Social change everywhere: From Russia with gov
“Weekly paychecks and free food!” was an excerpt from an ad that ran on Russian social media networks this summer offering full-time work for about $800 a month (the average Russian wage). Reporter Alexandra Garmazhapova of the Novaya Gazeta, a Moscow-based independent newspaper, was curious so she went undercover to investigate.
Signs reading “Administration of Bloggers and Commentators” and “Rapid Reaction Department” hung over the offices within an enormous mansion in St. Petersburg. Employees are told to comment on articles or posts “praising Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and President Vladamir Putin, abusing opposition leader Alexei Navalny and America, and defending Syria.”
If you ever doubted the power of social media, I’m sure a conversation with the Russian activists on the government payroll in this pro-Putin operation would set the record straight. While many of us wish we had an office bursting at the door jams with people working in our own Rapid Reaction Department, the reality is that we do more with less in the nonprofit sector.
Fortunately, we have experts on our side like coauthors Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward who just released Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to implement online multichannel strategies to spark advocacy, raise money and engage your community.
Kapin and Sample Ward establish beyond a doubt and with great specificity just how much the online world is changing the way we live, work and engage with our communities. Nonprofits that raise more and leverage new heights in advocacy relate with their constituents through a variety of online channels in tandem, meeting each group where it already is: on the Internet.
In the U.S., 78 percent of the population uses the Internet, according to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union or the United Nations agency for information and communication). Nonprofit leaders must embrace not just one or two online channels but launch a coordinated effort that incorporates simultaneous online platforms, mobile devices and offline efforts.
In their book, Kapin and Sample Ward encourage readers to adopt a start-up mentality when launching a multichannel effort. We asked the authors in our interview, “What are some of the behaviors you admire about startups that nonprofits should consider?” Kapin answered:
Startups prefer to fail fast and iterate. This gives them an opportunity to experiment with new ideas that they think have potential. Plus there is a lot to be learned from failing: It can lead to much better products, programs and initiatives. But in order for nonprofits to adapt this mindset, they must stop being so risk-averse and develop a plan to communicate with their funders, donors and board about learning from failure. One of the organizations we work with–Ask Big Questions at Hillel International–lists specific questions they are asking themselves about their programs, which they share with their funders. They talk about what they have learned and the exciting journey ahead of them.