My 8 day visit to India was a whirlwind. I'm still recovering.
Here's why: I attended and presented at the Indian Leadership Forum in Mumbai on Feb 9-11. The Nasscom Foundation in India, the epicenter of nonprofit technology and social innovation, invited me to present as part of the Global CSR track in a session about reaching the Bottom of the Pyramid with technology and social media. I also had the opportunity to facilitate a large group session about whether CEOs should use social media or not and attended a tweet up with David Meerman Scott.
Finally, I taught two social media strategy workshops for NGO and CSR practitioners before having two days to get a taste of India and then a 24 hour journey home.
No wonder I am still tired!
Teaching in an international context
I love designing and delivering trainings on social media and the added challenge of working outside of the US. I've had the opportunity to present this workshop in Romania, UK, Cambodia, Australia, (for a mostly Eastern European audience) and all over the US for different types of nonprofits, different levels, and different perspectives (communications staff, program staff, social entrepreneurs, senior leadership,etc).
When teaching in different contexts, especially outside of the US, you need to make some adjustments to your content. I don't create from scratch, but rather re-frame it. Here are three techniques I use:
- Connect with and research audience via social media
- Customize once you get on-site
- Real-time improvisation
First, I try to connect with people in the country or community via social media. If anything, having social media as part of your trainer's tool box makes this an easy task. I used Twitter to get examples of NGOs using social media which resulted in an excellent resource list. Within ten minutes, I connected with social media/ngo experts in India (@apnaIT @paritoshsharma @avinashraghava @gauravonomics @amnigos @neha1989 and a few others). I also did a pre-survey workshop registrants.
Before I get on the plane, I spend a few hours looking over my training materials with a "US Centric Lens." What does that mean? I look at my materials and ask whether or not I have used examples, data, or words/phrases/jokes/humor that are so American that they would not be understood outside of the US? For example, I include information about Forrester's Social TechnoGraphics profiles as part of the social media game which is based on US data. I was lucky enough to discover @gauravonomics work in translating these profiles to an audience in India. Using that information, I was able to customize
I try to keep my curriculum and materials a little fluid. I have a basic structure. I don't over prepare. When I get on site, I focus on listening and soaking up the culture and perspective. I try as much as possible to get into the participants' heads. I'll do the actual customizations when I arrive in country. Doesn't give me a lot free time to play tourist, but I'm there to work.
The last most important is improvisation. It requires listening, thinking on your feet, and being in the moment. I usually prepare a trainer's guide for myself and generally follow it, but also adjust on the spot. And, for discussions, if the truth be told, I jot down a outline while I'm in the room. It takes practice to do well, but I think it improves the learning experience for participants. I am also very transparent with the audience about the challenges of "lost in translation" and include discussion questions like 'How does this translate to an Indian context?"
I faced a major challenge during my time in India. The long plane ride had an effect on my hearing. My ears were clogged and as a result, I had major problems hearing anything with my right ear. Rather than hide, I just let people know. It worked.
Many of my presentations include some visual humor and funny stories. I like those the most, but often have to delete them when working outside the US. Here's where I rely on my host to tell whether or not what I think is funny is actually offensive or disrespectful. Like a stand up comedian, I left on two jokes to see how they played in India, framing it with "this concept might be too American - so if doesn't resonate - that's okay." I was surprised that a number of jokes actually did translate and I had the room laughing.
It's all about the framing ... "Gee I know this might possibly be inappropriate because I don't know your culture, but I don't mean to be disrespectful .. launch into joke."
Corporate Social Responsibility Practitioners
Nasscom Foundation has an impressive Corporate Social Responsibility Program where they work directly with corporations and small business that want to fund social change initiatives. Nasscom provides technical assistance and also manages a knowledge network where best practices and reports are shared. Many of these programs are employee volunteering programs or other social investment programs. Nasscom Foundation also manages an online volunteer matching service and it hosts a Corporate Social Responsibility Track at the Nasscom Conference.
Take a look at Nasscom's Social Innovation Awards and you'll notice these are not all nonprofit programs, but also corporate programs. Take for example IRIS Business Service voter project or Steria's Education program to get a flavor. I'll be bold - we, Americans, could learn a lot.
A big question in this workshop was how can these programs incorporate social media effectively? The participants in this workshop had diverse audiences they were targeting, so it was a bit of challenge, although the social media game is flexible to accommodate these differences. I put together some American examples, including a couple that my Zoetica co-founder, Geoff Livingston, wrote about this week on Mashable. I shared them with the caveat "these examples are very "American" so let's try to translate what may work or not."
There was a very productive conversation. The big difference in India - is that CSR is not cause-marketing or geared towards sales. It is purely focused on social outcomes, although I did hear some business goals. For example, employee volunteer programs do have a business goal in that participants observed that having a robust program attracts talented employees.
Geoff Livingston wrote about authenticity in CSR programs. I really wish he had published this two weeks before my visit. He points that in America, "Ninety percent of companies cannot discern the difference between cause marketing and corporate social responsibility. Altruism often fails or is not thought out. In reality, most companies think, “Yeah, we’ll give some money to charity,” and let their executives figure out which ones. In the social media world, now they just outsource it to their communities (in both good and bad ways)."
The Nasscom Foundation program is geared towards helping corporations understand how to invest in social outcomes and get a social return on investment. Geoff talks about three different approaches used in America (Mission, Problem, and Family). My sense is that most of the CSR practitioners in India use the problem approach.
I was very impressed with the way this group did the small group exercise in the social media game
They were able to adapt it to their own programs. I was also impressed with the report out, not only were they brief and to the point, but they were able to clearly articulate social outcomes in the social media strategy.
NGOS in India
This workshop was for the NGO audience. I had the usual range of small, medium, and large organizations. Some organizations are based in India and some were part of worldwide networks. For example, Habitat for Humanity India and GuideStar India were participants. I also had a range of technology comfort and use levels both personal and organizational - this is actually a good thing because it creates an opportunity for peer learning.
Participants were hoping to use social media for a variety of objectives - including online advocacy, recruit volunteers, and fundraising. Many NGOs in India work in networks, so their social media audience was other NGOS. Other organizations, primarily those that worked in rural areas and the "Bottom of the Pyramid" talked about challenges of different local languages, access to the Internet (electricity for that matter) and technology. I encouraged this group to think about their social media use as a bridge and shared the story of Pratham Books and how Breakthrough, a human rights organization, is using the Extraordinaries application in a creative way.
For the report out, Rufina Fernandez, the CEO of Nasscom Foundation, suggested that they do their report as if they're making a pitch to CEO for funding. I played the part of the CEO and asked the hard questions. I had so much fun doing that ... All of the groups had terrific answers!
Network Weaving With Books and Twitter
I discovered a new form of network weaving: book giveaways. I'm closing the triangle between book winner and author via Twitter to facilitate learning after the workshop. As a blogger, I've been given copies of books to write reviews and have also purchased books myself. After I read the book, I like to give it away on my blog because I hate accumulating. Because I do so many face-to-face trainings, I've been incorporating a book giveaway in every workshop I do. I packed copies Chris Brogan's Trust Agents, Shel Israel's Twitterville, Janet Fouts Social Media Book, and Darren Barefoot's Friends With Benefits. I've encouraged each of the winners to Tweet to the authors.
Pallavi Koli, Catalysts for Social action, Friends with Benefits by Daren Barefoot
Diana Peters, Habitat For Humanity India, Twitterville by Shel Israel
Rajeshree Dutta Kumar, Centre for Science, Development & Media Studies
Pranay Swarup, NASSCOM Foundation
Connecting With Local Trainers, Building Capacity
Whenever I teach workshops, I try to identify people in the community who have knowledge. After all, I'm a visitor and I leave. Communities need local expertise. I try to so hard to find and acknowledge those folks. They're so important.
In the picture above, you will see Pratap Ashutosh who is a talented techie and trainer and has been running hands-on social media clinics for Nasscom Foundation. I left behind my printed cards for the Social Media game. And, of course, created a wiki as a resource. There were several very knowledgeable people in each workshop, like @sbharatam and I acknowledged their expertise to the group. There is no such thing as one expert. You need a community.
Next Tiny Steps
The big challenge with training is putting what you learn into practice. That can be difficult with a one-day workshop. One of the technique I use is to ask people to write down on an index card one small step they will take following the workshop. I organize the list in clusters by similar action steps and include a link to a how-to resource. This creates learning clusters.
While I got great verbal feedback from participants, I always do a follow up survey to ask for constructive feedback. This is where the bulk of my learning takes place.
As I was getting ready to go back to the United States, Vicky Davis or CoolCatTeacher on Twitter let me know that she was headed for Mumbai to teach some workshops. I connected her to my friends at Nasscom Foundation. I can't wait to read about her experience and her suggestions for teaching in an international context.
Are you going international? Here's a good list of resources.
I hope the jet lag will lift soon and be back to regular blogging ... reactions? Comments? Learnings? Let me know in the comments.