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Irish-based web links hands and hearts

Irish-based web links hands and hearts is more than a social network site; it seeks to connect non-profits and individuals to change the world for the better, including for refugees.
14 August 2008
Mirroring UNHCR's logo of shelter and protection are (from left) Peter Conlon, CEO of Irish-based non-profit networking site, and UNHCR's Representative in Ireland, Manuel Jordao.

DUBLIN, Ireland, August 14 (UNHCR) - Among the myriad of social network sites like Facebook and Bebo, a recently-launched Irish-based site called "ammado" aims to be different. Its target is to connect non-profit organisations and individuals who are dedicated to changing the world for the better, including for refugees.

Recently, the UN refugee agency joined up with ammado to run a successful campaign to mark World Refugee Day (June 20). It witnessed hundreds of ammado users posting their photos of family and friends, or even the man on the street, raising their hands over their heads to create a symbol of shelter and protection - mirroring a campaign run by UNHCR based on its logo of a set of caring hands protecting a refugee.

Speaking about ammado's mission, its director and founder Peter Conlon says it's part of a "vision to build a community that will change our world." Likening it to the UN's multilateral approach to problem-solving, he believes that "by connecting people and organisations around shared values, we hope to make a contribution to solve broader problems. Small stories and small contributions create everyday heroes and can lead to a powerful movement to change our world."

Although ammado offers many of the core social networking functions, the site also offers unique tools for charities and companies to manage their various social media. Its widget technology aims to help organisations to easily spread their message across the web while keeping a great degree of editorial control over the content.

Conlon feels ammado has the potential to change the hearts and minds of the public. "ammado is a facilitator," he says. "In traditional media, journalists write the story and they have the editorial control. We are a channel that allows non-profits and people to publish their own story. ammado is interactive, it carries on a conversation rather than broadcasting a message. People and organisations can connect directly, tell their story and ask for support. Also it combines different media tools such as print, images and video, to convey the message."

Manuel Jordão, UNHCR's Representative in Ireland, hails ammado's work: "Dynamic social networks on the internet are this generation's social revolution. The internet has changed the way we communicate with each other and the way we do business forever. Sites like ammado are creating links between people with similar interests and commitments, helping to build the networks that can be a great catalyst for change. It links well with UNHCR's work. As an agency we are always trying to create opportunities and links to open doors to increase the access refugees have to seek protection from persecution."

Conlon and his business partner, Dr. Anna Kupka, launched the site's initial version in June 2007, which since then has rapidly developed and is now available in 10 languages with activities in over 100 countries.

Free to join for non-profits and individuals, ammado is now growing every day as organisations start inviting their members to join their community and users invite friends and family to sign up, according to Conlon. He says there are over 2,000 non-profit organisations from all over the world using ammado to reach their objectives, increase public awareness and engage supporters and volunteers.

"We've spent the last year talking to hundreds of local and international non-profits worldwide to truly understand their needs and provide them with the technology they need to further their cause," he notes.

"Ultimately ammado is about people being catalysts for change. Users can make a difference everyday by connecting to their favourite non-profits, supporting their campaigns in petitions, polls and communities or promoting non-profit profiles on other sites."

In a few weeks time ammado will introduce the "Giving Circle", a donations feature which will allow its users to display their giving history on their profile pages, "marking them as an ambassador for change."

By Steven O'Brien in Dublin, Ireland