richardwooGive a Tweet a Chance

By: richardwoo In: 2010 Family Philanthropy Conference| Family Philanthropy

10 Feb 2010

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.”

2 Responses to Give a Tweet a Chance

Noah Flower

February 11th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I’m glad to hear that you got to speak with Jessamyn as well. I had a wonderful conversation with her back in Novemerb and wrote up a blog post with some similar reflections:

Noah Flower

February 11th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Hmm, that link didn’t quite work! Here’s another try: http://workingwikily.net/?p=1053

Comment Form


Welcome to RE: Philanthropy! In this blog, guest and Council bloggers share ideas and insights on the most pressing issues in philanthropy. If you want to contribute, please contact webteam@cof.org.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Council on Foundations.

Contributors

Rodney McKenzie
Vanessa Cedeño
Lori Bertman
Ashley Blanchard
Bill Linder-Scholer
John Stremsterfer
Phil Hall
Rita L. Soronen
Andrea Jett
Sam Davis
Ellen Carter
Terri Freeman
Suzanne E. Siskel
Josh Viertel
Bruce Trachtenberg and Michael Hamill Remaley
Mafruza Khan
Susan Beaudry
Candace Winkler
Jim Mayfield
Lyle Matthew Kan
Robyn Schein
Debbie Starke
Diana Campoamor
Mary Vallier-Kaplan
Sean Stannard-Stockton
Rebecca Graves
Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker
Dawn Townsend
John Feather
Omar Passons
Lois Salisbury
Cheryl McKenna
George Stevens
Manikka L. Bowman
Raul Perea-Henze
Steven Lawrence
Larry Kutner
Jacob Gayle
Chris Cardona
Niamani Mutima
Caitlin Walker
Ira Strumwasser, Ph.D.
Linda Raybin
Daniel Jae-Won Lee
Alicia Philipp
Albert Ruesga
Marilyn LeFeber
Pamela Hawley
THNKR
Ralph Fuccillo