Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘work’ Category

A couple of weeks ago I announced that I was departing Ashoka to move to San Francisco and that as such I was looking for the next opportunity to challenge myself and create positive social change.

Today I am very pleased to announced that I will be taking up the position of Senior Social Media Consultant at Small Act, a DC-based start-up which helps cause-focused organizations to use social media strategically. As part of my role I will be establishing the West coast office for the company.

I couldn’t be happier or more excited to take on this new role. Over the past six months I have got to know the founder of Small Act, Casey Golden, and Chief Love Officer (that really is her title) Kate Hays and I respect, admire and like them greatly. I’m looking forward to working with them to grow this enterprise. I know they are passionate, as I am, about helping social change organizations to tell their story, empower their stakeholders and rally people to their cause. It feels good to join an organization whose vision, product and people I believe in. In fact, it’s essential.

I truly believe that digital and social media has the capacity to help organizations large and small to empower their communities and bring about positive social change. We can do better together when we are better connected, better informed and better able to work in new ways to find new solutions to issues which confront our world.

I have gained an enormous amount from my almost two years with Ashoka and am sad to be leaving. Nothing negative is pushing me to leave, but life is pulling me to San Francisco and new challenges. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity Ashoka gave me and remain deeply committed to doing my part to bring about the Everyone a Changemaker world we need. They say that once you’re at Ashoka you’re an Ashokan for life and I hope that’s true. I’ve met so many amazing people whose support, collaboration and companionship have meant so much to me and who I hope to stay in touch with for life.

I am now excited to take all my learnings, ideas and energy and support a diverse range of organizations to use new technologies in ways which make a difference. I’m excited to explore San Francisco and connect to the vibrant non-profit technology and start-up scene there.

I finish up at Ashoka the first week of June and will start work in San Francisco in early July, after a two week drive across southern America. If you have any advice on neighbourhoods, restaurants, events or organizations for me to check out in San Francisco (or on the way over) I’d love to hear them!

Read Full Post »

It’s official: I’m moving on from Ashoka. Ashoka doesn’t usually promote specific roles but today we announced that we are looking for a new Social and Digital Marketing Manager.

I’ve had an amazing time building the social media program at Ashoka. During this time our Twitter account has gone from zero to 315,000 followers, we have run 12 Twitter #SocEntChat conversations, published 3 e-Books, live-streamed 7 Fellow presentations, launched a number of new blogs including our flagship Change InSight, developed a new template for Ashoka websites which foregrounds social content (which you can see piloted on the Ashoka USA site), crowdsourced an Everyone a Changemaker film, placed social media at the heart of our events and run numerous trainings for staff, Fellows, changemakers and students. Most importantly, social media has been adopted across the organization, by staff and programs.

It’s been an amazing experience and I’ve learned a great deal. Ashoka’s Everyone a Changemaker vision is one I believe in intensely and it has been an honour to represent this vision to our online communities, and to work with an incredible group of people.

So why am I leaving? Our two year visas are almost up and I will need to apply to get a new one whether I remain at Ashoka or not. K’s work with WineInc is strongly pointing us West, to San Franciso. When we moved to DC for my work I promised K that she could choose the next city we lived in. San Francisco is the right place for her to grow the business while also fostering her creative practice. For me the draw is the incredible local non-profit technology and start-up culture in the Bay Area, and the proximity of so many of the outdoor locations I most want to explore in the States: Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Sequoia Forests.

This all means we are looking for a passionate, energetic and entrepreneurial individual to take Ashoka’s social media and digital marketing program to the next level of reach and impact. If this sounds like you we’d love to hear from you. Go here to see the position description and here to apply.

My colleague Hayley from Ashoka’s People Team put a blog post up today on what Ashoka is looking for when hiring and I wanted to excerpt it here as it does a great job of explaining the unique nature of our approach:

Who is more important than what. At Ashoka, we are not typically looking to hire someone who can do a job. We are looking to hire someone who can re-define a job; taking it, the team, and the initiative to a higher level. That means that who you are and what you’ve been compelled to do is more important than your degrees, your work experience, and the metrics demonstrating your competence.

Our hiring criteria are clearly listed on that page. Let me take this blog-post space to explain the meaning of one of our most important criteria: entrepreneurship.  We describe it like this: Entrepreneurs are compelled to take creative initiative and ownership (e.g., founding an organization or company, starting a movement, or re-shaping the work of an existing organization). They demonstrate relentless and realistic how-to thinking and passion for seeing their ideas come to life.  That means not only that you have demonstrated social initiative, but that you have proven a willingness to see a few things:

·         Things must change.
·         Things can change.
·         You can be a part of change.

Entrepreneurs are not intimidated by the worlds’ ills, not defeated by the status quo. They intuitively realize that they, and others, can make change. Often solutions to the worst social ills are simple, but require changing systems, not just situations. Entrepreneurs know that. They aren’t afraid to think big, they can see how each tiny piece relates to the whole.

This may all sound like wishful thinking. Embedded in our prototype of the entrepreneur is ‘realistic and relentless how-to thinking.’ That means working within real-time, real limitations, and with real people to make change that affects not symptoms, but causes.

I am sad to leave Ashoka but also excited to once again not know exactly what I’ll be doing in three months time, when anything seems possible. I am having some very interesting conversations about some great opportunities and I hope something will be finalized within the next few weeks. I’m completely open to possibility in terms of my next role so long as it is fun, challenging and meaningful. I’m inspired by using technology to empower communities and individuals and share inspiring stories the world needs to hear. I want to continue to learn and grow and make a difference.

If you know of an opportunity that sounds like a good fit, I’d love to hear from you.

Read Full Post »

Cross-posted from the 4Change blog:

On March 18 the #4Change Twitter Chat took on the topic of ‘How Social Media Can Enhance Events.’ This topic seemed particularly apropos with the chat taking place immediately after the annual SXSW takeover of Twitter, and soon before the Non-profit Technology Conference and Skoll World Forum, two other conferences with an oversized online presence. Social media at events has also been on my mind recently with Ashoka hosting Tech4Society in Hyderabad India and the Ashoka Future Forum in Washington DC, both more social media-enabled than any previous Ashoka-organized events.

It is almost hard to imagine these days a significant event not having a social media component, whether this is simply individuals in the room tweeting or a resourced effort by the host. So the question is not, as it once was, “will social media be created?” but rather “will this social media enhance the event?”

As Christina Jordan posed in the pre-chat blog post, What’s the potential benefit of using social media to cover events? For whom?

Numerous benefits of a conscious strategy to utilize social media at events were suggested by chat participants including taking the stories and examples being shared to a wider (and more diverse) audience, allowing organizers and the cloud see what is resonating with attendees and creating a back-channel for attendees to interact and debate, as well as allowing those not in attendance to feed their points of view into this discussion. This can often allow people to say what isn’t being said out-loud in the room, as well as giving those unable to attend physically some sense of participating in and benefiting from the event. Social media can also assist with documentation, capturing key thoughts and currents during the day and allowing them to be looked back over afterwards. For the vast majority of events there will be no mainstream media coverage: only social media will carry and record the outcomes of these gatherings beyond the immediate attendees.

Concerns were also expressed however at the possible distraction and disruption at events, with TED pointed out as an example of an event that doesn’t allow tweeting during sessions.

So what are the key elements of a successful event social media strategy? 4 key elements were identified: Preparation; Resourcing; Aggregation and; Integration.

1. Preparation. Preparation, as with most things, is critical to get the maximum impact from your social media efforts. Tags should be identified and distributed to all participants beforehand, inviting them to take part in creating content on the day. Create groups for photos and videos to be shared and be careful to choose a twitter hashtag not already in use. If you’re doing live streaming test thoroughly. Prepare widgets for deployment.

2. Resourcing. It requires a dedicated person to effectively create social media at an event, whether they are live tweeting, live blogging or uploading video and photos. Multiple dedicated people will be required to do all of these things. Having at least one person exclusively focused on the online conversation allows multiple threads to be pulled together and background information identified. For example at the recent TEDxAshokaU event I was tweeting links to the profiles of the Ashoka Fellows as they spoke, providing crucial additional information to anyone intrigued by the quotes emanating from the room.

3. Aggregation. With most successful events generating a considerable volume of diverse social content aggregating this into one place where it can be easily accessed is critical. Most people felt that this was a job best done manually by a discerning staffer or volunteer (another resourcing issue). An example of this sort of aggregation is the Tech4Society coverage page, updated daily during the event with new blog posts and videos and containing a Twitter widget displaying the #tech4soc stream.

4. Integration. If you are integrating social media into the live event experience it needs to be seamless and well managed. Screens with running twitter streams can be very distracting to participants and presenters. On the other hand they can also provide a platform for sourcing questions, generating discussion or even choosing the agenda. If you are capturing video during the day can this be presented back to participants at the end of the day as a way of summarizing proceedings?

Video was touted as an increasingly important tool in all its forms: live streaming, rapidly-produced interviews and audience reactions and better-produced videos of presentations ala TED. It was also pointed out however that video poses particular bandwidth issues, making it inaccessible to view or event get online in many parts of the world. As a real-world example of this we were unable to upload videos as planned from Tech4Society in India due to bandwidth limitations.

At the end of the chat participants were asked for their takeaways, as is customary:
@Nidhi_C: takeaway: when planned, #socmedia can play role of a valuable audience participant, add spice to discussion, & connect
@liadavide: Takeaway: SM is a great tool but still has some way to go especially in areas with poor telecom infrastructure
@karitas: takeaway: if prepared/promoted right, SM can bring live/remote participants 2gether, & add fun/useful layers 2 experience.
@tashjudd: takeaway – social media has fundamentally changed who audience of an event can be, possibilities are much wider now
@christinasworld: my takeaway – preplanning of a #socialmedia strategy is really important
@amysampleward: takeaway: sm at events has 3 audiences: presenters, present audience, remote audience. create value in/out 4 all.

My takeaway? An event without a social media strategy is a wasted opportunity. Events now provide a platform much bigger than the event itself, allowing more people to participate in the conversation and experience elements of the content. While live experiences are unique and essential social media is a lever to push the impact of the event beyond those in attendance.

Additional resources:
Social Media Enabling Conferences: A Tech4Society Case Study (Netsquared)
A Few Reflections from SXSW Crowdsourcing Panel (Beth’s Blog)
3 Ways Live Events Help Online Communities (Mashable)
Social Reporters toolbox (Delicious)

Read Full Post »

Last week I launched the third in the Stories of Change eBook series I have developed at Ashoka. It’s a really interesting one – 20 social entrepreneurs ranging in age from 14 to their 60s and representing 5 continents think ahead to the year 2020 and the world they would like to see, as well as the steps they are taking this year to move us in that direction. I’ve grown fascinated by this idea of people who “live in the future” lately – people who have a vision for a different world and consciously work to shift events to bring this world into being. This book contains the words of many of these people and it was a real pleasure to gather their stories. I hope you enjoy it also.

Read Full Post »

Apologies for the lack of updates recently. I’ve been alternatively buried in work and snow as DC has experienced another record-breaking snowfall and the marketing team at Ashoka has been intensely focused on the Tech4Society conference hosted by Ashoka and the Lemelson Foundation in Hyderabad, India, last week.

As we were planning Tech4Society, the fourth and largest in a series of events as part of the Ashoka-Lemelson partnership to find and support social change inventors and innovators, I was determined that unlike the first three this conference would be fully social media enabled. I wanted it to be an example of “distributed eventing”, where the event is more than just what goes on within the convention center and is instead a platform for interaction and dissemination on a much wider scale. In this I think we succeeded beyond anything Ashoka has done before.

In the lead-up to the conference we held a “Blog Your Way to Hyderabad” competition to select the official blogger of the conference. The winner would get an all-expenses trip and all-access pass to the conference and be given the reins of the AshokaTECH blog and Twitter account during the event, to keep the world informed of the conversations, examples and insights being shared. This was a gutsy move on Ashoka’s part, giving an unknown person the responsibility of being the main conduit of information to the world about one of our most important gatherings. In every respect, however, the bloggers competition was a huge success. We received a number of excellent entries (all fo which served to spread the word about the event in the lead-up) and with the help of an outside judging panel of experts chose Elliot Harmon, a full-time blogger with TechSoup, as the winner. This was a fantastic win-win: we secured the services of a professional and experienced blogger and TechSoup was essentially able to send a correspondent to the event, something they never otherwise would have been able to do, doubling the audience and impact of his updates. You can read through all of Elliot’s blog posts from Hyderabad (and the other coverage) here.

Not everything went to plan however (it almost never does): I spent much of my week organizing a conference call exclusively for bloggers featuring two Ashoka Fellows live from the event, only to be defeated by technical difficulties on the day. Still, I think this is a promising model of blogger engagement (and will, in fact, be trying again tomorrow on the occasion of the launch of Ashoka’s new Globalizer initiative). We also sent a videography team to Hyderabad but were unable to upload their videos in real-time due to the bandwidth limitations on-site (it apparently took five hours to upload this one video).

The final stage of the Tech4Society social media strategy is to share the learnings gained from the event. We will be doing this by hosting a forum on SocialEdge and holding the next of our monthly #SocEntChat Twitter chats on March 3 on the topic of “Technology, invention and social change.”

Overall this was another huge step forward for Ashoka in how we utilize social media to increase the impact of our work. Social media helped make Tech4Society a more global event which extended well beyond it’s geographic location and those able to attend in-person. People from all of the world joined the conversation on Twitter and read in near real-time about the work being presented on the blog. Over the next week we’ll be uploading a series of videos to further share this work. And this is the most important thing social media is allowing us to do: shine a better spotlight on the incredible and important work of Ashoka Fellows. As one of my colleagues said in reflecting back on our work in this area, “the world can’t adopt and help what it doesn’t know about.”

Read Full Post »

On Friday last week Twitter added a collection of non-profit accounts to their Suggested Users list, seeming to focus on social entrepreneurship, including both organizations and individuals.

These new Suggested Users included:

This was met with general acclaim in the non-profit blogosphere. Nathaniel Whittemore, Change.org’s Social Entrepreneurship blogger, went so far as to suggest that a listing could be worth $1 million.

On Tuesday a second set of non-profits were added to the list, this time including @AshokaTweets, which I run, and Ashoka’s @Changemakers. Since then we’ve added over 10,000 new followers each.

The rate of increase really is quite amazing. I had worked diligently since January building an engaged community of 6,500,  sustained participation leading to consistent, organic growth. When I realized what was happening by Wednesday late morning we where already over 10,000. As of this writing, late Thursday evening, we have passed 17,000.

This gives rise to several thoughts.

As exciting as the growing count is these new followers are clearly less valuable in purely business terms than those who found us because they are overtly interested in Ashoka, social entrepreneurship, or social change. These original followers are self-consciously interested in what we have to say, and a decent number of them will check out articles or vote in competitions on our suggestion. In other words, they’re engaged.

These new followers, on the other hand, have agreed to kick off their twitter experience by following a wildly diverse group of 300ish Suggestions Users, including a preponderance of celebrities and sports people but also twitter developers, journalists and newspapers, blogs and bloggers, online and offline businesses, business and social entrepreneurs. They may or may not be interested in what we have to say, they haven’t consciously chosen to follow us, they just want to be following someone, and Twitters suggestions will do.

Equally, this group of new users are probably those mostly likely to quite twitter quickly. In February it was reported that 60% of twitter users quit within a month. As many as a third who get so far as to send a tweet never make it to their second. People who join twitter without a clear idea of what they want to get out of it, what sort of information they want to plug into, are probably those most likely to quit. So it seems inevitable that we will end up with many thousands of abandoned accounts padding our follower count.

But this is all really besides the point. Regardless of how many of our followers are no longer checking twitter there will be many, hopefully more, who are. And even if the majority of new followers are not currently focused on social entrepreneurship, some will be, and some will discover a new interest or passion.

This, indeed, is the ultimate opportunity for a citizen sector organization of placement on the Suggested Users list. Non-profits are always discussing how we can stop “preaching to the converted” and escape our silo. Well here’s the chance, tens of thousands of people who don’t yet know about your organization or cause but who, with good messaging and sustained effort, can be inspired to be your next generation of supporters, new members of your movement, the boost you need to reach a tipping point of awareness around an issue. In other words it is the fact that they didn’t go looking for us that gives these new connections a different, and unique, value.

Ashoka’s mission is to create an Everyone a Changemaker world, a world where everyone has the support and skills to create change in their community. Such a mission requires that we seek out opportunities to reach a wider audience and being added to the twitter Suggested Users list is an amazing opportunity to speak to larger, wider, more diverse audience and inspire them to imagine the future they would like to create, and then to take action to bring it about.

Thanks twitter!

Read Full Post »

I was laid up with a bad back all of last week and while I was it was very cool to see all the videos produced by the Ashoka Team at the Clinton Global Initiative.  The increasing use of video at Ashoka, and at citizen sector organizations overall, is wonderful to see. A year ago Ashoka’s approach to video was very traditional – footage would be shot and, time-permitting, edited into something usable. Now the focus is on fast, one-take, minimally edited videos that can be shared live or very rapidly with our online audience. It’s our immersion into social media that inspires this new approach – being involved in a real-time conversation with our supporters and peers creates an emphasis on timeliness and humanness. To this end people from different parts of the Ashoka family where profiled at CGI: Fellows, staff and supporters.

It was the first-time we’ve emphasized video as a reporting tool from a live event like this. We have learnt a lot from this pilot and will be using this learning to better cover future events, including our Tech 4 Society conference in Hyderabad India in February next year, one of the biggest gatherings we have hosted.

These learnings include improved coordination between the production of videos and the conversation at and about the event. For instance, if we see an Ashoka Fellow or staff member saying something interesting or profound over their twitter feed we should try and grab them as soon as possible and get them to expand on those thoughts on video. This would more powerfully embed our videos into the conversation, rather than just using the twitter conversation as just an outreach platform.

The ongoing development of Ashoka’s online communities and the clear interest and enthusiasm for stories from the Ashoka network has inspired this greater focus on developing timely content that can be shared with these communities. The understanding of the importance and benefits of this approach is becoming widespread across the organization, such that it barely requires me to suggest let alone implement these efforts. And that, to me, is the most exciting thing of all, evidence of the real culture-change taking place at Ashoka as we become more social, more participatory and more focused on storytelling.

Here are a couple of my favourite of our videos from CGI:

Ashoka Fellow Harmish Hande:

And a super-cute video with my boss, head of Global Marketing Beverly Schwartz:

You can see all the Ashoka CGI videos here.

Read Full Post »

This was written as a guest post for Beth Kanter’s blog, exploring how Ashoka is fulfilling our mission on Twitter:

AshokaTweets homepage screenshot

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public is relatively new to Twitter, having launched our main account, @AshokaTweets only in January. However in that time we’ve worked hard to build a community nearing 6,000 connections, sharing our news and stories in new ways and convening conversations that matter. This post will explain how we have approached Twitter and what we have learned.

But first, some back story:

Ashoka was founded on the belief that social entrepreneurs are the most powerful force changing the world. For almost 30 years Ashoka has been seeking out and supporting the best innovators working to create systemic change to join the Ashoka Fellowship. Supporting these visionary leaders, raising the profile of their work and facilitating collaborations and sharing has allowed many to pursue a life of changemaking, scaling their impact and, in many instances, affecting national policy in addition to thousands of members of their communities.

After 29 years of electing over 2,000 incredible social entrepreneurs as Fellows we have been able to observe some powerful themes in their work. And the most significant is this: great social entrepreneurs empower their communities, and invite and inspire those around them to become changemakers themselves.

With this insight we gained a deeper appreciation for the fact that innovation happens at many levels and we saw more clearly the kind of world we were working to create, a world many of our Fellows are leading towards, one in which every person has the opportunity to create positive change in their community, and where our collective intelligence and initiative will allow solutions to outrun the challenges we face. This led to our new tagline and mission, creating an Everyone a Changemaker™ world.

It was this mission that drew me to Ashoka, and which drew Ashoka to me. Building an Everyone a Changemaker™ world is a very different mission from simply looking for the world’s elite social entrepreneurs, it involves using the stories and examples of these entrepreneurs to inspire people to action, sharing lessons learned across our networks and opening up the innovation process to more people. This called for a new approach to outreach and communications and led to me joining Ashoka last year in a new position of Digital Marketing Strategist.

Our recently re-launched Changemakers.com website is to most high-profile example of Ashoka’s new approach to building community and fostering innovation, but so too is the work we are doing in social media and, in particularly Twitter.

The question we asked ourselves when we were planning to launch a Twitter account was: how could we use Twitter to help build an Everyone A Changemaker™ world? In thinking about this question we realized that one of Ashoka’s most important roles as the oldest and largest organization focused on Social Entrepreneurship was as convener, that we have the opportunity to bring together diverse insights and experiences to help map the most effective way forward in tackling many of the world’s most pressing challenges. We wanted to continue to play this role on Twitter.

In addition I felt it was important that we be as human as possible, highlighting not only our Fellows but our staff, and empowering them to be more effective advocates. This was also the chance to share news in a more timely fashion, as well as to proactively reach out and form connections, answer questions, and spark conversations.

Our goals, therefore, where to:

-be timely;

-be human;

-be proactive;

-convene.

Timely means sharing our news rapidly, as it came in, rather than simply crafting careful news stories for our website at a rate of no more than one a week. It means monitoring the online conversations about social entrepreneurship and issues we care about (we now use M|Buzz from Meltwater to help us do this) and directing attention to news hits and interesting blog posts. It means responding to questions rapidly and directing people to where they can find the information they are looking for.

The goal of being human has led me to run several Introduction to Twitter seminars and webinars for our staff. We currently have over 45 of my colleagues on Twitter where they are sharing their passion for our work and growing our reach and connections exponentially. The next step will be to integrate this onto our website where soon you will be able to see a list and live stream of all our staff on Twitter, along with one for our Fellows. Ashoka does such a diversity of work, from eHealth projects to new social change financing models, it’s impossible for a single person like me to accurately represent it. Now those with the knowledge and passion for these topics can participate themselves, in their own words, in the conversations of relevance to them, bringing new ideas back into the organization and better informing the wider sector on what we’re up to.

Being human also means acknowledging who the person behind an organizational Twitter handle is. The bio of AshokaTweets says “Tweets by @tomjd and friends”.

Being proactive certainly rules out using RSS feeds to populate our Twitter feed (with one exception, set up purely for that purpose and soon to be phased out). Each tweet is hand-crafted and relevant to our audience, something we checked by asking our followers want sort of information they wanted from us in a poll. We also participated in conversations with organizations such as Skoll Foundation, Social Actions and Change.org to agree on some shared hashtags to denote our areas of work, which led to widespread adoption of #socent for Social Entrepreneurship. We also use Twitter to proactively reach out and respond to comments about Ashoka, social entrepreneurship and social change

Finally, in considering how to use Twitter to convene conversations that matter we came up with the ideas of a monthly real-time discussion on Twitter, #SocEntChat, short for Social Entrepreneurship Chat. #SocEntChat takes place on the first Wednesday of every month from 4-6pm US EST (although the recent chat on Rural Innovation in Africa and India was moved to a more Africa and India-friendly time of 12-2 US EST) focused on a specific topic. Recent chats have looked at green entrepreneurship, mobile innovation and building cultures of social entrepreneurship on university campuses. We have had contributors from North America, Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and Australia, representing entrepreneurs, staff from large non-profits, activists, enthusiasts, bloggers and more. Conversations focus on next steps and areas for further exploration. All the transcripts can be accessed from our Squidoo Lense.

The next #SocEntChat is being held on Wednesday September 2 on the topic of Rethinking Mental Health. We would love you to join us.

We still have a lot to learn about Twitter and the microblogging medium will continue to evolve in interesting ways. What is clear is that a platform that allows people to connect with one another and talk about the things they care about is a platform made for social change, a place where we can build constituencies and communities capable of collaboratively creating a better future. In other words, a place for changemakers.

Read Full Post »

I just hit upload on the first of a new series of eBooks I’ve been working on at Ashoka. I’ve wanted for some time to profile the amazing stories in the Ashoka network in new and shareable ways and eBooks are a fun and stylish way to do that. Using Scribd as our primary platform the document can be embedded and read anywhere, as below, kinda like a YouTube for documents and publications. Ashoka has been getting more social lately but this project is about putting the media in our social media strategy. If we want other people to generate content about us on social media platforms we need to generate more content ourselves, and let people interact with that content.

I hope you enjoy this first attempt and I’d love any feedback you have!

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers