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Posts Tagged ‘service movement’

Right now there is an international dialogue going on online about service as a solution to challenges around the world.  This dialogue is hosted by IBM and it is called Service Jam.

The discussion platform that IBM provides is very intuitive and powerful.  You can move easily between following discussion threads as they unfold, to looking at themes emerging (in a tag cloud) and then clicking on a particular theme to see where the conversations around that theme are taking place.  In addition, you can choose to follow individual participants or to follow individual posts.  The site includes a page that acts as a personal dashboard in which your own contributions, as well as those you have chosen to follow, are organized.

So far, since the Jam started Sunday morning, there have been over 3,000 posts from over 8,000 people logging in.  Now what really surprised me was that I actually know several of the most active “jammers”.  One of the most prolific participants so far is Andrew Levy, who runs a blog about Citizen Corps and lives nearby.  Another jammer who has been featured on the “Hot Ideas” page almost the entire time, is Jessica Kirkwood, who runs the HandsOn Blog and handles social media for HandsOn Network.  Out of 8,000 participants from around the world, several of the ones who I am running into in the Jam are people who are already in my social network.  How does that happen?

One lesson in this example is that in a platform such as an online discussion forum, content matters.  Andrew and Jessica were both featured throughout the site because they were actively contributing new ideas and coming up with great questions to spark discussion.  In fact, when former President George H.W. Bush came into the room (online), who did he end up conversing with?  Andrew Levy.

These new ways of hosting dialogue allow different voices to be heard.  The former President’s posts get pulled up beside those of citizen leaders, because they are both contributing relevant experience and great questions for discussion.  I think this is a great example of how new technology can change the way we host the conversation.  What do you think?

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Back to follow up from the National Conference on Volunteering and Service for a moment….

Besides the professional volunteer managers and national service members, there were for profit companies and celebrities at the conference.  As the service movement gains popularity, and volunteering is seen as cool, many companies and brands are looking to partner.  Last fall, the Entertainment Industry Foundation worked with individual celebrities as well as TV producers to promote service through their programming and PSAs.  In most cases these partnerships are win-win.  The celebrity or company gets good PR and the organization has greater visibility and may receive donations, volunteers, or free marketing.

At one of the first sessions that I went to, CauseCast showed this video from Ben Stiller:

This video and the type of civic activism that it represents is seen as a win for the service movement.  This model rests on the following assumptions:

Assumption: celebrities will be perceived as more trustworthy than the average joe and therefore a better spokesperson for your cause

Assumption: having a celebrity promote your cause will help your cause

Discussion / Reflection Questions:

Are those assumptions always correct?

Is Ben Stiller a volunteer leader?

Most volunteer policies say that you can not volunteer to do the same work that you do for pay.  For instance, a County social worker can not volunteer to screen homeless clients.  Ben Stiller is an actor and he is now acting on behalf of a cause.  Is he being paid?  By whom?

If he is not compensated are there labor law considerations?

Can you be paid or receiving material benefit and still be a volunteer leader?

Is the definition of volunteer leadership more about your actions, or about your intentions?

Is the concept of “being” the same as intentions?

Do celebrities who are promoting causes while also promoting their own brand muddy the waters of volunteerism or is this a great innovation in the social sector that changes the paradigm of giving?

That’s a lot of questions I know, but I have far more questions when it comes to this model of volunteer leadership than I have answers.  I would appreciate your insight or suggestions for other reading on this topic.

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