organizational culture

Cultivating Culture

In my ongoing mission to foster and cultivate a culture that is more open and embracing of social media at jhr, I held a "Social Media 101" workshop a couple of weeks ago for all of our staff members and interns. I set out initially to demonstrate what exactly this "social media thing" is and how our organization is currently using it to advance our mission. It was a great way to get everyone on the same page because oftentimes, we get so busy and caught up in our own individual departments that we forget to actively involve ourselves and work in synergy (yes, I used that favourite buzz word) with the other departments. Working in social media, I have the pleasure of working with all the various departments on a frequent basis. Synergy, not silos! Rah, rah, rah!



Many non-profit organizations are quickly capitalizing (though many more are still hesitant) on the potential that social media has to offer to expand their donor and volunteer base and to raise awareness for their cause. I follow the work of many charities and NPOs very closely, trying to learn from their successes and yes, more importantly, their failures. I wanted to share these teachings with my colleagues too to show them that social media does work and that it can have an impact. And really, what better way to demonstrate the success and failure of another NPO than to actually hear from another NPO? The lovely Erin Swanson, Communications and New Media Coordinator of, graciously spared her time to tell us about her experiences with and the many lessons she's learned from managing their online media channels. It was such a great learning moment for everyone (myself included!) and I know that our staff and interns left that boardroom feeling more inspired to join the social media bandwagon. In fact, I've been watching my "jhr team" list on Twitter and seeing a lot more activity from them. And in the past few weeks, there's been so much more dialogue on how to really amp up our social media efforts. I know it's geeky but I won't lie, it makes me feel oh so warm and fuzzy inside! ONWARD WE GO!

It Starts with Culture.


There have been times while working at jhr when I've wanted to bang my head against the wall because not everyone (okay...a very small minority) knows what I'm talking about when I start talking about social media. The lingo that I use (hashtag or Trending Topics, anyone?) garners some pretty dumbfounded looks that leaves me feeling disheartened. How can we move forward as an organization technologically if our staff (there aren't too many of us either) don't understand what we are trying to do or the value of adapting to these technologies? With the rapid speed with which the technology is moving, there's just no time to waste. We're behind already and the distance in catching up is just growing wider and wider. I want jhr to run at a steady pace the whole way through, not sprint and fall behind.

It's hard stuff and I know that there are tons of other organizations struggling with this. So what to do? The first step to the solution is to change the organizational culture to one that is more knowledgeable and embracing of the technology available. If you want people to spread the word about your organization and the work that you do, where else would you start but with the very people who make it happen?

zomg, social media is like the best thing evarrr!

So in my frustration and in an attempt to make some serious changes, I decided to start a little "sharing" program every week in the office where I would feature one non-profit organization that is using technology (whether it's social media, mobile, etc.) to advance their goals and effect social change. By doing this, I hope to educate our staff on the different ways tech can be used to our advantage and hopefully get the creative juices flowing for everyone. I want my friends at jhr to be as excited as I am about the incredible possibilities we can achieve with the help of technology. Social media isn't just silly games, it's serious stuff!

Here are the four NPOs I decided to highlight for the month of June and a little blurb on why. If you've got any suggestions of other worthy orgs or any ideas on how to foster a more tech open culture, I'd love ya for it!


The National Wildlife Federation's "Nature Find" took Google Maps and cleverly used it to fit their needs. Their Google Maps "mashup" allows its supporters to find all kinds of info about outdoor areas and events going on in their area. Simple concept but a genius way to encourage participation, awareness, and engagement. 



Not just your ordinary blog, the LiveStrong's Blog is an interactive page that includes all sorts of social media tools like Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube to engage and involve their followers. The YouTube side widget, for example, encourages people to tag their videos as "LiveStrong" for a chance to be featured on the page. They've also built a community on Flickr with people tagging photos as "LiveStrong". All of this can be accessed by anyone and all are aggregated under that one distinct "LiveStrong" tag helping to not just build up the LiveStrong brand but also allowing supporters to share their experiences with one another. 

Among the other great things that they do, Red Cross has been using SlideShare actively to share various presentations like their social media handbook, ways to volunteer, campaigns, etc. It's a great way to continue being the transparent organization that they are while providing resources that are useful and easy to find.

Innovation at its best. Ushahidi is an open source project that was born out of the post-election violence in Kenya back in '08. It was used to map reports of violence and peace efforts submitted by ordinary citizens from the web or their mobile phone. Since then it has been deployed to track violence in the DRC and Gaza and monitor elections in India and, most recently, Kyrgyzstan. It provides real time and visual information that is so essential for crisis response.