Creating an Agenda for Change at STT

As I worked with the Web of Change team to frame the agenda for this year’s Social Tech Training, our emphasis was open collaboration and open sharing of the ideas—and approach that fit hand-in-hand with the Web 2.0 models we are working to share and explore at this year’s event.

In the last decade, there has been a revolution in how knowledge gets shared – away from top-down broadcast messaging towards a more “open” peer-to-peer model. There is overwhelming evidence of this shift everywhere:

  • The decline of newspapers vs. the rise of blogs,
  • The explosion of social network use over static websites and even email,
  • The opening up of Dell and Starbucks an innumerable other corporate giants to consumer input into their product development cycles,
  • The increasing popularity of self-publishing books and music instead of waiting for that “big deal”,
  • Game shows asking us the viewers to pick the winner via mobile phone,
  • The President of the United States taking questions online at a national Town Hall,
  • And the classic example: the crushing defeat of printed encyclopedias and dictionaries by Wikipedia and plain old Google search.

When we’re talking about the Web, people often refer to this new genre of communication as “Web 2.0”. But in reality we’re talking about a culture change that goes well beyond any specific set of technologies. At the broadest level, there is a shift in power happening: from those who possess a limited and static set of information, to those who can provide powerful frameworks within which many people can productively share information.

So when Web of Change asked me to help put together this year’s Social Tech Training I gave a lot of thought to two questions: “What does Web 2.0 mean to the social change sector?” And, “What does Web 2.0 mean to training?”

What does Web 2.0 mean to the social change sector? In many ways, it means the same thing it meant for Dell and Starbucks – it’s time to admit you don’t have all the answers, and get into the business of empowering those that do to move your cause forward. This is scary. Especially for established nonprofits. But the pay-off is unimaginable. Just ask Barack Obama, who challenged Americans to believe in their own power to change Washington and, against all odds, was elected America’s first African-American president. Following his election, it’s clearer every day that Obama understands that his power is predicated on sustaining a very high level of public engagement and participation, and that requires his administration being open, transparent, and accountable. If you want to engage thousands or millions of supporters in your campaign work, they will expect no less from you.

What does Web 2.0 mean to training? For starters, it means that the curriculum is a moving target. Every day, new tools are being created, and every day old ones are being used in new creative ways for organizing. So it didn’t make sense to me to focus on training STT09 participants in specific methods of using specific tools that happen to be hot right now as the end-point of the training. You could go to a BarCamp (or one of it’s off-shoots like Social Dev Camp, RootsCamp, WineCamp, etc.) and get a TON of great examples of Web 2.0 tools and even how they’ve been used creatively for specific tactical actions.

Instead we chose to focus the 3 days of STT09 on helping you build a rock solid online program. In a quickly evolving environment, where both tools and audience change monthly, there are no pat or permanent answers. But you can continually move towards maximizing your results by coming up with creative new approaches, testing them, learning from the results, and applying those learning's to the next round of innovation. Like the power-shift that is happening in the broader culture, our own focus has shifted from teaching a static set of knowledge, to teaching participants how to create a strong organizational framework for continual learning.

We think our innovative learning model combines the best of new and old: A structured learning environment where you’ll walk away with a strong set of new skills and a flexible approach that puts you in the driver’s seat to get what you need to help your organization take advantage of the myriad opportunities that social media presents for engaging new supporters in social change. Check out the STT09 learning model and agenda, and then stop back here and let us know what you think.

Hope to see you this June in Toronto.

Platinum Sponsors Salesforce Foundation Hollyhock

Gold Sponsors

Salsa Labs

Silver Sponsors

Care2 Wire Media Blue State Digital Agentic Firefly Partners Beaconfire

Bronze Sponsors

Advomatic Crowdtangle JacksonRiver Engaging Networks Sea Change Strategies ActionSprout Fission Strategy Organizer

supporting sponsors

Gott Advertising Center for Community Change