My last day in Israel last Friday started with a session at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to discuss their use of social media. It was a great session. I was struck by the fact that they are on all the channels, they don’t need any new policies, what they need is integration across the channels and more real-time activity to get some traction with the toolset. We discussed the possibility of live streaming events, taking questions in real-time by Facebook, and following through the cycle of an event by posting pictures afterwards. Their willingness to explore how to use all the channels and open up their conversation was very impressive.
Phew, what a week of learning and sharing! The NGO community in Israel is in such an interesting state of development. It’s exciting to watch new groups emerge and conversations beginning. And in terms of social media, NGOs are just beginning to utilize the tools. One measure of their beginning-ness is that not a single NGO said they had social media policies.
My biggest concern for the NGOs there is the rush to institutionalization I saw happening around the country. The creation of associations of organizations, capacity building workshops, etc. Of course, learning how to work more efficiently and effectively are good things – but not at the cost of distancing themselves from their communities. They don’t need American structures, assumptions, efforts layered on top of them, they need to create an independent sector that fits their own particular context. And as we’ve seen this year in the rest of the Middle East, the use of Facebook and other technologies by individuals can sometimes be catalysts for enormous social change.