ECF2011: 'Human’ is the new ‘professional'


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Imagine you're at the pub with your mates and someone says: 'Alright, who's minuting? Have we got an agenda here?'. Or you're at the dinner table with your partner and they produce a legal writ requiring you to devulge 'what you did at work today'. There's an inclination as organisations, to take many of the same approaches we have used for years in more traditional media, into the social media sphere. But the landscape has changed. And our organisations need to be able to adapt to them. If we want to inspire, enrage, or mobilise our supporters through the range of mediums available to us, we have to break down a lot of our organisation's traditional ways of doing things; making jokes on Twitter, having casual conversations, sharing stuff that others have posted (even if we didn't create it)... Our organisations very structures often get in the way of this kind of communications. What can we do to facilitate a more 'human' face to our campaigns, especially when there are serious pressures to continue with the more sterile approaches of press releases and policy briefings?

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  • Very briefly, I want to highlight the problems w/ what we call ‘professionalism’ for our online campaigns, try to understand why we keep getting stuck with it, and hopefully spark an ongoing discussion on a couple of the elements I’ve seen to be pretty critical to creating alternatives...
  • This would be a clear violation of the conventions of the space, right?As absurd as this seems, it also isn’t that far off how a lot of our organisations use social media.
  • And I think this is because we’ve got the emphasis wrong...
  • One of the most unfortunate things about social media, has been that by calling it media, we impose a whole range of old understandings to something that essentially requires us to put those understandings on hold and do some exploration.
  • I doubt I need to expand on the benefits of a smoke break, or the benefits of social media to most of us here today.
  • But because its what most of us do ‘professionally’, we can easily forget that our issues are not remotely professional to the vast majority of people we’re talking to about them... So we get back to the pub analogy again...
  • Our reputation is based on a kind of expertise that assumes we know all there is to know on a subject. This is unrealistic, and creates insecurities because most of us know that we can’t always be the most knowledgeable people on every issue related to our work.The ability to come out and say publicly ‘We have no idea if a no-fly zone in Libya is the right thing at the moment!’ or Which mirrors the same culture affecting politics, in which politicians have so little public trust, in part at least, because they pretend to know everything, even when it’s glaringly obvious that they don’t...
  • ...As a result, pull hold our hands close – we don’t want others to see that we have anything other than a royal flush at any given moment, so we pull decision back to the middle, giving fewer people a chance to legitimately impact the choices we make.
  • ...Which often isolates parts of our organisations from other people who are not in similar positions. When we end up in overly homogenous groups, we develop acronyms, shorthand, jargon... We start calling ‘conversation’ ‘dialogue, ‘stories’ become ‘case studies’, the results of our work ‘outcomes’... And we gradually make even our more informed supporters feel like idiots for not understanding what we’re talking about...
  • ...if people don’t always understand us, or feel that the language we use is too far from their own, we can give the impression of being in an ‘ivory tower’ – even if this is still a low-budget charity office. If we are communicating very differently from our beneficiaries, members or supporters, and perhaps not even giving them a chance to be involved, we are holding the power in the relationship
  • But there are 2 recurrent themes I’ve noticed.
  • Both of these things keep coming up in groups and discussions, but we never seem to have a chance to delve into them in the way we might like to. Maybe because they are often espoused, but rarely practiced.What is it that keeps trust from being practiced in your office?What leads to rigidity and treating rules and policies as absolutes, rather than guidelines?
  • Possibly worth posting anonymously by a water cooler, or in a shared kitchen space...These are aspirational ideas, but I find they can be good yardsticks to regularly check yourself up against.For those not interested working towards this approach, I highlight a Tweet that I saw the other day as I started working on this presentation....If human is the new professional, professional is the old amateur...
  • ECF2011: 'Human’ is the new ‘professional'

    1. 1. ‘human’ is the new ‘professional’<br />Dismantling ‘professionalism’ to enable people-powered change<br />@hackofalltrades<br />Liam Barrington-Bush, Concrete Solutions C.I.C. <br />
    2. 2. Image ‘Not forgotten’ used under CC license from ‘khaugli’ on Flickr<br />Imagine you’re at the pub...<br />
    3. 3. SOCIAL<br />MEDIA<br />
    4. 4. SOCIAL<br />MEDIA<br />
    5. 5. We know protocols are different for...<br />Letters<br />Phone<br />Email<br />
    6. 6. Social media is the ‘smoke break’ of organisational campaigns & communications<br />
    7. 7. Because campaigning is ‘professional’ for us, doesn’t mean it’s ‘professional’ for...<br />Our supporters<br />Our beneficiaries<br />Our donors<br />Our activists...<br />
    8. 8. The trouble with ‘professionalism’*...<br />*Besides making stock photos like this one acceptable.<br />
    9. 9. The trouble with ‘professionalism’...<br />1. The pressure to always be right<br />
    10. 10. The trouble with ‘professionalism’...<br />2. The inclination to centralise everything<br />
    11. 11. The trouble with ‘professionalism’...<br />3. Forgetting how to write as we speak<br />
    12. 12. The trouble with ‘professionalism’...<br />4. The power (imbalance) of professionalism<br />
    13. 13. So ‘professionalism’...<br />Makes it harder to build relationships<br />Increases power differences<br />Makes communication less clear<br />Leads to rigid, time-consuming processes<br />Reinforces the status quo<br />Undermines trust<br />Makes it harder to get things done<br />
    14. 14. So what does a ‘human’ e-campaign look like?<br />
    15. 15. I don’t know!<br />
    16. 16. ...But ‘trust’ and ‘flexibility’ seem pretty important...<br />
    17. 17. How human is your organisation?<br />Practices two-way, conversational communications, inside and outside its walls?<br />Supports autonomousleadership to emerge from all levels?<br />Encourages broad, open, equal involvement in organisational decisions?<br />Trusts staff totake risks and try new ways of campaigning (without reprisal)?<br />
    18. 18. Liam Barrington-Bush<br /><br /><br />@hackofalltrades<br />07775732383<br />