Category Archives: Not For Profit / NGOs

Rebooting the association

While media budgets are squeezed still further as we trudge onward under the cloud of recession, trillionesque debt and the massive public spending cuts gathering on the horizon, the focus on social media ROI grows ever sharper, but less energy is expended looking at the benefits that focused online communities can bring to businesses.

Communities for not-for-profits and membership bodies have a slightly different flavour to those developed for commercial entities. While commercial brands answer to shareholders or private owners, NFPs and membership bodies exist for the benefit of their constituents. There is already a genuine, real-world community or shared interest in place – just as there isn’t (really) between me and say, Sainsbury’s – so a digital community is a natural fit.

But that doesn’t mean it’s any simpler, nor is the transition to deeper member or supporter engagement any less challenging for the organising bodies than a renewed focus on customer engagement is for businesses. There is a lot of overlap. An event I attended at the Law Society on 6th October, “Surviving in a Recession – What Member Organisations can Learn from the Commercial World” addressed the challenges and opportunities in this area.

One of the things I liked about it was the way it set online communities in a longer timeframe than we’re used to talking about. Many membership bodies have been around for 50-200 years. Most started out when enthusiastic and committed people come together informally – usually in a bar room, hotel or coffee house – to improve and professionalise emerging crafts and knowledge.

Fast forward to now, and these bodies occupy grand buildings, wield influence with governments and business, and provide letters after your name. But are they achieving their original aims? How close are they to their members today, and how can a geographically dispersed membership benefit from the knowledge and experience of their fellow members and the wider interested audience? In other words, can we re-boot the association?

The event was co-hosted by Sift – who are the technology and consultancy supplier for CIMAsphere, the online community I manage – and Madgex. Rather than reading a re-cap of the discussion, you can watch the presentations from two of the speakers that morning.

First up is Adam Cranfield, my former colleague, who was at the time Digital Media Manager at CIMA.

The second presentation is from Lawrence Clarke, Head of Consultancy at Sift. Sadly you can’t see his slides in the video, nor Adam’s in his. But the stand-out points for me were Lawrence’s thoughts on the tendency of subscription-based associations to rely on inertia and top-down, one-to-many communications, and how that is being undermined by the connectedness and transparency the web brings on the one hand, and recessionary pressures on the other.

That talk is a companion piece to this post Lawrence wrote a month earlier on the Sift blog. Highly recommended.


Round up of my NMK events

While at NMK as Editor, I gradually (and unexpectedly) became the developer and organiser of many of its regular events.

NMK (New Media Knowledge)As NMK is a publicly-funded organisation that exists for the benefit of the digital media industries, in order to fulfil its accessibility remit, reports of these events (and conferences) were also produced by me and posted on the website.

I hope these reports have been, and to some extent continue to be, useful for practitioners, researchers and students of digital media.

They’re also historical records of a group of very interesting discussions and debates that happened at a time when the UK digital economy finally emerged from the long, nuclear winter of the first dotcom crash.

The reports are linked to at the end of every event page listed below, with the following exceptions…

Reports for Beers & Innovation numbers 5 and 6 (+) are available here on my blog. There is no report for Beers & Innovation 4 but part of the event was captured on this video by Ian Forrester of BBC Backstage and others have blogged about it.


Charities: Making Digital Gains – 26th May 2005

Blogging: A Real Conversation? – 28th June 2005

New Directions In Search – 8th September 2005

User Content: The Real Deal? – 8th November 2005

Beers & Innovation 2: User Generated Content – 30th March 2006

Beers & Innovation 3: Mash Ups & Web Services – 27th April 2006

Beers & Innovation 4: RSS Frontiers – 12th September 2006

Beers & Innovation 5: Aggregators & Upsetters – 17th October 2006

Beers & Innovation 6: Social By Design – 14th November 2006

Beers & Innovation 7: Do Agencies Innovate? – 30th January 2007
(with input from Zoe Black)


In The City Interactive – 7th June 2005
(also had conference steering committee input)

Rethinking Digital Branding – 10th October 2005

Beers & Innovation 1: UK Start Up Culture – 9th February 2006
(with thanks to James Governor and Tom Coates)

Content 2.0 – conference 6th June 2006
Content 2.0 website
(also had conference steering committee input)

In The City – Manchester music industry conference, 30 Sept-2nd Oct 2005
(co-programmed 3 digital panels and a keynote)

In the City 2005: mPod The New iPod?

In The City 2005: Digital Creativity & A&R (Ralph Simon keynote)

In the City 2005: Tomorrow People

In the City 2005: The Digital High St


New Directions In Mobile – 3rd October 2006


During my time at NMK (Dec 2004 – Oct 2006) we also held many further events that I wasn’t involved in developmentally, but I helped market and promote them via editorial, social media platforms, attending external events and general outreach to the UK scene and beyond.

I’m listing them here as much for my own reference as anybody else’s

[NB. Some internal links within the pages above are broken as the NMK website has been redesigned since I left and the URL structure was changed, ie. persistent URLs were not maintained]

Jobs at NMK

My former employer NMK – based at the University of Westminster – has three roles available all at once.

They are currently seeking:

A Web Editor

A Community Manager

A Product & PR Manager

The closing date for submitting applications is 10th November 2006.

New media awards with social impact

It's a relief to know that (sometimes) there's more to awards ceremonies than glitz and revenue-driven one-upmanship.

The good people who recently brought us cyberpunk legend and net activist Bruce Sterling uncut in a pub in Belgravia (with podcast) are also running an awards event which you can nominate in – but this Wednesday 31st May is the deadline for nominations!

I'm talking about the New Statesman New Media Awards, and if you're quick you could still nip in there and make a nomination.

Innovation, usability & efficiency

According to their site:

"The theme of this year's awards is The Power of Ideas – with a special emphasis on innovation, usability and efficiency. New media can have a positive effect by pushing boundaries and making information widely accessible.

"We are seeking nominations for any UK digital, web or mobile technology project that is creating positive change. It’s free to nominate and you can nominate as many projects as you like! Simply fill out our short, online nomination form."

"The New Media Awards celebrate those UK new media projects that benefit society, government or democracy."

The nominations so far are pretty interesting, but maybe you have something to add…

Beers & Innovation @ Content 2.0

Beers & Innovation is having it's next outing as part of the Content 2.0 conference on 6th June 2006.

This time, Anthony H. Wilson will be taking on chairing duties for the night. Anthony who?

Well, it's the same Tony Wilson who set up Factory Records (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays…) and who is the co-founder of the UK's annual music conference and convention In The City. He was seen most recently playing himself in the film adaptation of Tristram Shandy directed by Michael Winterbottom – A Cock & Bull Story.

Joining him will be Stephanie Newman from Amnesty International. The human rights campaigning organisation launched a music-led global campaign Make Some Noise in December 2005.

User-created content & human rights activism

Having been granted exclusive rights by Yoko Ono to a number of classic John Lennon tracks, Amnesty have collaborated with a number of international artists – including Snow Patrol, Black-Eyed Peas, and The Cure – to re-record the songs for sale with all profits going to Make Some Noise

Amnesty are now looking to integrate user-generated content into the campaign and Stephanie will be talking to Tony about this new approach.

Entry is included in ticket price for Content 2.0.

The daytime schedule runs to 5pm at the RSA, while Beers & Innovation @ Content 2.0 kicks-off 10 minutes walk down the road in the airy surroundings of Albannach, 66 Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DS at 5.30pm.

The event will run 17.30 – 19.15, with the chance, as per usual, to stay on for further drinks and mingling afterwards.

For more details check out the full conference programme

Can you podcast Beers & Innovation?

As you might have guessed by now, we're lightweight tech-wise at NMK. Oh the irony…

So do you fancy podcasting this Thursday's Beers & Innovation on Web Services & Mash Ups?

What are we offering in return? Well, as it's a trial, we're offering free admission to the event and free beers afterwards. Not bad when you think of the fab speakers we've got, and the 38 totally fab people who've booked so far!

NMK is a not-for-profit enterprise and doesn't make any money from the Beers & Innovation nights – the cover price covers the cost of complimentary drinks on the night.

So if you're a podcaster who's up for an interesting evening, drop me a line (listed under Editor here). Thanks in advance!

Web 2.0 marketing = Pinko Marketing?

Tara Hunt – marketing/community gal at Riya – is giving a talk on 'Pinko Marketing' [evolving here] to an audience of not-for-profit organisations this evening at Net Tuesdays.

Wish I could go, but Net Tuesdays is held in San Francisco 😦

The night is run by Net Squared, who I first encountered at SXSW Interactive last month when I ran into Billy Bicket, their Knowledge Services Director of Strategic Development at the Odeo/AdaptivePath/Consumating party.

We got chatting and I was rather excited when Billy explained what Net Squared do – they use Web 2.0 technologies to empower the growth and impact of non-profits.

Their slogan is: "remixing the web for social change". Nifty.

How can UK not-for-profits synch with Web 2.0?

Five minutes into our confab, I was quite literally drooling and trying to not to yell loudly across the ocean "come on, can I get me some of that already, oh pretty please??"

Why? Because NMK is a not-for-profit case in point. Our website was developed externally some time ago, and we have limited budget (and time) to augment it. But we exist purely as a resource for the broad digital community, so we can't rest on dated laurels.

Hence (partly) this free blog (thanks Matt!). And hence having to have a seperate website for our upcoming conference – Content 2.0 – so we could incorprate blogs, RSS and podcasting.

We have no technical person on the team, so it's left to yours truly to patch over the cracks, handle the multiple sites and blogs and do a lot of apologetic explaining.

Don't keep it all to yourself now…

But plenty more not-for-profits need next-generation technology tools and support way more than we do, and far more urgently.

Anyone out there heard of anything like this in UK or Europe, or have any useful thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or even resources and a will to make something happen?

[NB. NetSquared are also holding a big conference in San Jose from 30-31 May – worth keeping an eye on.]