Archive for May 2012

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The 100 Day Challenge, Day 40: Increasing NetSquared Connectivity

In our previous posts, Laney and I have been discussing the NetSquared 100 Day Challenge, which encompasses a set of six commitments we’ve made to our Global Leadership Council (GLC) and the NetSquared community. 

Today is (about!) day 40, and I’d like to share an update about how we’re working to address two interrelated challenges:

  • Providing space for NetSquared Local organizers to get to know one another, share stories, strategies, tips and tactics focused on strengthening the organizer network. (Challenge #3)
  • Improving engagement, resource sharing and support between NetSquared Local organizers and their members. (Challenge #4)

These two challenges are interrelated. Challenge #3 has to do with increasing connectivity within the NetSquared organizer community. This issue has surfaced repeatedly during our recent listening activities and GLC discussions in which organizers have shared an eagerness to connect with their peers and support one another. If we can increase connectivity, organizers will generate new ideas that can be brought back to strengthen the NetSquared Local experience. It’s that transfer of enthusiasm, we believe, that will lead them to better support and share resources with their members, which is what Challenge #4 is all about.

The power of organizer connectivity was exemplified by the recent GLC gathering in San Francisco. One of the greatest successes of GLC SF was that it led to fast friendships and the desire to support one another. Yet, as GLC member and new NetSquared contractor Elijah van der Giessen pointed out during the final meeting of the program, we have to find a way for the other 40+ NetSquared organizers to get that same experience!

We’ve got some ideas. Here are the ways we’re thinking about strengthening connectivity within our organizer community:

1. Proactive Connection-Making: The process of making connections has to begin on day one. When an organizer approaches us about starting a new NetSquared Local group, we will survey their interests and keep track of that information so we can make direct 1:1 connections, offer relevant content on our blog and host discussions around topics of shared interest.

2. Hangouts: Our Global Community Builder, Anna Kuliberda, recently came up with the idea of hosting monthly Google hangouts for any NetSquared organizer who’d like to join in. Some hangouts will be informal in nature, providing organizers a space to share challenges, discuss new ideas or just to get to know one another. Others may be organized around a specific topic of shared interest as mentioned above.

3. A New Regional Approach: Our GLC members have proposed creating a regional framework in which our most active NetSquared organizers become a go-to resource for groups in a particular area. We also have plans to launch a new Regional Gathering Fund (RGF), which will provide support for camps worldwide to celebrate the launch of our new platform. More details to come! 

4. The New Platform: Our new NetSquared platform to be released this summer has a number of exciting features that will greatly enhance organizer connectivity:

  • Our homepage will prominently feature NetSquared Locals, providing them a visible way to share their activities while increasing the chance that other groups will want to learn how to apply these new ideas in their own contexts.

  • Each NetSquared group will have a dedicated page on the new platform that links to its own meetup page. Information about all groups will be found in one easily accessible location, making inter-group connectivity easier than it’s ever been.
  • The new site will not only facilitate connections between organizers, but their constituents as well. Any member of a NetSquared Local group will have the capability to link with like-minded people around the world who share their interests, thereby facilitating inter-city NetSquared connections at multiple levels. 

5. Celebrating Success: Through our new platform, our new Digital Bites publication, blogging and social media, we want to amplify success stories within our community. Our hope is that by calling attention to your innovative activities in a more proactive way, it will spark new ideas and increase inspiration, experimentation and enthusiasm across the network. In proposing these new approaches, we want to become better connection facilitators by providing a framework for NetSquared organizers and their groups to thrive at the local level.

What do you think of these proposals? Got other ideas? We’d love to hear them, here or @MarcManashil

Have Online Social Networks Become Boring?

I love this new video from the Case Foundation about the power of social media for social change.    The numbers illustrate how far the field has come in adopting social media, although not 100% adoption.     The video reminded me of the classic video, “The Machine is US/ing Us.”   I often used [...]

Innovate4Good or How Microsoft Engages Young People In Tech?

Innovate4good is a Microsoft initiative to build a network for young people who are able to name the modern world problems. It also is a chance for the company to translate them into tech solutions, that Microsoft could then build or support. To meet these goals the company from Redmond is organizing a series of offline meetups (1.5 days events in different places all around the world like Brussels and Redmond), as well as encouraging young people to stay in touch online via an especially designed social network. In this interview, Chris Worman, TechSoup Global Communications and Special Projects Manager, shares his experience with the Innovate4Good events and speaks about working with young people — the “why” and the “how”. Do you have more questions that I have managed to ask? Let me know in the comments, and I will try to get the answer for you.

What are the reasons behind so many projects being targeted at youth at the moment? How is the Microsoft initiative different?

That is a very good question — I think perhaps it is in part because youth are largely digital natives.  What is important in that statement is that youth are leading new models of interaction that are going to influence the way we all work - whether we are in the corporate sector or civil society.  So we are all trying to figure that out and understand ‘kids these days’ in order to work with the upcoming generations. 

I think there are a couple  of ways in which the Microsoft initiative is different.  First, it is truly global.  There are a lot of kids in Redmond, Brussels, Cairo, Singapore, Beijing and Mexico City coming together.  There is a lot of good data there and we are seeing a lot of similar trends in their discussion.  It is also different because it is quite cross-sector.  This is a global corporation listening to youth from a variety of backgrounds and encouraging them to ask questions, be they about civil, social, business or education issues. 

Who exactly does Microsoft try to engage via Innovate4Good and how are they doing it?

Youth from their various programs — programmers, beneficiaries in civil society organizations and social entrepreneurs.  Microsoft is engaging them through a creative process which asks youth to map the issues they care about then explore tech interventions that might offer solutions.  It is co-creative and empowering.

What was the difference (if any) between the US and the European Innovate4Good editions?

The main difference was cultural — first that the US kids were all from… the US.  Which is not homogeneous, but more so than the 20+ countries in the EU offering.  Second, social service is really ingrained in US youth.  There are many excellent young social entrepreneurs in Europe, but the entire dialog starts earlier in the States, and I think there are more opportunities for youth to engage.  In the US edition there was no question about whether those youth wanted to engage in social change or what social change they might engage in because it was already happening whereas we felt in Europe we had to ask the question about ‘what’ and in some cases ‘why.’

Do you expect the communities created within 1.5 days to be successfully maintained online after the event?

To some extent.  It depends on how you define success.  I am pretty optimistic about people’s desire to engage and realistic about the commitment and environment necessary to do so.  Those who want and need to lead will find it a very enabling environment to do so.  It is for that group.  And they will maintain and grow.  For the others I am sure this was a good/great and educational process and hope it may broaden their view a bit to apply some of the logical tools we worked on to any situation they face.

At the event in Brussels during one of the closing speeches we heard that “it is remarkable how young people are similar all around the world”. It spoke to the young generation problems and aspirations. Would you say that is true? Why?

If you look at the ideas around the world they are remarkably similar — they are largely about reforming and improving education.  So yes it is true.  But on the other hand, that is a product of the environments youth are exposed to.  They sit in school all day and have a lot of time to figure out the problems.  If all youth travelled and learned freely it might be different.  I am curious though how dialog and participation are becoming remarkably similar — meaning behavior is becoming more similar — even if the dialog is perhaps more limited in scope.  This is very interesting.  Why did all these youth from a very different set of educational paradigms - some which reward creative outspoken thought, and some which don’t, feel open and empowered to engage?  Because they are youth?  Or because the internet - their digital native home - has taught them communications and interaction models that are quite different than you see in the culturally influenced and widely different engagement models of their parents?

Learn more:


How to spend your day, today

I believe there is time for every one of your dreams.  That big project, that bold test, that long-tabled idea—there is time for each if you consciously pick them over the endless office filler of email, politics and drama.

Check out this pie from Scott Belsky and Behance - it reinforces to me a very important concept.  We have far more control over how we spend our time than we actually exercise.  Do your pie wedges look like this?  Knowing life is short, how should they look instead?

I know my life is better when I slash the insecurity and pare back the reactionary work.  On the days I fail to do that, I’m grouchy and unfulfilled.  But if I’m honest, I have to say it’s my own fault.  I choose how to spend my day.  I could choose better.

Here are the definitions of the pie wedges from Scott Belsky.

1. Reactionary Work -  responding to messages and requests - emails, text messages, Facebook messages, tweets, voicemails, and the list goes on. You are constantly reacting to what comes into you rather than being proactive in what matters most to you. Reactionary Work is necessary, but you can’t let it consume you.

2. Planning Work - the time spent, scheduling and prioritizing your time, developing your systems for running meetings, and refining your systems for working. By planning, you are deciding how your energy should be allocated, and you are designing your method for getting stuff done. It allows you to meet your goals.

3. Procedural Work - the administrative/maintenance stuff that we do just to keep afloat: making sure that the bills are paid or preparing tax returns, updating a deck for a business presentation, or tracking old outbound emails to confirm that they were addressed/solved. Procedural Work is important, but we must remember to remain flexible in our approach to it. Procedures backfire when they become antiquated and remain only out of habit, not necessity.

4. Insecurity Work - obsessively looking at certain statistics related to your company, or repeatedly checking what people are saying about you or your product online, etc. Insecurity Work doesn’t move the ball forward in any way - aside from briefly reassuring us that everything is OK - and we’re often unconscious that we’re even doing it.

5. Problem-Solving Work - This is the work that requires our full brainpower and focus, whether it be designing a new interface, developing a new business plan, writing a thoughtful blog post, or brainstorming the features of a new product. Whether you’re working solo or as a team, you’re leveraging raw creativity to find answers.

Thanks Scott for the great thinking. 

So what’s your plan for today?  How much will go to #5?

I’m going to try to make it more.

Do Companies Have to Be Sinless Before They Can Practice Cause Marketing?

A Few Good Pinterest Tools, Tips, and Resources

Pinning Our Lives: Pinterest and Beyond View more presentations from Aliza Sherman Back in January, I wrote a post about Pinterest  as a curation tool to organize and share visual content I’ve collected in a pleasing visual way.   As the platform has evolved over the past few months,  there are some other benefits including [...]

Day 20 Update: The NetSquared 100-Day Challenge

There are two lies in the title of this blog post. First, today is not Day 20 of the 100-Day Challenge, not even close. Although everything I’m going to write about today has been marching onward, the actual writing part has fallen way behind, so my day-20 update is actually coming closer to day 50. Second, the 100-Day Challenge is not a 100-day challenge. We’ll re-sync and review at the 100-day mark on August 3rd, but everything we’re talking about here is part of a larger commitment from the NetSquared team for the coming months and years — especially when it comes to the new Net2 platform, the focus of today’s challenge update.

Challenge #2: Stories of Impact

We identified 6 total challenges to tackle in these 100 days. Today, we’re talking about Challenge #2: Organizers are seeking to surface stories of impact that emerge from their Local group participants and communities, a key prioritized feature of the in-development Net2 Platform.
NetSquared Local groups are not just monthly talks. They are hubs of ideas and innovation, and NetSquared organizers play important roles in surfacing local projects — from curating ideas and news across the local community to providing a platform for NetSquared participants’ projects and passions.
Stories are valuable not only to convey the impact of NetSquared communities and activities, but to make NetSquared more accessible and understandable. The right story can convey the impact of NetSquared, the power of a local community, and the influence of a network — all at once.
There are lots of different ways to capture stories. For this challenge (and in general on the NetSquared team) there are two: (1) Projects that we share via the Net2 Platform, and (2) media that we share via Net2 Digital Bites.

Projects on the Net2 Platform

The upcoming Net2 Platform (scheduled launch in July 2012) will be an essential tool for surfacing stories. In the world of the Net2 platform, stories of impact come in the form of projects: discrete, shareable pieces of work driven by members of the NetSquared community. A project can be the germ of an idea you want to develop over time, a full-blown enterprise ready to be unleashed, or anything in between.
The new Net2 Platform will make it easier to share projects in a few different ways.

  1. First, published projects will be neatly packaged and easy to navigate. We’re pretty psyched about the new project design (don’t underestimate the power of a nice-looking web page to tell a good story). 
  1. Second, you can update your project in seconds — you can even use Twitter to make the updates. The more seamless we can make it, the more likely project champions are to share their work
  1. Third, you can tie projects to NetSquared Local groups and communities. Projects are all the more powerful when they’re associated with a city, region, or a specific NetSquared Local group. The platform will tie projects to groups and groups to projects.

Media via Net2 Digital Bites

Another way we’re making it easier to share stories is through the refreshed monthly publication we’re calling Net2 Digital Bites. (The May issue was just released — check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.)
Digital Bites packages up images, video and other media from around the NetSquared world. It’s a different way to tell a story: short, crisp, and visually-focused. We use little text and few links, instead redirecting our focus on the media. Powerful media can tell a good story.

What Now?

The 100-Day Challenge continues, and so does the Net2 platform. Meanwhile, we’re got the next issue of Digital Bites already on the burner and will be publishing mid-June.
Here are (3) easy next steps you can take to get your stories of impact out there, and inform how we’re sharing them too:

  1. Submit to the June Digital bites. Take pictures — lots of them — at your next NetSquared event or another shareable community activity. Take a video, too. When you’re ready to share with us and the world, drop a line to and we’ll hook you up for Digital Bites.
  2. Join a Net2 platform review session. We’re setting up a brief 30-minute call to walk through the whole concept of impact stories and projects, and how we’re designing to make it easier. Jump on this doodle and we’ll set up a review for all who can join, sometime in the next 2 weeks.
  3. Leave a comment. Comments are welcome here on this blog post or @laneystrange.  What kinds of stories do you see surfacing in your day-to-day activity with NetSquared? As we make stories easier to share, what impact will that have on you and your community?



Inspiration from Charles Dickens

My father has read every word that Charles Dickens ever wrote.  Growing up, we had a matching set of volume upon volume of Dickens’ work lining our shelves, and I grew up having his books read aloud.  My father loved what Dickens revealed about people, human nature and society.

The anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death is coming up on June 9, and in honor of this extraordinary storyteller I wanted to share the following story about his writing.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol after reading the Second Report of the Children’s Employment Commission, an 1843 parliamentary report on the effects of the Industrial Revolution on poor children.  He had intended to write a political pamphlet in an attempt to convince British employers of the need for social and educational reform but decided he would have more influence if he were instead to write a Christmas story.*

He was right.  Take it from Mr. Dickens: A story has power a pamphlet lacks.

Did you know that Dickens pioneered the serial?  He published his stories in installments and used reader reactions as feedback that shaped his tale.  So he wasn’t just a great storyteller—he was a clever marketer.  And all for a cause.  He brought attention to the poor and the suffering in a way that few can match.

The moral of this post is to take a page from Dickens.  Don’t set out to write a pamphlet.  Tell a story instead.  And don’t tell your story in a vacuum.  Listen to what the audience says and let it shape how you tell your story over time.  You will make a bigger difference.  And that’s what we are all here for.  As Dickens said, “A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.”

He also said, “Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.” 

Who could help but be inspired by that?  Time is short, so let’s get started.

The source of the information on A Christmas Carol is John Cacioppo and Louise Hawkley’s article “Designed for Social Influence in the book “Six Degrees of Social Influence”

As Seen on TV Cause Marketing

Meet Eli, your new community curator

Photos by Brooke McDonald

Hi! My name’s Eli, and I’ll be your community curator for the summer. I’ll be filling the role held by the fabulous Clare Sale who, along with Anka and Marc have been championing the work of the 50+ NetSquared Local organizers. My primary responsibility is to help you make your local events a success, so tell me what you need!

Who is Eli?
I’m a community addict who is most happy when I’m in service to a group that has voluntarily formed because of a shared passion. That’s my fix! :-) Because what could be better than working with people who are so excited about a project that you don’t even have to pay them?

I’ve been the NetSquared Local organizer in Vancouver, BC for the last three years, where I helped grow the group to 1,000 members. During this time, my day gig was the Online and Creative Services lead for the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental nonprofit. I began my career working for outdoor festivals coordinating large volunteer teams as they assembled, maintained, and then dismantled tent cities.

I’m VERY excited to to be serving as the community curator because I get to combine the skill sets I’ve developed over the last twelve years: volunteer coordination, event management, and online community building.

Stay tuned for more soon!