Tag Archives: #nmcfuture

Beth Kanter: The Networked Nonprofit (NMC Symposium Keynote)

Beth Kanter, International Social Media expert, gave the second keynote talk at the New Media Consortium’s Symposium for the Future today.  It was a wonderful session on the use of social media by non-profits, chock-full of great stories and examples.

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Beth Kanter's entrance

She started off her session with a bang, by arriving in a Jetson’s-style vehicle, to the opening tune of the old Jetson’s TV show, wearing a pink, Jetson’s-style outfit.  What an entrance!

She went on to talk about what she termed, “Free Agent Fundraising”…that is, running campaigns using Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and other social media tools to raise money for a particular cause.  It’s happening and it’s effective. Agencies like… the Red Cross, Environmental Defense Fund, American Cancer Society, Wildlife Direct have all become “networked nonprofits”.  They are groups that have learned to work in a networked way.

Beth went on to identify and explain what she saw as four key themes to working in a networked way:

Simplicity.  Identify what your organization does best and network the rest.

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Wildlife Direct

Movements. Learn to work in a networked way.  Or working “wiki-ily”.  For example Wildlife Direct.  Their basic approach is to encourage bloggers to write stories, the potential donors read those stories, donors make online donations, rangers do anti-poaching education, and the result?  More and safer wildlife.  The blogs are written by conservationists and others in the field – so they have urgency and authenticity.  But they don’t stop with fundraising – the goal of their work is to create a powerful enough movement to be able to respond to any conservation emergency quickly and effectively.  They’re not just turning on the switch and asking for money – they are keeping the network going so that, when an emergency occurs, they can catalyze the group into action.

Network weaving. Think rhizomatic plants (shared root systems).  One part of the plant gets nutrients, shares it with the others.  Organizations need people who weave new and richer connections between and among people, groups, and networks.  With that sort of weaving, the positive effects are amplified.  Beth says, it’s like Fantasia and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Self-replicating behavior (broomsticks). These “weavers” model the networking behavior and spread it.

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The Mending Wall

Transparency. Beth explains that it is important for an organization to ask (and answer)…what is private and what needs to be secure?  She encourages groups to be more fearless about what they share.  And to inspire us, she read the Robert Frost poem,  The Mending Wall.  She reminds us that is important to think about where you build these walls and that those walls might need to be moved, as the plans evolve and the context changes.

After developing those themes, she went on (with some great dog pictures) to encourage us to learn to become more comfortable with discomfort – to embrace our fears.  She explains that working in this networked way does indeed suggest some scary stuff but that if we embrace it, the benefits will come.  Here are some great examples of the “ohmigod” style fears that she hears from people when considering the use of social media…

  • ohmigod, emloyees will spend all their time on Facebook or tweeting…
  • ohmigod, we’ll be sued…
  • ohmigod, the wrong information will leak to the wrong people…
  • omhigod, engaging in social media won’t give us any time for reflection…

Sound familiar?  Beth urges us to embrace those fears, start easy (with small experiments), if need be, but move on.

And here are some helpful links, with many thanks to Beth.  Her blog.  And a fantastic wiki called We are Media, which is full to the brim of presentations, advice, tools, and tips for non-profits considering the use of social media tools to advance their agenda.

Wonderful session!

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Gardner Campbell: Keynote at the NMC Symposium for the Future

I just attended  Gardner Campbell’s amazing keynote address at the New Media Consortium’s Symposium for the Future (which is being held in the virtual world this week).  And what a keynote it was!  The title was “Two Painters, One Poet, and Some Sweet Soul Music”.

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Gardner Campbell's set up

The talk (you really can’t call it a “talk”, let’s refer to it as an “experience”, shall we?) was held in the large amphitheater (pictured here) – so it was seating in the round.  In the ring, Gardner had placed three, raised daises (as you can see in this photo).  One with a funky, space-aged looking computer, one adorned with painters material (easels, paints, etc.), and the third, tricked out with a musical instrument set up for a rock band.  As the experience progressed, Gardner moved from one dias, to the next, pulling the threads of his ideas into a lovely tapestry.

He started with the funky looking computer on one of the raised platforms which, it turns out, was a mock replica of the M5 Multitronic computer featured on a Star Trek episode in season 2 of the original series (who remembers that episode?).  I’m only slightly embarassed to admit that I do.  I’ll spare you the details, but the main point was that the computer wreaks havoc on the U.S.S. Enterprise, taking over the ship, and blasting people out of existence.  The crew has to “out smart” the machine and take back control.  Gardner’s point?  You guessed it.  That our fear of computers and technology is deep-seated and long-standing.  We are afraid of computers because we are afraid of ourselves.  Our technology today, just like the M5 on Star Trek, is built by us, programmed by us, and fashioned as extensions of us – and so, we fear it.

The “poet” was Robert Browning (for those of you who don’t know, Gardner Campbell is a professor of English, a Milton scholar, and now the Director of the Academy for  Teaching and Learning at Baylor University)….the “painters” were Andrea del Sarto and  Fra Lippo Lippi (I had to look them both up), who were near-contemporaries in Florence, Italy – early 16th century.  Meet Andrea and the Fra:

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Andrea del Sarto

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Fra Lippo Lippi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Browning portrayed both men in dramatic monologues and those poems, as Gardner explained to us, shine light on a lovely contrast. Andre del Sarto is a blamer.  Everything is wrong in his world and there’s nothing for it.  He’s miserable, bereft and forlorn. Fra Lippi, on the other hand, sees only beauty and light.  Yes, he sees all the same woes and tangles that del Sarto agonizes over, but he doesn’t wallow in self pity. Instead, he marvels at the world around him and gets on with things.  From Fra Lippi came my favorite quote of the day, ” If you get simple beauty and naught else, you get about the best thing God invents”.   A cautionary tale for all of us, battling the webs and tangles of life.

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And then Gardner pulled up a movie clip from the 1948 film, Portrait of Jennie. In the clip, the story of del Sarto was brought forth as a cautionary tale to another, modern day, painter (Joseph Cotton) who was being chided (by an art dealer played by Ethel Barrymore) for the hollowness of his work, the fact that he had no emotional charge, no vigor, no passion.  I need to watch that movie.

Lastly, Gardner rounded it out with the “soul” part of the talk, by walking over to the musical dais and playing some good, toe-tapping tunes, winding up with “Stand by Me” and an exhortation to us all to share and reach out to each other.

Lovely, lovely.  Gardner told the tale of our hopes and fears – the ones that characterize our response to our newest and most disruptive technologies – and he asks us the question – are you a del Sarto?  Or are you a Fra Lippo Lippi?

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