(I know my blogging pace has been erratic, but that doesn't mean that my brain is empty - on the contrary, there's lots going on, being processed and hopefully eventually churned into a product. But I will try to post here more often. Thanks for staying tuned. :))
Last week, I joined a webinar with the amazing Clay Shirky. If you haven’t heard of him, you should, because he’s one of those intelligent, comprehensible voices who is able to explain and contextualize internet trends better than most people I’ve heard speak. He's the author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008) and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (2010). More recently, he authored an interesting piece about women’s and men’s different self-promotional styles, and also gave a talk at TED HQ about the PIPA and SOPA amendments. (I also understand he knows my Blogmama, Deb Schultz, one of the three hosts of the famous Tummelvision podcast. Yes, I will play Jewish geography even in my blog posts.)
The webinar (now available online with an intro from Seth Cohen and embedded below) was sponsored by a conference I attended after the GA in November, called NetWORKS – convened by the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to bring together people who represent major networks, Jewish innovation projects and who are able to mobilize social capital. (More of my notes about this webinar - including a note about an interesting crowdsourcing project involving the Knesset - are available after the jump, which is after the video. If the video embed does not appear below, click this link.)
Clay urged organizations and companies to “get rid of the audience illusion” – noting that everyone finds his or her own level of comfort and involvement with a cause, and while masses may rally for a crisis, the idea is for organizations and companies to keep the community together when there is NO crisis. He pointed out that you can’t expect the same numbers on a daily basis that crisis brings out. The “crisis action is a superset of what you can see with people who stay involved in the longer-term,” he said, pointing out that even though people showed up to protest PIPA and SOPA, most members of the American public aren’t going to become activists but showed they are willing to show up in a crisis. “You can’t try to radicalize everyone, or you end up alienating most of the people,” he said. So the question for organizations is how do we keep a committed core of people who are watching the issue all the time, but occasionally able to spread the issue beyond the limits of that community to rally in times of crisis?
Organizations and companies are shifting, he said, from a “we create content relevant to you” model to a model of “we are convening and you create value for each other.” This enables us to glean insight from people “in the field” who have access to something those of us who work in organizations may not have - as Clay called it, “access to reality.” We need to drop the idea that everyone has to be the same level of commitment. In the ecosystem, people will find their own level of comfort. When you offer several kinds of opportunities to participate, different people lean forward as producers and back as consumers. The challenge is how to create an ecosystem where people can reach their equilibrium state.
In other words, what do our members or consumers know from being out on the front lines in the real world? How do we harness that power, instead of trying to continue putting ourselves in the role of publisher and them as consumers – consumers are users who become co-operators of the site and help build the organization through sweat equity. Clay noted that this is particularly true for membership organizations, which need to begin handing over power, locating individual users who do a disproportionate amount of the work, the people who understand what makes this place worthwhile, and recognizing them.
He also asked a series of questions that I thought were an interesting exercise, especially for those of us who work in Jewish (or any) non-profit environments.
- If you could ask 10 experts (who don’t work for you) anything, what would they say?
- If you could ask 100 members one question, what would it be and why?
- If you could ask 1000 members to spend “10 minutes doing something cumulatively beneficial,” what would it be? What if it were 10,000 people for 1 minute?
- If you could hand over one part of your offerings to members, what would it be and how would you do it?
I'm going to be thinking about these questions - trying to find experts in subject areas I don't know, trying to really "find out what the people want," and challenge myself to cede certain roles to others. If I come across anything interesting in the journey, I'll be sure to share it, as I hope you will share your insights.