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Archive for the ‘Small Act’ 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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This was my first post for the Small Act blog and was published there last week.

Last week Facebook continued their two trends of appropriating the most successful features of other social networks and making what was once a closed network increasingly public.

This time Facebook has borrowed from LinkedIN Answers, Yahoo Answers and Mahalo.com, all of which allow members to ask and answer questions, building a collaborative, searchable, repository of knowledge and opinions. Beginning with a first cohort of members last week Facebook is rolling out its own Q&A platform in for the form of “Facebook Questions”.

As with anything it does Facebook’s demographic mass with a community over 500 million strong makes this move incredibly significant. The usage of this service will in all likelihood rapidly surpass those of its rivals. All content within Facebook Questions will be completely public which will bring significant amounts of search traffic.

I think this is a smart, exciting and coherent extension of the Facebook platform. People already use their status updates to constantly ask questions of each other. And anyone who wants to continue limiting their questions to their friends, which will be the case for the vast majority of these updates, can continue to do exactly what they’re doing. But if your question is of a more general nature; “Where is the best pizza in Washington, DC?”, “What’s the best company to work for in America?” or “Why do you not eat meat?”, then you might benefit from making it public, and discovering what the citizens of Facebook at large think. In that case you would ask it as a “Question”, a new option you can select below the profile update box.

What makes the Facebook service particularly compelling is that it is contextual: if I ask a question about Google my friends who work at Google will see I and if I ask a question about San Francisco my friends who live there will see it, and so on. This context and integration with our Facebook network will ensure the success of Facebook Question.

So what does this mean for citizen sector organizations? Simply put, it’s another chance to engage your community in a meaningful way. Already many organizations use their Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts as consultation tools; this will be another valuable avenue to seek the input and opinions of your members, supporters and the community at large, and anything that allows you to do that at the scale Facebook represents is of enormous value. As your community responds they will also be sharing your question through their Facebook network, further expanding your reach.

As Facebook Questions has only been made available to a limited number of Facebook members so far (and aspects of it are still buggy) we don’t know yet if businesses and organizations will be able to pose questions or provide answers directly via their Pages. I hope so, and it would make sense for Facebook to allow this. The alternative would be staff spokespeople. And regardless of who an organization chooses to manage this interaction their staff will inevitably be drawn into responding to Questions that match their employer, issues of interest and hobbies or are asked by their friends.

As is true on other social networks, if a passionate group of people are discussing your issue you should (respectfully, humbly, openly) participate. You could learn a lot from the Facebook community and they could learn a lot from you. As a platform for aggressive advocacy I do not think it will work. But as a platform for educating it will be excellent.
When you add value by educating, when you provide links to relevant information and stories, when you don’t ask for anything in return, you create trust, which leads to attention and support. In these respects Facebook Questions could big another valuable tool in the portfolio of socially-connected organizations.

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As a result of two major Ashoka events this year I’ve been thinking a lot about how social media can enhance, leverage, expand and capture the content of events. Tech4Society and the Ashoka Future Forum were the most social media-enabled events Ashoka has yet run and many leassons were learned as a result. I co-hosted a recent #4Change Twitter chat on the subject and wrote a case-study for Netsquared.

On Friday I tried to draw this all together in a webinar I delivered for Small Act (organized before I accepted an offer to work for them next). The goal was to give an accessible introduction to different ways of creating social content at events and some things to consider for small organizations as they move in that direction.

Check it out and let me know what you think:

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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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