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Max St John

Social Media, non-profits and the future

I thought I’d share a recently talk I did for some MBA students on the Social Innovation and Marketing for Change MBA at Said Business School, University of Oxford.

The deck goes over some of the basics that a lot of people will be familiar with, and goes on to look at a few examples of social media for behaviour change, affecting legislation and recent developments in coping with crisis situations (Haiti and the Egyptian Revolution).

I’m interested in exploring what a non-profit organisation really is – not just the major charities and grassroots campaigns but what I see as a ‘new’ non-profit: loose, digital-driven collectives like Social Innovation Camp, CityCamp and Good for Nothing.

I’ve also picked out both big, branded Facebook/Twitter focussed examples (like Mind/Rethink‘s Time to Change) as well as really lo-fi projects (Freecycle, Targuist Sniper), to show how social media can be effective regardless of your budget, as long as you use it in the right way, and tap into stuff that really matters to people.

Recently I’ve been thinking about what the future non-profit might look like, which only gets a bit of a mention in this deck (something I’ll blog about separately), but there are a few themes I’m currently crunching.

Fully digital: The new non-profit will have digital at its core. The inevitable shift by all of us to online/mobile communications means that internally and externally NFPs will be working ‘socially’ and digitally.

De-siloed: One of the big things standing in the way of innovation for all large organisations is the way that activities, objectives and people have become partitioned off, creating disconnects and even competition. This will need to radically change in future.

Agile: The rapid evolution of digital has brought a need to react fast, or fail fast – whether that’s in dealing with natural disasters or PR crises. The challenge, and opportunity, is to switch from the (often unfair) stereotypical image of the lumbering non-profit driven by archaic bureaucracy and protocol, to autonomous and agile crack-teams, ready and able to act quickly.

Decentralised: Increasingly, some of the most innovative and socially impactful work is happening outside of traditional non-profits and government, in loose, volunteer-run collectives. We’re already seeing a joining of forces, and I think this is not just going to increase in future but fundamentally change how non-profit organisations function.

Open: Lots of large organisations are struggling with the transparency and scrutiny that’s sweeping society, no less so the non-profit sector. There’s a huge opportunity here, not just in building trust by being a step ahead of controversy, but in handing over a degree of control, whether that’s through opening up data or democratising working practices.

As I said, these are some half-formed thoughts, so I’d be interested to know what other people think and I’ll build on this in future.

Inspiration for a couple of the slides in this deck (and a lot more besides) is thanks to Dan McQuillan, from his fantastic talk at CityCamp Brighton.

I tried to cram a lot into the deck, so feel free to let me know what you think and ask any questions, I’d be really happy to have a discussion.

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One Comment

  1. Great deck. Thanks for sharing

    Posted 23rd June 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink