Social Change, Social Innovation, Technology

Harnessing Interconnectedness to Bridge Gaps in Social Innovation

At the end of last year, I got an email from Sarah Moran about a competition on Facebook organised by V Australia. When I clicked on it, the app asked me if I allow them to access my Facebook info and not wanting to risk it without reading much into their privacy terms, I decided to ditch the idea. A while later, Sarah Moran called me and convinced me to join it. So I did!

Basically, I needed as many people to vote for me as possible – the top 10 most votes get a free return flight to either Johannesburg, LA, Phuket or Fiji. Now, the first person I asked pretty much turned me down due to the access to their information on Facebook. I was kinda turned off by it but after much thinking, I thought, I really needed to do something if I really want this. As a social change agent, isn’t this how campaigns and fundraisers usually work?

So I sent a group email on Facebook to 20 of my “friends” and within a day, I got 18 votes which put me at number 4. I then sent out another group message to another 20, then 20 more, slowly to 40 and just before the competition closes, I was at number 11, so I sent out an appeal to about 50 of my friends. Within an hour, I was up in number 4 and won the free trip!

Global Engagement Summit 2010

I then got informed by Amy Ward that the 2010 Non-Profit Technology Conference was happening in Atlanta, and I thought, “Great! I could use my free trip for that”. And through Amy also, I found out about the scholarship program – so I managed to score a scholarship! I then did a search on the web and found out about Global Engagement Summit, which I applied and got in – all expenses paid for! Two days before I left LA, I twitted, “Spending two days in LA. What should I do?”.

A friend of mine replied, and linked me to a friend of his who worked in Disneyland. After exchanging a few emails, he asked me to meet him out the front of Disneyland, near the kernel at 10.30am and that, I did! He got me free admissions to Disneyland and California Adventure Park which was freaking awesome!

At the Non-Profit Conference, I also got to meet Stacey Monk through Edward Harran. Two weeks after I arrived back in Australia, I got an email from Stacey inviting me to be a part of To Mama With Love and I jumped at the opportunity. In a week, I saw her put the campaign together and in 3 weeks, leveraged her community to make everything happen! She emailed to 60 people and everyone put up their hand to either help with coding the website, work on the social media strategy, launch plan or to organise their own projects that ultimately feed into the campaign. In the end, the whole campaign was rolled out at no cost at all.

Humans evolved to share and work together – its ingrained in us. Facebook status updates is a great example of that, however when it comes to making use of our community’s assets, we fail miserably at that.

The internet has made us trust strangers more easily, and this was a big part of Rachel Botsman‘s presentation at TEDxSydney yesterday. I didn’t know this guy who gave me the free tickets to Disneyland apart from his name and what he does. I know with this, it brings up the darker side of the internet – online safety and cyberbullying but I’ll talk about that some other day.

Technology has allow us to work together (through partnerships and collaborations) more easily than we have ever been. It has also increased interconnectedness and we are seeing a shift already. We are moving from networks of centralised groups to a more dissolved, decentralised networks of individuals and groups of highly skilled and talented people. The internet is becoming social and this is good news for change makers.

In the old fashioned volunteerism, there are volunteer application forms, bureaucracy and red tapes a volunteer have to crawl through, before he/she gets either selected to be a volunteer or gets a no-no. This system cultivate a culture where you are ‘not good enough’ to do the job regardless of how much passion and interest you have. A decentralised community means that everyone is recognised as a talent and brings something to the table. It embodies the whole phrase, “YOU can change the world”.

When Stacey sent out an email to 60 of her contacts, she introduced the project, got us to introduce ourselves and gave 3 easy steps for people to contribute. You can help code and build the website with the team, work in the social media strategy team or help create video and other contents.

Credit: Collaborative Consumption

This means that all the people that you are connected to, whether directly or indirectly is an asset to you and your work. We are more connected than we are ever before, and there is a phenomenal amount of potential in this hyperconnection. We have more resources, talents and skills than we think we do. Make your passion, interest, skills and yourself known and take the time to understand and know the people around you.

You have the resources, talents and skills. All that’s lacking now is your big bold ideas and your willingness to put the idea out there for people to scrutinise and more importantly, for people to join your cause. Build meaningful partnerships and collaborations with these people and you are bound to do great things. It is at the intersections of all these partnerships and collaborations that social innovation is at its best.

Think big, start small. You don’t have to be perfect or great at it, sometimes, you just have to share your idea and story, and things happen quite magically.

1. Invest in your social asset – this is your treasure box and your magic wand to do anything.
2. Share what you know, what you have and what you can give. Make it known and make sharing a big part of your life. You will get at least the same amount in return.
3. Understand your community – this includes your family, friends and acquaintances, and everyone around you.
4. Be bold. Either make your idea known or make your passion to social change known.

Some links to that I mentioned during the presentation:
Animoto – an awesome website to create professional looking videos and slideshows.
Plan Big – Plan Big is a great place for you to post your idea and get people to give you constructive feedback

Click here for more resources.

Check out ToMamaWithLove and create a heartspace for someone you love and together, we can help build a home for 50 determined kids in Tanzania.