Archive - 2012

1
6 Degrees of Separation Experiment
2
#Giving Tuesday Reflections
3
More #GivingTuesday Than GivingTuesdaytm
4
Vote for Me For President of LinkedIn!
5
When Bad Things Happen to Good Orgs Online
6
The Networked Nonprofit: A Prequel
7
2012 Voting Resources: Open Secrets
8
2012 Voting Resources: Vote411.org

6 Degrees of Separation Experiment

The idea that we are all connected to one another by 6 degrees of separation has become ingrained in our public consciousness. And it has been proven, and re-proven, scientifically first in the 1960s by Dr. Stanley Miligram in what he called the Small World Experiment whereby letters mailed from one social contact to another, and more recently in 2002 by Peter Sheridan Dodds, Roby Muhamad, and Duncan Watts and colleagues by email. The paper by Sheridan, et. al. is attached here for download:

Watts 6 Degrees 2002

The concept has even become the centerpeice for a giving platform created by Kevin Bacon, SixDegrees.org! These efforts were linear; one person passed the information to another person who passed it onto a third, and so on. The people came from their on land or online address books, personal and professional connections. But I wonder if Facebook is reshaping the distance  another person and passed on the information one to another from one’s on land or online address book. I wonder if Facebook is reshaping our connections through the collection of lots of people with very light ties with whom I am connected. I would likely not have had a chunk of my high school class in my address book before, but now I can reach them instantly and easily and at no expensive and all at once. Does this make it easier for people to reach random other people around the world?

That’s what I want to try to find out. Also, by using Facebook, we should be able to watch the bouncing ball of one person connecting to another to reach their destination. The one clear rule of the experiment is that the connections have to be between existing social connections, no Googling someone and reaching out to a stranger.

I need some design help. Who is interested in making this happen through, say, a Facebook group?

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#Giving Tuesday Reflections

On this month’s Social Good podcast, Henry Timms, the deputy executive director of the Jewish community center 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and the originator of the idea for #Giving Tuesday, shares his reflections on the phenomenally successful first year of the event.

Here are a few of my takeaways from our conversation:

  • There was a lot of planning for the event. It was not a spontaneous hashtag “movement” but a carefully organized fundraising day that began to take shape last spring. Henry recruited venerable institutions like the UN Foundation and the United Way, and I daresay the notion of an open effort powered by Twitter and a hashtag would have been unthinkable by groups like this just a year or two ago. And that’s a large part of what is so exciting, I think, about A#Giving Tuesday, it was started by large, well-funded groups but it was open for participation by any organization, any donor, any free agent. I quibbled about hashtag vs. trademark for the event, but, clearly Henry’s heart and intentions are wide open.
  • The day took on a life of its own, as any effort powered by a hashtag should. Organizations broadened the original concept to include volunteerism as part of the “donations” for the day and it became a larger conversation about creating what Henry called Opening Day for the giving season. I hadn’t thought about a “Giving Season” before and like the idea very much (probably because it has such a baseball feel to it!)
  • The idea was very sticky and this year was just a beginning. Instead of a few hundred organizations participating, there were a few thousands. There was something very sticky about having a day for generosity as the last leg in after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, dedicated national shopping days. Henry made it clear, though, that this year was just the beginning and they are going to reflect on the event and make changes for next year.

 

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More #GivingTuesday Than GivingTuesdaytm

Yesterday was #GivingTuesday, a phenomenal, viral event to spur donations and volunteerism for causes to rival Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (BTW, all those for corporate marketing gurus couldn’t think of better names than those? Why is a day dedicated to shopping “Black”? And Cyber Monday sounds like the invasion of the Borg.)

Giving Tuesday didn’t just pop up last week and tweet its way randomly to success. As Beth and I have written previously it had the scaffolding of successful online campaigns: time limited, urgent, photogenic and sharable. It also had the benefit of originating with heavy weight partners like the 92nd Street Y , the UN Foundation with the resources to dedicate staff to weave the network using Twitter (here and here), a website and, of course, Facebook pages. And ultimately on the day itself celebrities like Katie Couric and Bill Gates and mainstream media endorsing and tweeting about it. (Note: Campaigns like this are certainly capable of going viral without a  lot of organizational muscle behind them, but it does make it easier when organizations can afford to staff to man the channels.)

But what the effort had most of all is more # than tm (I was originally going to say it had hashtags and no trademark, but, alas and sadly, found the use of the trademark symbol on the Giving Tuesday website, sigh, somebody let a lawyer in the room.)

An event powered by a hashtag breathes outwards, it is open for anyone to join, talk about, share, and spread. An event organized by a trademark sucks in, has rules and regulations about who can participate and how. Giving Tuesday was more the former than the later which was a large part of its success. During the afternoon, I noticed on the twitter stream using the hashtag an emphasis on volunteerism as a great way to give. The implication was that writing a check is just one of many ways to give. This wasn’t a planned discussion, just one of many zigs and zags of conversations about giving leading up to and throughout the day.

Bread for the City, a marvelous, small nonprofit in DC dedicated to feeding people, an organization not on the “official” list of orgs participating in Giving Tuesday, can freely participate and send out this tweet by late yesterday:

I hope Giving Tuesday can remain hashtag oriented and not be overtaken by brands and lawyers and inhalers rather than exhalers. But it’s not up to “them” whether or not that happens, it’s up to us to keep a careful watch and make sure it does.

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Vote for Me For President of LinkedIn!

For all of you having election withdrawal, I’d like to announce my candidacy for President of LinkedIn. Free cake for everyone!

Debra’s post a few weeks ago about endorsements on LinkedIn got me thinking about the site’s fundamental purpose. I noticed something curious recently, when I talk about the maturation of the social media toolset for social change purposes: email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs. And I often forget to mention LinkedIn until someone shouts out, “Hey, what about LinkedIn?” And I say, “Oh, yes, I forgot, and it’s much better since it added the ability to create groups a few years ago.” But it’s not a rousing endorsement.

And then Debra’s post made a light bulb go off and I understand why. Unlike the other social media tools, LinkedIn fosters one-to-one network connections even if it’s through several degrees of separation, the fundamental purpose of LinkedIn is to connect one business person to another in a rather tightly controlled environment. You can see you are connected to someone by several steps and have to go through the process of getting their permission to access your valuable business contact. That’s why people wary of the uncontrolled chaos of Facebook or Twitter, feel so comfortable on LinkedIn. It looks social but it is very limited in it’s sociability – it’s the online equivalent of handing out your business card. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good at what it does and the groups are a great idea – but they tend to run out of steam after an initial burst of activity.

And then a few weeks ago, LinkedIn started to offer the ability for other folks to endorse your friends (Beth was my first endorser, naturally!) It’s very kind of people to endorse me but it seems like I should be able to something more with them. So, that’s why I’ve decided to launch my campaign as President of LinkedIn, no reason to let all those good endorsements go to waste – and you all miss election season, don’t you?

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When Bad Things Happen to Good Orgs Online

This month’s Social Good podcast is a conversation with Allyson Kapin about how to deal with a crisis that may erupt online. Allyson has great expertise in this area (even if she spells her name wrong!) as the founder of Rad Campaign, the chief evangelist for Women Who Tech and a book to be published soon co-authored with the brilliant Amy Sample Ward, Social Change Anytime Everywhere.

As the title of the post on the Chronicle’s website points out, damage control is largely about paying attention and reacting quickly and constructively to a disruption. Her key points:

  • Build your community as a base of support prior to a problem.
  • Spread out the listening. It doesn’t have to be just one person’s job to listen, particularly if you work at a smaller organization, spread it out, give everyone a channel to watch.
  • Meet the challenge head on. Don’t put your head in the sand, respond quickly and honestly because the issue a legitimate critic raises is probably someone else’s issue, too. Apologize, ask questions about why they feel a certain way, ask the community to help solve the problem.

In other words: Roll up your sleeves and get in the game! Enjoy the podcast.

 

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The Networked Nonprofit: A Prequel

I have had the privilege of serving as president of my congregation, Temple Beth Abraham (take a peek at our brand new, gorgeous sanctuary!), for the last two and a half years.  It has been a fascinating, at times exhausting, but overall very fulfilling endeavor. I learned that instead of using The Networked Nonprofit as a blueprint, I was actually creating a prequel to it. We simply were not ready organizationally to practice the kind of conversational style of community building outlined in the book.

I wrote a case study of my experience and Lisa Colton was kind enough to post it with an interview at Darim Online. The case study begins with these reflections:

“My presidency coincided with the Great Recession and significant decline in the number of Jews moving into our area. In the spirit of never wasting a good crisis, lay leadership, clergy and the congregation writ large have given me great latitude for experimentation for which I am enormously grateful. The following reflections as temple president are not intended as a victory lap, we are far from stabilizing, much less growing our membership. Rather it is an opportunity to share what I have learned in the hopes that others can build and improve on them and share their experiences as well.”

Here is the case study for downloading:

netnon prequel-final.

The top level findings are:

  • New Voices. We needed new voices and turnover on the board. Without new people at the table, we would continue to have the same old conversations.
  • Abundance. We had to challenge an antiquated, closed, scarcity-based organizational culture. This meant finding specific opportunities (in our case it was the assumptions the process for financial relief were based on) and having conversations at the board table about them. Why do we believe this? Are the original reasons still relevant? What would happen if we changed these assumptions? What are most afraid might happen?
  • Practice generosity.  Traditional institutions, particularly those like synagogues that serve a population scarred by prejudice and hostility and even genocide, find it difficult to be generous. This may seem like an oxymoron for an institution protecting and preserving a religion based on generosity, but over time the institutional default settings were set to suspicion and closed. It’s simply a fact, not a right or wrong. We have to now actually practice being generous. When we give members who are over ninety years old honorary memberships, we find that they donate more than they were paying in membership dues. And last week we found that when we make temple a safe haven for people without power they want to come and be with us.

It is only now that we are able to inch out onto the social media channels and open ourselves up to real conversations with congregants. What did we learn last week when we opened our doors during the Hurricane? What do we want out of our family education efforts? How can we do a better job connecting congregants to one another?

I’m not sure where our synagogue will be in a few years, but I certainly know that road we were on wasn’t sustainable. I’d love to hear from others whether my experience resonates with theirs.

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2012 Voting Resources: Open Secrets

In the first election since the Supreme Court opened the floodgates of campaign money, Open Secrets is more important than ever. This site is the most comprehensive and best organized website tracking where and how campaign money is flowing. This year it’s also tracking the avalanche of “independent” expenditures, all that PAC money paying for “non-partisan” ads. Just take a quick peek at this graphic:

Yuck!

But drill down past the Presidential race, and the site becomes a fascinating microcosm of spending in local races. Here is a great graph capturing what’s happening in the Connecticut Senate Race:

How would you like to be Linda McMahon’s Treasurer? She put in $27 million of her own money, and in the last two weeks of the campaign has less on hand than Chris Murphy! The site has so much data about campaign spending. The tabs on top tell you who contributes to candidates, who from outside the district are giving (a travesty keeping many incumbents afloat.)

Open Secrets is a phenomenal national resource, and I strongly recommend you spend some time seeing where candidates for offices in your state and voting district are getting their funding.

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2012 Voting Resources: Vote411.org

The grandma of online voting resources is Vote411.org from the League of Women Voters (frankly, I’d be a fan of anything that combines two of my favorite subjects: women and voting – just add chocolate to it and it would be a perfect trifecta!)

The League has hosted Vote11 for several years and keeps adding new features and data for each election cycle. The site is cleaner than it was in the past, you can input your physical address and find out all sorts of information about local races, voting registration, absentee voting and polling places nearby. Finally, you can request a personal voter guide by email.

Vote411.org is the go to place to find out who is running for what and how to vote locally for every voter.

[Note: I introduced the League to a company with polling place data to help create the first iteration of Vote411.org.]

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