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WiserEarth tracks the work of nonprofits around the world

This open-source site encourages social networking among nongovernmental groups.

WiserEarth, which launched in May, is an open-source database of more than 107,000 do-good organizations, with 5,400 users around the world.

The site incorporates Google Maps, wikis, and discussion groups, as well as listings of events, resources, and jobs. Users can create and maintain profile pages, and chat with members of other groups. Areas of focus range from agriculture to health to media to work, and popular forum discussions involve poverty, gender, and "planetary development." More calendars and regionally focused content hubs are being created.

Participants in the Bioneers sustainability conference this weekend were using WiserEarth and Google Earth software to map the work of their nonprofit groups and environmental studies classes.

WiserEarth is a project of the Natural Capital Institute. The institute is also working on the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER) as well as an open-source Wiser Business database to track sustainable business practices. Environmentalist and author Paul Hawken, who helped to pioneer the concept of "natural capitalism," is behind these efforts.

With a similar theme as WiserEarth, the older Idealist has more than 195,000 users in at least 130 countries.

For those looking to find nonprofits or volunteer opportunities only in the United States, VolunteerMatch and Network for Good--or for young people, TakingITGlobal--are also solid places to start.