Tag Archives: netnon

More revolution, less retrospection – from the conference floor

Multi-coloured diagram setting our literacies, etc covered by Howard Rheingold in "Net Smart"I got the impression from some people attending the Connecting Up New Zealand conference last week that they wished the genie would quietly slip back into the bottle.

The torrent of opportunities and demands unleashed through the web is just too much. Could we just return to the uncomplicated days pre-Facebook, pre-twitter, pre-everything web!

This attitude was most evident in a keynote address by fundraiser and management consultant Kitty Hilton. Enumerating the many sins of an always-on, always connected world, Kitty emphasised the many bugbears she has with new-fangled technology (sigh).

Truthfully, deep down, I am not surprised by such views. Yet I still feel dismayed when I hear them. Here I am, listening to a bunch of prejudices at a supposedly forward-looking community technology conference.

The murmurs of agreement at Kitty’s outpouring suggested not everyone is taking the disruptive nature of the web in their stride. Admittedly it takes a fair bit of effort to get your head around the changes being wrought by an increasingly networked world.

Since I got home I’ve been thinking and talking about what will help people to grapple with the transformation going on screens around us. I’d suggest stepping back from the ever expanding flood of tools and the early adopter success stories to consider the underlying dynamics.

I’d probably skirt around to the classics, such as the “The Cluetrain Manifesto”, “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything” or Clay Shirky’s “Here comes everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations”.

Instead I’d jump straight into “The Networked Nonprofit” by Beth Kanter and Alison Fine (see my review from December 2010). It’s a helicopter view of the social media enabled, hyper networked society for good causes, with the configuration of tools left to others. Some two years after its release, Beth continues to share the concepts in the book around the globe, most recently in Pakistan.

As well as an understanding of the web world, Beth’s work supposes a set of literacies for getting by online. Without them the internet sweeps people away, time and time again, as if relentlessly dumped by breakers pounding into St Kilda beach. Rather than being knocked over by the incoming tide, we need to develop skills and knowledge to stand firmly.

A starting point for understanding the literacies required to thrive online is neatly provided by online denizen Howard Rheingold. The insights from this 64 year old virtual community pioneer are more than enough to start with.

Captured within the 272 pages of “Net Smart”, released March 2012, is a set of interlaced literacies we need to hone. These are: infotention/ attention; crap detection (after Ernest Hemingway); participation; collaboration; and network awareness.

I’m finding even a jaundiced long-time internet addict such as me can learn from Rheingold’s approach. Of course, you don’t necessarily need the book, which I’m reading on my Kindle, as you can go online to find a tonne of stuff from Mr Rheingold, including articles, videos and even course curriculum.

It’s taken a few good sleeps and being back at my desk to put two and two together. Pondering out loud, I wonder if people could gain more control of their organisation’s online presence by understanding the networked environment social media operates in, along with the practical literacies needed to thrive.

I’ve already dabbled a toe in this pond. Last April I ran a workshop that touched on some of the material Rheingold so adroitly outlines (see the notes from my Harvesting information online workshop).

The next time I meet on the topic of community and ICT, I’m hoping we’re not dragged into wondering if a free and untamed web is a good thing. I’m much more excited by the idea of discussing topics raised by reporters such Wael Ghonim in “Revolution 2.0” who believe that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. Lets shift the focus forward, and ride along the wave of this ever so unruly medium.

Book review: “The Networked Nonprofit”

Book cover from Most of the organisations I’m working with are pretty pushed for time. There are always new issues and opportunities to grapple with.

So when it comes to the entry of social media into the mainstream people have barely enough time to experiment with how social media could practically help them achieve their immediate goals, let alone understand the underlying, often fundamental changes social media is bringing in its wake.

There is no shortage of people grappling with this, and writing freely too. But the analysis often lacks context, it’s little more than hype (of the gee-whiz look what’s new and shiny) and arguments can be poisoned by hidden assumptions.

The timing is good for Beth Kanter and Alison Fine to capture their considerable experience and thinking about online technologies in a new book released in June 2010. As the subtitle states “The Networked Nonprofit” is about connecting with social media to drive [social] change. The book is aimed aimed fairly and squarely at people involved in good causes.

There is a challenge at the heart of the book for those working for social change to grapple with the inherent openness of the Internet, and the rise of a generation that’s lived online, virtually from birth. Rather than fighting this, Kanter and Fine argue there are benefits for organisations making it easy for people to get close and contribute in different ways. The authors also critique ossified leadership structures and practices afflicting some nonprofits in the USA, something that is not uncommon in Aotearoa too I suspect.

This is not presented in a threatening light, but it’s suggested as a way for people to strengthen their organisation across a range of areas. Those discussed include funding, engagement and governance. 

The book is not about how social media works (well, who would really want to know how printing presses work), so even after you’ve read it there is still learning to do. The book itself provides questions for reflection and handy checklists. The resource section is short, pointing to carefully selected texts for further reading.

Understanding the world in which you organisation operates seems like a particularly useful thing to keep on top of. The chapter which walks through concepts and the practice of mapping an organisation’s social network is one I’d most like to explore in depth. This insights garnered will extend beyond the online world to the real one.

One of Beth Kanter’s hallmarks is sharing, so of course this book is no exception. Material associated with the book, including workshop materials/ presentations the authors are running based on the book’s contents, are listed on the Networked nonprofit wikispaces site.

This is a short book, which is good for leaders within organisations open to challenges, but packed. There’s no excuse to delay learning about social media any longer. Reading this book is likely take your organisation’s social media strategy ahead leaps and bounds.


According “The Networked Nonprofit” listing on WorldCat.org the book is currently available for loan (or interloan) from Auckland City and Auckland University Libraries. I’d be happy to loan anyone in Aotearoa a copy as I’ve got a spare.