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Archive for the ‘work’ Category

Update: I’ve secured a contract which will keep me here until at least January, by which time I hope to have found an ongoing position which suits my skills and passions. I’m still open to any suggestions!

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As I mentioned last week Small Act have decided to pull the plug on the San Francisco office after I’d only been here five weeks, so my future in San Francisco and America is a bit uncertain. And by “a bit” I mean I probably have five weeks to figure something out which will allow me to stay here. And by “something” I mean work.

As you might imagine I’m disappointed by this turn of events. I was extremely excited to join Small Act and to come to San Francisco. The opportunity to work with, support and learn from a variety of social change organizations and be part of a small and evolving start-up appealed to me and felt like a perfect fit for my skills, experience and what I wanted to learn next.

As for San Francisco, it’s a city I’ve loved since I first visited as a 15 year-old. My life changed here when I attended the State of the World Forum as a 16 year-old. It was here that I realized my power as a changemaker. It’s the perfect place to be working at the intersection of technology and social change and for K it’s the perfect place from which to grow her family’s wine business in North America. Not to mention that it’s the home of burning man culture and one of the very few places in America with a decent psytrance scene. So: we were excited to move here.

And we hope to stay! I’m grateful that Small Act have given me time to try and figure this out as I wind things down with them over two months. At the end of this time I will need to have a new job in order to stay in the country. So, I’m looking for new opportunities to make a difference.

I’m passionate about the intersection of technology, community-building and social change. I believe technology can reshape our media and politics but that this is not an automatic outcome, that we must work for it. I am passionate about doing this work and have spent the past 15 years creating on- and offline platforms and opportunities for people to share stories that matter, come together to learn from each other, share and synthesize ideas and imagine a new future. I believe in the power of art and stories to engage, inform and inspire people to action.

My skill-set and background is entrepreneurial. I have founded a number of organizations and initiatives, most notably Vibewire Youth Inc which I established while at university and ran for eight years, until 2008. During this time Vibewire grew from an all-volunteer student collective to an internationally-recognized organization with five permanent staff, numerous project contractors and hundreds of volunteers and contributors. We launched several websites, ran online and offline conferences, toured a film festival around the country, sent youth reporters onto the campaign trail to report back on the Federal election and opened a youth enterprise incubator in Sydney.

More recently I spent two years in Washington DC as the first Social Media Director at Ashoka. In this role I established numerous new social media channels, grew the Ashoka twitter account to 315,000 followers, launched a blog, email newsletter and ebook series and significantly increased the use of video across the organization.

I have organized everything from art exhibitions to conferences, music events to film festivals, political outreach campaigns to social media strategies, training programs to Burning Man theme camps.

Which means I’m very open to possibility! I want to stay here and I want to do meaningful work. This could take the form of a new full-time position in a cause-focused organization or a series of smaller projects. As Small Act have agreed to continue to hold my sponsorship so long as I have confirmed work lined up (who then contract me from them) a new employer does not have to go through the visa process with me, a significant silver lining to this whole situation. This creates, despite the brutal deadline, an exciting amount of flexibility and possibility.

I know I can help an organization do something incredible, and I know that there’s many organizations here that are doing incredible things. I am confident that things will work out despite this set-back.

Five weeks to figure it out. Wish me luck!

Of course, if you know of anything that you think would suit me or people I should be talking to please give me a holla.

Here’s my resume, feel free to share:

And my full-length CV if you’re not into the whole brevity thing:

Image by Donnie Ray on flickr.

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A slight change of plans

A huge catch-up is in order. Since my last post I’ve been to Burning Man and back, where the camp I have been coordinating since January, More Carrot (hosts of the Black Rock City Farmers Market) made its triumphant debut. I owe a proper post about that, impossible as it always is to put Burning Man into words. And there’s more I want to say, and photos I want to share, about our drive from DC to San Francisco in July. And music to get excited about, and case studies to share and things to say about social media. The usual hodgepodge of topics, but all of them in need of catching up.

But all of that must wait a moment as I’ve got news which it would feel weird to hold onto and share only chronologically with the above. My still-new employer Small Act have decided to shut down the San Francisco office (in which I have been working only six weeks) so my job is disappearing. As my job evaporates so to does my visa, and with my visa goes K’s, despite her current success in her job. So that’s a real downer.

I got the news about this last Tuesday, three days after I got back from Burning Man (and our fantastic post-Burning Man decompression in Yosemite). Talk about a brutal return to everyday life from an intensely immediate and extraordinary two weeks.

After the constant movement and flux of the last three months there’s nothing I crave more than being settled. But that is not to be for now. I had intended to spend this month kicking arse for Small Act and setting up my house, which is only half unpacked-into. Now I must spend it networking like crazy and looking for new opportunities which will allow us to stay in San Francisco, once again not knowing what country I will be in in three months.

I am given hope by Small Act’s willingness to do what it can to help me stay. Firstly it is extending my month’s notice half-time over two months, giving me longer to find something new. Secondly it has agreed to continue to be my agent, so any new employer would contract me from them. This has the enormous advantage of allowing me to stay on my current visa (and is really just an extension of my current business model as a consultant). Thanks to this I don’t need to convince a potential employer to spend thousands of dollars and months of efforts organizing my sponsorship and nor would I need to leave the country to re-apply. Bonus!

But the question remains: what am I to do next?

The last two years I have been specializing in social media but I’m really an all-purpose organizer. I’ve established organizations and programs, worked for arts organizations, political parties and NGOs, consulted to governments, corporations and non-profits and organized film festivals, political outreach, art exhibitions, dance parties, conferences, workshops, Burning Man theme camps and more.

I’m in the right place. San Francisco is a hot bed of both nonprofit and for-profit innovation. The nonprofit tech scene here is the most vibrant on earth. Every second person I meet seems to be the founder of a company, organization or project. I love the energy, the atmosphere of people doing important things, things that could (will!) change the world. So: I hope to stay. I hope to find a really exciting project or organization or two and really sink in and help make something amazing happen.

If you know of anything which would suit me please drop me a line.

Photo by TW Collins, flickr.

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A man died on a DC train on his way to work on Monday. His body remained undiscovered for 5 hours, as the train completed two end-to-end runs of the red line. Since then the coverage has focused on why he wasn’t found for so long, with the train operators being suspended and then allowed to return to work as it’s not actually Metro policy to check trains for dead bodies. That policy is now being changed.

As I read this sad story Metro policy wasn’t what I was thinking about. I couldn’t help but remember seeing Deepak Chopra speak at the State of the World Forum in 1995, when I was an impressionable and awed 16 year-old, and him asking us if we could guess the day of the week most people die of heart attacks. Can you guess what it is? That’s right: Monday. And what time would you imagine most people drop dead? Yep, 9am. On their way to work. It seems some people dread their job so much they are literally dying to avoid it. And that’s a very sad thing. We spend too high a proportion of our time at work to loath it as so many seem to do. Since then I have instinctively, devotedly, pursued work that inspires me, that I feel makes a difference.

In thinking about this I discovered more corroborating evidence: more people die in the first week of the year than any other (statistics from the Centers for Disease Control). In other words, immediately after Christmas and New Years, which are usually spent with family and friends and on a break from work, only to be hit with the reality of going back to their 9-5.

I met someone today interviewing for my job at Ashoka. She currently works for the World Bank, where salaries are generous (and untaxed). She knows that in coming to Ashoka she would be taking a very significant pay cut. And she’s okay with that, because she’s not happy in her current role and needs something different; the chance to be more entrepreneurial and adventurous, less micro-managed and confined. I completely agree with her, your personal growth and happyness are worth so much more than money. Life is too short, too precious, too amazing to spend 40+ hours a week doing something you hate.

Finding and following your passions often involves risk,  failures and set-backs. But the greater risk is that you will never take a chance on finding and following your passion, never find work that fulfills and inspires you, that you will instead end up trapped in a job you hate, waking up on Monday morning wishing you could be anywhere other than on your way to work, and one day being taken to another place entirely.

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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!

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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.

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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)

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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.

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