Last week at the Council’s Family Philanthropy Conference in San Diego, I reported briefly on a discussion held as a “book club” conversation among foundation trustees and staff about the Jeff Jarvis book, “What Would Google Do?” In a small breakout group, I learned from Jessamyn Lau, program leader at the Peery Foundation in Palo Alto, CA, that they used Twitter in their strategic planning. I was intrigued by this notion of “strategy haiku in 140 characters or less” so Jessamyn and I arranged to speak by phone today. Here’s what I learned.
- Jessamyn and her colleague at the Peery Foundation randomly experimented with Twitter as a tool for building and maintaining momentum in their organization’s strategic planning process. There are just two people in their office and they faced the internal questions we often ask ourselves in the midst of strategic planning:
- Is this a crazy idea?
- Who am I to make these decisions?
- What is the appropriate role of philanthropy in social change?
- As a way of opening up their thinking and the strategic planning process, they started sending out tweets describing the subjects they were dealing with on any given day, the dilemmas they were wrestling with, the readings that were provoking their thoughts, etc. Doing so started to frame the strategic planning for others within their Twitter networks so those other folks could observe, comment, challenge or contribute to the process of the foundation.
- Jessamyn found that this online exchange began to build momentum for the planning process which sometimes helped them move through sticky bottlenecks. Distilling their thoughts into brief questions that could be captured in a tweet of 140 characters or less helped to sharpen their focus.
- The Peery Foundation simply played with Twitter as a tool to see where it would take them. It helped them to convene impromptu “open source focus groups” that weren’t as easily available to them otherwise. For example, when they shared what reading was informing their thinking, oftentimes others replied with recommendations of additional research or writing that was relevant or provocative.
- As Jessamyn asks rhetorically: “How does your own foundation’s character emerge through the social media? You don’t realize that people are getting value from the tweets because they are ‘listening’ to the conversation. I had several people write back saying how much they appreciated the stream of thinking even though they didn’t contribute comments on the actual content.”
You may recall that I closed my blog entry last week on this subject of social media with the question: “If I’m on Twitter, am I a twit?” I now know from Jessamyn and other adventurous colleagues that the answer is “No.”
Richard Woo is the CEO of The Russell Family Foundation. Woo blogged about a discussion on Jeff Jarvis’ book “What Would Google Do?” in his post “The Book Club.”