Lunch at the Volunteer Management Conference

I posted yesterday about the sessions at the Volunteer Management Conference.

Another really great aspect of the conference was lunch.  The organizers picked a wide variety of discussion topics and assigned each a lunch table.  When people signed in in the morning, they picked a lunch table based on what they wanted to chat about.

Lunch by LOC on Flickr
"Lunch" by LOC on Flickr

About a week before the conference, one of the organizers asked me if I would lead the Web 2.0 table.  Naturally, I said “sure!”

The attendees ranged from Gen Y to Baby Boomers.  We had about 8 people at the table.  About three of them were new to web 2.0, and the others have adopted it at least somewhat.  We had a great discussion – I loved that I was not the source of all answers!

It was a really nice setting for people to ask questions they’d been embarassed to ask.

  • what is web 2.0?
  • is it a separate web from the first one?  Did they build another internet?
  • blog and wiki what now?
  • how do people have time to do this stuff?

I found that giving concrete examples of web 2.0 technology in action was effective for showing people what it could do and for illustrating that the idea was to do things differently, not in addition. This is what worked for our conversation:

Example 1: My Family’s Christmas Wiki

I’m in MN, my sister’s away at college, and my parents are in New York.  We all come home for Christmas.  But a lot of planning has to happen before then: food, who’s traveling where when, cards, wish lists, decorating, and dividing tasks.

Instead of having 10 separate 2-person phonecalls about these things, or a huge confusing email thread, my family made a wiki.  It’s private – only our family can see it.  We have a separate page for each of the categories I mentioned, and any of us can update it at any time.  You can have the wiki email you after every update or just once a day with a summary.

One of the ladies in particular really liked the idea and is thinking that she wants a year-round family wiki so that her large, spread-out family can stay caught up on whatever’s happening.

This example led people to ask how to start a wiki, and I recommended http://pbwiki.com.  This way I wasn’t just dumping information on them.  I told a story and they asked how they could get involved.  Good stuff.

Example 2: The Curriculum Team and Google Docs

We have seven different learning center staff spread across five learning centers working on curriculum for our centers.  In the past, we’d have to email documents back and forth and the versions got confused.

This time, we’re trying out Google Docs.  They live online (in “the cloud”).  This means that there are no versions – we can all access the one document right where it lives instead of having it live in seven different places.  Google Docs tells you who is updating the document in real-time, and also tracks all the changes ever made.

That seemed like enough information for them on that – they didn’t ask more questions about it.  But now they have that story, and if they’re finding themselves in a similar or parallel situation, I hope they’ll think of Google Docs as a potential solution.

 

It was so valuable to have a casual forum for people to ask their questions!  I had a great time talking with the ladies at my table, and I think we all walked away with some new ideas.

Beyond Story-Telling: What’s Next?

Photo by David Webber
Photo by David Webber

I was just talking to my mom on the phone, and she told me about a big book donation project her library did for an alum stationed in Afghanistan.

I think it’s a powerful story – the request, the way the community came together to make it happen, the challenges that never seemed to become full-out problems, and the way she facilitated the whole thing.

She said the college was excited about the potential for publicity, and that she was doing a big write-up of the story so that PR could send it to the regional newspaper.  She also said she might present this project at an upcoming library conference.

What was really exciting to me was the feeling that this was a big success for the community; my mom agrees that there’s a sense of “Great!  We rock!  What’s next?”  I’m interested in how they could use social media to keep up the momentum.

I see a huge opportunity for the college to reach out to its community of neighbors and alumni.  I see a way for the library to assert its continued relevance in a changing world.  I see a successful project whose nuts and bolts should be shared, and a story about a large county-run community college going above and beyond what many would expect.  This doesn’t have to be a one-time occurrence.  It could be a direction.

I have so many ideas for where they could go with this, but I think my ideas are a lot less relevant than those of people affiliated with the college.  I wonder what would happen if the college worked wikily (Beth elaborates) with its faculty, staff, students, and alumni to look for a place where needs, interests, and resources met.

No, seriously.  They’re planning to send out an email to the whole college with thank-yous and some donations stats.  Why not enclose a link to an extremely simple wiki called “What’s Our Next Project?”

(Really, Mom, why not?)

General questions:

  • If they had time to share their story in only one additional way, what would you suggest
  • How did you tell your story?
  • How do you keep the momentum going, turning one great instance into many?
  • How do you bridge a large preexisting community from newspapers and emails to Web 2.0?

Being Web 2.0 Brokers

It’s extremely busy “season” at work the past few months, and I was recently explaining Google Reader to my office mate.  She looked at me blankly and said that if we did any more talk about new tech stuff that day her head would explode.  

Cut to a scene about 1 hour later at a staff check-in meeting.  Coworker A says, “Emily, what’s so great about wikis?”  Right on cue, Office Mate makes an exploding noise and a little mushroom cloud motion with her hands.  The room goes silent and she and I try not to giggle.  Other coworkers are mystified, lengthy explanations ensue, and universal amusement is eventually achieved.  End scene.

The point of relating this mini-drama is that there are so many awesome tools out there, it’s almost funny.  It’s not surprising that so many people are overwhelmed. 

This is where I’ve found it important to be a Web 2.0 broker (with thanks to Mary Pipher’s “How To Be A Cultural Broker”).  In unfamiliar territory, people often need a little guidance.  You don’t have to be the most qualified or knowledgeable person around to help; you can share what you know and then learn the rest together.  It is about getting people connected with tools (therefore information, therefore power), and also a great excuse to build relationships with people you might not work with very often otherwise.

I’m excited that the handful of Web 2.0 brokers in our organization have put together a wiki (thanks Coworker S!) to let us support the personal verbal conversations with a small “sandbox” to play in.  We have a place for meeting notes and a brief, hand-picked list of resources.  It’s local, limited, and simple, and I can’t think of a better way to start.

How have others helped ease their coworkers into the Web 2.0 waters?  What tips would you share with other would-be brokers?