Tag - Debra Askanase

Building Fiercely Loyal Communities
Vote for Me For President of LinkedIn!
Defining Social Change
Free Agent Communities

Building Fiercely Loyal Communities

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 11.14.49 AMI love the idea of communities as being both fierce and loyal. Naturally, when I read Debra Askanase’s post interviewing Sarah Robinson’s book, Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities, I had to have the book and invite Sarah to be my guest on this month’s Social Good podcast!

Sarah has years of experience building communities on land and online. Her book provides a very simple rubric for the DNA of successful communities. They have:

  • A captivating common interest
  • People who share this common interest
  • A set of compelling needs
  • A specific organizational structure, and
  • Advanced evolution of the community.

Of course, although Sarah provides a simple outline for us, it takes a lot of work to make this work. Organizers (and all healthy communities need organizers) have to do a great deal of listening, exploring, trying (and failing) and retrying to tap into the passions of community members. What I like best about Sarah’s construct is that it taps into fundamental human needs; to belong, to be safe, to build something with other people and provides clear steps for how to make it all work.


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?


Defining Social Change

I was at a little league game a few weeks ago. It was a bucolic scene, the baseball diamond situated right on the shores of the Hudson River. Squads of ten year old boys prepared to play against one another, so earnest in the almost impossible task of solidly hitting a moving round ball with a moving round bat. A batter was up, cleats dug into the batters box and eyes intently focused on the pitcher. A grounder was hit to second base and the batter took off towards first. Flying down the base path I noticed something different, two pigtails flying behind the batting helmet and cheers for the batter, Audrey, as she made it safely to first.

I didn’t know Audrey was on my son’s team, which was good news, and I didn’t care except to feel a bit of pride as she successfully navigated around the diamond and scored a run. When did this happen, I wondered? When did we stop noticing Audrey, and other little girls like her? When does radical, disruptive change become blase?

At the same time I was also noticing what I think is the loose usage of the term “social change.” Sign a petition for social change. Buy this yogurt for social change. Bang a nail into a house for social change. You get the idea. I’m not usually a stickler for precision in language. For instance, I made up the word “miniphany” a few years ago, meaning a mini epiphany, and happily use it often. I’m also just as happy as the next Fellow to throw around words like innovation and synergy, I’ve even been known to use “algorithm” with only the vaguest idea of what it means. But social change is different. It’s too important to be watered down and mischaracterized to confuse a donation from a food company with the struggle that women and girls overcame to make Audrey’s hit so unremarkable. What does “social change” really mean, I wondered.

I asked my networks on Twitter and LinkedIn for help in defining the phrase. To spice it up a bit, I also asked if it was like pornography, we’d know it when we see it like I did with Audrey.  The responses were very helpful.

Lisa Colton said she thinks of it as greater than changing one element. Though that is one aspect of social change.

Debra Askanase said it is a movement of people trying to change a part of society from unjust to just.

Matt Scharpnick wrote, “The way I studied it, we drew a distinction between soc. service & soc. change, (band-aid vs root causes).”

Ahhh, now we’re really getting somewhere. There is an important distinction between doing something and solving something. It’s the difference between treating problems and solving them. I love the fact that young people are drawn to volunteering; they are idealistic and caring and good people. But these are largely acts of loving kindness. We feed, cloth, shelter people. We visit people so they are less lonely, we provide gifts to children in the hospital. We do these things because empathy is in our DNA and because we hope others will treat us this way when our time to be taken care of comes.

But these efforts don’t change systems, and they rarely change believes or attitudes or solve fundamental problems. That’s why Leslie and Heather found in Forces for Good that the most effective nonprofits all had advocacy arms. Advocacy is the primary vehicle for social change and organizations are not the only vehicles for change. When Elizabeth Taylor stood arm in arm with Rock Hudson when he had AIDs, our attitudes towards people with the disease began to change. Alaaa abd el Fattah, an Egyptian blogger and Facebooker, was a key free agent activist who helped to catalyze the Egyptian revolution this past spring.

Cindy Wong wrote on LinkedIn that she found this definition from the social science dictionary: “social change = alteration in social structures or culture over time.”

I think that’s close, but I don’t think it’s just structural change. When a girl playing baseball is unnoticed that means attitudes and beliefs have changed. It is where gay marriage is headed, someday soon it will go unnoticed. How to get to unnoticeable is the great challenge for social change makers.





Free Agent Communities

Debra Askanase, aka @askdebra, has written a terrific post over at the Care2 blog,Why “Free Agent” Social Communities Rock. Debra builds on the concept of free agents that Beth and I describe in The Networked Nonprofit. We defined free agents as individuals, fluent with social media, raising awareness, funds and organizing for causes. It’s awfully exciting to watch as a concept that we crafted gets read (phew!) and then tugged on and made better by smart people like Debra.

The essence of Debra’s piece is that whole communities of folks are using online social networks to identify causes and nonprofit for which to fundraising. She cites several examples, my favorite being the Cake Wreck’s Blog, because it’s a great example and because, well, anything that has cake in the title is going to be OK by me!  Here’s how Debra descries this free agent community:

The Cake Wrecks blog began their Christmas Charity Countdown in 2009 to raise money for 12 different nonprofits in 12 days. As Cake Wrecks writes: “Many of you remember this crazy thing I did last year, when John and I skipped gifts and decorations and instead donated to a different charity each day for two weeks. I asked you guys to recommend places to give, and invited you to join us by giving a single dollar each day to the featured charity. But the really crazy thing is that a lot of you did.” This year, Cake Wrecks reintroduced the Christmas Charity Countdown, asking for recommendations of places to give, and asking readers to donate $1.00 a day to 12 different nonprofit organizations. Over 12 days, the Cake Wrecks fundraiser generated almost $23,000 in donations. Over 4,500 people donated, primarily in increments of less than $5.00.”
The idea of free agent communities for fundraising has all sorts of exciting possibilities like flash mobs for raising funds. My thanks to Debra for taking our idea in such an exciting direction.


Copyright © 2018 Allison Fine