Kathryn Fink


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  • hey, i’m kathryn from meetup, the world’s largest network of groups that meet face-to-face. i’m not a govie, but i do work everyday with people changing their communities. i just want to start by introducing you to myself and to meetup’s mission.
  • this is from my HS graduation. i was your typical impassioned youth. i knew that “i was going to change things!” in college, i tried a bunch of different ways to figure out what it was exactly i wanted to change, and how i was going to do that.
  • but by the time i was in my early 20’s, the world still felt sort of the same to me, except that i was going to more punk shows. i became your typical semi-jaded youth.
  • fast forward a bit, and i found myself at this company called meetup. its entire mission is built on the premise that people are changing the world every day. i felt like a kid at the threshold of the rest of the future again.
  • so. meetup . over 9 million people have joined meetup to discover and build the communities that matter to them, in topics ranging from running...
  • to fatherhood...
  • to teaching each other how to play an instrument. on average, one of these meetups happens every 13 seconds in the world. to get us in the spirit of things, here are just a few meetups happening today.
  • when people meetup, they support each others’ businesses.
  • they go on adventures together (arlington)
  • they share agile development practices (singapore)
  • they build mobile apps together
  • they connect with their local chamber of commerce (nyc)
  • ride motorcycles together
  • these are all local groups of people coming together out of nothing but their own desire to connect and shape each others' lives. in my role at meetup, i get to meet regularly with organizers, brands, and political leaders who are genuinely excited about this power behind connected people
  • i want to share some of the lessons i’ve learned while devoting myself to community building, and how focusing on connecting people can help you in your important work as leaders in the world’s future.
  • not everyone is as jazzed on people and participation as i am. in the early 1900s, an italian guy named pareto made the obvious-statement-of-the-year by noting that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.
  • many decades later, Joseph Juran, a leader in business management, noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas, and so introduced this 80-20 principle, naming it after pareto.
  • the pareto principle states that roughly 80% of the effects in any event come from 20% of the causes. This is also summarized oh-so-charmingly as...
  • In the online world, there's a similar idea called the 1% rule. The 1% rule says that for every 100 members of your website, 90 will hang out on it, 10 will contribute to it, even minimally...
  • and only 1 of those 100 members will contribute regularly. you're probably already familiar with these ideas. but whether you call it the pareto rule or the 1% rule or "participation inequality"... it's a tough idea to accept.
  • how is it that we have so many permutations of the same sad premise that most people are either "trivial" or passive? i think there are two key things at work here...
  • it's very easy to think... i as a citizen, or i as a member of an organization, or i as myself going about my day-to-day life... i do not have the power to make change. many people feel that they have no control over the future of this nation -- the environment, business, our school system, etc. it sometimes feels like only 1% of the population is making the decisions for everyone else.
  • perception of narrative. in most cases, people are not invited to be part of the "story." whether it's a website, media, a campaign, or even our own education, we are largely expected to simply play a consumer role. this constant expectation (or lack thereof) placed upon us of course leads to a default state which is passive rather than creative. and even if/when we are asked to make a contribution, the request is often more like a solicitation than part of an ongoing dialogue or relationship.
  • AND YET! every successful people-powered movement in history has been successful precisely because they operated against those rules. they believed they were powerful and they believed that their story could only be told together.
  • this dreamboat here is marshall ganz, a theorist on community activism. he often returns to this question of, to use his words "why stories matter." central to his thinking is that social narratives only develop out of a particular kind of alchemy.
  • first, a person shifts from the story of the self or individual, to the story of “us.” only when a group of people are committed to this shared story, they can then positively impact the world around them. i imagine that many of you are in the roles you have today because you believe in the ability of “us” to change our world.
  • ganz is particularly interested in grassroots social movements. for current examples, let’s look at the arab spring or even the tea party. very disparate phenomena, yes, and yet there are some similarities that are somewhat interesting. - neither have a centralized leader or organizing power. - in fact, both movements take pride in the fact that they are decentralized - both have created far reaching consequences that are shaking up not only the "vital few" in their positions of power, this amorphous "they" are inspiring other "theys" to crop up.
  • i'm not suggesting these are twin movements by any means, but both share the same core: connection. now, there's actually a little known fact about the meetup platform...
  • meetup is a widely used tool of the tea party movement. there are almost 700 Groups and nearly 100,000 people that call themselves part of the Tea Party on Meetup.
  • despite having developed their own distinct identities and goals at a local level, they are all driven by their shared narrative. the undeniable presence of the tea party has emerged not out of a vital few with a megaphone, but the roar of the many, together.
  • social change driven by communities of people not only happens at a massive scale, but at the neighborhood level as well. meetup groups provide an important way for people to find their kin and strengthen local bonds, but even groups that don’t consider themselves advocacy or activist groups often impact their towns in surprising ways.
  • the new york beekeeping meetup group assisted the beekeeping association and just food to push the city to finally legalize urban beekeeping.
  • i saw this just yesterday in the news... the navarre, fl Runners and Walkers Meetup group was concerned about the condition of their local beach’s bike path. armed with photos of the track that the group’s members took, they successfully appealed to the local Public Works Department for improvements.
  • there are even meetup groups that eventually become 501(c)(3) non profits! ...now, how can what i’ve shared tie directly into your work? i’ve given 2 ex. now of gov agencies collaborating with meetup groups at a local level. i bet you can find a meetup group out there that would love your help and prove incredibly helpful in return.
  • that said, if you’re operating at a scale where it doesn’t make sense to reach out to all the relevant local meetup groups -- and, more specifically, if you already have your own engaged community -- consider calling on them to self-organize around a meetup day. mashable, etsy, foursquare, and oprah are just some of the brands who have enabled thousands of their followers to DIY their own meetups using our open meetup everywhere platform. even the first lady’s ‘let’s move’ campaign experimented with that approach. (apps.gov)
  • i’ve been framing this presentation in the context of meetup, but whether you leverage meetup groups, meetup everywhere, or something completely un-meetup related, i only care that you have a genuine drive to empower people instead of harness people. so let me go back to our slightly wider lens.
  • a lot of people have done a lot of thinking about how government agencies can communicate with and activate citizens. often even more challenging is finding effective ways for citizens to communicate with the government to convey their needs and wishes.
  • in either case, it seems that things too often degenerate into people talking at each other instead of collaborating, too often become more like the 20% asking a favor or making demands of the 80% instead of everyone helping each other out.
  • even if the end goal is designed to benefit the people you're working with, if everyone doesn't already feel connected before there's even a need for action, we're missing a huge opportunity.
  • you have joined the leagues in government at such an exciting time, when you have more tools than ever before to CONNECT CITIZENS WITH EACH OTHER -- whether it’s helping to make those connections happen, or even better, leveraging and supporting the vibrant communities that already exist
  • when you connect citizens to citizens = you open up a world of infinite scalability and infinite potential for everyone. (by scott heiferman)
  • there’s already incredible and inspiring work being done by people in government who not only "get it" but want to "get it done." people like steve from govloop.
  • and i'm most excited about what you're going to do.
  • i don't work in government, but from what i've gathered, some of you might feel like you are part of the 'trivial many' at times. but to me, and the other speakers at the summit, and even to the people who don't know all of you yet......
  • you are the vital few. and it seems like there are some awesome questions ahead of you. what is the shared narrative you’re a part of? how are you connecting people? and before you even get there, how are you going to stay connected to each other? how will you power each others' work? find 5 ppl that you’ll stay in touch with
  • you know, later in life, juran amended that 80-20 principle. instead of talking about "the vital few and the trivial many" he emphasized "the vital few and the useful many"
  • as a u.s. citizen who has no hope of getting into government work (i sort of glossed over that whole jaded undergrad phase of my life, but just take my word for it that the government would never have me) please, don't think of "the vital few and the trivial many" or even "the vital few and the useful many"
  • ...think of "the vital few and the vital many"
  • everyone is vital when everyone is connected, and this is more possible now than ever before.
  • Kathryn Fink

    1. 1. the 100% rule @kathrynfink Community Development Lead Meetup
    2. 18. 80% of the effects in any event come from 20% of the causes
    3. 19. The Vital Few & The Trivial Many
    4. 20. 100 members 90 lurkers 10 contributors
    5. 21. 100 members 90 lurkers 10 contributors 1 champ
    6. 23. perception of powerlessness
    7. 24. perception of narrative
    8. 25. And yet!
    9. 27. commitment
    10. 29. connection
    11. 32. neighborhood
    12. 37. empower
    13. 39. collaboration
    14. 40. opportunity
    18. 51. stay connected @kathrynfink