Thursday, July 28, 2011

Twitter: It Isn't Only About What You Ate For Breakfast

Who do you follow?  I have a number of friends who think Twitter is nothing more than a place to “text” to the masses what you ate for breakfast or declare what you’re about to do, and so they avoid Twitter. But Twitter, like most social media, has the potential to be about so much mroe.

Twitter is about access
Back in December, I sent a Tweet to Andrew Evans (@WheresAndrew) a travel writer for National Geographic who I had been following with great interest. I asked Andrew for his best travel advice in 140 characters or less. Twenty minutes later I got this reply:

@pjfurlong Say "yes" more than "no" & learn "Thank U". Make wrong turns. Treat your horse kindly. Passport & toothbrush R only essentials.

If I had emailed him, I don’t know that I would have received a response that quick, if ever. But with Twitter, the reply was instantaneous and was not only shared with me, but with thousands of other people who follow Andrew.

Take a look at this photo, probably snapped on her iPhone, and Tweeted by @MeredithShiner today outside Speaker Boehner's office as reporters wait for word about what will happen with the debt ceiling vote. Unpolished and real, you can imagine the anxiety the photo captures so vividly.

Twitter allows me to stay in tune with issues that matter to me.
I follow very few of my actual friends on Twitter because I don’t need to read about what they ate for breakfast- I’ve got Facebook for those types of status updates. On Twitter, I've created a nonprofit community of sorts. I follow people, famous and ordinary, as well as organizations who care about and tweet about the same issues that matter to me. By following them, I end up getting exposed to countless relevant articles, blogs, and videos that I otherwise might have missed.

So again I must ask- who do you follow?
If the answer is no one, I'd encourage you to take the plunge, sign up for Twitter. You can even pledge to never tweet about your breakfast (unless it's really good). To start, I’ve included a few of my favorite folks in the nonprofit Twitosphere that I think are worth following.

People you may have heard of: @BillGates, @Jeffdsachs, @thisissethsblog, @NickKristoff, @Tom_Peters

Everyday People: @CynthiaHellen, @Cdilly, @ajlovesya, @socialcitizen, @otreyes,

Organizations: @weblogtheworld, @roomtoread, @Harvardbiz, @Acumenfund, @ynpnla (LA specific), @Inventurefund

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Storytelling in the Nonprofit Sector

A couple years ago I had figured out what I wanted to do in life. I saw myself working for a dynamic nonprofit providing education and health services to those in the developing world. And I would be the organizations professional storyteller, not to be confused with development officer or program manager. I would be able, as Blair Miller of Acumen Fund puts it to “travel back and forth from the slums of Kenya to the conference halls of Aspen.”

Trouble is, I’ve yet to see any postings for Chief of Storytelling or Storyteller Manager I or II. And so, for those of us that understand the value of a story, and want to dedicate our profesional lives telling the stories of the poor and often voiceless, what must we do?

While I don't know the answer to that just yet, what I beleive we all inherently get, even if we don't understand it, is quite simple: Storytelling REALLY matters. Stories, the power they have over us, isn't an exercise in logic at all. Anyone who has ever donated on impulse after a moving talk or video knows it's actually quite illogical  Empathy still means a great deal in deciding where we will give parts of our precious  time, energy, and money. Data matters too, but it ceases to mean anything unless we have a way to connect what we see on a spreadsheet to what we experience in real life. In the end, it's about telling stories, ours, that of another, and the often overlooked challenge Blair Miller addresses of getting out of the way of a good story so that it can be told by the actual person living it.

Listed below are a few links to what I think touch upon the essence of good storytelling.
-Blair Miller at Acumen Fund writes a brief blog entry about The Next Phase of Storytelling

-Andy Goodman's podcast Storytelling For Good Causes

-And of course a couple amazing talks posted on Ted: JK Rowling's Harvard commencement speech and spoken word artist Sarah Kay's talk on the power of self-expression.