Live blogging today from NetSquared North
We're live blogging today from NetSquared North, a gathering of folks interested in non-profit technology issues who are in town for the Northern Voice blogging conference. Check out the NetSquared North wiki here.
Our opening session decided on four topical discussions for the day:
10:10-11:20: Online community-building: blogging and beyond
1:00-2:05: Top 5 non-profit technology needs and the best practices for addressing them: non-profit capacity-building
Stay tuned for live updates as the sessions unfold!
Online Community: Blogging & Beyond
Our first session at NetSquared North today covers online community engagement. The ever-fabulous Nancy White is facilitating.
We've started by sharing stories about online community projects we're working on now, including:
Your Kamloops (Arjun Singh)
- site, blog, and mailing list
- largely one-way
- tools: typepad (blogging software), topica (email list tool)M/li>
- some multimedia (ourmedia.org)
Citzen Shift (Catrina)
- deals with broad range of issues
- new issue every three weeks
- each new issue involves engaging a new community and getting contributions from its members, including feedback on our forums
- for most topics, there's already some other big online site/community out there
- we're hoping to facilitate more satellites, on and offline
- using a tool called QueryForm
forums have actually been the most static part of the site
The Corporation (Phillip Djwa)
- film project exposing corporate malfeasance
- site and forum
- e-mail campaign and recruiting
- network of networks (forwarding
- included messages from other groups
- e-mail marketing targeted to local community when/where a film screening was taking place
- created online store to market DVD
- setup tool & method for hosting "Corporation" house parties
>> "heartbeat" model: using offline events to intensify/focus engagement in an online community
Armenia's school connectivity program (Nancy)
- Project Harmony went into community and asked about community priorities
- issues that emerged: pediatric health care; how to get a job; preparing young people for job market; volunteerism/environmentalism
- convened onlne 3-4 week events for communities to address these issues, e.g.
- discussing how to get vaccines to communities without doctors
- how to manage health problems caused by contaminated water supplies
- journalists in region drafted legislation
What about the relative merits of ongoing vs. cyclical engagement? It can be hard to get people to engage, so cyclical/intermittent engagement can make it hard to get people to engage/re-engage. But this is very contextual.
Easier to get people to do this stuff outside of North America -- where there is a real hunger for particular knowledge or conversation people are motivated
another example: ShareYourStories.org for March of Dimes, where parents of kids who've been in neonatal units can share their experiences -- they have a real hunger to connect
Rise of blogs has made writing skills a lot more important for nonprofits; how to build that competency?
The "official message" isn't always the most effective voice on your blog: it depends on the context
sometimes you want grassroots stories, sometimes you want the "official" story
Need to be thick-skinned and open to a wide range of feedback
It's also important to keep tabs on what people are saying about you -- use a tool like technorati, pubsub, icerocket or feedster
Top tech needs of nonprofit groups
Khaliya Hamlin (Identitly woman) led a conversation about the key issues facing nonprofit groups and some ideas on how to solve them. We posed the question "how do you want to use technology to achieve your nonprofit's goals?"
The group said that they were most interested in using technology to:
- increase visiblity
- engage people
- recruit & involve volunteers
- internal collaboration
We spent a 5-15 minute session digging in to each of these topics. Here's our notes:
The first step is to get a website.Then you have to put cool, interesting content on it. But how?
Well, you could:
- have a blog
- blog about current events relevant to your organization
- solve problems with your content: eg. create reference tools that are useful to your peers
Once you have a good website, you need to tell people you have a website. Then you need to make it clear from your website that your organization is more than just a cool website.
Some good tools for pointing people to your website are:
- make sure you have easily accessible contact info. This is SO IMPORTANT!
- google adwords
Strategies for engaging people and building capacity:
Use multimedia technologies
- videocast, podcast, screencast, flash & other animations
- bottom line: entertain people
- use blog search tools to find related content, and post comments there linking back to yours
Tell people who you are
- be clear, concise, and tell people why they ought to care about you and your cause
- be transparent: let your online presence reflect your real-world presence: don't snow people
Recruiting & Involving volunteers
Create a 'call to action' e.g. create some easy, five minute tasks for volunteers to do to make them feel include (like people finder)
Use 'network centric advocacy'
- technologies that let you find out your support base for initiatives before you undertake them
- e.g fundable, pledgebank, 43 things
- skype / freeconferencecall.com for free telephone stuff
- shared calendaring for co-ordinating meetings and events
- upcoming.org, eventful, etc. for publicizing events
- use tags to create keywords for your org...
- use google alerts and pubsub to monitor presence and new articles, press, etc.
- event lists
Use websites as a tool to set up face to face connection
Give people credit for their contributions - make people famous!
Use a wiki to co-ordinate volunteers & facilitate conversations
figure out your audience
Use tools that let you do hard things easily
Create a media monitoring site using tags (link to Alex's site)
be aware that if you adopt too many new tools at once, you will burn people out
External collaboration / Meta-Networking
- use a wiki for a group of related organizations to create pages and post content / events
- use netsquared (shameless plug!)
- create publicly acccessible information
- use interra
- create user groups, yahoo groups, etc.
- make space / time for face to face sessions to take place. These meetings are incredibly valuable.