"Running the business of this thing called 'Justice' is extremely difficult," proclaimed Lateefah Simon, Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights during her panel discussion at the Craigslist Nonprofit Boot Camp this past Saturday. I had the opportunity – as did many local nonprofit supporters, professionals, and entrepreneurs – to see her and a mixture of other social justice and community leaders at this convening. The day was themed around "Empowering Communities." I went to get a pulse on what these leaders and our communities are working on, talking about and thinking about. From the people I engaged with and the workshops I attended, I concluded that the buzz words of the day were: community building, social media, and collaboration.
Opening remarks by Chip Conley centered on his business model, which surprisingly was in the shape of a huge heart. Chip's model for successful hotel chains, was to create an energetic and distinct culture for his community of clients, staff and other stakeholders. This creates an enthusiastic fan base and establishes brand and organizational loyalty among the community. "Community building is one on one," states Chip. You create an experience and a culture for your community and you will produce a following that allows you to reach your objective.
Nonprofits' overall objective is to effectively address their mission of solving various social problems. A new form of community being cultivated is the online community. As everyone knows, online communities are facilitated by social media tools. Beth Kanter, social media aficionado, spoke about the power of transparent and connected organizations. By this she refers to innovative organizations adopting social media tools such as Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, as cultural practice. More and more organizations are plugging in and subscribing to these tools to find amazing benefits. Not only are they connecting to funders and cultivating a strong volunteer and fan base, but they also are creating what she calls "networked organizations." This means they are breaking through their own organizational boundaries and connecting with other groups that work on solving the same social problems through various other means to achieve common goals. Networked and transparent organizations break down silos and combine efforts to increase impact.
It is evident that when groups collaborate, they propel their social agendas forward. Different groups bring new methods and vibrant solutions to solve our most pressing issues. It has been apparent, especially in this economic downturn, that there is a need for collaboration among groups to ensure that limited resources go that extra mile.
This leads me to think about the pioneering concept of fiscal sponsorship and shared services. In my role at Tides as liaison between Tides and our projects, I see the spectrum of methods used by projects to 1) build their online communities, 2) use social media tools to create a transparent culture, and 3) collaborate to push progress forward, partly through our umbrella model. Through our array of shared services, we help to do the "business" of this thing called justice.
Tides is a community that helps to enable our projects to focus their energy on programmatic activities and strengthen their impact. We collaborate by holding gatherings such as project gatherings and our Momentum conference and we foster connections by using shared social media tools such as our new eBulletin, a space for projects to post their blog links or even contribute a post. Tides creates infrastructure and the connections so that more resources are directed to building a healthy, just, and sustainable world.