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.