Social Actions takes actions posted on the web from more than forty different socially progressive organizations, and aggregates them into a common format for easy discovery. The actions are concrete activities like volunteering, donating, signing a petition, making a loan, or attending a meetup, all in the service of "making a difference" for issues like Darfur, cancer, LGBT, prison reform, and other activist concerns. On the Social Actions site interested citizens can search the opportunities and they offer an API (our Social Actions API profile) that allows developers to build on top of the stream of postings.
Social Actions has announced the Change the Web Challenge contest to build "innovative tools to help people find and share opportunities to take action on the websites, blogs, and social networks that we all visit everyday." To get a sense of the kind of actions that the site makes available, here are the individual ones related to climate change as posted on Twitter, and a list of the categories that Social Actions promotes on that platform.
The contest doesn't specifically require use of the API - the contest entry could be an interesting application of a social or mobile platform, like the Twitter example above. The goal is to do something constructive to help people's causes, not just to show off technology chops. But with the API giving a programmable window into all the actions, it should lead to the most innovative approaches. A total of $10,000 in prizes will be given out. The submission period is open now through April 3rd, with community voting for the top twenty finalists in April. Final judging by a panel of experts will lead to the announcement of winners at NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco on April 28th.
The Social Actions API is a single REST search call with JSON returned. The search can be filtered by type of action (fundraiser, event, volunteer, etc.), date posted, or site that the action was sourced from. Here are some samples of applications built with the API, and a tutorial showing how to program the API is just 25 lines of PHP. So make an interesting piece of technology, help the world, and win a few dollars - there is no downside to your participation.