One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for February 2013

The Common Sense Guide To Social Media Networking

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One of the many challenges I’m facing as I’m networking for full time or freelance work – especially in the Chicago social good/non-profit sphere – is how many of my colleagues seem to have minimal (if any) awareness of how to network appropriately, especially via social media.

As I’ve discussed via another Chicago Now blog, my networking style online and offline is based more on relationship-building and developing contacts than it is on attracting a crowd of followers or simply “being wonderful”. Granted, I work in a field with many competitors, but I thought that I would, for this week’s post, share some of my insights and recommendations. At the very least, it may help all of us agents of the social good engage online more effectively.

So for non-profits and other social change agents, here are some thoughts and guidelines for making your networking via social media more effective – and more rewarding:

  • Know Your Channels: I have heard many people discuss how “consultants” had encouraged them to adopt any and all social media channels in an effort to “stay current.” For many non-profits, this means adding extensive engagement to an already full schedule. Different channels have different strengths, and knowing these strengths – as well as your organization’s overall goals/reason for engagement and where your key supporters are talking – will mean less work and a greater chance of success.
  • Never Trust Anyone Who Hasn’t Read The Tipping
    As per another blog post, many consultants often refer to themselves as “mavens”, “connectors” in the same breath as say, “social media ninjas/gurus/experts.” A good rule of thumb is to ask where they learned such terminology, and (of course) reading The Tipping Point to understand some of the basics – the book’s not just about people, but about messages and
    trends. (It’s also a really good book, and worth reading).
  • Treat Everyone With Value – Social media is a two-way communications channel, but many treat it as a broadcast channel. In my recent experience, I have had one person suggest that because of the number of my ‘followers’ on a given channel, I would be a great asset. In another, a request to a new contact for guidance and contacts led to some general sounding advice….and several e-mails encouraging me to attend his free social media seminars. Reciprocity is the name of the game when networking, and being able to provide value to your contacts often helps in social media networking. Or, in other words…
  • Helping Others Won’t Hurt You – many times, several of us encounter contacts who are “tired of having their brains picked” or who are selective in who they assist. As agents of social change, this is…well, somewhat selfish. Wanting down time is one thing, but sharing contacts only brings benefits further down the line, and again – in networking and relationship building, reciprocity is the name of the game. However…
  • It’s OK To Say No If You Can’t Help – Thankfully, people are helpful when I ask for key contacts at non-profits or other agencies, but or a few who can’t, I often end up with notes encouraging me to visit Although it is a great site to visit for job leads, when it comes to tapping into social networks….it’s sometimes much easier to say “I can’t help you” – and provide a way you can help – than simply forwarding a well-used and utilized resource

We’re living in a time when professional development is increasingly dependent on tapping into professional and personal networks – and social media allows for one method of access. Many non-profits and social change agents receive consul on how to get started on social media, but little insight into the mechanics of networking. Thankfully, there are no hard-and-fast rules, just guiding principles, allowing for some improvisation….but understanding those principles can help move people and organizations forward, moving them beyond simply posting updates towards building communities.

Thanks again for reading – if you have comments or questions, you are more than welcome to leave them below, or you can contact me privately via Linked In or my web site’s contact page.


Written by gordondym

February 18, 2013 at 8:54 am

Living A Mission-Driven Lifestyle

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C Now - Workstation 02Increasingly, even though I blog about “tech” and “the social good” in Chicago, I’m surprised at how becoming an agent of the social good and leading a mission-driven life is becoming the “in” thing…both in terms of personal as well as business goals.

A new state task force (FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a volunteer on their Outreach Committee) is focusing on highlighting social ventures and entrepreneurs who focus on making social benefit their bottom line. More frequently articles such as this one appear which focus on how one can work for socially-minded causes and “keep their day job”. (A special thanks to this Twitter user for forwarding this article). It seems that many are shifting their thinking of moving beyond the obvious commercial aspects.

And yet, I have to admit – there’s a bit of skepticism about this, especially when announces college fields with little return on investment….and many of those fields (like psychology and education) are specifically focused on the social good. It seems perfectly fitting for private business to adopt social causes, but individuals dedicating their lives and careers to these fields? It seems like a futile endeavour, and for those with degrees in fields with little ROI (like myself), it seems like our efforts may have been misplaced.

But something to consider – in Chicago, given our size, diversity, and plethora of resources, we need to see social benefit and working towards a mission as less of an add-on….and more of a lifestyle. Many will debate whether private businesses are more effective than non-profits, or whether small community groups can be more
effective than large organizations, but ultimately, being more community and collaboration-minded is less about competition and more about cooperation. That taking on missions and driving social benefit is, in and of itself, a noble cause, and that it does not matter who is making the effort, but that an effort is being made.

Today’s blog post is less about making a grand statement and more about stimulating thought and conversation. Do we really want social change, or do some take on the lingo without adopting the mission? Are non-profits the most effective agent of social change? Are private businesses an effective agent of driving mission-based
work? Or are we wringing our hands over nothing, and need to start working with each other regardless of what we do?

I would like to hear what you think (even if it’s “what did you just say?”) – please feel free to leave your reactions below. In addition, you are more than welcome to reach out to me privately via Linked In (please mention Chicago Now in your note) or my web site’s contact page. And as always, thanks for reading – and sharing.

Written by gordondym

February 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Book Review: Who Says Social Benefit Is Only A MAN’S WORLD?

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C Now - Man's World Review

Agents of social change – whether they work for non-profits, social ventures, or other organizations – face similar challenges in handling the professional landscape. From office politics to supervising others, it would be easy to mistake the more humanistic tone of social change efforts as “warm and fuzzy”; to survive, one needs to be “smart and sensitive”.

Thankfully, Emily Bennington’s Who Says It’s A Man’s World? is a great, easy-to-understand guide to navigating the office. Granted, its focus and emphasis are a little different – the book’s subtitle is The Girl’s Guide to Corporate Domination – but between the covers are a sharp, intelligently written guide to navigating professional waters.

It’s a great companion piece to The Mission Myth, which spoke about the need for a more business-style approach to running a non-profit. Unlike Mission Myth, Who Says It’s A Man’s World? is not geared specifically for non-profits, but its common sense, down-to-earth approach makes it easily accessible for those willing to improve how they handle themselves when taking on critical work that reflects personal values.

Thankfully, Bennington dedicates a significant portion of her book to assisting the reader in sharply defining their personal values. In a field of business books that focus mostly on leadership as a solid, goal-directed trait, it is refreshing to read an approach that would easily fit a more person and value-centered arena like non-profits or social ventures. Man’s World makes some excellent points, and is a great resource for professionals of either gender.

To sum up, Emily Bennington’s Who Says It’s A Man’s World? may sound like a very basic leadership tome for a specific gender….but it’s a surprisingly fresh, frank approach that many who work towards social benefits should read, providing insight and concrete examples of methods for handling even the most difficult of professional situations.

In short, I highly recommend this book.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. In  addition, you are more than welcome to contact me privately either via Linked
or my web site’s contact page.

Thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

February 7, 2013 at 10:34 am