides. Another friend told me that a victim who lost his home in the landslide is staying in his church.

Although tragedies like this one are tough to experience and hear about, it’s great to know that ordinary citizens become dedicated volunteers and come through when people need it.

Here’s how to help the victims of the floods in Cusco and how to support disaster relief efforts around the world.

Sheethal Shobowale is working as a Kiva Fellow at microfinance institution Emprender in La Paz Bolivia.


#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance

This Monday, I participated on the #MiFiMon Twitter panel about Women and Microfinance.  #MifiMon stands for Microfinance Monday, but is shortened due to the restrictions in text length in Twitter posts.  Here is a link to the tweets from the discussion on Twazzup.

For those of you who have not yet heard of Twitter discussions, it is a way have a real-time discussion about a certain topic on Twitter.  During #MifiMon we discuss microfinance.  #SocEntChat is another discussion about social entrepreneurship.  Using the hashtag #MiFiMon, we tag each comment so that it can be found in Twitter searches.  Twazzup is a service that helps isolate and track a real-time discussion on Twitter.  I found it to be a little slow to update, but that could have been because I’m in Cusco and it might have been the internet connection.

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

Twitter chats (just like any type of discussion, conference, workshop, etc) link  your organization with your field of work.  Your thoughts, opinions and links shared in chats can engage new and current supporters with your organization.  I received some new Twitter followers during this chat, and most of the are work in the field of microfinance or are interested in the topic.  Since I am a Kiva Fellow, I shared stories that my colleagues and I have written during our time in the field from the Kiva Fellows Blog.

If you are interested in going one more step and host a Twitter chat, here’s a blog post from @johnhaydon with a video on How to create successful chats on Twitter with hashtags

I also wrote the summary of the #MiFiMon discussion after the chat.  Below is the summary –


#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance



The following is a guest post by Sheethal Shobowale, Kiva Fellow at MFIs Asociación Arariwa in Cusco, Peru and Emprender in La Paz, Bolivia starting in January.

Interested in learning about microfinance? Follow our biweekly Twitter discussion group #mifimon (because Microfinance Mondays was too long for Twitter’s 140-character limit). Our aim is to host an exchange of ideas about issues relevant to the microfinance industry. You’re welcome to lend your voice, whether you’re a practitioner in the field or a newbie just learning the basics. Just end your messages with the hashtag #mifimon!

Continue reading

We are all Kiva partners (Somos Todos Socios de Kiva)


Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

Wordreference translates Spanish word socio as member or partner.

Yesterday, on my first day as a Kiva Fellow at Asociación Arariwa, I got to see my first group loan disbursement. Raquel (the Kiva coordinator at Arariwa) described the borrowers as Nuestros Socios (our members). In a group loan at Arariwa, the borrowers are Socios del banco. A lender who joins the Kiva community can also be called a Socio de Kiva. I translate Kiva’s partner MFIs as Socios de Kiva (Kiva partners) and I describe myself as Socio de Kiva (Kiva Fellow). And one more: here’s a past blog post by another Kiva Fellow, Michelle, about Socios Dinámicos.

Of course we all have other names –

  • Institución de Microfinanzas – Microfinance Institution: Asociación Arariwa
Asociación Arariwa: Institución de Microfinanzas - Microfinance Institution

Institución de Microfinanzas - Microfinance Institution: Asociación Arariwa

  • Prestamista – Lender: Kiva Lending Team Amigos de Asociación Arariwa
Kiva Lending Team Amigos de Asociación Arariwa

Prestamista - Lender: Kiva Lending Team Amigos de Asociación Arariwa

  • Prestatario – borrower: Ayda from Asociación Arariwa, Cusco, Peru
<b>Prestatario</b> - borrower: Ayda

Prestatario - borrower: Ayda from Asociación Arariwa, Cusco, Peru

  • Voluntario – Volunteer: “Lethal” Sheethal Shobowale, Kiva Fellow, KF9, Peru
Voluntario - Volunteer: "Lethal" Sheethal Shobowale, Kiva Fellow, KF9, Peru

Voluntario - Volunteer: "Lethal" Sheethal Shobowale, Kiva Fellow, KF9, Peru

but I really like the idea that we are all socios (partners or members) of Kiva, of microfinance and in alleviating poverty. And going back to Kiva’s mission, Connecting People through Lending to Alleviate Poverty, being connected as socios seems to make sense to me.

Please consider becoming a Socio of Asociación Arariwa by lending to Arariwa borrowers and joining our Kiva lending team – Amigos/Amigas de Arariwa!

Sheethal Shobowale is currently serving as a Kiva Fellow (KF9) in Cusco, Peru.

Soy Andina, a documentary about Peruvian Dance, and Social Media

A few weeks before leaving for my Kiva Fellowship in Peru, I went to a reception and screening of a movie called Soy Andina at the New York Times building.  The director, Mitch Teplitsky, emailed me out of the blue after learning through Twitter from a friend, Hillmer Reyes, that I would be moving to Peru for several months.

I was somewhat ready for my work with Kiva/Arariwa, the amazingly nice people, the food, and the sights.  But the movie introduced me to Peruvian dance and music and the many festivals, and made me so much more excited to move to Peru.

The photos on display at the Times Center, by Doug Klostermann (his photos on Flickr), vividly brought out lives of Peruvian people.

Doug Klostermann's photos from Peru

One of Doug Klostermann's photos from Peru at the Soy Andina screening at the Times Center - click to see more on

Last week I got to witness my first Peruvian holiday when traffic was diverted to the other side the main avenue in Cusco, La Cultura.  The right side of the street was covered in colors and people were commemorating La Batalla de Angamos (translation courtesy of Google Translator).   And the day before yesterday there was another  celebration right outside my office, complete with brass band and Peruvian dances.

Peruvian dancers celebrating on Avenida Graciloso, right near the Asociación Arariwa office

Peruvian dancers celebrating on Avenida Graciloso, right near the Asociación Arariwa office

The connection I have to Hillmar, Mitch, and Soy Andina through Twitter is only one of  many I have made through social media.  Here are more examples:

FacebookWhen I found out I was chosen as a Kiva Fellow, I first emailed my husband and my family.  But soon after I posted a Facebook profile update saying I was excited about being a Kiva Fellow in Cusco, Peru.  Instantaneously I got responses from friends telling me they had friends for me to meet, restaurants recommendations, places to visit, etc.  It was an incredible outpouring of what we call “Kiva Love!

Couchsurfing I also joined the Cusco Group on Couchsurfing (a social media traveling site) and found a travel buddy for my first weekend to visit the Sacred Valley.  From California, he is officially my best friend in Cusco.  And through this group, several Peruvians in Cusco and surrounding towns have offered to meet up to show me around or teach my Peruvian cooking.  I am already part of the New York and Brooklyn groups and have both hosted and couchsurfed with some awesome people who have now become good friends.

Kiva Communities and Lending Teams I joined and posted on the Kiva New York Lending Team’s site that I would be representing our home town for Kiva in Cusco.  Now I am part of that conversation too.  And I plan to share with them the New Yorker’s eye view of Cusco (ie – the 4 train is more crowded than the combi I take to work everyday)

Ok, I could go on forever, but I’ll stop here.  Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Couchsurfing, Kiva Communities, etc…the power to connect through social media is incredible.

And to learn more about Soy Andina and learn about future screenings, please visit

You can find me on the following social media communities:

Thinking about the Collective, Selflessness and a Year of Service

Thinking about the Collective, Selflessness and a Year of Service

During this year’s September 11th tribute, I thought about Obama’s call to make that day of National Day of Service.  Is one day enough to make a difference or does it promote slacktivism?  I donate time and money to various organizations.  I’m even going to Peru for 6 months to volunteer as a Kiva Fellow and I still don’t think that is enough.

Every Israeli citizen goes into the army when they turn 18.  Leaving aside the combat draft idea for a moment, why shouldn’t the U.S. have a similar program?  A year of service, broadly speaking (whether in the military, volunteering for a non-profit community or civic organization) would teach a sense of collective, selflessness and respect for others as it seems to me that the trend these days is towards individualism and selfishness and disrespect.

Motivation for this post – Some recent examples of selfishness and individualism and disrespect:

Though I realize these examples are celebrities and political figures, known for large egos and outlandish behavior, these are examples we hear the most about in the news and on the internet, in social media, etc.  They may respond that it’s not their job to be a role model (except maybe the Congressman).  Even so, their public personas make them role models for the behavior of every day people and our children by default.

Some examples of Selflessness and the Collective

Maybe we are on to something…I wish selflessness examples got more air time than the selfishness. Continue reading

Get your Organization’s Social Media Profile from Rapleaf

Want to know which social networks in which your email subscribers participate and how active they are?

Rapleaf gives you demographic, psychographic and behavioral information such as a social graph and online social media activity about your email subscriber base.

I liked this product when I worked at Media Contacts, and I still like it in my new role working with social change organizations.  Today I participated in a conference call with the Rapleaf team about how non-profits can use their product.  They also discussed a case study about a large non-profit focused on women’s issues and how they used Rapleaf’s reports.

Here is some info you can obtain from Rapleaf’s social media profile –

Rapleaf Report Info

Rapleaf Report Info

Don’t worry, your membership PII is safe.  They also merge multiple email address into one record, which somewhat helps take care of out-of-date email addresses.

And even better news –

You can upload a partial sample of up to 1,000 emails on their website and get a report for free!  (A full aggregate report costs a couple thousand dollars for 10-20,000 emails.  The full aggregate report is worth it if your organization is considering a significant investment of staff resources in social media and you have a much larger email subscriber base.  Rapleaf also offers a more specific report tying each email to each social network on your list for pennies per record)

Here is some sample data they send in their aggregate report (just the tip of the iceberg) –

Check out a full sample report here.

Your subscribers' social networks on Rapleaf

Your subscribers' social networks on Rapleaf

Some questions you can learn the answers to –

  • Do your subscribers use social media? (READ: Should you invest significant resources in social media?)
  • Which online social network(s) does your base use? (READ: Where should you be to talk with them and expand your reach through their networks?)
  • How many friends do they have? (READ: How influential in social media are your subscribers?)
  • How active are they? (READ: Can I engage my supporters to spread my message to their friends and help raise money for my organization?)

Rapleaf Friend Counts

Rapleaf Friend Counts

Rapleaf gives you an incredible opportunity to use social media to personalize your marketing efforts, segmenting your base to target only those who would be interested in in particular message.  Imagine the increase in email opens and conversion rates!

Rapleaf Demographics

Rapleaf Demographics

Case Study

I wrote an earlier post on the how the Obama team sent me an email about volunteering for their “data team” during the election.   I believe they used Rapleaf to segment their subscriber base and learn that I was an analytics professional – I know I never gave them that info.  My position at the time was Manager of the Data and Analytics group and Occupation/Title is part of the demographic info in the report.  (I have a call set up with one of Rapleaf’s founders.  I’ll confirm this point and update this post.)

Case Study from today’s conference call – A large non-profit focused on women’s issues


  • They are considering a larger, more strategic social media campaign
  • They have created basic fan pages on Facebook with limited success
  • They have 25,000 + members


  • They didn’t know if social media was popular with their memebers
  • They had sparse demographic data through offline surveys so they didn’t know much about their subscribers
  • They needed to persuade internal management of the importance of social media

Questions they Wanted Answers to

  • Confirm their membership bias to older women
  • Is social media worth it?
  • If so, which networks should they use?

Info Gained from the Study

  • Demographics of the membership base
  • Number and distribution of social media usage
  • Activity levels of members

How they used the Info Gained

  • Justified a social media campaign to their management team
  • Launched targeted ad campaign on Facebook (the main social media tool of their membership)
  • Collected benchmark data for campaign ROI
  • Initiated a communications strategy for reaching a younger audience (the report showed that their membership skewed younger than they though because younger people did not fill out the offline surveys)


  • Increased their Facebook fan base by 10x with an email campaign to members to join them on Facebook
  • Targeted ad campaign on Facebook increased donations
  • Ad targeting increased media efficiency

If you are interested in other demographic and psychographic research about your website visitors, as well as your online media reach and response, check out my blog post on Quantcast Marketer, another free tool you can use to learn more about your online audience.

Feel free to ask me more about research tools such as Rapleaf and Quantcast and how to use the results to improve your organization’s online communications.

#4change – A Monthly Twitter-based chat on social media for change

Yesterday I participated in the third monthly Twitter discussion called #4change.  This month’s topic was Opportunities for Collaboration through Social Media.  Some background reading @peterdeitz collab & competition @hildygottlieb

By the way, for those that don’t know, hashtags (# + a subject such as #4change) are used to follow conversations on Twitter pertaining to a specific subject.  For example, #kiva or #brooklyn.  You can read about hashtags here or just a quick search on the web.  There are many people discussing this topic at the moment.

(@ plus a phrase such as @LethalSheethal), is a Twitter username.  The @ sign signifies a specific Tweeter



This was the first time I’ve participated in anything like this.

I was training for my triathlon this Sunday so I was a bit late, but when I joined my first reactions were –

  • It’s hard to follow a Twitter chat (it’s like listening to 20 conversations at once) because people are replying to each other at different paces
  • Why can’t I filter for certain discussions to follow certain threads?  Perhaps “sub-hashtags” for threads within a chat?
  • Why do I have to spend so much time trying to figure out how to fit my thought and reactions into 140 characters and make it make any sense to someone reading my Tweets?
  • This is information overload.  I had to bookmark several links to check out later.  I am definitely a serious multi-tasker and a bit ADD, but no way could I read, follow, react, analyze and tweet

After getting over the initial issues, I was able to participate with thoughts of my own about collaboration facilitated by social media.  Some thoughts got lost and untweeted because the subject shifted.  To reiterate, it was difficult to read, react, analyze and tweet to everything.  I haven’t been on Twitter very long, so it could be that.  I would have loved to mention some examples of cities collaborating with their citizens through social media and some crowdsourcing examples.  I thought of mentioning umbrella groups asking for examples gaining scale from collaboration.  Someone probably said those things but I probably missed them.

Putting these logistical issues aside, I have many positive takeways from this virtual chat –

  • @engagejoe: I now see more kinds of collaboration: ppl-within-org, org-2-community, community-2-community, org-2-org
  • @engagejoe: I now see more kinds of collaboration: ppl-within-org, org-2-community, community-2-community, org-2-org
  • @tomjd: we must learn to collaborate as individuals first, then teach our organizations how
  • @socialedge: use socialmedia 4 greater transparency, efficiency gains thru shared knowledge/less redundant work+more sector/cross-sector collab
  • I learned again how many non-profits are having issues with social media because of the staff time, funding, etc
  • I met some great people involved with social media for positive change around the world and we are now connected
  • The discussion was still going last I checked although it was only supposed to be 2 hours long
  • KEY: Social media can be a bit chaotic and unfocused, but in this chaos, there are gems of creativity, knowledge sharing, community-building and collaboration just figuring it all out

And of course some links related to collaboration wrt social media to peruse in more depth at your convenience. – a platform to engage and inspire the 25 year olds of today -First Open Database of Social Entrepreneurs – Top 10 Social Media Presentations from @socialedge – Crowdsourcing for Social Good from @SocialEarth – online project management software – web-based project collaboration tool

Things I will do next time to make this experience better –

  • Set up the #4change search beforehand so I can follow better from the onset
  • Expect to miss the point of many @ replies without context
  • Look out for more resources to explore outside of the discussion time
  • Focus on the people and the network
  • Keep an open mind

Thanks #4change for setting this up!  Look forward to the next one.  Hopefully I’ll get my issues sorted before then.