Tag Archives: ComNet010

Latest Ideas About Philanthropy Communication

Philanthropy411 recently covered the Communications Network 2010 Fall Conference with the help of a blog team. Altogether there were 41 conference attendees who tweeted, blogged and conducted on the spot video interviews about the latest developments and challenges in effective foundation communications. Below is a list of all blog posts published for this event, and you can check out highlights from the video interviews here. A great is example is this video of Daniel Silverman, Director of Communications at one of our favorite clients, The James Irvine Foundation, discussing what he learned about “crowdsourcing” at the conference.

1.  Announcing the Communications Network Conference Blog Team!
By Kris Putnam-Walkerly, President of Putnam Community Investment Consulting; Twitter: @philanthropy411

2. Translating the Philanthropy and Social Capital Market Sectors – a ComNet010 and SOCAP10 Cross-post
By Adin Miller, owner of Adin Miller Consulting.  Twitter:   @adincmiller

3.  Flying into a Paradox
By Lucas Held, Director of Communications at the Wallace Foundation;  Twitter:  @WallaceFdn

4. I Got out of Bed for This: Leaving Home for LA
By Sylvia Burgos Toftness,Communications Lead at the Northwest Area Foundation;  Twitter:  @NWAFound

5.  The Comm Network’s Gone Hollywood, Should Foundations?
By Adam Coyne, Vice President, Director of Public Affairs at Mathematica Policy Research;  Twitter:  @adamcoyne

6.  The Search for Wisdom
By Larry Blumenthal, Web and Social Media Strategist at Open Road Advisors; Twitter: @lblumenthal

7.  Can Surowiecki Help Us Make Wiser Grantmaking Decisions?
By Daniel Silverman, Director of Communications, The James Irvine Foundation; Twitter: @IrvineFdn

8.  Can Philanthropy Truly Embrace the Wisdom of Crowds?
By Adin Miller, owner of Adin Miller Consulting;  Twitter:   @adincmiller

9.  Tell Me a Story
By Lucas Held, Director of Communications at the Wallace Foundation; Twitter:  @WallaceFdn

10. How Do We Know What We Know – and Do We?
By Sylvia Burgos Toftness,Communications Lead at the Northwest Area Foundation;  Twitter:  @NWAFound

11. Parting Shots
By Daniel Silverman, Director of Communications, The James Irvine Foundation; Twitter: @IrvineFdn

12. Upsetting the Foundation Apple Cart
By Larry Blumenthal, Web and Social Media Strategist at Open Road Advisors; Twitter: @lblumenthal

13.  Reconnecting with my Relaxed Self
By Cindy Schulz, Director of Public Affairs and Strategy at The Cleveland Foundation.

14. We’ll Always be Beginners
By Lucas Held, Director of Communications at the Wallace Foundation; Twitter:  @WallaceFdn

15. From the Social Media Toolbag: ComNet010 on Twitter
By Adin Miller, owner of Adin Miller Consulting;  Twitter:   @adincmiller

16. Meetings Making you Dumber? Try This… By Stefan Lanfer, Associate for Strategy & Knowledge at The Barr Foundation;  Twitter:  @stefanlanfer

17. Disruptive Philanthropy – How Can Foundation Communicators Help Spur “Adjacent Possibilities”?
By Allyson Burns, Director of Communications at The Case Foundation;  Twitter:  @allieb37

18. A Year for “Firsts”
By Rebecca Arno, VP, Communications at The Denver Foundation;  Twitter:  @tdfcommunity

19. First Impressions
By Dan Brady, Communications Manager at the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers;  Twitter:  @givingforum

20. Wisdom of Crowds – Succeeding in Practice?
By Chris Wolz, President and CEO of ForumOne;  Twitter:  @cwolz

21. Stories and Change
By Joan Mazzolini, Communications Officer at the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland.

22.  Applied Crowdsourcing
By Dan Brady, Communications Manager at the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers;  Twitter:  @givingforum

If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

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From the Social Media Toolbag: ComNet010 on Twitter

Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network and CommA Fall 2010 Conference in Los Angeles with the help of a blog team, which is part of the conference’s 2nd annual Gorilla Engagement Squad.  This is a guest post by Adin Miller, owner of Adin Miller Consulting.  Follow him on Twitter:   @adincmiller

by:  Adin Miller

When the Twitter hashtag for the Fall 2010 Communications Network  / CommA Conference was announced a few weeks ago, I set up the ComNet010 hashtag on What the Hashtag?! While I use any number of tools during a conference to track discussion on Twitter, What the Hashtag?! provides several functions that I really appreciate. Foremost, it allows users to generate a transcript for tweets using the correct hashtags (sadly, none of the search services can pick up on hashtags that have additional characters added to them, such as the end quotation mark that now shows up when you “quote” a post on Twitter). It also provides some statistics on the extent of the Twitter conversation.

Below are some statistics generated from the site. Over the last seven days (9/26/10 through 10/2/2010) there have been:

  • 1,473 tweets
  • 194 contributors
  • 210.4 tweets per day
  • 40.2% come from “The Top 10” Twitter posters
  • 40.9% are retweets
  • 59.9% are mentions
  • 13.1% have multiple hashtags

The contributors number really stood out to me – I’m not sure on the official count of people attending ComNet010 but the conference discussions clearly extended beyond the physical conference space. We managed to engage people who were tracking the posts from afar. That said, we also liked to reinforce our comments – 41% retweets is a lot, no?

The first day of the conference generated 775 tweets while the second day had 540 tweets. I suspect that if the conference had ended at 5PM instead of 12:30PM we would have easily eclipsed the previous day’s total.

The top 10 contributors over the past seven days of ComNet010 posts are listed below. I’ve gone ahead and added their names, titles and organizations as well. Sadly for me, I only met five of them in person.

  1. Emily Culbertson, Principal – Emily Culbertson Consulting, @egculbertson, 73 tweets
  2. Adin Miller, President  – Adin Miller Consulting, @adincmiller, 73 tweets
  3. Keneta Anderson, Consultant –  Quixote Foundation, @QuixoteTilts, 66 tweets
  4. Dana Vickers Shelley, Communications & Management Consultant – DVStrategies, @danavshelley, 64 tweets
  5. Brooke Bailey, Director of Communications and Public Policy –  Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, @BrookeUSC 64tweets
  6. Stefan Lanfer, Associate for Strategy & Knowledge –  Barr Foundation, @stefanlanfer, 59 tweets
  7. Michele Presley, Communications Officer – The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, @MFPresley, 57 tweets
  8. Nicole De Beaufort, Director of Communications – W.K. Kellogg Foundation, @NicoledeB, 52 tweets
  9. Mud Baron, Green Policy Director – Los Angeles Unified School District School Board, @Cocoxochitl, 42 tweets
  10. Allie Burns,  Director of Communications – The Case Foundation,@allieb37, 41 tweets

I also ran a network map using tracking the ComNet010 hashtag, using Mentionmap a visualization tool for twitter from Asterisq.com. The network map helps identify some of the additional hashtags cross posted during the conference.

The last thing I did is run the transcript of posts made using the ComNet010 hashtag. In this case, I extended the search back to September 7th, when the first ComNet010 tweet was posted by me, through the morning of October 2nd. The transcript is available as a Google Doc.

Again, some tweets that ended with ComNet010 or used the wrong hashtag (commnet010 was one) are not included. But, the transcript offers a great resource for further study (in this case I’ve converted it into a Google document, not knowing how long the webpage might exist). Please note the time stamps are set to 0 GMT even though the website states that the posts are in the Pacific Time zone.

Can Philanthropy Truly Embrace the Wisdom of Crowds?

Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network and CommA Fall 2010 Conference in Los Angeles with the help of a blog team, which is part of the conference’s 2nd annual Gorilla Engagement Squad.  This is a guest post by Adin Miller, owner of Adin Miller Consulting.  Follow him on Twitter:   @adincmiller

by:  Adin Miller

The Fall 2010 Communications Network  / CommA Conference (ComNet010) began this morning with a presentation by James Surowiecki, author of the Balance Sheet column for the New Yorker and the book The Wisdom of Crowds, on  finding better answer and solutions through a focused efforts to engage group intelligence. The session was an excellent way to engage the audience – mostly communication personnel in philanthropic institutions – in a in-person and Twitter discussion about the potential power of using crowds to inform decision making and organizational vision.  It also raised a lot of questions.

Mr. Surowiecki cited several examples of crowd generated wisdom that included Google’s search engine algorithms, Twitter traffic and trends, NASA’s participatory exploration effort, and even ‘ask the audience’ lifeline on the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. A particular interesting example involves horse racing, where crowds composed of experts and casual fans create remarkably accurate forecasts and odds for the race results.

However, he prefaced his comments by stating that we need to have the right conditions in order to appropriately tap into collective wisdom. That kind of left us holding out throughout the session for a list that would identify those conditions. The answer, summarized below, came out over several different moments.

The right conditions to develop wise crowds and obtain good information require:

1.       The opportunity and ability to aggregate individual opinions;
2.       A diversity of opinions borne from difference in cognitive approaches. Mr. Surowiecki stressed this criteria the most. Diversity expands the range of options available for crowds to assess. By embracing diversity of opinions, organizations can become smarter, avoid making mistakes in implementing group intelligence, and reduce the chance of developing echo chambers;
3.       A willingness to embrace arguments;
4.       Situations that foster independent thought;
5.       Structuring questions as open-ended inquiries that elicit granular level answers; and
6.       Leaders to check their own egos and let others speak first so that alternative insights can be heard.

As the plenary wrapped up, the more salient questions were raised on Twitter in response to attendees’ posts. My friend Gene Golovchinsky (@HCIR_GeneG), a brilliant man working on issues such as Human-Computer Information Retrieval and Collaborative Exploratory Search, chimed in from afar that Mr. Surowiecki’s criteria “are seldom met by those invoking “wisdom of crowds” rhetoric, particularly on the web.” He expanded on the point by noting that one key assumption of “wisdom of crowds” is independence of opinion; however, if you are part of the crowd as see how others responded already, then there is no independent though process. This lack of independence instead creates “self-reinforcing cascades rather than convergence on mean;” in other words, the crowd is influenced by people’s behavior instead of providing a separate independent points of view that can be aggregated into a true reflection of the wisdom of the crowd.

Lucy Bernholz, president of Blueprint Research & Design and author of the blog Philanthropy 2173, reinforced Gene’s points. Lucy, who will speak to the ComNet010 audience on the second day of the conference, challenged the diversity criteria by noting that “people like talking to those like themselves on the Internet. Diverse crowds are NOT easy on Internet.”

Taking these counter-points into account, the implication for philanthropic institutions means that getting diverse opinions may present some them with significant challenges. Embracing diversity in developing a crowd should involve divergent community and stakeholder perspectives. For a foundation, for instance, that might involve past grantees, applicants not approved for funding, existing grantees, community organizations affected by the foundation’s work, competitors, thought leaders, donors, and even members of the general community (and I’m sure my list is still not long enough). And yet, by embracing diversity, the foundation has to be willing to let the crowd challenge the power structure it represents. That’s not a comfortable space for many funders, I suspect.

The conclusion of the session and the subsequent breakout session on the subject raised additional questions. ComNet010 participants asked:

  • What are the implications on future hiring and development of marketing and communication personnel as we look to embrace the wisdom of crowds?
  • How can we use crowd intelligence more effectively, especially around public policy and advocacy?
  • Group intelligence offers a mandate for divergence and divergent thinking, but how do foundations balance that in an environment driven towards convergence?
  • What tools exists to let foundations crowds generate wisdom?

The issue that stood out to me by the end of the morning was the concern that philanthropic institutions would embrace an approach that would generate input from crowds, but then ultimately ignore that wisdom if it did not conform to the opinions of organizational leaders. That again begs the question if philanthropy is ready and willing to set aside power dynamics and control.

So, while Mr. Surowiecki presented a wonderful subject that represents an important area for philanthropic institutions to explore, much still needs to be clarified and addressed before many would feel comfortable in embracing the wisdom of crowds to shape their activities.

Translating the Philanthropy and Social Capital Market Sectors – a ComNet010 and SOCAP10 Cross-post

Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network and CommA Fall 2010 Conference in Los Angeles with the help of a blog team, which is part of the conference’s 2nd annual Gorilla Engagement Squad.  This is a guest post by Adin Miller, owner of Adin Miller Consulting.  Follow him on Twitter:   @adincmiller

by:  Adin Miller

Over the next week I’ll be attending and blogging two very different conferences: the Fall 2010 Communications Network Conference (ComNet010) and the 2010 Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP10). ComNet010, a partnership between the Communications Network and CommA, attracts an audience primarily of foundation communication personnel. SOCAP10 attracts an audience of investors, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, philanthropies, and donors.

One could presume that these conferences have nothing to do with each other. And, for the most part, that’s probably accurate. ComNet010 will have sessions focused on the power of stories to change lives, using crowdsourcing to find better answers and solutions from groups, and using entertainment to advance social change. SOCAP10 will have sessions focused on impact investments, alternative and innovative social financing, harnessing mobile technology for social enterprise, and value-driven allocation of philanthropic resources will have sessions on accessing social investment markets. Interestingly, both will have sessions focused on how to inspire and engage individuals to give or invest more.

However, the two conferences do share some common challenges: how to best communicate your work to an uninformed audience and how to explain complex technical approaches simply without getting sucked into a vortex of jargon. I wrote a while back on the importance of philanthropy embracing transparency. In my opinion, an adherence to transparency and simplified communication needs to apply to the social capital markets and philanthropy sectors as well in order to make the sectors easier to understand and access for a lay audience.

This opinion was reinforced when I read a playful tweet by Kevin Jones yesterday saying that he and Sean Stannard-Stockton would be busy translating between the nonprofit and social market sectors at SOCAP10. In a subsequent tweet Kevin wrote yesterday, he noted the difficulty in making sense of how to partner giving with social investing as we attempt to mix cultural norms, and changing thinking and attitudes. I would add that clarity of message and transparency are critical elements in making the process easier to understand.

Many communication personnel at foundations have worked hard to simplify their messages and use communication tools such as stories to convey important lessons. There also has been a lot of effort to avoid using jargon, none withstanding the ComNet010 session on “building philanthropic capital markets through networks for change” (sorry Lucy J).

These approaches to simplified language and elimination of jargon can certainly be applied to the social capital market sector. As many of us have noted in reflecting on the “Money for Good” report (PDF) by Hope Consulting, a tremendous opportunity exists to educate individual investors both about additional giving opportunities as well as the nascent social impact capital market now developing. But we also need a way to establish shared vocabulary and definitions between the philanthropic and social capital market sectors.

Terms such as “double- and triple-bottom lines”, “blended value”, “social returns”, the distinction between donors and investors, even “capital investments” need better communication and clarity in order to make sense to a broader uninformed audience. For example, Good Capital’s launch of the Social Enterprise Expansion Fund, which involves a hands-on management approach to invest dollars in effective and promising social enterprises, offers a really interesting option for socially-conscience investors. But, the fund’s purpose to “fill the risk-taking expansion capital gap for social enterprises” represents a translation challenge. I have a hard enough time explaining my philanthropic work to my friends in my fantasy baseball league; explaining the fund’s purpose might be even more challenging.

We make assumptions that the general audience understands terms such as double- and triple-bottom lines. And yet, if we don’t purposely try to explain these terms in simpler language, I suspect we’ll just end up attracting only those already comfortable and familiar with these terms while failing to expand the circle to attract new audiences, investors, donors, supporters, and advocates.

We need adopt approaches like the stories and uncomplicated messages on exhibit at ComNet010 to further educate the philanthropic and social capital market sectors converging at SOCAP10. As I participate in these two very different conferences, I’ll certainly be looking at how we can better translate and communicate the important developments and trends in the sectors. I hope you’ll help me in doing the same.