The Dragonfly Effect: Win A Copy, Leave A Comment, Swab Your Cheek | Beth's Blog

The Dragonfly Effect: Win A Copy, Leave A Comment, Swab Your Cheek

Digital Strategy

On Sunday,  I attended the book launch for the Dragonfly Effect, a book about quick, powerful ways to use social media for social change by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith.     This book party was different, not because it had kids activities or the fun photo booth (see above), but because it also had a table  from Be The Match to encourage people to sign up for the bone marrow registry.   Let me explain how all these ideas tie together …

Me and Jennifer Aaker

I met Jennifer Aaker about a year ago when she invited me to do a guest lecture in her class, The Power of Social Technology Class, a graduate course, at Stanford Business School. I was honored to be included in the line up of  the invited guests, but also to be exposed to many of the concepts and case studies that are in her new book, The Dragonfly Effect.   All of which deeply resonated with my own thinking, writing, and doing about small actions for social change.

It was my birthday and the culmination of a campaign to raise money for Cambodian children that I used an action learning project for the students.    We actually eat chocolate in class as part of the exercise!

This class focused the question “How to leverage the power of new social technology to effectively create real social good.”   The theoretical framework that became the book is, “Dragonfly Effect: Mindset and Method” was  geared towards helping students create a project with a clear single, focused goal to cultivate social good.  It also helped students learn the process of a rapid prototype experiment that has viral effects, can be measured, and improved with reflection.

Why A Bone Marrow Registry Recruitment At A Book Launch?

In the book, the authors tell the story of Sameer Bhatia, a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur who diagnosed with leukemia.  Bhatia needed a bone-marrow transplant, but he could not find a match within his family or social circle. The odds were improved with a donor of his ethnicity, but there were not many South Asians in the national bone-marrow database.  So Bhatia’s business partner, Robert Chatwani,  used social media tools to implement a Help Sameer campaign.  Eventually, nearly twenty-five thousand new people were registered in the bone-marrow database, and Bhatia found a match.

The book describes their strategy which underpins the framework for the Dragonfly Effect:

  • Stay focused: develop a single goal
  • Tell your story
  • Act, then think
  • Design for collaboration
  • Employ empowerment marketing
  • Measure one metric
  • Try, fail, try again, succeed
  • Don’t ask for help require it.

The book describes the simple first step taken by Robert Chatwani, writing an email that focused the challenge, and ended with a clear call to action that was sent to their circle of close friends.  The message was magnified with social media, but more importantly joining hands with another money marrow registry campaign for a South Asian man, Vinay Chakravarthy, also recently diagnosed with the disease.

The call to action was simple.  You get a cheek swab and—in the  event that your bone marrow is a good match for someone in need—spend a few hours at the hospital.  Donating bone marrow isn’t as easy as giving blood, but it doesn’t involve a substantial financial or personal risk.  It doesn’t require that you change people’s behavior and social practices.  It is an act of kindness that can only bring praise.

So, it was no surprise that this book launch also included a bone marrow registry campaign.    Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith also announced their plans to go to India to help establish a bone marrow registry there in December.  I filled an application for the registry and got my cheek swabbed – it took ten minutes and I hope you’ll consider it too.

There’s been some interesting buzz generated by the book.

There’s a piece in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell that includes a nice mention for the book and quotes from the author, although it started a debate about the offline-online connection.  Here’s some critiques of the piece (not the book) from Jillian C. York and Zeynep Tufkeci (hat tip Jon Garfunkel)

To close the loop,  I was given a copy of the book at the party, but also received a second copy of the publisher.  So, I’m giving it away.   If you want to win this copy, leave a comment that answers any of the following:

The Dragonfly Model is:  Focus, Grab Attention, Take Action, and Engage.   What campaigns have you seen that use this model?

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16 Responses

  1. Some friends of mine have used the Dragonfly Effect to reach extraordinary success in helping the child soldiers of Uganda. They made a movie about the children and started a non-profit called Invisible Children. They focused on the kids, grabbed extraordinary attention and took action through engaging online outreach and offline rallies, lobbying Congress… they even camped out in front of Harpo Studios and managed to get on The Oprah Show! They recently won a million dollars from one of those online voting campaigns.

    I am WAY behind them….so I need to read The Dragonfly Effect! Thanks.

  2. Here is a great example…by an 11 year-old no less!

    Harnessed attention to fight homelessness.

  3. Jay Geneske says:

    A recent campaign that comes to mind is New York Public Library’s “Don’t Close the Books.” Facing budget cuts, they focused their campaign around around one bold idea, included a sense of urgency, provided multiple easy ways to act (donate, pledge, write letter, comment, etc.), and kept engaging participants (thanks, share, next steps, etc.) throughout the duration of the campaign and after its completion. They were also honest about what they accomplished and what they didn’t.

  4. Beth,

    thanks. My contribution to the discussion on Jillian’s blog was that Gladwell erred by conflating three different types of activism (a) dictatorial regime change, (b) policy advocacy in a democracy, and (c) citizen vigilantism.

    I think it’s safe to say there’s no shortage of social media advocacy out there, so I’m not quite sure what special insight the Dragonfly approach offers. The anecdotes of success (Obama election being buoyed by social media is fairly conventional wisdom by now) should be balanced with anecdotes of failure.

    My sense is that having a committed leader is a prime driver of success, social media or not. And thus a necessary first step is drafting a leader, or turning into one.


  5. For me, the Pepsi Refresh campaign embodies the components of the Dragonfly Effect model.

    Their focus on giving money to user-generated campaigns rather than spending money on advertising is a shift in paradigms for such a large corporation, and the shift has created a perfect advertising model!

    This shift in focus has been enough to grab the attention of the corporate world as well as the “man on the street”. The method behind this strategy is one that engages John Q and Jane Public by inspiring them to return to the voting page of their chosen cause on a daily basis. This creates a habit, then, at the end of the month when voting is over, a highly engaged Mr & Ms Public inquire as to what else they can do to help their chosen cause. BAM! Engaged!

    Kudos to Pepsi for leading the way!

  6. Dave W says:

    I was really impressed when the Friendship Circle used this methodology to become finalists in last year’s Chase bank giving challenge. They won $125,000 from public voting, but only started with 600 “friends”.

  7. Andy Smith says:

    Beth – Thanks so much for a wonderful post. We will up the ante a little by signing that spare copy for your readers.

  8. Anita says:

    MomsRising has turned the idea of the blog carnival into an organizing tool that raises up the voices of policy partners and individuals, generates Twitter buzz, and becomes a resource long after publication. It’s all about design for collaboration to achieve a goal.

    Our goals for blog carnivals include: focusing attention on an issue (most recently, on personal stories about how health reform has helped families), bringing forward voices that may be in the background, reaching out to partners and raising their voices, educating legislators publicly by tweeting the carnival to them, organizing tweetchats based on resources from the blog carnival, reaching out to new Twitter followers, and more.

    The feedback we’ve gotten from policy partners, readers and legislators has been wonderfully positive– the blog carnivals help educate, inform, and move policies that help families. It’d be great to see what the lessons from the Dragonfly Effect we could apply to our model of blog carnivaling.

  9. MB says:

    This is so great–I think we need more connections like this being made for great causes! I just participated in the Bone Marrow drive this past weekend and ‘got swabbed’ too!

  10. Deb Levine says:

    Well, I really liked ISIS’ undies contest. 😉

    Young people were asked to submit a drawing of a pair of underwear with safer sex message. The idea being to start a conversation BEFORE you take off your clothes.

    Over 450 entrants, 500,000 engagements (shares, votes, comments).

  11. Fahad Shahab says:

    Hi Jennifer and Andy,

    I have saw some videos on Dragon fly Effect and find the idea very simple and interesting. The concept of doing social good by leveraging technology is a wonderful way. People like you must be admired and supported. Best wishes to both of you. I pray to Allah Subhanatalla to give you success in this world and eternal life.


  12. Emily says:

    Beth- I’ve been following the responses to the Gladwell article all week and feel like I have a lot more reading to do! Thanks for being such a great resource.

  13. Jane says:

    I have never heard of the Dragonfly Effect before this post(really want to read it now!), but I would say one example would be a recent campaign run by College Bound, a nonprofit in Washington DC; it is called the 11 Campaign and focuses in on the problem that 11 DC students drop out of school every day. It asks people to give $11 a month to support the program and help kids stay in school and go to college. I’m not sure what the follow through is as I just got involved with the nonprofit, but I like how they use 11 both as a problem to focus on (11 drop outs per day) and 11 as a call to action and a manageable amount for some people to give per month.

  14. Michael Q Todd says:

    Well we started the social media campaign for The Cove with a few messages on Twitter 18 months ago and it has spread to the extent that the hashtag #TheCove has been tweeted over a million times and we won the academy award without spending money on advertising and promotion.This year the international attention on the tiny Japanese town where the dolphin hunting portrayed in the movie is massive compared to last year. Success?

    I could not believe Malcolm Gladwell`s post and thought it was pretty rich for someone who does not even use Twitter to attempt to deride its power

    Love your work Beth

  15. I have not used Twitter yet but am contemplating it. The previous post receiving a million tweets is pretty amazing. I am new to the Dragonfly Effect but have been reading Malcolm Gladwell and appreciate your article.

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