Shall we flow? Making connections ‘in the moment’


Much of the value in the stuff we call social media stems from its immediacy. Your employees now have the ability to report and share what they are experiencing right in front of them. In real time. In the moment.

Earlier this year I was excited to read this post on the Ushahidi blog – and in particular this snippet…

“…imagine getting a continuous flow of stories in near-real time that allows people to see needs as they emerge and act on them.”

In a frenetic world defined by more and more things competing for peoples’ attention, you need to be in that ‘flow’, where you have a better chance of catching people ‘in motion’ – when they are ‘goal orientated’.

I often show this slide to illustrate the point.
My flow slide

Where is all this leading? Well, Lucy Bernholz eloquently stated recently that philanthropy is the business of passion. I love that. That passion can also fade if you don’t know your own place in the story; if you hang up your passion with your coat every morning.

Way back – before the web was invented – my experience at Oxfam was that some of the best stories were locked in the ‘audio-visual unit’ (although I preferred to call it The Story Room). Two decades later charities still have a tendency to ‘save’ a great story for some future purpose (rather than sharing for maximum impact). In practice this often means it is buried among the fluff in the annual report, or (sometimes) devalued with a free plastic pen in a piece of direct mail.

Stories move people – and communications is about making stories real, urgent, and compelling to move people to act. You and your charity’s supporters are inextricably linked so create opportunities to bring you all closer together. Bridge the gap through participation with story as the connective tissue.

Make participation central – not just content – otherwise this is all just a sideshow. Your mission doesn’t want to just sit on paper – or even a static web page.

I guess I’m imagining something similar to the business lifestream Made by Many created for when a whole bunch of employees attended SXSW in March. They aggregate photos and tweets captured on employees’ iPhones using the Instagram app, and weave in blog posts that update dynamically and in real time. The Made by Many crew have created something visceral; a delivery system for their stories. They are active participants and put in their true selves. This may be the future of digital engagement: intimate and packed with multiple ‘light-touches’ across multiple possible touch-points.

In a charity, this kind of behaviour can inspire others who emotionally invest in you. Especially given loyalty to a charity brand is I believe being slowly augmented by a closer affinity with employees.

We are hard-wired to do this. We just haven’t had the toolkit until now. But just as we transition towards a more digital life – somehow behind the firewall we unlearn and grow more compliant and uncertain that we have something to add that will be valued. We lose confidence.

I view much of what I do now as helping to build the capability for ‘flow’ within charities. Working alongside Anne McCrossan we see the potential for organisations to make connections that move people and share the stuff that ‘tingles’; the kind of organisation that makes people want to respond and contribute.

Anne is fond of repeating these words from Maya Angelou, and they seem appropriate to include here…

“People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Are you ready to move from ‘busy’ to ‘flow’?

Photo by Michael Hartford available under a Creative Commons license

This entry was posted in ideas, Top posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *