Social media for social good #socent

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I discussed Social Media for Social Good at a City of Sydney Talk on 27th June 2012.

It is an important issue.  There are many decrying social media for increasing isolation and disconnection between people.

Social media can be used as a force for social good and social inclusion. Social media is not just about ephemeral amusement, it is also an important way to harness forces for social change and social innovation. In short, it is an excellent platform for activism.

Many people are using social media to create platforms for change around the world and here in Australia.

Probably the example of this that is closest to me is Social Innovation Sydney. Started by three women about two years ago, we’ve hosted events that have connected hundreds of change makers with each other. Our goal was to use social media to find people who are interested in social innovation, and then to hold events that got the change makers together in real life.

We’re not the only ones doing it.  Some other good local examples of social media for social are listed in my slide deck below.


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De Profundis: The final mystery is oneself

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Recently I was re-reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, a moving letter from prison that looks at spirituality and faith from the depths of despair and degradation.

This particular quote stood out for me, especially the notion that we do not know ourselves very well.

“But with the dynamic forces of life, and those in whom those dynamic forces become incarnate, it is different. People whose desire is solely for self-realisation never know where they are going. They can’t know. In one sense of the word it is of course necessary, as the Greek oracle said, to know oneself: that is the first achievement of knowledge. But to recognise that the soul of a man is unknowable, is the ultimate achievement of wisdom.

The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?

When the son went out to look for his father’s asses, he did not know that a man of God was waiting for him with the very chrism of coronation, and that his own soul was already the soul of a king.”

Oscar Wilde – De Profundis

It seems, as we move into the interesting year of 2012, that this is a good time to turn our efforts towards understanding ourselves more fully. And, along with that, to discover how to accept ourselves as we are, both flawed and fabulous in parts.

I have come to suspect that our good relations with others hinge more upon our own understanding and acceptance of our own self than upon any other thing.

Hopefully we are not fated to suffer – as did Wilde (or Verlaine or Prince Kropotkin) – similar trials to achieve clarity and understanding.

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Worth thinking about: Seven social sins (not about social media) | via M. Gandhi

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No, I’m not talking about social media. This is about real life. And I think that Gandhi summed up a lot of what the #Occupy movement is on about in his note on the Seven social sins.

Politics without principles
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Knowledge without character
Commerce without morality
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice

Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Source: Young India, 22-10-1925, p.135 (opens pdf)

For those interested in protest and the #Occupy movement it is really worth reading the writings of Gandhi. He grappled with many similar problems with regards to protest and resistance to civil authority.

This is worth thinking about given the situation we find ourselves in today in the world. At this festive season for many of us it is an interesting question to consider how can we shift away from these seven social sins?

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Leadership, personality traits, and success: Do nice guys really finish last?

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I came across an article in Wired Science by Jonah Lehrer titled Do Nice Guys Finish Last?. It had plenty to get me thinking.

Apparently:

“… levels of ‘agreeableness’ are negatively correlated with the earnings of men”

Then:

“There are six facets to agreeableness: trust, straightforwardness, compliance, altruism, modesty and tender-mindedness. “

Also:

“Women were slightly less likely to get picked for promotion regardless of their personality.”

But:

“Agreeable women weren’t nearly as bad off, earning only 1,100 less.”

This research seems to be anchored in personality trait theory (Costa & McCrae, 1992); and there’s been a lot of theorising around trait theory and leadership over the years. That the facets of agreeableness – trust, straightforwardness, compliance, altruism, modesty and tender-mindedness – might not be considered helpful in some contexts sounds bad.

Why wouldn’t high levels of agreeableness be a good thing?  But when it comes to getting things done being agreeable is not always helpful.

For example, scientific advances rarely come to light from agreeing with everyone else. Instead they come from fighting against the current flow of ideas and consensus.

Getting a new business or new business model off the ground requires something different to agreeableness. It requires passion and vision, it calls for team-building and collaboration, it requires dedication and persistence. And, while some of the facets associated with agreeableness are helpful, they alone will not drive the change through to fruition.

Think about many of the leaders of history, for example: Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Margaret Thatcher, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Theresa, or Winston Churchill.  Not one of them was reputed to be easy to get along with.  They were each, in their own way, not very agreeable. But, love them or not, they got things done.

But perhaps the agreeable people, who didn’t get promoted, are happier?  Where’s the research on that?

However, it is interesting to note that women displaying agreeableness are less badly off than those not displaying it. Thus it seems powerful women remain undervalued, unlike powerful men.

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Vale Steve Jobs: a great leader with great passion

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It is sad to hear of Steve Jobs’ passing. Not unsurprising news given his long battle with cancer. But the heartfelt responses to his death made me think. How many other leaders of big companies would elicit similar responses? Hardly any I suspect. His was a remarkable career, and the impact of his ideas brought to life will resonate for a long time.

He shared some wise insights at his famous commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, it’s long been a favourite inspiration for me and many others. It seems a fitting way to remember a man who followed his passion and changed the world through his passion for great technology and great design.

The full text of this speech is also available on Stanford’s website

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Dissent and Securing Freedom – Aung San Suu Kyi shares her ideas

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Over the weekend I listened to this moving  talk from the Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, where she examines what drives people to dissent.

Reflecting on the history of her own party, the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, examines the meaning of opposition and dissident. She also explains her reasons for following the path of non-violence.

If you’re interested in freedom and dissent then Aung San Suu Kyi’s talk at the 2011 Reith Lecture is worth spending 45 minutes on (there’s a few news items before the talk commences).

A transcript of Aung San Suu Kyi’s talk is also available for download (PDF).

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Generational theory cannot explain how people behave

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Quite often there’s an article that bundles us all up into handy age-based cohorts (a.k.a. ‘generations’). Behavioural phenomena are neatly explained by the characteristics of the particular age cohort or generation. Based on the theories of Strauss and Howe generations have been adopted as a popular explanatory model for people’s behaviour, and demographers like Bernard Salt and Mark McCrindle have done very well in explaining this model to business and marketing folk.

While large scale external factors can impact on a particular generation and influence them in a particular ways, individuals of that generation shape their lives by other means too. A generation that suffers a war, like the First or Second World War, or a Great Depression like during the 1930s, is shaped in important ways by that shared experience.

Yet I am not convinced that the individuals within each generation are like a mob of sheep who respond as a mob to stimuli.

Instead, based on my experiences in implementing technology and process change in the workplace, I am more influenced by the technology adoption lifecycle (as popularised by Rogers).

I think that this model can be generalised to explain other parts of human behaviour in addition to technology adoption.

Clearly significant life experiences influence an individual’s responses to events throughout their life. And shared experience, such as wars and major disasters, can influence how cohorts behave in future. But we respond to stimuli as individuals who live within societal, kinship and friendship structures that influence our behaviour. And that behaviour is also enacted within our internal physical, psychological and spiritual context. Thus our age cohort compatriots may be part of the mix, but they are not the entire story.

Which leads to one of my pet peeves about generational theory. Articles like this, (from 2007) A-Z of Generation Y:

“THEY’RE hip, smart-talking, brash and sometimes seem to suffer from an overdose of self esteem.”

It is this kind of glib summary that irritates. It fails completely to reflect the diversity, magnificence and sheer idiocy encompassed by humanity.

We see the best and the worst of humanity every day. And just when you feel like giving up hope for us as a race someone somewhere does something amazing, moving and awe-inspiring.

For example, I do a lot of work with those Gen-Y kids who are so often the target of this shallow analysis in the media, and every day their enthusiasm and passion to make the world a better place inspires me.

I also work with a number of Baby Boomers (the so-called “Baby boomers: powerful and selfish“) who work every day to improve their corner of the world and the global community.

Perhaps it’s time we stop making assumptions about what people are like and judging them by stereotypes? I suspect people are more complex than the simple stereotypes so beloved of tabloid journals.

Here’s a few inspiring examples mentioned on Twitter today in response to one of my questions about inspirational things people had heard about recently:

@casandjonesy trek 2 southpole 2400km on foot” via @ljLoch

Well, @Nyx2701 did some pro bono legal work to (ultimately) help let the family of a missing person know they’re still alive.” via @mjberryman

My good friend having a bone-marrow transplant.” via @zbender

I read in the Enquirer that a blind couple adopted two blind children previously thought unadoptable. It’s an amazing story.” via @AskMonte

what planet are you on? How about @CadelOfficial Cadel Evans 1st aussie to win TourdeFrance?? #tdf #yellforcadel” via @lisafeg

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Changing the world, ideas, action, rethinking reality & the rabble-rousing ways of @umairh

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One of the people who is vocal in his calls for change in how we do things in our westernised societies is Umair Haque. His work is worth reading whether or not you agree with his perspective.

Some of his recent provocative tweets include:

Yes, really. You have the power to change the world. Consumerism, mass-made junk, greed? The fantasies you’re sold–so you never use it.
Source: @umairh

History may have been ruled by crooks and sociopaths. But, thanks to those who came before us, today doesn’t have to be.
Source: @umairh

We can debate endlessly whether every leader in history has been a crook or a sociopath, or not. The bigger point might be…
Source: @umairh

Our forebears fought for generations to give us a gift: to create a future better, wealthier, stronger than theirs.
Source: @umairh

They fought to create things like democracy, markets, justice, opportunity, reason, equality, liberty.
Source: @umairh

I’d say these are among the greatest achievements in human history. The fundamental institutions–the building blocks–of prosperity.
Source: @umairh

Today, we use them to “consume” mocha-venti-lattes, Jersey Shore, and fast fashion. Instead of bettering them–we’re squandering them.
Source: @umairh

I think that Umair is right. If we want to change the world it will be necessary to stop doing some things that we do now, to stop thinking the way we think now, and shift our attention and activity towards different things.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve been focusing on Social Innovation Sydney and our combination of BarCamps and StartupCamps. The plan is turning new ideas into action and creating real life social networks to enable it.

What are you doing to change the world?

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Inspired and delighted with people's willingness to work for positive change #sibsyd

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I’m exhausted after a busy weekend and totally inspired by the people I just spent the weekend with!

We held the first Social Innovation Sydney Startup Camp this weekend. It was great to see so many people willing to work together in an open and collaborative way on developing social innovation projects.

It really inspires me with hope for the future of our world to see people join together, starting as strangers, and collaborate on social innovation ideas so effectively.

There’s a nice round-up of Startup Camp from @lucyjjames on her blog: day 1 and day 2; and a some feedback from the participants on Social Innovation Sydney.

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Interview with 2 of my favourite entrepreneurs @jason @garyvee

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If you’ve got time it’s worth taking some of it to watch this interview with Jason and Gary.

Jason Calacanis, himself a serial entrepreneur, is a great supporter of startups with his LAUNCH Conference.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a well known entrepreneur who built up his family business to a major player using social media and the force of his remarkable personality.

Having met both of these guys, one thing that stands out about each of them for me is that they are truth tellers. You might not like what they say, but they call it as they see it. The corollary is that they often put out a helping hand for people who are working on their own startups. Good guys, with good experience, worth listening to.

Gary raises some important issues about how social marketing is not about push. If you’re trying to sell stuff using social media then this is a crucial conversation to understand. As Gary says:

“If Content is King, then Context is God”

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