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Do You Care about Communicating with Each Other?

I was asking the twitterverse about the use of online tools (yammer) and adoption rates and Howard Rheingold flipped back this nugget. 

Latest: RT @hrheingold: "Success depends on ppl involved care about communicating w/ each other" great metric for network building too. via twitter.com

I am inspired to think about lots of the work of network building and creating advocacy networks.  Is it possible to nudge people to care about each other?  What does that mean? Communicating involves exchanges and listening. It involves connection and sharing of ideas and information.

 If you are building a network how do you make it easy to make people "care about communicating with each other"? 

To varying degrees, face to face, meetings, community spaces, get people involved because they lower the "care" threshold among people that might not normally care to communicate with each other. If it takes little effort then I only need to care a little to communicate. If it takes lots of effort to communicate, then I need to care lots.

Do emails, twitter, facebook, status updates etc create "care"?  Do they lower the threshold so much that they are so easy to use that people that don't normally communicate start to chatter? Does that chatter and exchange mean that they "care"? Yes. It does in some way.  

So, the question for the network strategists is to both make it easy to communicate AND increase the reasons that people would want to communicate.  Network building is a mix of building the participants (or leveraging the participants) care for each other  and decreasing the barriers to communication.

To look at the challenges this way, lets unpack how the seven elements of network building fit into those 2 challenges...

Build the participants care for each other...

  • show them how they SHARE VISION
  • build SOCIAL TIES
  • reinforce COMMON LANGUAGE, VALUES and CULTURE
  • LEADERSHIP to weave ties

Decrease the barriers to communication...

  • support a dense COMMUNICATIONS GRID
  • spread a COMMON LANGUAGE
  • capture and share network FEEDBACK
  • LEADERSHIP to maintain the network infrastructure and train participants.

The other network elements complement the network once it is communicating and tied together...

  • SHARED RESOURCES to get things done.
  • LEADERSHIP to drive direction 
Network success depends on getting people to care deeply about communicating, collaborating and acting together with each other. It depends on developing an intentional strategy to increasing "care".


What information do you like to pick up before starting an online organizing project?

I started to think about all the campaign meetings and discussions I have been in over the years. Groups are great and they share lots of data including proposals, plans, budgets, etc. However, I am usually very hungry to sit down with the campaign team to talk about the vision and where things are going. What am I looking for during these meetings? Why does most the literature and information in proposals not give online organizers enough to chew on? What do I really want before I can sit down and develop the best advocacy network strategy for a group or client?

These are not in order. Here is a list of things I like to get my head around before I get into thinking about the online strategy. Most of these are obvious but some are driven by what makes a network function.

  • What is the campaign trying to do? What is success?
  • How do the policy team/ campaign team think it will be done?
  • Who is the target audience? Who are the influencers that the online strategy must engage to succeed? What services would be most valuable to them in their own work?
  • Where are the turf wars in this campaign among the allies? Among the opposition?
  • What does collaboration look like right now? What works? What sucks?
  • What is the most effective way to talk to the targets and influencers? What do they want to need to believe to act the way we want them to? Who do they listen to?
  • What role does listening play in shaping the campaign? What information are we listening for? Is the strategy and campaign team willing to adjust campaign goals based on the input of others?
  • What leadership roles can the grassroots take in this campaign? How can those leaders connect with each other? How can they come to know of each other? How do new people get treated?
  • What are the technical and communications skills of the targets and organizers in the campaign?
  • What resources are "in play" ? What data, reports, events etc are coming out in the period that I should know about? What existing activities can be tweaked to create an online organizing hook?
  • What are the transactions, the movements, the flow of work of those we want to organize? What are the little ticks of user motion that reveal change, movement or intent?
  • Where are the bottlenecks of people? Where do they cluster? When and where do all the users need to do the same things at the same time?
  • What does the technical capacity of the group look like? What do the databases look like? How much data is being captured now?
  • What does change look like in the organization? How does scope change impact staff or current business planning?
  • What are the distribution channels for the campaign? Where does online fit in that mix? How do the channels connect with each other?
  • What is the timeline? Is it realistic given the constraints of the issue, budget, staff and traffic?
  • How much time do you have to discuss, digest and revise strategy? Is there space for building thoughtful conversation to build mutual understanding for proceeding?
  • Who is in charge? What activity is delegated? What is the management drag on work? What is considered quick?
  • What is the budget? When the money is gone, what will remain?

I am sure more will come up but this is usually much of the stuff I poke out of clients.