Net Change took place in Toronto last week and was billed as “Canada’s first week-long, city-wide event designed to dissolve the divide between digital professionals and social change-makers.”
Along with several consultants representing public relations, digital marketing and social media, I was invited to participate in “Social Mastermind // Social Media for Social Change” – a day-long event. The day was an opportunity for charities focusing on social change to work directly with an eclectic mix of consultants who provided advice, tactical support and strategic planning on a pro bono basis.
Charities represented varied interests and a cross-section of the population: Athletes For Africa, Raising The Roof, Theatre Ontario, Meal Exchange, Ontario Black History Society, Pencils For Kids, CYBF, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Toronto Art Council, OCRI, Literacy For Leadership, Hospice Toronto, SKETCH, Toronto Public Library Foundation and McLaughlin Rotman Centre For Global Health.
ES: How did you get involved in NetChange and specifically Social Masterminds?
SP: I was invited to MaRS a few weeks ago to brainstorm ideas for how NetChange Week could grow beyond the traditional conference format. Myself and several others from the Toronto community were encouraged to discuss challenges facing not-for-profits and think about how we, with our various communities, might be able to support them.
A major challenge ubiquitous to most charities is raising awareness about their particular issue. With limited resources and budgets, marketing can be a real struggle. With the rise of social media and the unprecedented ability to connect with those who share a passion for the cause, an understanding on how to leverage these *free* tools is paramount. Recognizing the immense wealth of talent residing in the web community and the continued outpouring of support for social causes, it seemed a natural fit in bringing together the two groups to knowledge share.
ES: What was your inspiration?
SP: While in England several weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Anna Maybank, the social innovator behind Social Innovation Camp. Anna and her team bring together software developers those representing social challenges to build more effective software for fringe groups not currently being serviced by popular platforms.
Anna's idea of crowd-sourcing for social innovation inspired me to think we could do something similar here in Canada. While we weren't designing new software, we could apply similar principles and bring together those with knowledge of social media to work with not-for-profits in creating their own online strategies.
ES: What did you hope to accomplish and did you achieve your goal?
SP: Social Mastermind was meant to assist not-for-profits in better understanding social media and help them develop an online strategy specific to their goals, audiences and means. With the wonderful outpouring of support from the web community, who amazingly all donated an entire day to come and work one on one with these charities, that goal was realized. Each organization walked away with an executable strategy and new ideas about how to engage people on their particular cause.
ES: How were the charities selected?
SP: When the initiative was announced we were overwhelmed with charities wanting to participate. With limited resources we were limited in the amount of organizations that could participate. We reviewed each not-for-profit's propensity for the initiative based on their current exposure in social media, their internal infrastructure and budget. Those charities with limited social media knowledge and tighter resources were given highest priority.
ES: What was your biggest takeaway at the end of the day?
SP: Social Mastermind was yet another testament to the power of community. The success of the initiative was based on entirely on the willingness of people to volunteer their time to knowledge share with others. It was incredibly inspiring to see collaboration between strangers united only through their shared passion for social change. It's inspiring to think of what else could be accomplished with this type of support.
Following is a video highlighting the activities and great conversations of Social Mastermind day:
Photo Credit: Erin Bury