Reflections from Networked Nonprofit Workshop for 300 People | Beth’s Blog

Reflections from Networked Nonprofit Workshop for 300 People

Training Design

View more presentations from Beth Kanter.

Chip Conley was the keynote speaker at last week’s Craigslist Foundation Bootcamp and one thing that he said that has been stuck in my head is:  “You can have a job, a career, or calling”    The latter, a calling,  is when you can tap into an internal motivation that fuels and inspires you.    It resonated.  I feel that my technology training for nonprofits work is more like a calling for me than simply a job or career.   For the past 15 years, I have been excited about nonprofit technology training design and delivery and it is what I will continue to focus over the coming years.

This week I lead a full-day workshop for 300 nonprofits and foundations on social media strategy and tactics.   The workshop was presented by the Colorado Association of Funders and the Colorado Nonprofit Association and sponsored by Gill FoundationGay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, The Colorado Health Foundation, and The Colorado Trust.

The day was designed as a one-day  interactive strategy session in the morning and intensive mini-workshops on tools and tactics in the afternoon  lead by a cadre of local social media specialists and experts.   The morning had two segments, beginning with content and small group exercises on several themes from the Networked Nonprofit including culture change, transparency, and simplicity.    Geoff Livingston did a great job at live blogging the first section in the morning.

The second part of the morning was designed around the Principles of Social Media Strategy and used a new version of the Social Media Game intended for a large group of people.   The afternoon featured six mini-workshops that drilled down in the use of the tools such as Facebook, Blogging, Storytelling, Listening, Twitter, and Social Media 101.  (The Colorado Trust blog has notes here.)

Some Reflections


Balancing Learning Through Content Delivery and Sharing Experience

I’ve constantly stretching myself to learn new techniques that help nonprofits embrace and effectively put social media strategies and tools into practice as well as address the change management issues of becoming a Networked Nonprofit.   It isn’t about content, although that is important.  What I’m most excited about is “networked learning” – it is part peer learning, part content-delivery, and another part engaging people in the room and not in the room in conversation through the use of social media.

The stretching part for me with this workshop was how to do you design for small group conversations and then full group sharing with 300 people in the room?    You offer some ideas, concepts, and good conversation starters.    The video above shows the whole room discussing an important Networked Nonprofit concept, simplicity (focus on what you do best and network the rest.)

From Conversational Keynote To Conversational Workshop

I’ve been playing with the conversational panel or conversational keynote models for short sessions (60, 75 or 90 minutes.)  I started experimenting with these concepts back in 2008 at SXSW session on Nonprofit ROI and SXSW Session on Nonprofit Crowdsourcing as well as at the NTC in 2009 on a session mapping metrics to strategy.   I’ve using the technique to deliver conversational keynotes at conferences.

A conversational approach is not an expert or a group of experts talking the whole time.  Nor is it a 40 minute expert presentation or a series of expert presentations on a panel followed by Q/A.    That is the “Sage on the Stage” model.   A conversational panel or keynote does some blending of learning modalities – it includes some content-delivery and structured small group and full group conversations.    There is a lead facilitator – in the panel or keynote model – it’s the Oprah with the mic.

My design question:  What is the best way to use this approach for a full-day workshop for 300 people?

With shorter sessions with half as many people and a decent room layout, you can run the mic yourself.   The biggest challenge for me was scaling with mic runners.    I had mic runners stationed at different quadrants of the room who would go to the person who wanted to speak.    It was hard to get people as engaged as a full group after the table discussions.  I’m not sure if this was just the way it is,  stage fright to report out to a large group that included funders, or perhaps it needed another method than mic runners (fixed mics stationed around the room?)

Social Media Game: Scaling Small Group Learning Exercises

The second part of the morning included a brief presentation about the principles of social media strategy based on what I’ve been teaching for the past 5 years.   Geoff Livingston did a great live blog post on the content.

The interaction component was a new version of the Social Media Game that I first used in 2007 with David Wilcox.    The largest group I ever worked with was with the Meyer Memorial Trust in Portland for 150 nonprofits and with Compasspoint for a 100 organizations.  I’ve done many, many reiterations of the cards, the game design, the learning objectives, the composition of the small groups, modalities (peer assist versus simulation), etc.

The Environmental Defense Fund has used the game for an internal training for 300 people.   I applied the lessons learned from that to the challenge was scaling this for 300 people from different organizations in a way that helped experience a strategy brainstorm and help them make choices about the tool/tactical sessions later in the day.

When I’ve used this curriculum, I listen to the conversations at the tables to see if people are engaged, stuck, or have questions.    It is hard for one person to do that with 300 people and 30 tables, but the experience has given me some great ideas on how to scale that.   Also, there is the perennial issue around expertise groupings — the tension between mixed levels and like cohort groups.   I’ve experimented both ways and have come to the conclusion that you cannot please everyone.

Refining Real-Time Networked Learning

Real-Time networked learning is incorporating social media into your instruction – before, during, and after.   You can learn more from my “Social Media For Trainers” presentations and wiki.    Our hashtag #ztrain generated 567 tweets from 126 people -the majority were in the room.    The priority was to use social media to enhance the experience of people in the room, although not everyone views using live tweeting as a benefit to the conversational process or learning.

Hashtag Stats

What the Hashtag is a simple tool for aggregating tweets into a transcript and some simple stats, but after experiencing Marc Meyerand Jason Breed‘s Hashtag Social Media Chat and their tool that aggregates tweets, I need to do some re-thinking.

My Zoetica colleague, Kami Huyse, suggested a tool called rowfeeder.   It has a lot of features, but most importantly it grabs hashtags or keywords from Twitter (and Facebook) and dumps into a google doc spreadsheet with other data points.   It’s free but you can purchase additional data for reasonable amounts (for example you can get Klout Scores).

The best thing about having a transcript like this it allowed me to do a pattern analysis and learning assessment of the  tweets.    This will help improve the networked learning design for next time.   Some analysis questions:

  • What points were the participants in the room tweeting?   How did that relate to the learning objectives?
  • What is the form of the Tweets as related to Bloom’s Taxonomy?
  • Were there conversations taking place between Twitter users that extended the learning or were people mostly parallel online note taking?
  • Were people not in the room engaged in any of the conversation beyond retweeting?

What Powers Learning:  Sharing Experiences and Stories With Peers

I am a big believer that people can learn as much from the peers in the room as the “expert on the stage.”    As an instructor, if you go in with the idea that you will be “filling people with knowledge” you don’t let the most valuable form of learning emerge – sharing the wisdom that comes from experience.  (The Colorado Funders Association is doing this on its blog about philanthropy stories. )  The fun part of instructional design is embedding opportunities for this to happen.

Whenever I teach workshops, I also like to collect stories from participants and add them to the materials.    I taught a breakout session called “Actionable Listening and Engaging Techniques.”    One of the topics we looked at was the issue of how to respond appropriately to negative comments and trolls.    Samantha Horoschak from the Gathering Place (an agency that servces homeless women) shared their experience dealing with a troll on Facebook, illustrating best practices when the troll is not some random stranger.

On this two minute video, Dan Hanley, Director of Development, Boulder County Aids Project, talks about how Twitter is a useful tool in his fundraising work primarily for Twitter’s ability to connect and develop relationships with new donors.

Lisa Harris from Colorado Health Care Foundation and Kindle Morell from Colorado Health Institute shared how they have formed an informal social media peer group of people from different health care organizations in the Denver area. They meet for breakfast and do not have a formal agenda – they discuss areas of practice, including working as change agents inside and outside of their organizations.

The Challenge of Transfer

One-day or half-workshops are only one touch point.  They are good for getting a large group of people of to speed.  But the real learning comes happens by putting something learned (an idea, a method, a tip, or technique) into daily practice.    That is what guided the design of my “Social Media Lab” that continues the peer learning while getting past the challenge of transfer.

That is one reason why I always incorporate a reflection at the end that helps participates identify one small action step.  I ask participants to share on an index card as part of a raffle for my book.   The information is also valuable for improving the learning design.    In addition to the concrete technical and tactical action steps (e.g.  set up a listening post), here some additional action steps that indicate the learning from the day will be taken back to others in the organization:

  • Bring learnings from the day back to my team as soon as possible
  • Sit down with my executive director to discuss a process for a social media policy
  • Have a social media strategy brainstorm with staff
  • Clarifying exactly what we want to accomplish with social media and the audience
  • Sharing what I learned from my colleagues at the workshop with staff

I can only echo the tweet above:  Thank you so much for everything I learned and meeting great people.




4 Responses

  1. Lisa Harris says:

    Thank you Beth for sharing your thoughts and reflections about the Colorado training. It’s clear the level of attention and thoughtfulness that you give to each and every training session and it was so nice for you to step us through your own reflective process.

    I left the day feeling energized, jazzed and full of ideas for our social media plan’s next steps. Also, I was especially moved by the breadth of stories that were collected in that room. I shared a table with several of my organization’s grantee partners and heard powerful stories that can be told through social media, whether a story about a new doctor’s journey with their patients or a nurse’s travels through underserved areas of our state. Those stories resonate so deeply and using social media to tell those stories was a take away for everyone at our table.

    Thanks again to you, Geoff and all the event sponsors for a special day of learning for us all.

    Lisa Harris
    Communications Manager for Web and New Media
    The Colorado Health Foundation

  2. Ian Wilker says:

    Ooftah, what a massively informative post! Thanks Beth.

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