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June 15 2011


Five ways we're trying to build the scope of our Net2 Local community in Manchester, UK

Over the past 18 months I've been organising the Manchester Net Tuesday group.  We've had speakers, discussions and collaborations on a number of issues relevant to the non-profit sector locally, from online fundraising to search engine optimisation to activism & campaigning - a really rewarding experience.

One thing we've struggled with is how to extend our group beyond the "usual suspects" of people already involved in the non-profit technology sector.  As much as we value our collective contributions, we all recognise the need to reach out to those in the sector that *really* need to take advantage of technology, yet might be reticent to do so.

So - on the 28th June, we are holding an event that represents a few departures to our norm.  I wanted to share five tactics we've taken to try and build the attendance of this event, based on previous experiences both in #mcrn2 and beyond.  Ultimately, we are trying to extend the scope of our membership. to build a wider platform for change. 

1. A speaker from London!

This month, we have a guest speaker from The Charity Technology Trust, a TechSoup partner.  Granted, it's only two hours by train from Manchester to London, but billing the event as a "one-off" chance to hear and meet someone from an organisation not-based in the city, does provide some impetus. 

Conversely however, some of our most productive meetups have been with very locally focused topics and case studies - so this is a constant dilemma to consider.

2. The time, the place

Normally, we meet at a hackspace venue on a Tuesday evening.  This has suited the focus of the group fine, but our June event will be held during an afternoon, at a more "mainstream" venue (kindly donated by the local digital development agency).  Again, signups have been strong.  The point here is that to engage people into our group, it may often be a good tactic to reach them in their own context to begin with!  This doesn’t mean we would move away from our regular home, but it seems useful to get out and about.

3. Mailing Lists!

Blackpool attendeesI recently attended the first non-profit technology event in Blackpool (about 1 hour from Manchester).  It was similar to Net2 Local in approach and design (maybe a new member?) - but one thing struck me: the wide turnout from local non-profits and community groups.  Duncan and Lillian (the organisers) told me about the value of local email and offline mailing lists that had long been established and maintained for communications with the sector.  In other words, Twitter wasn't the answer, when the target group didn't use Twitter! As with the point of our event timing, it is all about targeting

4. Waiting Lists!

Another first was to use Eventbrite for signups, and include the function for Waiting Lists.  Recently, I missed out on the NotforProfit TweetUp in London, as I hadn't been quick enough to grab a ticket!  So, whilst not wanting to force people into a secondary market for tickets, we took the option to utilise Eventbrite in terms of administering the event - with lots of people signing up.

5. Social Media Surgeons

The final aspect we are trying is that of having a few "social media surgeons" on hand to offer one-to-one advice and support to participants, borrowing from the Social Media Surgery movement that is well established in the UK.  With our first four tactics seemingly working to engage a new audience, it will be vital that we offer some reason to come back.  A great aspect here is that some of the “usual suspects” I mentioned will be providing the surgery!

And so - there goes our five tactics for extending the scope of our community.  I'll blog again post-event and onwards, but wanted to share these actions so far. Conveniently, I've (nearly) found a word beginning with T to describe each:

  •     Topic
  •     Timing
  •     Targeting
  •     Tickets
  •     Tech Support

Ultimately, we want people to come to Manchester Net Tuesday regularly, and even add ideas and inspirations online.  Building on the foundations of the last 18 months, I'm hoping we can achieve this.

Ill stress that this is just something we are trying in Manchester, and it would be great to hear more from others.  What tactics have you taken to widen the scope of your group, if at all?  How do you engage people further? 

Post a comment here, or maybe continue the conversation via @stevieflow and @mcrn2

May 26 2011


NetSquared Local Organizer Spotlight: Camilla Burg from Paris

Every month, the NetSquared Community comes together offline at NetSquared Local events around the world to mix, swap stories and ideas, build new relationships, and collaborate to help the local community. Our local organizers are volunteers dedicated to helping create local opportunities for learning, sharing and using technology to make a difference. In this Organizer Spotlight series we bring you interviews with organizers from around the world.

We're happy to introduce: Camilla Burg!

Camilla is the lead organizer of the NetSquared Local/Wiser Tuesday group in Paris, France. You can check out her profile and ways to connect on the NetSquared Local Organizer Team page. Are you in Paris? Connect to the NetSquared group here!


Tell us who you are in less than 140 characters.

A nature--loving, community-networking aficionado and French-food worshipping yogi


How do you spend your time when you’re not organizing Wiser Tuesday events?

Other than my main job which is working on communications and outreach for WiserEarth.org (a social network for individuals, grassroots communities and organizations working on social and environmental change), I am a volunteer English teacher at a local school and I help out a nonprofit organization here in Paris called InformEthic  which is trying to build bridges between those working in the field of technology and nonprofits in France. In my spare time I practice a form of yoga called Anusara which signifies “following your heart.’


What inspired you to organize these events in your community?

It was an idea that came from a WiserEarth (WE) member who suggested that we needed to have a way of bringing local WE members together in order to share projects we are working on, to connect and exchange ideas around using technology for social change. Since we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, we felt that the NetSquared local events would be a good format for us to follow at WiserEarth. As a result, we set up a WiserTuesday gathering here in France. This was made a lot easier as we were lucky enough to be offered a meeting space by La Ruche, a collaborative workspace for social entrepreneurs in Paris. I am now helping to grow face-to-face gatherings among other ‘wiser communities’ around the world as I am truly inspired by the energy that can be created in bringing changemakers together.


What’s the hardest part of the job?

I don’t really find any of it hard as I really enjoy meeting people working in many different areas and on different projects. There is, however, a busier time which is just before and just after a gathering – that includes setting up the event and then afterwards, writing a report of what happened and sharing this with everyone. But then that’s enjoyable too.


How do you measure the success of your events?

We work on the basis that whoever comes to an event are the people who are meant to be there. Sometimes there are 10 of us and other times 40 of us. I feel that each event is special in its own right because of the people who make the effort to turn up in the first place, to share what they are doing and take part in the discussions. Success for me is when someone leaves an event with a new idea, an email address, the possibility of being able to work on someone with a project, or with a warm and fuzzy feeling that they are indeed part of a wider community working on social change.


Tell us about the best Wiser Tuesday event. What did you learn from that experience?

One of our most successful events was around the theme “Are you a good social networker?”. We started off the event with an exercise to show how powerful social networking sites can be in connecting people with similar interests. We invited participants to initially spend 5 minutes getting to know 5 other people and learning 5 interesting facts about them. We then asked them how much people remembered including date of birth, where they were born without pen or paper…  After that we asked everyone to do the same exercise but with post-its. Of course we found it a lot easier to remember everything as it had been written down. We then stuck the results on a wall and we were able to read all of them and find out who shared birthdays, similar interests etc. We used Clay Shirky’s ‘Here comes everybody’ model to demonstrate that the post-its had become the social object around which we were coalescing. We learned that it was a powerful networking exercise and a fun way to lead into our presentations and discussions that evening about using social networks for social good.


What’s the local social-web-tech scene like in Paris?

It seems to have really taken off in the 2 years since I moved here. The word ‘social innovation’ is on everyone’s lips right now.


How do you envision Wiser Tuesday events evolving over time?

I think that the Internet and specifically social media tools have really come of age over the past year, especially with the dramatic events that have been taking place in North Africa and the Middle East where social networking platforms such as Twitter and FaceBook are helping to spur democratic change. I think we will see a greater number of grassroots communities and changemakers gathering face-to-face in different parts of the world to better understand how we can effect change using social technologies and how we can work together more effectively to address the critical issues affecting our planet.


What’s your change-the-world philosophy?

"It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community – a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist teacher

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi



What else do you want to say?

Drop by to say hi to me at WiserEarth: http://www.wiserearth.org/user/Camilla or if you’re in Paris, do drop by to one of our gatherings


Learn more about NetSquared Local:

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