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May 2010

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« Guest Post by Brooke McMillan: How LIVESTRONG Uses Social Media To Animate Its Community | Main | Using Chris Brogan's Archimedes Principle To Leverage Nonprofits on Twitter Suggested User List »


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Beth Kanter


Hi Beth,
While I could pretend that I'm only commenting because of your engaging post, I like to take the most honest route:
I am joining the nonprofit technology/social networking world and would love to attend the symposium. My goal is to help organizations and activists utilize technology to spread their message and raise support. I believe that communication technology can shorten the distance between donor and program, maximizing the impact of philanthropic giving. I follow your blog using Google Reader (as per your advise in a webinar I attended), and would love to see you fly in on a Jetson saucer.

p.s. Charity:water is one of my favorite organizations, but I fear their shinning example is being mistakenly used to chastise other nonprofits for not being social media savvy (i.e. Seth Godin). As is aptly pointed out above, charity:water is a shinning example of efficient specialization within the nonprofit industry.

Hi Beth -

I want to call out the notion of "effectively deliver a 3D presentation in a 3D space". Too many people just use powerpoint in virtual worlds. It wasn't effective for people in the real world and it seems to be less effective in virtual worlds. If we're giving a talk about the future, what's the future of presenting in mixed/virtual realities going to look like? That's a really great question and I applaud you for being interested in it. In a virtual world where we can cause more or less anything we can imagine to come out of our inventories and appear before us, why not do it in presentations more often to make a point? Yes I know, lag and all - but it takes just as long to rez a slide, really. And why not use some of the creative mixed reality expressions that artists are using in business settings? We are living in the future, why not live in it?

Now, on to the nonprofit issue. I think crowdsourcing and transparency is a particular way to engage nonprofits with youth who can potentially become changemakers. I believe that there are a lot of young community organizers, most of whom are operating now outside the world of traditional nonprofits because they feel disenfranchised by the institutionalized structures of traditional nonprofits. While certainly not typical (most are very attentive to the demographics of race and class on social networks), I've literally met some who take grassroots social network use to such an extreme don't understand that they have to organize their protests off facebook, because there's a whole demographic that doesn't use it. These youth need training in some ways, but in some ways we need training to engage with them, and we need to learn to let go, like you said. And by the way, I write this at 27 having experienced the inside of some very corporate nonprofits, and also having been involved in some radical community organizing training - and seeing the beauty and power of social media, as well as old media. I see both sides here.



I think so far as non-profits and social media it's truly a case of the future already being here but being very unevenly distributed. We are already seeing many of the most exciting projects that marry social change and social media being launched by small and relatively-informal teams and collaborations. We are see the rise of organizations who specialize in filling the gap between donors/supporters of an issue or cause and on-the-ground implementation, such as Kiva, Donors Choose and charity:water. And we're seeing increasing transparency in organizations large (Sunlight Foundation) and small (FORGE).

I think all these trends will speed up but never become completely ubiquitous. They will not become the normal next year. But most non-profits will not only sense the demand for greater connectedness and transparency from their stakeholders, they will actively seek out opportunities to share their stories in new ways. People who works at non-profits are really passionate about the work they do. They (/we) want to share. You often hear about how scary social media is for organizations, and there is a hint of that, but mostly there's enthusiasm and excitement. There are so many stories worth sharing.

A trend I think we will see accelerate is the adoption of change models and technology from the majority world to the west. Grameen Foundation has launched in the US and Africa is pioneering the use of simple (not smart) cell phones to help with everything from identifying medicine rip-offs to transferring money to finding out a fair price for your crops. Here's just one example: The sharing of these examples and ideas will increasingly occur on social networks, in a distributed conversation open to anyone who has something to contribute.

I'm looking really forward to what you come up with here and how you tackle the presentation in a virtual space challenge. I would, of course, love one of the passes so I could see the result live.




I'm working with a group of nonprofits to create a Great Lakes Education Collaborative. Turns out there is not an umbrella across the lakes for environmental education. We're having a face to face meeting in 2 weeks. Meanwhile, spread across the 8 Great Lakes states, I'm variously cheerleading, pushing, pulling and just plain posting to a Ning site to start the dialogue. What I think is most fascinating so far - everyone has posted a photo (it's an invitation only site) but very few have posted a photo/comment/blog entry! What does that say about people's comfort level?

I had the experience of starting a job in May 1996 and on my third day, standing in front of a computer at a booth at the big New England Environmental Expo, teaching the people who came by that if they clicked on the underlined word, they would "jump" somewhere else to learn more about that idea. I had LOTS of traffic to my booth and a great opportunity to spread the message that environmental excellence can be a competitive advantage. Almost no one else had a computer or an internet connection at their booth. The next year, I was still teaching some folks about hyperlinks and there were many more computers at booths. The next year, 1998, everyone had computers with internet connections and my traffic was down considerably. Time to find a new way to get out the message...In fact, the organization that I worked for, Northeast Business Environmental Network, had a website in 1995 but had closed its doors by 2005, as its message and networking function became more standard operating procedures. So yes, technology boot camp for leaders is a great idea, along with helping them understand that not all projects need to last forever, but will morph and evolve over time.

I would love a pass to the conference. I plan to continue work in this space for a long time - the possibilities are so intriguing.
Thank you,

KiKi L'Italien

I love when I can come away from a blog post and feel inspired. Thank you for the great ideas and helpful information. You have motivated me to investigate SecondLife public speaking possibilities! How weird/fun/neat!

Melinda Lewis

Applause to you for tackling this whole future visionary thing--I find it fairly daunting to think about, given all of the variables in terms of where the nonprofit sector will be (will it even be called that? I kind of doubt it.), what technology will look like, and how changes in economic and political organization in the real world will impact the sector.

I hope that you'll post some of your thoughts on the process of doing this 3D virtual presentation. As more of higher education is going virtual, I think we academics have a real challenge in learning how to make that content maximally engaging--social media seems to offer considerable help for the communication/engagement parts of the professor/student relationship, but we've got to find ways to excite students around content, too, and I'd love some ideas and lessons learned there.

Fraser Bresnahan

Dear Beth:

For brave non-profits, the type of immersive environment offered in Second Life could lead to more transparent organizations that could be more responsive to clients/customers, donors and other constituent groups. Looking at the ACORN debacle, it's hard not to think being transparent is incredibly beneficial.

There is a good argument you can make that Facebook, Twitter, and other web-based networks are really just baby steps towards creating as rich an experience as Second Life does. (Though you can also argue that Second Life is trying to wrestle down its anarchist past and become much more bland and corporate).

The distinction is that Facebook and Twitter offer such a low bar for entry and the content creation process in SL is significantly opaque.

Certainly by 2020, we should see audiences taking the virtual sensory experience provided in SL for granted, which may drag non-profits (however reluctantly) down that road in the same way so many are backing into FB & Twitter now.


Hi Beth,

This symposium sounds fascinating. Do you still have passes or more information available?


I have to ashamedly admit that I've just discovered your blog through registering for your upcoming NTEN presentation. This post, in particular, strikes many chords with me. I'm fascinated that anyone actually thinks about predicting the landscape 20 years from now, as the pace and diversity of innovation have become such that I am hesitant to make predictions even 5 years in the future. Then I recall the amount of time it has taken the member audience of the non-profits we work with to truly embrace each new revolution. Upon my first real foray into social networking, I couldn't help but see that social media was the future for our non-profit associations. Most of the leadership agree, but many because of the me-too mentality of "shiny object syndrome" - assuming that simply taking the first steps will ensure success. Few recognize the amount of planning, strategy, and ongoing effort required to drive a social organization. This is further hampered by a member base whose average age is 55+ and still aren't completely comfortable with the Internet, let alone the openness of a social platform. Even I remain unconvinced of the value of the true virtual world experience (ala SecondLife), at least at the current cost-to-benefit ratio. I look forward to reading more of your insights, as well as to a future where the boundaries to social technologies (whether real or perceived) are virtually non-existent.


Hi Beth,

You’ve inspired more than a comment ful - a whole post about it coming shortly...
Creating the future (BHAG)
Dealing with Fear (How our brain functions)
Getting lost in the waves (who controls the ocean?)
Personal referrals (Rheichold lives!)
We start where we end (a circle has no beginning)

Beth Kanter

For those of you have neglected to included your email address, I can't contact you w/ info re: the pass!


Ugh... it put a defunct email in my name field and I didn't notice. The email address in the email field is correct - [email protected]



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