Published by Joe Solomon on 30 Jun 2009 at 02:50 pm
This month’s Net2 Think Tank question is: How do real-world (offline) events fit into social media conversations and campaigns? Joe Solomon’s response highlights research he has been doing around offline events for WiserEarth.org. Joe is active in the social justice and environmental world and runs his own social media strategy firm.
If you haven’t already, check out this post by Camilla Burg about how the WiserEarth community is exploring the potential of in-person events! Camilla’s post does an excellent job discussing the importance of face-to-face events for creating connections, fostering collaborations, and inspiring our social change work. I’ve been in touch with Camilla and also had the pleasure of connecting with Peggy Duvette, at N2Y4. I’ve since volunteered to help explore different event models for organizing WiserEarth events – to find what elements have worked, what haven’t, and see what might be a good fit.
Below is a summary of five event models I’ve found or have experience with – as well as an invitation to share your ideas for connecting the WiserEarth community offline:
1 – Green Drinks
“Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up at informal sessions known as Green Drinks. We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business…These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity.”
I’ve attended Green Drinks in Vancouver & Seattle and think this event format is wonderful for socializing – if that’s your cup of tea (or rather glass of wine!) Creating a space for socializing and networking is key for those “moments of serendipity” – and this model is great for those who are outgoing and excel at meeting new people.
While key, the Green Drinks model is somewhat limited – as socializing only goes so far. According to the Green Drinks’ website: “Green Drinks are Agenda Free.” The idea here is “Green Drinkers are already deluged with information from thousands of other sources. Green Drinks is a place to go to get away from all that.” This makes sense – and in order to network the social change movement, we definitely need socializing events like Green Drinks. Although my hunch is we also need events with a bit more structure, with an agenda, and ways to push the movement further.
Note: There are Green Drinks in over 500 cities! Part of this popularity may be because the ‘Green Drinks’ branding is so lightweight and flexible and doesn’t feel like it flows from one specific organization.
|“We’re coordinating a distributed day of events for 24 October 2009, uniting the world around a common call to action–and we’re asking you to help. You don’t need to have ever done anything like this before–you’ll have lots of support through 350.org . And if you’re stuck for action ideas, just click here. We’ll soon be unveiling a full set of tools to let you manage your local event and build a strong local climate group in the lead-up to 24 October.“|
The 350.org model enables any individual or organization around the world to create and promote events (“actions”) – with a call to action for a fair global climate treaty. The framework is super flexible – as just about any kind of action can be proposed and organized. Since all actions are focused on a shared agenda, and will occur on the same day, their cumulative affect is well-positioned to have a much bigger impact in gaining attention and raising awareness.
The challenge of current 350.org Actions are that they don’t seem to have a built-in sustainable model. What happens after Oct. 24th? While a global treaty is urgent, solving the climate change crisis will require more than a one day event. The 350.org framework allows events to be coordinated for global impact while form-fitting per community, which is great for tackling big issues with local approaches. So how might 350.org and/or WiserEarth build on this framework and keep pushing this model forward after Oct. 24th?
3 – Net Tuesdays
“Every month, the NetSquared community comes together offline at Net Tuesday events to mix, swap stories and ideas, build new relationships, and collaborate. These gatherings provide a chance for all those interested in the intersection of social technologies and social change, whether you’re part of a nonprofit organization or a for-profit organization, a funder or a consultant, a developer or an entrepreneur.”
I am a proud member of the NetSquared community and have helped organize Net Tuesday events in Vancouver & Seattle. Events can take various shapes and sizes: usually with a socializing/networking element + presentations, group discussions, strategy sessions, or sometimes even games – whatever is a good fit for the community.
The focus on social technologies means this format could be great for helping WiserEarth members and organizations more effectively engage & network their communities for real world change. Like GreenDrinks , Net Tuesdays also create the space for weaving individuals & groups together who previously may never have had the chance to meet (let alone share ideas and collaborate!). How do you see NetSquared’s Goals & WiserEarth’s Mission fitting together?
“ChangeCamp is an event format, an open community and a set of tools and ideas designed to give citizens and governments the ability to work collaboratively in new ways to make change and to better address real-world challenges in our communities.
Organizers on both sides of Canada have shown us the potential of the open-space model as applied to address local issues. The challenge of the ChangeCamp model is keeping the momentum going and bringing people together on an ongoing basis. Full or multiple day intense events are key for catalyzing and building communities – although require follow-up to generate deeper discussions and bigger outcomes. How might the WiserEarth community apply, build on, or otherwise utilize this model and drive towards taking action as a community?
Note: Social Innovation Camp, a similar initiative in the UK (although with a more significant technology bent) – has taken a stab at keeping the momentum going by hosting monthly events between larger “SI Camps .”
5- Climate Change Collaboration Initiative
“Our vision is to connect the Not-for-Profit (NFP) sector organizations that have similar mandates, in order to enable them to gain the critical mass that is necessary to bring about the desired social change objectives. To this end there are three primary objectives; to identify a single project around which a group of NFP’s with similar missions can collaborate, support the initiative with an appropriate technology platform or set of tools, provide sufficient funding to hire a full time Collaboration Facilitator for the group. This model can be deployed amongst subsets of NFP’s that should have overlap in their missions; fighting climate change, alleviating poverty in the developing world, etc.”
This model is quite new and is being spearheaded by Suresh Fernando in Vancouver BC, Canada. While it remains untested - it has the potential to create a space for collaboration, foster alliances, and allow for sharing knowledge and resources – all key mission points for WiserEarth. The ‘Climate Change Collaboration Initiative’ may also give birth to projects that take advantage of new tools and technologies and could draw on the Net Tuesday & ChangeCamp models to identify and create the most relevant solutions.
What event models do you think are the best fit for the WiserEarth community and the global movement it seeks to empower?
Since every WiserEarth group and local community is different, local organizers will probably have to figure out what’s a most-good fit. It might be a mashup of the palette of event models discussed above, entirely new models, or local partnerships! Maybe WiserEarth members would benefit from a menu of options for organizers to pull from?
What do you think? And most importantly, What do WiserEarth community members think? If you’re not a member, what are you waiting for? – Go Join!
Here are some more questions that might help guide this conversation:
- How would you blend the best elements of the event models described above with your ideas for face-to-face WiserEarth events?
- How can WiserEarth members partner with and/or support already-existing local events (combining forces for good!)?
- How do you frame events so various organization representatives within the environmental and social justice sector feel welcome to attend and participant?
- How can the WiserEarth community use their web portal and other social media/web tools to connect different events together for shared resources, learning, and experiences?
Looking for more social change event models to be inspired from and/or partner with? Check out: Eco Tuesdays, Social Actions Lunches, 501 TechClubs, WebofChange, M4Changes, NetworkingforaCause, OpenEverything , Environmental Meetups , 1Sky Local Events, and more!
Note: This orginal research was also re-mixed for a more generalized post published on NetSquared: What’s the Right Offline Event for Your Organization’s Online Community?
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