Three hours in Olympia

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Olympia, WA. OK…it was more than a three hour tour, but in addition to a day and a half doing visioning work with the staff of TCTV, I spent three hours with local nonprofit folks talking about optimizing use of social media to build community. It was a fine group and the three hours seemed to go by quickly.

For me, once again, one of the most significant points was that social media is not a new tool for communicating the old way. Folks who get on Facebook or Twitter and simply promote, promote, promote, are often left scratching their heads, wonder why this social media thing isn’t paying off.

As my mom always said, “to have a friend, you have to be a friend”. Promote, yes. But also ask, share, answer, follow, lead, invite, and play.   Here are the slides I used with the nice people in Olympia.


March 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

New Media/Timeless Objectives

Following the recent (and successful) brown bag sessions for local organizations, it has become apparent to me that in the quest to find good social media training, nonprofits are frustrated.

Apparently, many sessions for NPOs present Facebook and Twitter, etc.  as if mere use of these tools is the goal. “Get a fan page on Facebook”; “Use twitter to follow and be followed”.  There seems to be a lack of context that can evolve understanding from merely mechanical to powerfully strategic.

Social media can provide very meaningful enhancement to NPO communications strategy.  However, social media isn’t the strategy. Whether web-based, in person or via printed newsletter, successful communication  still comes from knowing what you want to communicate, with whom, why, and finally, how. If you don’t know that, Facebook isn’t going to help.

I was asked for a quote to frame an upcoming presentation I am making to a community of nonprofits in Washington State. I think it sums it up pretty well:

“Effective communication has always been the key to raising funds, promoting services and engaging with stakeholders. While the evolution of social media has created amazing new opportunities, it has also profoundly changed the way people engage with causes and charities.  In my work with foundations, non-profit organizations and individuals I focus on tangible methods and tactics to achieve mission-based results.  More than an overview of web and social media tools, my presentation will get folks thinking strategically about how they can most effectively connect with clients, supporters and ambassadors in the digital age.

Good nonprofit use of social media is not a whirlwind race to adopt the latest technology. New social media tactics only work within the context of timeless nonprofit objectives; building relationships, organizing events, empowering ambassadors. We need to be  selective and purposeful in the deployment of  the technology and the leveraging of trends to do the things we have always done – listen, support and serve our communities.

February 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

Lunchtime Learning…Social Media for NPOs

Each of the last three Thursdays I have had the pleasure of presenting brown bag sessions to a room full of nonprofit folks here in Grand Rapids. Each session averaged 40 attendees, eager to learn how Facebook, Twitter and web video can help them in their work. The sessions were intended to provide a better understanding, not only of social media tools, but how to use them in the context of our work.

I think the most important takeaways were, first, an enhanced understanding that social media is not just another way to be an info provider, but rather tools for multi-directional engagement: Authentic, personal, interactive.

Another question that comes up is “who should do social media for our organization”. My answer? Eventually everyone. Just as we do not have a person to assigned to “do email” for our NPO, social media is best when embraced as a communication tool, not an assignment. Invariably, it is during this discussion that I can literally see the light bulbs going on. Thanks to Robert H. for the nice feedback:

“Thanks again for the brown bag lunch on Twitter.  I’ve gone to other
meetings on social media and just not gotten it.  Yours made it finally
made sense to me and I’ve already opened an account for my NGO and used

Big appreciation also goes out to our hosts, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. I love their wonderful, converted “ice house” space; modern amenities surrounded by beautiful original architectural details. And kudos to those who joined in on the presentations; George, Ann and Brooke.

Next week…Ann Puckett (GRCF) is going to enlighten folks with “Google for Grassroots”. Looking forward to that one!

For the interested, my slide show from the first session (Facebook) is on Slideshare. I will work on getting the others (video on the Web & twitter) up there soon!

January 30, 2010 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

NPO Videos: Sharing the “Heart” of the Story

Another fun session through the Winnipeg Foundation last week, brought in nearly 80 nonprofit attendees interested in learning how to use video on the web. I felt honored to present to this welcoming and energetic group!

Really a “fundamentals” workshop, the intent was to spark their imagination and show them tools, tips and first steps. The hardest part was choosing examples. There is so much rich and compelling video content on the web. So I made a concerted effort to show not the fanciest, or the slickest, but rather videos with a simple premise, created and presented clearly, without too much complication.

Sometimes, if I am fortunate, as I am reviewing many NPO video pieces I come across one that touches me in a way that instantly transforms me away from my consultant mindset; and makes me pause. Take it in. Be enveloped. Remember.

Such was the case with this simple & straightforward video from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK. Roger McGough, the English performance poet, reads ‘A Fine Romance’. It really hit me hard. My father suffered from Alzheimer’s. Therefore my mother, as caretaker, suffered too. I profoundly remember our long distance conversations about the changes: The diminished awareness and capacity of a once fine orator. The disappearance of familiarity. But I also remember my mother’s certainty that a piece of their love transcended the pain of loss.

This video really hit the mark…it was short, it was simple, and it was real. Sure, the reading was by a famed presenter. But it was also devoid of lots of special effects. It wasn’t 10 minutes long. And it wasn’t a video of an Executive Director extolling the virtues of the organization. It got to the heart of the organization’s reason for being. Before the ask. Before the statistics. It resonated with a core emotion in me. It made me think. It made me remember.

And that, is the sweet spot, for video on the web.

I’ll be writing more about the core of the workshop in the coming days, and posting the slide show, but in this blog, I simply wanted to savor the point at which I again, re-experienced the profound power that I am often trying to explain to others.

November 2, 2009 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment


Another great resource, passed along by Beth Kanter.
Net Effectiveness April7
View more presentations from dianascearce.

November 2, 2009 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Making choices about Anonymity

21 new citizen reporters are featured on The Rapidian promo cards

21 new citizen reporters are featured on The Rapidian promo cards

It’s been one week since the launch of the new “hyper-local” citizen journalism project here in Grand Rapids, MI. Yesterday I submitted my 2nd op-ed piece addressing conversations about our choice to require identity disclosure for folks posting to the site. It’s a very interesting discussion, and I thought it might be helpful to repost it here, too. So…from The Rapidian:

When working with community volunteers to design The Rapidian, we faced some very interesting questions and choices. What should The Rapidian look like? What should it encourage? What should we seek to avoid?

Out of many lengthy discussions arose seven key values for the project: Inclusiveness; Civility; Ethical Reporting; Original Works/Proper Attribution; Open Identity; Cooperative Distribution; and Local Emphasis. I could write an entire piece on any one of these, describing the process and the reasoning, but it is the fifth value, “open identity” which has spurred the most debate.

Related to community generated content on The Rapidian, “open identity” means that for all stories, comments or op-ed pieces, the identity of the presenter is public. Commenters must be registered. Reporters use their real names. In short, everyone claims their own words.

Though the initial choice was made for “open identity”, I do recognize that there are important examples of the value of author anonymity. Forefathers Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under a pseudonym. Whistle blowers have used anonymity to shine light on unscrupulous activities. Dictators have been overthrown and revolutions successful, aided by anonymous communication.

But we have also experienced countless examples of hateful or unsubstantiated content on the web, where speakers hide behind made-up user names and have no qualms about spewing garbage about their enemies, neighbors, or entire groups of people. We also observed that letters to the editor in print publications are routinely vetted. Phone calls to the writer ensure identity before the attributed comments go to print. Making a statement at a public meeting? You have to start with your name (and sometimes even your address). Particularly in local conversation and debate, revealing your identity is often the norm. If it took place in the town square instead of on the Internet, folks would be face-to-face.

In many ways, The Rapidian is a new town square for Grand Rapids. After plenty of consideration and debate, we launched the Rapidian as an “open identity” project; betting that presenting ones actual self along with content, will encourage civility and reinforce the intended “neighbor-to-neighbor” nature of this experiment. We think it will better encourage ethical work and proper attribution. In other words, it supports the other values we have established.

Does this mark the end of the discussion on this issue? I certainly hope not. The Rapidian is in “beta” phase, and we are counting on additional input from the community to make it the best it can be. My guess (and hope) is that folks will still weigh in on this issue, and the conversation can continue. What do you think? Please join in the conversation!

September 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

Local Citizen Journalism…Establishing Values

rapidian logoMy blog has been quiet of late, much due to the fact that I have been immersed in work related to the pending launch of The Rapidian, a new citizen journalism project in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A project of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center (with support from the GR Community Foundation and the Knight Foundation), it is an ambitious endeavor and we are just 20 days from launch. It combines a web based journalism structure with neighborhood news bureaus. Ultimately, we hope it can help stem the tide of decreasing local news reporting that is happening all over the country, much to the detriment of our communities.

We also recognize that for a project like this to gain wide support and use, it must balance openness and accessibility with expectations of civility and trusted content. Today I have been working on the statement of values for The Rapidian and I thought I would share. These are not “the rules”, but rather a stated basis for decision-making and the establishment of some common agreements. Here is the work in progress, so far. I would would be interested in feedback.

The Rapidian Statement of Values (a draft)

The Rapidian is a citizen journalism project created to increase the flow of local news and information in the Grand Rapids community and its neighborhoods.

Through tools, training, platforms and support, The Rapidian seeks to create meaningful dialogue and promote greater civic engagement. The following values are central to these goals and it is in the spirit of these principles that we encourage wide and robust use of the Rapidian by the community.

1. Inclusiveness: It is a core belief of The Rapidian that including many diverse voices will ultimately strengthen the community. We understand that within our community there are many points of view and and differing news priorities. We value and encourage such diversity over style of reporting, issues of seniority or story subject.

2. Civility: We believe in robust debate and spirited conversation. We also believe that meaningful conversation is best enabled through civil debate and respectful exchange of ideas. Content submitted to the Rapidian (including comments) is expected to reflect this value. Personal attacks, slanderous material, hate speech or unsubstantiated accusations will be flagged and removed.

3. Ethical Reporting: We value basic tenets of journalistic ethics and will continually strive to establish, support and encourage ethical reporting. Standards for Rapidian reporters include: Seek truth; be honest and fair; minimize harm; do not misrepresent; seek alternate sources and points of view; do not use reporting for personal gain.

4. Original Works/Proper Attribution: We value and honor those who create and distribute meaningful content and set attribution standards accordingly. Plagiarism, failure to provide proper credit or unauthorized derivative works are not acceptable.

5. Open Identity (no anonymous posting): In pursuit of meaningful exchange and dissemination of valuable information, we believe we must each take responsibility for our words. Anonymous stories and comments do not support this value and will not be accepted.

6. Cooperative Distribution: All content posted on the Rapidian will be licensed under one of two possible Creative Commons licenses. This means that complete works may be redistributed and posted to other places, subject to the rules of these licenses. At the reporter’s option, some content may be restricted from commercial re-distribution. We use the Creative Commons licenses in the spirit of wide distribution and sharing of local information, a key value of this project.

The Rapidian is an experiment intended to demonstrate that as community, we can use the concepts and structures of citizen journalism to share information, empower new voices and increase meaningful interaction between all of us who call ourselves “Rapidian”.

Twitter @lcirivello

August 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm 6 comments

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July 9 Winnipeg Foundation Presentation

Recent Workshop Feedback

"Wow – great presentation today! I came into this workshop thinking I knew enough about social media to kick start the organization I work for, but once the presentation began I was immediately taken aback at how much I didn’t know as well. It was a great learning experience and opened the doors to many ideas I now have – in fact I am having a meeting tomorrow with the rest of my colleagues to discuss these ideas! " - Randi-Leigh Michaniuk, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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