Note from Beth: I'm at Pop!Tech in Maine where I did the beta version of the social media strategy game for Pop!Tech Fellows. (Reflections coming soon!) Last week, Gordon used a version of the game at a conference in NYC. His reflections below. One thing I haven't been doing over the years is documenting the instructional design or lesson plan. It's been in my head. Some of the issues that Gordon describes below I've found creative ways to address those. (Ever hear of make it up as you go along?) Another trainer is adapting the game for use in a large environmental organization will be creating a train the trainers guide and template and it will be added to the site.
At noon Friday with the annual conference over and done till next fall’s event (slated for Los Angeles, BTW), someone from the Boston-based Barr Foundation who participated in the Communications Network social media game tracked me down–to return the cards his group used during the game. “No, you keep them–if you want, take them back to your organization and try this at your office,” I said.
He was one of eight folks who left with sets of the game cards. (the presentation and handouts can be downloaded here and more on the game as originally conceived and developed by Beth and David Wilcox is here).
One of my main reflections on presenting the social media game at the conference is about diffusion of ideas across the nonprofit sector: given especially that we are somewhat limited in the channels available to communicate new ideas and practices across nonprofits and philanthropy, the generosity of Beth and David Wilcox in sharing this method and the key role of Creative Commons in providing a way to structure that kind of sharing is truly helping to build the sector.
We played with 6 groups of about 7 people each. Each group chose s scenario from a range of options. We started at 4 p.m., I made my way through about 25 minutes of introductory “teach” (ie, “talk” with some q and a) and then, right around the time that thoughts are usually turning to the bar… the crowd really got into it! All about the genius of the game and the value of learning from, or maybe that should be with, each other (see Beth’s post on social learning from last week).
A couple thoughts on how the game works, what appeared to be key
learning moments for the group at the CommNetwork conference, and, per
Christine Mulvin, 1 thing you’ve got to have to play it well:
It’s about strategy
One nice learning moment for the CommNet folks came when two groups chose to be an international arts organization. As the first of these groups presented their strategy, the people in the second group started laughing—they had made exactly the same choices. The fact that two groups with the same goal independently came to essentially the same strategy helped people to understand there could actually be, if not exactly right and wrong solutions, at least some solutions to a problem that are more effective than others.
We know how to make choices, even when we don’t have all the data:
Here was another learning moment and it’s one of the reasons why I like the social media game so much. Most people do not know about every single Web 2.0 tool out there. Let me rephrase that. Probably no human being knows about every Web 2.0 tool out there. Just too darn many. That’s overwhelming and intimidating, and it causes us to forget that what we’re really good at is not being walking encyclopedias, but making good choices.
The game throws people into a situation where they are forced to make choices. By the end, they are asking questions that really have nothing to do with the tools, but rather surface some of the other key barriers to greater social media implementation.
For example someone asked, during the debrief of the game, what policy to follow on using images of people, such as photographs of children. We discussed creative commons, of course, and some policy options and release forms and so forth—but then went on to point out that release forms is not a social media problem—it’s more human relations and logistical in nature.
A lot of the hidden barriers to social media adoption (hidden in the sense that they are not in the top 10 challenges list most folks reel off, but are laying in wait just one step ahead, after the workshop is over are just these kinds of problems. But helping people practice making choices with social media helps to ground all the new opportunities in what we already know and understand.
The Social Media Game Makes Us Draw on Our Experiences
As a side note, it’s wonderful how when people get into the game they bring their own experiences into it. After the session wrapped up, one of the participants added that his wife works at an arts organization; he told me he drew on what he knew about her work to help fill in the gaps in the story the objective cards had left. It’s another reason the game works—because it allows people to draw on their experiences of making choices in the past, tallying with what they already know how to do.
Social Media Game Note
That brings me to my last point, one that was raised by Christine Mulvin of Cincinnati. She noted that the game may not work for total beginners: if no-one at the table has any experience with social media tools, the short blurbs about each tool that are included on the cards just won’t be enough information to make good choices. So she recommends and I think she’s right that at least one person in each team has to be at least a bit conversant with Web 2.0. (no, that’s not a contradiction: you need to know something about Web 2.0 to be overwhelmed by the variety of tools out there, no?)
Hopefully many of the 40-odd folks at the workshop last week will go out and play more social media games, and those who participate in those sessions will lead the game on their own, after which the people in those workshops will play the game with still others, after which… well you get the idea!
Gordon Mayer is vice president of Community Media Workshop, a nonprofit that coaches and trains mostly Midwestern volunteer and staff nonprofit communicators on communications strategy, social media, media relations, and related topics. His hobbies inlcude playing with his kids and wondering what the hell will happen next to the news business.