Our world is seemingly more disconnected than it was before. When we look around a room, we see more eyes on phones or computers than we do people sharing a conversation.
In March 2016, I took part in Tamarack Institute’s Community Engagement: The Next Generation conference in Ottawa, where we spent several days challenging this notion of disconnect and exploring opportunities to capture and engage individuals through those digital platforms they are so consumed by. Throughout the conference, our hosts presented us with new methods for using social media platforms to draw people in around a cause and build a movement. We learned from case studies, such as the Bissell Centre thrift store, which caught fire and lost its inventory and donations. However, through social media, they were able to start a campaign that brought in more donations and funds than they could have imagined – bringing the centre back to life.
One major takeaway for me was the need to challenge that we live in a decreasingly engaged society and that we need to do a better job at meeting people where they are. If someone is more comfortable sharing and participating in an online community, then we need to develop strategies for engaging those individuals in an appropriate way. We need to consider trends in social media, which platforms are used by whom, when developing campaigns – what is appropriate for Facebook may not translate to Twitter, and vice versa.
But we also shouldn’t throw traditional organizing and engagement opportunities out the door. As community-builders, we must bridge the gap between web-based engagement and face-to-face engagement. It is on us to create spaces for people to have generative dialogue and community conversations, all the while leveraging new technology to bring people in.
In all, I left the conference wondering what other new technological advancement will come our way in the next generation and look forward to seeing how us community-builders will use tech to bring people together for community change.
This blog was submitted by Nina Holzer, a participant at the Community Engagement: The Next Generation workshop in Ottawa from March 9-11, 2016.