Insights from the #StartingGood Digital Summit

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Back in October we attended the StartingGood Digital Summit, hosted by the team of crowdfunding experts at StartSomeGood. The summit was one of the events forming part of the Changemakers Festival – a series of social change-focused events around Australia in that particular week.

At The Social Deck we work as a very distributed team (Canberra, Brisbane Orange and Byron Bay at last check in to our virtual office!), and it was a great opportunity for us to attend a conference ‘together’, while gaining insights into some of the emerging ideas, tools, tactics and techniques for creating social change from some of the leading thinkers in the space.

Although unfortunately we weren’t available to listen to every one of the talks, we thought we’d share a few quality snippets of some of the sessions we ‘attended’.

The Journey of a Social Entrepreneur

The Summit kicked off with a session by Roshan Paul, co-founder of the Amani Institute, a global Higher Education social enterprise that helps change-makers develop knowledge and equips them with the practical skills they need to solve social challenges. He highlighted the need for social entrepreneurs to “train intensely for a career in impact – the way a doctor or Olympic athlete would”, and to immerse themselves in practical experiences to gain the best understanding about how to solve social problems across national boundaries”.

He wrapped up his session with two important lessons from his own experiences co-founding a social enterprise:

1. “Find a co-founder – somebody you can trust and who can equally invest time and money”, and

2. “Start something if you can’t live with not starting it, or join somebody else if you can.”

Social Media – big wins for small organisations

In the second session, Amy Ward, CEO of Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) and Stacey Monk, founder of the social innovation lab, Epic Change, highlighted their personal experiences for creating successful social movements through social media.

Step one is to develop a strong social media strategy. Amy highlighted that: “money is not necessarily the most effective on social media, but time, energy and a good strategy are critical.”

A key theme that emerged was the importance of creating and building trust with your online community. As Amy said: “Those organisations that put their communities first are the most successful on social media. The first step is to find your friends and ask them to come with you. Don’t create new platforms and wait for them to come. They won’t”.

Another theme was that you don’t always have to be the one to instigate or create a new idea – look to what others are saying as well: “Look for what’s trending. What moves you? Share this with your community and start a discussion with what others have created.”

We really like the idea that community organisations have a unique opportunity to be human and create content that connects with people’s emotions. For Epic Change: “Community generated content has been the most successful” said Sophie, and “the tone we use is important; we always try to be human because it brings people back to their heart.”

Amy and Stacey’s three favourite social media success stories are: Tweetsgiving BigBlueTest & GiveMommaLove.

Why? Because the support they’ve generated online has translated into real action offline.

Building online movements for change

Sarah Haghdoosti, founder of Berim, and Megan Anhalt from Purpose spoke about their experiences working for social enterprises and building online movements for change.

Berim does incredible work to identify, support and remove barriers for Iranian social entrepreneurs. They work with artists, social innovators and thought leaders in Iran to help remove obstacles that stop their messages and initiatives being heard. They also work with every day Iranians, encouraging them to share their stories to make others aware of issues in the country.

Because of the potential dangers of people engaging with their cause, Berim had to carefully consider how to encourage this engagement without being fearful, and at the same time appeal to a broad audience to support them. Should they focus on the Middle East or just Iran? They concluded that focusing on Iran would be the best way to get in-depth connections with Iranian people.

A great piece of advice was to “ask many questions when creating your movement”. For example, how do you decide whether it is going to be a local, national or international focus? “You need to understand your audience, and who will be best placed to help make the greatest change.”

You also need to think about how your efforts online can translate and give people the courage to act offline. “Social movements are enabled by technology, but offline is for creating real change.”

The role of crowdfunding in creating social change

“Crowdfunding is used as a source of innovation, experiment, and even failure in the social change space.” – Tom Dawkins, CEO and founder of StartSomeGood.

Tom’s top tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign were:

  • Be purpose driven. Know who you are and who you want to help.
  • What are you passionate about? Start to connect and share your idea with people as early as possible in the process.
  • Ask yourself: “What change are you seeking and who do you want to hear about it?”
  • TIMELINESS: early momentum is vital to the success of any crowdfunding campaign.
  • To do this: you need a firm commitment from at least 10-12 key people that will support you from day one. This is your core community to build on.
  • It is a good idea to do a ‘soft launch’ with your core community, and 24 hours later a full launch. That way you are not launching your campaign with no support and the broader community will see that people already care about your project, which also makes it more appealing.
  • Email can be effective in the early stages of your campaign to let people know who you are and what your campaign is about.
  • The challenge of crowdfunding is to maintain momentum in the middle period of a 30 day campaign.
  • Consistent, targeted and relevant social media messages during this time are a MUST.
  • Make sure the people you are reaching out to care about your project!

Collaboration and productivity

A question regularly faced by organisations is how to create a collaborative, productive and sustainable work environment. This was covered very well by Donnie Maclurcan, founder of post growth.

He initially focused on the power of using strengths-based or asset-based approaches. Essentially the idea is to really dig deep, through an asset mapping process, to find out about skills and experience, but also values, hobbies and other strengths outside of their current work, of the people within your organisation. Ask questions, brainstorm and find out what their passions are and where their strengths and creativities lie, to uncover the diversity and rich resources you already have available. Donnie believes that the opportunity to share their interests outside of work is an absolute game changer for groups collaborating, particularly where there are tensions or many people that have never met personally.

His second theme was to talk about how collaborative meetings at the organisation (post-growth) were held ‘silently’, i.e. without video/audio, where people type in turns (participants simply see that another person is writing with a small pen graphic next to their name). Donnie actually explains that these typed meetings work better both for facilitation and the productivity/efficiency of the meeting. It means that the content is recorded and there’s less need for minute taking as you have a full transcript. There’s a great article about it here.

Thirdly, Donnie talked about how they use the rapid iteration process. One of the best ways to iterate collaboratively is through a process of one-on-one feedback (e.g. for a shared document). Rather than sending out a document to a long list of Cc’d people, they use a technique of selecting say 10 people who you know will give quality feedback, then ranking who you think will give the most broad to the most specific feedback, and send it out to around 10 people in that order, making changes after each round. This process is actually more efficient and stops the problem of clogging people’s inboxes with numerous replies to a thread they may not be interested in.

The ‘Digital Summit’

Our overall impression was that having an online conference like this was a great way to include people and teams that couldn’t make it physically to an event, particularly important for those from, or working in, regional areas like us.

Although there were a few technical issues with some sessions – as you’d expect gathering many people from different locations around the world using Australia’s less than perfect broadband network! – the breadth of experience and insights gained from the variety of speakers and topics at the summit made it very worthwhile. After the summit we were able to come back and talk together as a team (via Skype) about some of the ideas and insights we’d gained.

At The Social Deck we’re big fans of the idea that we can work hard and collaborate effectively together (and have fun!), while still being able to enjoy the lifestyle or life choices that we have made as individuals. We appreciate the work of StartSomeGood to create a quality event that is accessible to teams like us.

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