Tonight I attended an event called Building a Movement in an Interconnected World, A Conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of the Acumen Fund at the Paley Center for Media. The conversation was enlightening and inspiring and definitely humbling. Here are some thoughts from the event that may be applicable to you and your organization.
Jacquelyn recently published a book called The Blue Sweater. She started writing in 1999, in the voices of the women she met in her work, but left the book when she started the Acumen Fund. She finally went back to complete her work.
The moderator Pat Mitchell, President of the Paley Center, started the conversation with historical examples of media used to foster social change
- Civil rights march – videos of protesters
- Vietnam war – TV footage helped end US involvement
- Rodney King beating – amateur video started community reaction
- Burma protest – amateur footage shot with digital cameras, blackberries, etc
- Iranian elections – use of Twitter
The last couple of examples were situations where main stream media could not go, showing the new power of community media
More discussion of media use
- In Rwanda, the local media played a role in the genocide in a destructive way as a propaganda tool. Before you could control the message through the media, or just cut off contact. The landscape of what you could control or not has changed. Now it cannot be controlled.
- Al Qaeda uses social media to mobilize.
- In Iran, we are connected to the individuals through their personal messages versus a broadcast message.
- In Pakistan, a video of women being flogged changed the conversation. You can’t hide from visuals.
- Obama is a great example of using media as a mobilizing force
Challenges with new social media
The Acumen message is complex. They experiment with packaging the message so it can go viral
- “Patient capital” – basic services through entrepreneurship and sustainable models
- Use philanthropic money and invest, high tolerance for risk, long time
- $40m investment so far – 25,000 jobs created
- Want to fundamentally change the way aid works and show financial markets to have patience
- Acumen does experiments and then creates a model to scale to other places
Acumen use of social media
- Blogs – Several years ago Acumen started a blog. Acumen Fellows also have a blog. They plan to merge the two. Online travel diary
- Video – Small video stories online
- Content – Balance between small, digestible bits and longer form content for those who want to go deeper. The world has changed become more open. Global stories more interesting to people. Acumen is an “innovation story and a business story.” New media is a way to get the voices of the people they serve to speak for themselves
- Learn by doing – Marketing the book has helped them learn. And they have Seth Godin and Chris Anderson of TED helping them.
- Research – people twitter messages they like so they use those messages in mainstream. Using the market as a listening device
- Connection – Young professionals group stays updated through social media. Leaders have to recognize they are connected to many people. Institutions (educational and others) have to determine what to teach the leaders of tomorrow.
- Sharing articles and ideas – For example, here’s an article on ambulance device we are supporting. Get feedback on others who are doing similar things
Acumen Social Media Dream
Using social media beyond describing the projects to help make structural changes (as a force against corruption) to fundamentally change the system. For example, one project, 1298 Ambulance Service was able to get a corruption case to the Supreme Court. What’s important is the story has to be real.
Acumen’s overall influence is based on telling the stories through media. They have to get the investments right first and then tell stories right.
Examples of the Acumen Fund and the power of social media
Story of Jane – Jacquelyn met Jane on a trip to Nairobi. The Acumen fund has an investment in a housing development nearby to the slum in which she lives. Jane was born in the slum and as a child, she wanted to be a doctor and to marry a good man. She was not able to go to school and her husband left her soon after the birth of her second child. To support her family, she became a prostitute but she wanted better. So she bought a sewing machine and and got into the secondary clothing business, refashioning gowns for sweet sixteens. After several years she earned enough to put a down payment on a house. She has HIV but serves the community by talking to HIV patients, “giving out hope.” TED put story the online and people from the slum comment on story online and over 150,000 people know the story now.
Book Club – One of the Acumen Fellows gave the book to someone in the slum and he wrote a review of the book. Now they have started a book club and expect to remain in contact.
After the conversation, the moderator announced a new initiative called Think Social headed by some social media heavy hitters – Jamie Daves and Toby Daniels. ThinkSocial is a platform dedicated to advancing the public interest through social media. Looking forward to hearing more from them!