Tag Archives: connecting up

Take me to the social web workshop, a report

When I met Beth Kanter after having read her blog for several years she made a real impression on me. It wasn’t just her committed personal activism, wide ranging knowledge and willingness to share, so much as her phenomenal connectedness that struck me. Set loose on the keyboard and she connects with people, for just causes.

During a one-day workshop after the Connecting Up 08 conference a small group of 20 or so got see what it means to be really connected online.

It soon became obvious she has formed connections online with hundreds and hundreds of people. These might be people she’s worked with in depth, somebody she chatted to at a conference, or just someone who has accidentally found her online.

When she needs to, as she did when fundraising for the Sharing Foundation in Cambodia, Beth will (carefully) reach out to her networks. At other times she’ll ask people for help with research for an article or presentation she’s making, or as the example she gave us, ask what is the best sim card to use in Australia.

I have no doubt this is reciprocal. Beth is happy for people to know about what she is doing and is very open about this. She blogs in several places, has a twitter account anyone can follow, is on facebook, has an avatar on second life and is out there in numerous other places too no doubt.

The types of relationships formed transcend any easy description. Friend, colleague, fellow-professional, neighbour, supporter? It’s hard to know how to describe members of the online network Beth has built up. It probably doesn’t matter, but what it suggests is that when you match the internet medium with trust and reciprocity you get a pretty powerful combination.

There might be a drawback to all this. It would seem that Beth lives a very online life. Perhaps one which means you’ve got to be stuck in front of a computer. Interminably.

As I’m Twitter-averse and Facebook challenged, I don’t imagine myself joining let along creating such networks. Even though they could be immensely valuable, my introspective side flares up when I think about it. This ultra connectedness is not for everyone. Nor should it be, for the internet really is about people having choice. However, I do now really understand the potential of creating networks, particularly for organisations.

There are ways of managing the temptations of constant, ubiquitous connectivity. Beth talked about how she keeps things under control. She has at times designated Twitter Tuesdays, or Facebook Fridays. And it’s obvious she communicates on her on terms (ie seldom instantly unless the time is right).

And before you think Beth is baring all (something she has done, see the Beth 5.0 flickr photo set), when we go online it’s obvious we only present the parts of ourselves we want others to see. That is, we use a persona. It’s a word that came out during the workshop as another online survival gambit.

So, what was it that we actually covered in the workshop? The day long session was a practical how-to advice on using social media, including a chance for Beth to share some of her frameworks.

Beth introduced a common sense framework for community and voluntary organisations wanting to use new online tools. The three basic steps are:

  1. Listen
  2. Join the conversation
  3. Experiment. Start by blogging.

Capturing what you learn as you go was considered pretty important. Beth suggested using a learning diary and saving material on a shared wiki or web page. Other participants suggested giving permission for team members to experiment with the web on the condition they report to the rest of the team.

The main point to underline is permission to explore social media in your own time, on your own terms.

You can take a look at the record of the workshop (and part instructional tool) at http://take-to-the-social-web.wikispaces.com.

My biggest takeaway (a north American colloquialism which stands in for “what I learned today”): online networks can involve new people and reinvigorate others to get active or give.

A loud happy yelp goes out to Beth, an avid dog lover. Thanks for coming all way down under.

Business card collection – Connecting Up 08 conference (updated)

The first thing I noticed when I hopped off the plane in Brisbane was not the humidity but the air conditioning. Pretty chilly. It’s something I’ll have to get used to. Representatives from community groups meeting to talk about using ICT in communities are meeting at the Hilton. This means living in a sealed, air-conditioned environment for the next few days.

I’m going to run a business card collection post for the Connecting Up 08 conference (19-20 May 2008). Everyone I grab a card from I’ll throw up their name, a link and a comment, when I can get time.

The Hilton charges $26 for two hours wireless connectivity so I’ve popped out to a cafe where they have free wireless if you buy a cuppa.

Anyway, on with the business card post. In no particular order:

  • Ron from Group 61 is wants to learn about how to find volunteers using websites. His organisation runs a befriending service and organises outings for people with mental health issues.
  • John Y G Fune is Director of the Information Technology Resource Centre owned in whole by Hong Kong Council of Social Services. He has built the centre up from scracth, now employing 30 staff on a heap of programmes.
  • All the way from the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboringinal Language Centre, Bruce was recording stories of his people and wanted to learn what part the web could play in this.
  • Flying Arts “offer professional development workshops and exhibiting opportunities for regional and remote visual artists and communities”. Ann said she hadn’t met most of the people she communicated with.
  • The IT industry in India put 10% of their income into a charitable foundation. Rufina Fernandes, CEO, of NASSCOM Foundation, runs both digital inclusion programmes and is developing ways to support not for profirt organisations, of which there are at least a million.
  • Today is Vyria Paselk’s first day in her new role supporting partners of the San Francisco based TechSoup Global.
  • I’ve already written about the Doing IT Better initiative in Victoria (see my post from 30 August 2007). Today I met Dean Lombard, an ICT Projects Coordinator, with the Victorian Council of Social Services, who is working alongside Larry Stillman to support NGOs to get online.

Here goes on part two, from the second day of the conference:

  • Des Naude works with Charity Computers in Canberra providing practical support to individuals using techies from disadvantaged backgrounds trained by the organisation
  • As the clubs and student development manager at UNSW Hannah Baral is looking for examples of mobilizing younger people with social media (see Beth Kanters post relaying this question).
  • At the same time I finished my talk on wikispaces, Louise Arkles finished talking about the PhilanthopyWiki, run by Philanthropy Australia. It’s an online encyclopaedia and archive of knowledge on philanthropy in Australia.

Here’s the third and final instalment:

  • I almost spent more time talking with Terry Stokes from Lasa about beer than community ICT, so I thought I should link to a couple of the top breweries pouring in his home town in Wigan: Thwaites and Timothy Taylor.
  • Jan from Dragons Abreast, an organisation promoting breast cancer awareness and education, primarily, through the sport of dragon boat racing, gratefully received a grant for computer hardware recently, but no money for installation or maintenance. What to do?
  • I missed Nigel Sanderson’s session on FundraiseOnline, but we’ll catch up in Wellington. The New Plymouth based company has just expanded to Australia offering its website to keen athletes raising funds for charities.
  • Back in 2004 I worked alongside Amodha from Infoxchange in Melbourne. She presented about the service-to-service software package designed specifically for health and welfare providers.
  • Darrell Burkey is President of Computing Assistance, Support and Education in Canberra. His positive feedback on the Wellington e-rider IT service really boosted my confidence we’re on the right track.

There are more than 300 participants so I didn’t manage to get around everyone, but I did manage to have lots of good yarns.

Sharing some ideas – upcoming presentations

In April and May I’m leading a couple of workshops at conferences for people using ICT in the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector.

The topics are:

“Online project management tools: making choices and making it happen”

To run projects efficiently you need to keep track of minutes, tasks, share ideas and even co-produce documents. There are lots of tools online to support project work within and between organisations. This workshop focuses on choosing a suitable tool, focusing on wikispaces.

“Riding into a headwind: reflections on a new IT support and advice service ”

The Wellington e-rider IT service for community groups was launched in October 2007. The Wellington Region 2020 Communications Trust’s bold aim is to both meet the needs of organisations and be financially viable. This project covers our progress to date.

Early bird registrations for the Connecting Up ’08 conference in Brisbane, 19-20 May, close on Friday 14 March (where I’m presenting both workshops), and for the Engage Your Community mini-conference in Hamilton, on 22 April, close on Sunday 16 March (where I’m presenting the first workshop).

See you there?