Today I attended an informative lunchtime presentation by Chad Nelsen who is the Environmental Director at the Surfrider Foundation where he has worked since 1998. (He's currently getting his Ph.D in surf economics!) He gave a presentation about how Surfrider Foundation is striving to make its grassroots network more effective. He touched on how they are using social networks/media in this effort.
One of the slides that struck me was a map that look at the full range of their activities offline and online (including social media) using two data points (numbers of people and ladder of engagement). The levels of engagement included: stranger, friend, supporter, member, activist and leader. The challenge is how they move people through these different stages. Chad did a video clip explaining the slide. (He also said he'd upload his slides on slideshare.)
Some takeaways related to network effectiveness and use of social media and technology:
- The most important metric they use for network effectiveness is "Coast Victories." It's a very tangible measure and they have a goal for victories.
- While he didn't touch on it in-depth, I'm sure they have a system or framework for measuring what is working and what isn't working along the way, in real time and especially for their use of social media. In other words, I'm curious what their process or system is for "listen, learn, and adapt." The above map that Chad explains gets at it.
- Learning across the network, particularly across chapters is important. Their chapters grow faster than internal staff can support them. There is constant churn of activists and a deep learning curve. They use Internet tools and regional trainings to support learning across the network. This is a community of practice that is most likely using social media/networks to accomplish this.
- If you search for surfrider foundation on Facebook, you will find several hundred groups/pages for the chapters - many using their own variation of the organization's logo. They also have many high school groups on Facebook. I asked how they work effectively with chapters when they can't "control" the message or groups necessarily. Chad pointed out that they rarely police what chapters are doing and while it might annoy the lawyers, they rarely have to intervene. I wonder, though, what the coordination role across Facebook groups or other social media outposts might like look? How do you facilitate the hive?
Surfrider's CEO, Jim Moriarty, commented that it was a function of their organization's culture - that everyone is focused on the mission and principles and they have a DIY culture. "We're more focused on the our mission than our brand and so we're open to letting others shape our brand." It reminded me of the talk that Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, gave about how the culture of happiness enabled his company to scale.
He also mentioned that their organization lean and agile and there is a culture of a willingness to experiment and learn from it.
- He talked about the balance between "atom-based" work -- staffing, offline activities, showing up at hearings, etc and "bit-based work" their work online - Facebook pages, etc. How to weave the two in order to scale.
How do you analyze the use of social networks/social media in the context of online/offline activism? If your organization has discovered many Facebook pages/groups set up by activists or fans outside of your organization, what are your best practices for supporting and facilitating this activism? Or do you just step away and let it roll?