Network Weaving – Story Telling – Crowdsourcing – Oh My!

The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine virtual launch is today at 4pm Eastern. Their webcast with Care2 can be viewed here. And hot off participating on a panel at the Making Media Connections conference and catching up on the Summer issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, I had a convergence of thoughts.

At the conference, we talked about using social media, storytelling, accessing the media and how use and grow effective networks. These activities work best when we are collaborating and building networks/relationships using old and new tools. From comments at this conference and others, I know the control freak attitude still remains at many nonprofits. Staff and leadership still unwilling, scared or unable to let go. We can and must engage with our constituencies to be successful in sharing our message, meeting community challenges and making social change. Beth and Allison refer to free agents and fortress fighters who can help nonprofits remove the walls. Change is hard, but change is happening!

The article “Working Wikily” by Scearce, Kasper and Grant in SSIR offered so many ideas and solutions. (I am sorry to say the article is only available by subscription or I would include a link.) The authors developed a chart that describes network development from centralized (controlled) to decentralized (open).

“Working wikily is characterized by greater openness, transparency, decentralized decision making and collective action.”

The authors offer five ways to effectively use new, social media tools and networks to advance social change:

  • Weaving Community – Please see my blog post on June Holley who coined the term network weavers.
  • Accessing Diverse Perspectives “Crowdsourcing”
  • Building and Sharing Knowledge
  • Mobilizing People – See Kanter & Fine on Free Agents and Fortress Fighters
  • Coordinating Resources and Action

Someone always asks, “How do we sell using social media to leadership?” I think the reasons mentioned above are great as well as ROI (risk of ignoring). Today our networks are or should be more connected than ever before. They are growing 24/7/365. They engage and expand at an ever increasing pace and allow us to connect to people near and far. Let’s face it, the digital natives (potential volunteers and donors) are outpacing the digital dinosaurs. More importantly, the nonprofits who take the time to form an integrated strategy that fits their goals will be successful and those nonprofit that don’t will be at a disadvantage.

In the nonprofit sector we always talk about collaboration. We know our work is about relationships, always has been, always will be. Social networking tools are cost effective and allow us to take our network weaving to the next level – thoughtfully and consciously to engage new and old constituents. We must share how we are changing lives and saving lives and new tools allow us to do this differently and more effectively than before. Asking our audiences for THEIR thoughts and ideas and giving them a forum is important to making our communities better.

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