Social Tech Training: the social web for social change

Today the Washington Post reports on a study by medical sociologist Nicholas A. Christakis and political scientist James H. Fowler with the headline “Social Networks’ Sway May Be Underestimated“. Their work is pointing to the strong impact of social networks in behaviour – discovering that entire networks of smokers appear to have quit virtually simultaneously.

Now this shouldn’t really be a surprise to those who have been paying attention to social network analysis, tipping points and the new behaviours enabled by the social web.

What is a surprise is that the nonprofit/charitable sector has been fairly late to the social web party, while corporate brands trip over themselves to build brand communities, develop social media strategies and deploy viral campaigns as budgets increasingly shift from broadcast to digital.

When it comes to helping to shift societal behaviours to more sustainable and humane patterns, the tools, practices and methodologies of social media and social change were made for each other.

If you (or your clients) are involved in social change and looking for an intensive, practical and productive training into these technologies and practices, Social Tech Training being held June 22-24th in Toronto could be just the thing. I sit on the advisory board for the event.

SocialTech Training

A co-production of Web of Change and MaRS, this is an amazing opportunity to learn from some of the global leaders in this space. Check out the amazing faculty. The agenda is pretty rich and allows for plenty of opportunities to make the program fit individual needs.

A Great Transformation

iStock_000004882942Small.jpgAs my own work enters a new and exciting phase, I find myself considering three intersecting and co-evolving forces: the Obama Moment, the New Great Transformation and the Social Web. I see signals in these forces of a new resilience just when we most need it.

The convergence of these forces in the context of tremendous global economic, environmental and political uncertainty signals an opportunity for renewal by change-makers, social innovators and social entrepreneurs for the benefit of us all. The complexity of the world requires better solutions, and we know from the open innovation literature that the ideas we need today do not live within a single organization.

Is this a truly transformative moment at a critical point in human history? Is a new social, economic, environmental and cultural resilience possible, or will status quo forces reassert themselves?

Full essay after the jump…

Continue reading “A Great Transformation”

Pedro talks about social tools and social change

I missed this from my earlier post about Pedro’s wonderful workshop at LIFT, but thought I would share it now.

Pedro talks about the possibilities of social software tools and online communities and the possibilities of technology enabling social change. We are working on this all the time, and my practice is more and more focused on the use of both online communities and events linked to social innovation goals. I hope that we can get Pedro to come to Toronto for Mesh, I think he’d be a great addition to MeshU and a panel conversation.

A Social Mission for a Blogging Consultant?

I’ve been wanting to develop a social mission statement for my consulting practice for some time now. It’s in development, and I’ve asked a few people to collaborate, via Google Docs of course. Not ready for prime-time yet, but on its way.

What has been driving this is my experience of the last year blogging and consulting. My work is not value-neutral. It is analytical, but my work is framed by my worldview, as is anyone’s. Blogging forces me to articulate myself more precisely, to hone my arguments in the face of criticism and respond to other very different worldviews. It exposes me to a fantastic collision of perspectives that inform my work.

I am inspired by the Cluetrain idea that markets are conversations, Shel and Scoble’s book Naked Conversations and by Chris and Tara’s work behind BarCamp and Citizen Agency. Making meaning is an important creative act in a market characterized by conversation. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do I want to know you? Do I want to do business with you?

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So why a social mission for a consultant? Aren’t consultants all guns for hire, who swear to objectivity? Isn’t a consultant supposed to be neutral? Doesn’t a social mission belong to the world of nonprofits? Isn’t the exercise dangerously and inherently political?

My point is that so-called consultant objectivity and neutrality is a myth. Consultants are motivated by many things that affect their work: worldviews, past experiences, the hope to get more work, to give the client what they want to hear not what they need to hear. I don’t like these aspects of my adopted profession. The problem with consulting in my opinion is that values are artificially removed when they should actually be central, articulated and transparent.

I can’t help but have a need to place myself in a larger, meaningful context. I am an independent. I am Citizen Wonk. I am an agent of my values. My values infuse my work and help me decide what work I wish to do.

I’m interested to know other consultants who have gone through this exercise themselves, whether in a formal or informal way. What’s your mission and how do you incorporate it into your work? How do you balance your desire to live your values with your need to make a living and get the next gig? Leave a comment or email me.

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In My Lifetime

Leila pinged me on this, and I’m taking a moment out to consider the big questions. Free license for idealism…

In my lifetime, I would like to see 3 things happen:

1. A successful transition from the Age of Oil to the Age of Sustainable Development
2. A social, political and economic culture that invests increasingly in community and the creative potential of every individual in society.
3. Technologies used to enable a truly participatory democracy that is both local and global.

My friend Andrew often claims that I am trying to solve the problem of globalization. Hubris? Maybe. But my answer to the skeptics is, “And why shouldn’t I?” My friend Kim often accuses me of being a dirty Malthusian. Not quite, but I see her argument.

We’ve got a few revolutionaries already in the mix: David, Sutha, Ryan, Rob, Tom,
What say you, Deb, Patrick, Brent, Joey and Bryce?


P.S.: Rest in Peace, Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006). A boundary-crossing intellectual, a true revolutionary, a Torontonian and an inspiration to community-builders everywhere.

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