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social capital

OnlyUp: The Key to Change is in the Word “Social”

This morning, OnlyUp launched. It is an action-oriented, bimonthly journal about young adults in the nonprofit sector. The online journal seeks to engage the nonprofit sector in conversations related to social change leadership. The first issue features articles from bloggers and thought-leaders such as Allison Jones (one of four creators), Robert Egger, and Akhila Kolisetty and covers pressing topics in the sector. This post presents my first contribution to OnlyUp. You can view the article here.

 

If you’re a nonprofit professional, then you probably come across the word “social” at least five times today. Nonprofit blogs and literature are running wild with terms like “social change” and “social justice.” We’re giving the word the leading position in mash-ups with other buzzwords like “media,” “entrepreneurship,” and “capital.” Not to mention, we’re well aware of its match with “security” and “worker.” It even has connections to topics we cover in school like social studies and social psychology. But are all of these terms linked because they include the word “social”? Does social media, for instance, have anything to do with with social workers? I think it does.

It seems as though the words that we use with “social” are increasingly giving us not-so-subtle clues about key ways to bring about large-scale change in the upcoming decade. It’s as though we are providing our own cheat-sheet to bring about public good and possible solutions are coded within our own daily language.

The State of Now: an Era of Social. Our first clue that change-makers should pay attention to this word is apparent in the definition of the word “social” itself. “Social” means related to society or human relationships. It makes sense, then, that the word would come up frequently during this era of collaborative learning in which we are seeing an increase organic, horizontal workplace structures. Moreover, members of Generation Y (born roughly between 1975 and 2000) are thought to be one of the most social and collaborative generations of all time. These individuals are now making their way up the ladder and securing positions as nonprofit leaders. The generation is said to be team-oriented, and with the rise of instant communication technologies, they are easily and constantly connected to one another.

Barack Obama made a call to service in 2009 and, though often called the “Obama Generation,” Millennials weren’t the only ones who listened. Despite economic hardship, overall corporate giving increased in 2009. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in corporate social responsibility and PricewaterCoopers claimed, after completing a recent report, that a social conscious is a core business value in today’s market. With things like the Pepsi Refresh Project, it’s clear that giving and supporting people is an increasingly important societal value. Science Daily even recently reported that we are evolving into a species built upon the notion of “survival of the kindest.”

What’s in a word? We are in an era in which people, collaboration, and caring for others really counts- and counts even more from one day to the next. Because “social” means related to people and society, it makes sense to look at the things we call “social” with an eye toward how they can help pursue social change. For instance, four seemingly unrelated “social” terms can inform nonprofit leaders of key ingredients for making a difference:

  • Social entrepreneurship: Change will take leaders. A social entrepreneur is a person who recognizes a social problem and summons their ambition and business acumen to create, organize, and sustain a social venture to solve that problem. It’s no question that large-scale change will require several hundred social entrepreneurs (if not thousands). It takes a critical, forward thinking leader to be a social entrepreneur. This is a type of mindset that the sector will likely need to cultivate and empower in order to bring about change.
  • Social media: Change will take collaboration. Social media is providing a basis for information-share and crowd sourcing that can help bring people together to solve complicated issues. This new way of communicating makes it easier to get in touch with people who share similar interests in promoting a cause.
  • Social capital: Change will take people, connections, and compassion. Social capital is the network, spirit, attitude, and personal connections created through social interaction. We “build” social capital by interacting with and relating to people. There’s a connection here to empathy because we are more moved by a cause when it affects someone that we care about. In order for change to happen, we all have to care. And in order for us all to care, we need to be connected.
  • Social psychology: Change will take an understanding of the people we serve, and the people we’re trying to motivate to contribute. Social Psychology aids us in understanding one another. If the goal of large-scale change is to help people, then we must understand these people’s needs and emotions in order to be effective. Moreover, we must understand those who similarly give and choose not to give to our cause. In the private sector, companies are always aware of their external economic climate. Nonprofit leaders must keep a finger on the pulse of the social climate as well.

Leaders navigating the nonprofit landscape looking for the buried treasure of social change need not feel discouraged. Our own language is providing us with possible keys to this treasure as society opens up to embrace a turn toward the social. As best practices grow even more powerful and efficient, nonprofit leaders will be armed with the connections, compassion, community, and communication tools to spread the word and support one another in achieving social change.

Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Community Engagement, Generation Y, Leadership, Nonprofits, Public Management, Social Change, Social Media, The Future 1 Comment

41 Ways Museums Are Merging Social and Tech to Engage Audiences

In preparation for the IMLS webinar series- Connecting to Collections- I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite ways that museums are merging social and tech to engage audiences. Part of the series, Using Social Media to Tell Your Collection’s Stories,  will take place from 2:00pm to 3:30 pm EDT on Thursday, October 28th, 2010. I’m pleased to be serving as commentator, and working with presenter Nancie Ravenel (@NancieRavenel) of the Shelburne Museum. This series is free and you can register here to learn more about how museums are utilizing social and technological elements of communication to engage audiences and stay ahead of the curve.

Technology is a powerful tool for cultivating community, and the merging of social and tech in museums is occurring more and more frequently. Here are my 41 favorite examples of museums building social capital through social media and technological endeavours.

Let’s start with some museums that are making the most of social media and online community engagement’s most powerful and basic building blocks:

1. Twitter. Are you following The Women’s Museum on Twitter yet (@TheWomensMuseum)? This is just one museum. There are over 871 museums on twitter.

2. Facebook. The California Science Center gets visitors involved by featuring a Fan Photo Of the Week on their Facebook page. Simple, yet effective.

3. YouTube. The Renaissance Society has its own YouTube Channel that allows folks to access gallery talks and events after they’ve happened. In fact, a lot of museums have YouTube channels.

4. Flickr. Which museums are using Flickr as a valuable photo sharing resource and a way to communicate with visitors? Here’s a taste.

5. Website. Have you noticed how many of the nation’s most visited museums feature social media information above the fold on their homepage?

6. Social Media Pages. The Art Institute of Chicago has a whole page devoted to social media and interactivity. So do many other museums, like the Smithsonian (well, they have many pages….)

7. Blogging. A crew of professional sailors teamed up with Pacific Science Center educators to sail Around the Americas. Good thing they’re so social; they used a blog to take us along for the ride.

8. Mobile Applications. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis hosts Art on Call, which allows you to listen to tours on your cell phone. A lot of other museums offer this feature. MoMA was ahead of the curve when they created a mobile app for audio tours in 2008. They’ve recently revamped the app.

9. Foursquare. Become the Foursquare Mayor of the Vancouver Police Museum, and you and a guest receive free admission AND a 25% discount in the gift shop.

10. Virtual Conferences. The American Association for State and Local History made their annual conference accessible to folks who could not get to Oklahoma City this September by putting some of their best (in my humble opinion) conferences online in an interactive format.

Museums are taking interaction even further and building upon Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, mobile applications and web-based platforms. Check out these initiatives, competitions, and downright cool ideas (in no particular order):

11. Looking for a short-cut to becoming a museum-displayed photographer? The Denver Art Museum gives community members prime gallery realty by featuring a Flickr Cascade Installation that displays photos of the museum taken by Flickr users. Even cooler? They give proper attribution to each photographer.

12. Mixing social and tech isn’t just for older folks. The Walters Art Museum gets families talking by highlighting an interactive game featuring their lovable mascot: Waltee’s Quest: The Case of the Lost Art.

13. Please just visit the Adobe Museum of Digital Media. No need to take off your PJs or put your shoes on.

14. This list would be silly if it didn’t include the Museum of Science and Industry’s Month at the Museum. Out of 1,500 applicants, Kate has been chosen by project judges and the public to spend a full month living in the museum.

15. Now this is super sneaky. Three cheers to the International Spy Museum for creating themed geocaching adventures with a fun twist.

16. The Contemporary Jewish Museum melds art, technology, and Judaism through their new LINK initiative which bringing in monthly speakers to explore the intersection of Judaism and new technologies. I love this post about Jaron Lanier’s talk.

17. I could go on forever about how the rock stars at the Brooklyn Museum engage audiences through social media. But I’ll just give you this example. Oh! And 1stFans must be included. Okay. Done.

18. Combining Twitter and Flickr to engage visitors in science education? It’s no problem for the Museum of Life and Science in North Carolina. They created NameThatZoom- an interactive game moderated by the museum in which folks are shown flickr photos and challenged to identify those photo via twitter using the #namethatzoom hashtag.

19. Remember playing capture the flag as a kid? Try playing it as an alternate reality game at… (are you ready?)… The Smithsonian American Art Museum.

20. Meet SCREENtxt, a real-time live text messaging and photo streaming location-based social network created by The Mattress Factory and updated/created by museum visitors. Get confused there? Their blog helps explain. Oh, and I cannot forget The Mattress Factory’s iConfess!

21. Did you know that on September 1, 2010 over 340 museums took part in Ask a Curator Day on twitter and #askacurator became a trending topic?

22. If you’re a tech tinkerer, you can’t really beat tinkering at the Maker Faire in Detroit at The Henry Ford- the birthplace and showplace of one of the world’s most famous tinkerers.

23. Like to babble about art (or rather, babble about cool videos about art)? A lot of us do. And we do that on ArtBabble, thanks to these museums.

24. The planned hijack of LACMA’s twitter account by The Office star, Rainn Wilson, could easily have been called “Operation: Who’s stuffy? Not This Art Museum.”

25. When art museum directors at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art talk trash regarding the Superbowl, everybody wins.

26. The Skirball Cultural Center’s lovely Build a Better World Project encourages you to share how you are making the world a better place via Facebook, and hopes you’ll pass the message along using small decorated tokens as powerful community symbols.

27. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History tapped into talent by conducting a YouTube competition (O Say Can You Sing) featuring folks signing the National Anthem.  The winner (out of over 800 entries) got to sing the anthem at the museum and at the Baltimore Orioles vs. Atlanta Braves game on Flag Day. Check out the winners contest entry below:

28. Want to see something cool? Try making The Getty’s Augsburg Display Cabinet and experience augmented reality at it’s best. As it is, this project may be high on the tech and low on the social aspect. But trust me, you’ll want to show a friend.

29. If it weren’t for twitter and YouTube, so many folks wouldn’t know about “Those About to Die, We Salute You,” the downright awesome staged battle featuring warriors represented by The Queens Museum of Art (the hosts), Brooklyn Museum, The Bronx Museum, and El Museo del Barrio.

An image from the battle. Click for more photos and video.

30. This is the public wiki for the Smithsonian’s Web and New Media strategy process. Prepare to learn.

31. Folks at The Autry created Trading Post, a site to facilitate conversation between the museum and its visitors regarding current events.

32. One of the most powerful and important jobs of museums is storytelling. Please check out Culture Shock, a site full of digital stories by people in the North East of England.

AMNH's new application allows you to share museum findings on social media.

33. The Australian Center for the Moving Image has created Generator, a “creative studio space for teachers and students to explore exemplary work by their peers and industry professionals. Comment, tag, and share creative work and education resources.”

34. The Auckland Museum’s Hybridiser is an interactive kiosk where visitors can create their own orchards and then share them with folks in their social networks.

35. The American Museum of Natural History’s new mobile application, Explorer, has many highlights. My favorite? It allows you to easily share finds in the museum with your own networks on Facebook or Twitter.

36. Open Museum is like “Facebook meets Blogger and Flickr for the visual arts.”

37. Could you inspire America in six words or less? The National Constitution Center asked folks to aid Barack Obama in their project, Address America.

38. We’ve covered that there are over 871 museums on twitter… but I don’t think I mentioned that museum artifacts are hitting the social media space, too– and making folks laugh in the process.

39. Follow treasure maps, decipher codes, uncover hidden objects- The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s multimedia scavenger hunt, Ghosts of a Chance, is downright cool.

40. The Guggenheim says YouTube videos may be art. In fact, they took the time to go through 23,000 video submissions to create a short list of videos to be featured in the museum.

41. The Virtual Museum of Canada allows visitors to create their own museum and point members of their online networks to the collection.

Do you know of a cool way that a museum is merging social and tech that you think belongs on this list? Please feel free to comment with additions below. Please feel free to provide links!

* Photo credits: Top image from www.ieplexus.com/blog/

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Generation Y, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofits, Social Media, Technology, The Future 13 Comments

A Theory for Breaking Through Nonprofit Sector Constraints

It seems that, without even knowing it, we’re all working together to limit nonprofit innovation.

In the nonprofit sector, risk (an important element in innovation) is stifled due to nonprofits’ need for multiple stakeholder acceptance in order to survive. This makes large-scale change difficult, if not impossible, and the only way that we will solve this is if we put our minds together to think about it.

Let’s take the hot topic of increasing salaries for nonprofit leaders (though we could pick any topic that challenges perceived sector constraints). A nonprofit might seriously consider higher salaries in order to attract high-quality leaders, establish itself professionally, or ensure that competition for the position allows the organization to choose– or continue to motivate– the best candidate for the job.  This could be a great idea. It could work wonders. But questioning sector constraints at all is often much like trying to give a big hug to a hand grenade. Here’s why:

  1. The board and staff will need to approve this risk. In the case of increasing employee salaries, they will consider that every extra dollar given to a staff member is a dollar that could be spent on programming. These immediate stakeholders must believe in the potential of the idea.
  2. Then the nonprofit will have to face the multiple foundations that may no longer award the nonprofit otherwise-much-deserved grants because their administrative costs exceed (or come close to) a percentage set by the foundation in advance.
  3. You have to face the people who don’t understand why you made this change (regardless of its nobility), and the media may tear you apart. Even worse, other nonprofit leaders at The Chronicle of Philanthropy may even give you bad press for trying to take a risk to aid in sector evolution.
  4. Your amount of in-kind donations over the year may suffer because of the bad press– which defeats your whole attempt at innovation because you can no longer afford to pay a higher-than-before salary to your employees… so you are back where you started– but with fewer funds, a lot of bad press, alienated foundation connections, and unhappy employees.

In the private sector, innovation breeds new business practices and monetary success. The system is quite simple: a firm must gather capital to take a risk, take that risk, and if the company makes a profit, they are onto something. Other companies catch onto the company’s new tactic and next thing we know, every company has to be doing that innovative thing in order to continue to stay in the game. The same is true for nonprofit organizations except, in the nonprofit sector, raising capital may mean raising social capital.

 

Please click on the image to enlarge

So what can be done to alter sector constraints in order to allow nonprofit professionals to be innovative in organizational management?

First, double loop learning must take place. Double loop learning occurs when leaders question their own basic assumptions about the world. Single loop learning, by comparison, is the tried-and-tested routine that we fall into when we do everyday things like write grants and conduct meetings– but we also use single loop learning when we devise wages (continuing with the case of nonprofit salaries as our example). We have an idea of what works and we stick to it. Double loop learning, on the other hand, makes us ask ourselves, “Why do we do X? Maybe I should be doing Y.” When we ask this question, possibilities are born.

Second, the nonprofit must be transparent about their new idea and share it among networks. The nonprofit could ask for input via social media networks, get dialogues going with staff members; make everyone (stakeholders especially) aware of the possible benefit of taking this risk. This includes spreading word about the importance of innovation among stakeholders, the public, and other nonprofit groups. Technology is a great mechanism for information-share, and getting brain juices flowing. Who knows? A few other nonprofits may consider the idea and try it out alongside you.

Through this, social capital is created. Spreading the message creates connections. Asking people for their input (even if it’s negative) creates connections. Connections build social capital. Social capital increases overall support of the new practice because friends and community partners can share your idea with their own networks, and become part of idea formation and collaboration.

Then intellectual capital is built as stakeholders become educated on the issue. The more people hear about the issue, the more educated they will become on the need for innovation, or rather, the more accepting they will be when you actually follow through in challenging sector constraints. Lets go back to the example of a nonprofit taking on higher administration costs to motivate employees. If we learn that there’s a nonprofit leadership deficit on the way, then we may be more likely to outwardly encourage and support (or at least understand) nonprofits that are raising employee salaries.

And finally, the innovation is accepted. This does not mean that people will agree with your new (hopefully) innovative practice– but, because of your transparency, they will fully understand why you have challenged sector constraints, and also that you have the best interests of the community you serve at heart. And whether they agree with the idea or not, folks may be more inclined to respect the idea. Foundations may still award grants to the organization, and donors may stick around for at least another year. Who knows? Maybe your active desire to contribute to the sector and your fresh views of management will earn you a few more donors.

This theory is just that: a theory. I do not know how to encourage nonprofits to take responsible risks and challenge constraints that hold them back in serving their mission. I do know that, if the sector means to evolve, nonprofit leaders must begin to think about blazing new trails— and we should think about ways to allow them to do so.

Posted on by colleendilen in Leadership, Management, Nonprofits, Public Management, Public Service Motivation, Social Change, The Future 6 Comments