Fueling the spark: Room to improve as social media helps grow Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Fueling the spark: Room to improve as social media helps grow Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Posted on July 10, 2012 by The Patterson Foundation

Movements are exciting and contagious - especially during a public kick off. Banners, applause, handshakes and pats on the back abound. But the reality is that hard work started long before the pep-rally cheers and the rooms bursting with palpable energy. While it took lots of hard work to get to the point of a public kick off, it is likely the most challenging work is yet to come.

Starting a movement begins with a glimmer of passion that turns into long hours, conversations around kitchen tables and flurries of texts, emails webinars, Skype sessions -- you name it.

As the spark grows more vibrant, movements like the Campaign for Grade- Level Reading begin to take on momentum of their own. But the question is this: Now that the campaign is here and tangible, how does it keep going...and growing?

In the digital age, social media can help scale and build excitement around a movement faster than ever. In fact, I - along with Sam Stern - had a great time presenting a session on this topic to a packed room of Grade-Level Reading leaders and enthusiasts.

Here are takeaways for continuing the momentum and further strengthening the bonds among the 124 communities across the country dedicated to closing the grade-level reading proficiency gap among low-income children and their peers.

1) Cultivating an online community

Understatement of the century alert: With 124 communities and counting participating in the campaign, not making an effort to stay connected would be a huge missed opportunity. Think of the collective wisdom of the group - from building support on a policy level to sharing better practices around childhood literacy.

Ning Community - From what I hear, this internal forum for the GLR group is pretty active. Now may be the time to take it to the next level, examining the platform used for the online community as well as the human capital needed to keep cultivating a meaningful, internal online learning and collaboration community.

Tip: Internal learning is great but so is involving entities beyond the usual suspects. How about monthly Twitter chats around themes of interest to bring more diverse expertise and opinions into the conversation?

2) Network-wide digital literacy

At a conference of more than 600 people, there were a bit more than 500-700 tweets in four days (you can see some stats here). While it's certainly a step in the right direction, that's a baseline that's expected to improve for subsequent conferences and chats.

There was a great comment from a participant during our session  - While everyone had a chuckle as Ralph Smith joked about Twitter hashtags during the conference, there really is no excuse for leaders at all levels to not know how digital tools can help move this movement into the future.

Tip: Make an effort to educate leadership about the benefits of social media as part of a communications strategy. 

3) Marrying online with offline

In-person conferences and community meetings are wonderful ways to take the pulse of your various communities - from politicians to parents. Are you using the right messaging? Are they connecting emotionally with this campaign?

Tip: Marrying in-person interaction and driving those people online to continue the conversation is a tried and true method to deepen engagement.

What else would you add to this list? 

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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