Getting Real About Online Organizing Skills
Posted by Allison Fine on August 2, 2007
I had a meeting this week (I know, the shame of having any meeting!) tthat was so interesting because of the popularity of social networking sites and yet the difficulty that traditional organizations have in developing a side-to-side ethos. I met with an advocacy group that is creating their own social networking site (of course, we all need our own sites since no other social networking sites exist!) They were so very concerned about the functionality of the site – do the buttons work right, is the navigation good, etc. Great, I said, so why exactly do very busy people need more friends on your site?
I had just read Britt Bravo’s excellent piece on questions groups should ask themselves about building online communities. It’s five questions groups should ask and answer before venturing forth into this crowded field, and before they spend too much time building a house no one wants to buy and move into. The questions are easy and clear, although it’s always astonishing to me how seldom groups actually ask themselves things like, “why would our users/members/participants/donors want or need this new tool?”
We spent a good amount of time talking about the need for someone on staff to facilitate, fuel and encourage connections and conversations on the site. Communities rarely form themselves, they have to be nurtured. And then, predictably, when we discussed who exactly would foster and facilitate these online communications all heads turned towards the poor webmaster. It’s online so the geeky coder guy is the right choice, right? Wrong!! Couldn’t be wronger, in fact, as Seth Godin points out here online organizer is a crucial, poorly understand, but critical position. If I were counseling a young person interested in a career in social change, I would strongly suggest they train and practice being an online organizer since it includes all of the organizing, listening, facilitating, communicating and connecting skills that will make them successful in whatever else they do.
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