Perhaps there is nothing more exciting for those of us in the social media for social change world than witnessing the culmination of today’s highly anticipated Twestival. This grassroots, citizen powered approach to addressing the world water crisis is in many ways unprecedented and opens the door for an entirely new way of taking global action. With 175 events happening across the globe to benefit the nonprofit charity:water, Twestival is like an overly active petri dish brimming with learning opportunities for the nonprofit world.
Let the Twestival Begin!
by Kari Dunn Saratovsky on Thursday, February 12, 2009 - 1:49am
So where do we begin? Interestingly enough, Twestival comes to light just shortly after Porter Novelli released a survey which found that 70 percent of Americans care deeply about a number of causes, from protecting the environment to fighting poverty, and improving schools – but, less than 20 percent had done anything to better those causes in the past year. In fact, on most issues, just one in 10 Americans had put time or effort toward improving the problems they cared about. This brings me to my first question. Will events like Twestival provide a deeper connection to the world water crisis? What is the plan to engage individuals after they have enjoyed a cocktail, shared good company, and have been introduced to the important work of charity:water?
Twestival’s success is largely due to a tremendous grassroots effort which began in the U.K. just a couple of months ago. According to a very thorough post chronicling the event by Beth Kanter, there are guidelines of how the city organizer’s run the event, but it’s not a template. The Twestival organizers didn’t want to dictate what they did or how much money was raised. As my colleague Eric Johnson so aptly pointed out last week, welcome to the world of fundraising 2.0.
As an all-volunteer effort organized outside of the nonprofit’s direct management and control – is it now charity:water’s role to step back in and provide some guidance that will keep these individuals active and engaged in the long term? Is it the role of the grassroots organizers? Or will this simply be another well intentioned experiment that fails to see its full potential. My hope is that Twestival has figured out the “special sauce” for deeper ongoing engagement – and I challenge them to prove all of the naysayer’s wrong!
There’s no doubt that nonprofits and NGO’s across the country and around the globe are standing by and taking note. Twestival is a game changer in terms of its reach, its magnitude and the fact that it’s being driven entirely by volunteers. So, what should nonprofits take away from this online experiment? If anything, there will be a renewed interest and heightened awareness by nonprofits in finding the most appropriate ways to leverage their own social networking tools. It’s not enough to build a facebook fan page, or have a static twitter feed and hope that people find you. Organizations are powered by individuals and their personal relationships – and in order for real social change to take hold there needs to be a balance of these elements.
Twestival presents a unique opportunity to harness social media and effect social change, but it's important to not lose sight of the true goal - afterall, 1.1 billion people around the world don’t have clean water. I commend the Twestival organizers for bringing attention to this critical issue and look forward to taking a deeper look at the lessons the nonprofit sector can learn in most effectively deploying social media strategies in the future.