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Philanthropic thought leader Henry Timms is the creator of the #GivingTuesday movement and the director of the 92nd Street Y — a 140 year old, $60 million institution serving 300,000 people in the heart of New York City.
At a talk he recently gave, Henry dished a few thoughts on creating a ‘new power’ movement — leveraging 21st century tools to compel people to take action. Here are a few ideas your social enterprise can get behind –
- Create Context, not Content – In the digital era, the adage has always been “content is king”. While content is important, it’s also important that you provide your users, your customers, your followers, and your critics with a platform to create and contribute their own meaningful content. The most high impact organizations do this really well — Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are merely conduits for user-generated content and LinkedIn has embraced a publishing model that empowers their users instead of simply pushing a one way flow of information. Boston-based media startups Streetwise Media and Her Campus are doing a great job of creating context to advance a common conversation around user generated content.
- Distribute Power and Think Peer Driven – ‘Old power’ organizations involve top down decrees. The NSA, the IRS and well, just about any government organization involving an acronym typically call the shots from the top down. ‘New power’ organizations like Wikipedia, Occupy Wall Street and Kickstarter involve radical transparency and distributed power. By sharing responsibility, your organization empowers stakeholders to take action and make ideas and initiatives their own. That’s the beginnings of real change.
- Embrace Technology – Embracing technology doesn’t mean to do it in the way that most stodgy, ‘old power’ institutions are currently doing. Social media isn’t just something you hire an intern to manage because they know about “that internet stuff”. As Henry Timms reminds us, “having a Facebook page is not the same thing as having a ‘new power’ strategy.” In borrowing from the nonprofit sector, we can look at the technological evolution of the phone — from old power to new. In the early days of giving, a phone bank was set up where a celebrity on TV instructed you to call in and give, give, give. The decree came from on high. This content creator was important and you were simply told to respond to their request. Contrast this with the phone’s use today where an entire movement (the Ice Bucket Challenge) involved bottom up submissions around one common goal – stamping out ALS.
In Henry’s line of thought, the most enduring and influential organizations of the 21st century will retain ‘old power’ infrastructure and proprietary knowledge while truly embracing ‘new power’ models and ideals. For more on this topic, check out Henry’s thoughts in the December, 2014 Harvard Business Review.
To talk more on social entrepreneurship, I hope you can join us this week at Startup Stir!