Social Media for NGOs

Tapping into the power of social networks has become an imperative for all kind of organizations. And while for-profits seem to be joining the band wagon easily enough, non-profits and NGOs are yet to follow.

In an excellent initiative, the Moroccan UNCG (United Nations Communication Group) & the Social Media Club Casablanca organized a workshop dubbed “Social Media and MDGs” and I was invited to talk about Social Media for NGOs.

In the era of virtual activism, pro-consumers, wikinomics and the coming of age of the Net-Generation, surfing the 2.0 wave is no longer an option but rather an obligation for any NGO seeking sustainability. Listening, dialogue, support and innovation, those are the promises of the web 2.0. But how can we get the most out of these new technologies? Which organizational culture should we nurture? How can NGOs become “Platforms”?

In the spirit of “If you get it, share it!” I’m sharing the presentation I gave at the workshop. I would love to hear what you think!

Social Media for NGOs Part I

Social Media for NGOs Part II


Sunday musing: The hyperconnectivity paradox

Photo courtesy.rexguo
“We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible.” This is the paradox of the hyper connected world we are living today. “Social media have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity we have never been lonelier.”
On a thought-provoking eye-opening article on The Atlantic, Stephen Marche lays down the dense body of research that have been exploring the effect of social networks on our psych.

Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.

On the same note, Sherry Turkle tackles how we’re increasingly “expecting more from technology and less from each other”. We are substituting conversations by mere connections. 

We’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. 

…We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together. People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere — connected to all the different places they want to be. People want to customize their lives. They want to go in and out of all the places they are because the thing that matters most to them is control over where they put their attention. 
But as Marche underlines, “LONELINESS IS CERTAINLY not something that Facebook or Twitter or any of the lesser forms of social media is doing to us. We are doing it to ourselves”. We need to work on our relationship with 2.0 technologies in a way that it won’t severe our real life relationships but rather enrich them. It’s doable, we just need to be more conscious about it!
On a final note, Tiffany ShlainRun beautifully makes the case of how technologies are not only changing what we do, but changing us as well.  
Related articles: 

Enterprise 2.0 reads – April 2011


It’s been a busy busy month! But it’s also been a delight to finally see the Social Media Club Casablanca Chapter become a reality. And I’m sure it’s just the start of a long and enriching adventure.  On the local scene, Earth Hour Morocco, Café 2.0, Startup weekend Casablanca and Ignite Ingénieur were the highlights of this April. Another highlight was waking up to find many website down because of Amazon’s cloud crash! A real life example of how failure of Hubs in power-law networks can turn disastrous in no time. But I’m sure I’ll need another post if I kept listing every remarkable event, there are just so many! So, with no further ado, I here present, the most interesting reads I crossed this last month.  

By the way, Jim Worth does a great job curating his monthly tweets even though they fairly need any curation if you ask me. You can catch them here to find out more interesting reads of April.

IBM Says Merge your Email into the Activity Stream By Barb Mosher

Some say email is over and done. Others say it’s the platform of the future. IBM says put email into context — into the activity stream.

[Activity stream is] a real-time feed of various events that happen in the workplace. That could be changes to documents, status messages from users and so on. It’s one of the most talked about features of social software today.

IBM says we need to move the content out of our inbox and into the activity stream too. Not everything, because that would be a nightmare and a waste of time. But only those emails that are relevant to the work we are doing, things that are actionable by us.


The future is podular by Dave Gray

If you want an adaptive company, you will need to unleash the creative forces in your organization, so people have the freedom to deliver value to customers and respond to their needs more dynamically. One way to do this is by enabling small, autonomous units that can act and react quickly and easily, without fear of disrupting other business activities – pods.

 A chain, as the saying goes, is only as strong as its weakest link. Break one link and the whole chain fails. A podular system is like a net… If one strand breaks, the system can still carry the load…

 For a podular system to work, cultural and technical standards are imperative… This kind of system needs a strong platform that clearly articulates those standards and provides a mechanism for evolving them when necessary… What’s most important about platform decisions is that they focus on the connections between pods rather than within pods

 Pods don’t answer every business problem. Like any other strategic decision, the choice to go podular involves inherent risks and tradeoffs… The benefit, though, is that you unleash people to bring more of their intelligence, passion, creative energy and expertise to their work.


Enterprise 2.0: Why All Business Software Must Go Social by Eric Savitz


it is increasingly evident that the prevailing wisdom on the subject has changed; having an enterprise social network is no longer a fascination of early adopters. It is now an essential component of the enterprise.

 Enter Enterprise 2.0, a new management paradigm based on enterprise social networking. It is the platform of engagement for all constituents across and beyond the enterprise, empowering them to be more engaged by staying connected with the people and activities around them…. any successful adoption requires a cultural, behavioral and habitual transformation for the entire organization.

 Like any change, this is a classic chicken-and-egg problem: you need enough stuff in it for enough people to get it; you need enough people who have already got it to generate enough stuff. That’s the bad news.


Companies aren’t communities By Michael Idinopulos


Companies aren’t communities. They aren’t forums. Companies are companies.

 Companies, by very definition, have reporting structures, established workflows, shared systems and processes, defined roles and responsibilities, and closely managed performance. Those are assets we don’t have in communities and forums

 Companies achieve adoption and business value when they place social software in the flow of work. The tools achieve real benefit when people do … their actual “day” jobs in social software.

 Social software fails when it tries to turn businesses into communities. It succeeds when it turns businesses into better businesses.


The cultural imperative for a social business by Maria Ogneva

How does one become social internally? Just launch an internal social network like Yammer of course, and wait for magic to happen? Not so fast! … Culture is the hardest element of success, because it’s 1) hard to define, 2) takes a long time to change, and 3) there are serious disincentives to changing it…The better you can anticipate resistance and channel it into positive energy, the higher the chances of success.

There are certain common elements of organizations that do well with these types of initiatives. Charlene Li sums it up best: “be open, be transparent, be authentic”

There are some serious barriers to this type of culture, some of which are:

  • Command and control mindset: This is starting to change drastically, as teams are now acting as fluid organisms vs. machines.
  • Functional silos: cross-functional collaboration is absolutely key to exchanging ideas, doing a better job, making better decisions and avoiding work duplication.
  • Rigid hierarchies: democratization of information is definitely putting the emphasis back on leadership style, and not access to information, as a competitive advantage.
  • Wrong things are measured: we need to make sure we are also incentivizing behaviors that will help us succeed in the long-term, and measuring their effect.


Lamia Ben.

Musing: O’ Autistic new world


Image courtesy rishibando

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” – Isaac Newton

In a world of the new web we have never been this connected. The farthest nodes of our social networks have never been this close. In a world where everything has become at arm’s reach, where all our acquaintances are a phone call, a text message, a tweet away… we have never been this disconnected. I’m not being a better-never and I’m not blaming it on the technology. I believe we are the ones using the tools the wrong way. A fool with a tool makes a more empowered fool and thus a worse one. I’m merely voicing out some thoughts I’ve been rummaging lately and I’d love to discuss this further in the comment section if you’re interested.

When friends become our main source of information

Our social network is turning into our main source of information. Scoble often boasts about how his Twitter timeline has come to replace his RSS streamline. While the latter can be a rather objective source (assuming it’s diversified enough to gather different points of view) the first is more susceptible to subjectivity. Whereas we used to mine the information from soi-disant its source, we now get it second handed, digested, reassembled by our social network and presented to us with a thick layer of our friends’ opinions.

I’m aware that even while making our opinions based on blogs, books, newspapers or TV channels, we are to fall for a reductive conception of the world. But the lines are not that much blurry. If I solely watch Fox News, God forbids, tagging me wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Now if my like-minded friends and I are the core of your social network, for any reason other than our “sensible” positions of the world’s issues, you are to become a Fox-News-paradigm-adherent without even being conscious about it. You are getting so drowned in a deluge of consenting opinions that you would subconsciously end up thinking: If everyone thinks so then it must be true (Let us not get into the insurmountable wrongness of such assumption, we however can’t deny it’s a common trap we fall for). We have become the window through which you see the world, and that window is small, limiting and colored (the politically correct for stained). The issue isn’t our capacity of bias, which is somewhat high if you think about it, the issue is rather our non-awareness of being biased.

Here is a quick fix you might say: “I can add up some sane dose of opposite poles here and there to my social network and Problem solved!” It’s easier said than done. The main issue is its being counterintuitive. While building our social network, the most solid connections are those with people who resemble us. And according to the Strong Triadic Closure property, if the node has strong ties to two neighbors, then these neighbors must have a tie between them. This translates into more connections to like-minded people. Breaking such mechanism takes much more effort than most of us care to deploy. So, we end up with chunks of the network, tightly knitted more or less biased sub-networks that are almost oblivious to the world outside, Autistic networks.

So I’ve been really thinking, how do we fix this? How can we lead our social networks and thus ourselves out of our autism? Here is my humble attempt at finding answers.

1) Reaching out to networks outside our social circle might be a first step into becoming aware of positions different from our own. I have experienced this firsthand last year and realized how little I knew about the Arabic Blogosphere and how much of good content I was missing out on.

2) We need to stop preaching openness and really start communicating (as in listening first). Social Media offer us a stage to voice out our opinions easily and freely (in most cases), but it is often used in a self-centered kind of way. Engaging into meaningful constructive conversations should be one of our main concerns.

3) We need to accept our differences, get out there, embrace fresh perspectives and learn to appreciate an idea for itself and not for the person voicing it.


Lamia Ben.

Enterprise 2.0 reads – December 2010

Beside the usual prediction posts that have become part of December’s landscape, I have come across some interesting reads that discuss issues at the heart of the socializing organizations. Here is a taste of articles that can’t afford to be missed in my sense.

Enterprise 2.0 and culture : change or do with it ? By Bernard Duperrin

If enterprise 2.0 needs a specific culture so let’s change the corporate culture before starting! On this point, I agree with Lee Bryant : we can’t mandate culture…We need approaches that co-build cultures and work models.

…The paradox of the cultural question is that no one has the answer, and that there are many chances no answer exist. The only certainty is that we can’t discuss the existence of such concerns and that even a strong corporate culture won’t be enough to override it. Then, dealing with the issue will be nothing but dosage and feeling.

Creating a culture of collaboration By Oscar Berg   

What makes building a culture of collaboration hard is that it requires constant work and awareness. You have to consciously think about and practice collaboration in every situation where it benefits the individual and/or the group until the collaborative behavior in that kind of situation happens "naturally" in the sense that we have programmed ourselves how to behave and do not need to spend mental energy – the collaboration auto-pilot is on.

A key lesson to make when trying to achieve this in a business context is that if you leave out the fun, autonomy, trust, creativity, the sense of engagement, then not much more than extrinsic motivators such as monetary rewards exist to build a culture of collaboration – and then you are on the road to failure for sure. 

Management at the time of social media By Esko Kilpi Oy

That is the way we have seen it: managers inspire, motivate and control employees who need to be inspired, motivated and controlled. These dynamics create the system of management and justify its continuation.

For the first time in history it is not profitable to simply think that managers manage and workers work… Top-down, one-way communication or separating thinking and acting don’t produce results any more…Now we know that intentions arise as much in the actions and outcomes cannot be fully known in advance. This is why a new, different, view of management is required to serve the creative, learning-intensive economy.

Social Business gets seal of approval By Christoph Schmaltz

In its latest Web 2.0 survey management consulting firm McKinsey gave its seal of approval to what is emerging to be known as social business.

According to McKinsey a networked enterprise is one that uses collaborative Web 2.0 technologies intensively to connect the internal efforts of employees and to extend the organization's reach to customers, partners, and suppliers. 

All in all, the McKinsey report does not provide any new revelations for social business practioners. However, McKinsey's seal of approval (and not to forget Gartner's) will hopefully be the catalyst for getting the social business engine started properly in 2011. Bring it on! 

Enterprise 2.0 Roll-up: You Can Hate it, but You Can't Kill Email By Chelsi Nakano

"Just as video did not kill the radio star, social media will not kill e-mail," wrote Phil Green, CTO at Inmagic… Google Wave is, of course, a primary example of why we're just not ready for the level of collaboration we think we are. 

Green points out that e-mail’s strength lies in connecting, not collaborating. "People will connect when there is context, because they have a shared reference point, a reason to connect. At some point, bringing that connection (or connections) into a collaborative environment is necessary to address problem solving because the socially connected people have a basis for their discussion."

The point: We're not going to see the end of e-mail in 2011, but we're probably going to see a big dent in its user base.


Lamia Ben.

Sunday fun: How to make a splash in social media


"Alexis Ohanian co-founded Reddit, a social-voting news website with geek allegiances, a small-town feel and a penchant for lighting up the memes your friends IM you about next week."

Here is a video I always liked from Reddit's Alexis Ohanian: How to make a splash in social Media. A quick 3 minutes video that encapsulate what makes social media as powerful as it is today: Power given to the crowds. Enjoy and have a great Sunday! 

Lamia Ben.

Enterprise 2.0 reads – November 2010

Here are some of the reads I really enjoyed this November. The biggest highlight of the month is of course Santa Clara’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference which brought out a rather heated debate on Enterprise 2.0 vs Social business. I’m not going to go there, I’ll just leave you instead with what Larry Hawes wrote about it: Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business: Who Cares?!

A thorough coverage of the conference is available thanks to Jim Worth’s: wiki page.

Want Value From Social? Add Structure. by Tom Davenport on HBR

Many managers these days face a social dilemma. They want to use social media because they know that an organization’s judgment is improved if its ideation and decision processes incorporate insights from multiple perspectives. But they can’t bring themselves to let employees use social media at work, because they fear too much social activity will hinder productivity.

I’m becoming convinced that the way to gain value is to combine computer-based sociality with computer-based structure.

…the combination of the social and structuring aspects of technology ensures that online social activities are oriented to getting work done. The addition of structure makes everyone more conscious of the work tasks at hand, which limits the desire for purely social interaction.

Purely social applications are too social, and purely structured applications provide too much structure. Combinations of the two are where the work gets done fastest and most effectively.


Time to socialize your business processes? by Oscar Berg            

The main reason why I am interested in social software is that I believe we can use the reach, immediacy, richness and interactivity that these technologies bring to shrink large organizations and make them more agile and collaborative.

…If someone asks me how social software-powered communication and collaboration ties into business processes (without being specific about their processes), I can give them quite distinct answers:

·       They help you to improve existing processes by connecting different teams, or actually the people and their ideas, across organizational and geographical borders

·       They help you to fix broken processes by allowing anyone who might have an idea for how to solve it, or even a solution ready, to get involved in the problem solving-process

·       They help you ensure that the information resources you need to do your job are supplied, accessible and findable by involving everyone in the challenging tasks of information management instead of just a few select people.

The State of Learning in the Workplace Today by Sumeet Moghe 

The traditional approach to workplace learning has been about managing and controlling the learning experience, keeping it really top down…We need a shift.  …Three practical steps towards the new era of workplace learning:

·       We need to encourage people and support individuals and teams to address their own learning and performance problems.

·       Provide performance consulting services.

·       We need to provide advice on appropriate tools and systems.


All of us are better than one of us: thoughts on collaboration by Edward Boches

Want to get better at collaboration, as a company and an individual?  Here are some thoughts.

Become a collaborative company: For starters, get rid of walls and departments and silos. Mix people up. Put technology in the creative or marketing department.Second, change the teams.  If you once started the process with a writer and art director, mix it up. Include UX or social or mobile.Third, consider changing your incentive and compensation programs to reward the kind of behavior you want to encourage. People follow leaders. But they also follow the money.

Become a collaborative partner: Step one is to embrace a mindset of contribution versus control. Two, try and align yourself with companies that think the same way.Finally, if you’re the lead, get the other parties involved at the beginning before everything’s figured out. Only then will everyone feel truly invested.

Become a collaborator: Get yourself in the room before all the decisions are made, even if you have to push your way in.  Learn how to make other people’s ideas better and at the same time make sure they know what you can add.


A Sea Change? by Andrew McAfee

To motivate the business case and convey why pragmatic, skeptical executives should be interested in [the strength of weak ties, open innovation and emergent expertise..], I used former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt’s great quote that “If only HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.”

As I listened, I realized that a fundamental shift had taken place: these executives were no longer talking mainly about their concerns, hesitations, or reasons for caution around Enterprise 2.0; instead, they were talking about their frustrations that their companies weren’t moving faster toward it.

In short, it felt like a sea change had taken place… So I inferred from our discussion that Enterprise 2.0 is no longer perceived as a wild new idea. The CIOs I was talking with apparently considered it just a good idea, and one whose time had come.

I find this very good news, and wanted to share it.

Lamia Ben.

If I wanted broadcast, I’d turn on my TV


Image courtesy: Jill Clardy

I came across this very pertinent tweet from @oscarberg the other day  (by the way, if you're not following oscar, you should start today) :


It really made me rethink what I've encountered from different brands on social Networks such as facebook and Twitter. It's true that facebook, by construction, encourages interactions, but some use it for mere broadcast. Users on Twitter on the other hand, are very prone to such behaviors and that's just plain sad; because instead of tapping into the true potential of such platforms, people are missing the whole point.

Social Networks, and I don't know why people fail to notice, are Networks that are meant to be "social" in the first place. So If you are a Brand/Non-profit  and have a fan page on facebook and you persist to ignore your fans' comments and/or questions;  Please do your [potential] customers and thus yourself a favor and shut the thing off. It's going to cause you more damage than good.

The question that pops instantly into one's mind is: so How do you make media "social"?

Brandon Cox in an article on Social Media Today presents three major points to be considered:

Care for people –> building relationships.

Model sharing –> share something important.

Converse –>  join the conversation.

"Engagement" is actually the key word here. Engagement doesn't come from an auto DM for following, nor does it come from pretense to care. Engagement comes from conversation, from being proactive and taking innovative actions for your customers.

Here is a great example of a brand harnessing the "social" in Social Media to enhance their social currency

Courtyard Restaurant In Ottawa – Doing It Right

A great conversation indeed:






See how the restaurant, by some few tweets, just won a new customer and I bet even few more? –since he went blogging about it and recommended it to his readers and friends…

So dear brands, if you're still skeptical about the power of word-of-mouth on "Social" Media, please have a look at the "tipping point". It surely will change your mind….

Lamia Ben

Enterprise 2.0 reads – February 2010

February has been a really interesting month. Highlighted by the buzz around the IPad, the launch of Google’s Buzz and the entire media tornado that followed, forrester proclaiming property over their consultants opinions, Yammer’s recent announcement, pleaseRobMe controversy and much much more. But I’m not willing to aggregate news here (There is Google News for that). These series are mainly about thoughts that have been shared by great minds and that somehow hit a cord with me and I’m pretty sure they’ll get you to think as well. If you have other links to share, please do leave me a comment. I’d be glad to enrich the list.

Enterprise software is not like Facebook for a reason 

“Why isn’t enterprise software a lot more like Amazon” is a much more sensible question to me…And so Amazon’s user design paradigm is designed around that business model: find what you’re looking for, transact your business, get out. That doesn’t mean Amazon doesn’t have community features like favorite lists or reviews or collaborative filtering, but they’re designed in service of useful outcomes for the consumer and the business.
For both employees, managers and shareholders, I think that’s a lot more along the lines of what people are trying to accomplish at work and a more worthy model to aspire to.

How Private Or Public Should Location Be? 

The deeper questions I have aren’t about location privacy, which is predicated on the idea that anything that might possibly be kept private should be private unless explicitly made public. I am interested in location publicy: how can we structure our social tools so that location can be shared by default, but with social scale built in.

Something like creative commons for location — a location commons — has to emerge, so that individuals can state exactly how their location can be used. … [This] should be based on a rich social model, allowing us to assert what degree of location specificity we want to share with which degrees of connection in our social networks.

Why the future workplace will be hyper-connected 

The future workplace will be hyper-connected, meaning that we will use multiple means of communication, so that we can be more innovative, quickly adapt to a changing environment and access and use all the best resources…

Our focus will shift from producing and organizing documentation to communicating and interacting in real-time, with documentation as a by-product…

Right now, we are just seeing the dawn of the hyper-connected age.

Social Media =Organizational Change! 

When launching a social media strategy it is so important that companies take a hard look at what the social footprint will do to their operations. …If you are not skilled at taking input from customers then social media will only illuminate your flaws -shining a spotlight on them in a public way.

So, before you put time and effort into creating a digital community… be sure you have a plan for what you will do with the information exchange, who is responsible for interactions, where the information gathered socially will be recorded or captured, and how you will parse the wheat from the chaff.

Social Software doesn’t really matter

There is an instinctive reaction to come up with solutions that seem to make a lot of sense at first. 

Throwing in a social software platform in your organization isn’t going to solve the challenges you are facing. You first need to figure out what is wrong with the process in the first place. 

So stop reacting like Pavlov’s dog. Focus on the people, not on the technology.

Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media: Improving Your Processes vs. Changing Them

If you were an executive at a large or mid-sized company, which would you prefer (or would want to hear)?

…make drastic changes to your organization while abandoning methodologies and processes in exchange for new ones…[or] use new tools, technologies, and strategies to fit in with its current processes and methodologies.

The goal of enterprise 2.0 or social media isn’t to change and revamp the way companies operate. The goal should be to improve how companies operate.