We need to change the quality of our conversations

Leadership / Monday, September 8th, 2014

So I’ve gotten this little morning routine going lately where I start my day by hopping into the blogosphere and checking out all the happenings around such themes as ’non-profits’ ’social entrepreneurship’ and ‘volunteerism’. It has been a great way to get myself plugged in with some pretty awesome convos, but it has also exposed me to some of the more trashy and superficial ways in which people discuss giving.

Take this little gem for example – seems that in the UK it is conversation worthy when a celeb donates a couch to charity… really??!! a couch? You have that kind of notoriety, and the best convo you can start is about a couch donation?? Or consider my post from last week that questioned the motivations of celebrity ice bucketers, such as Justin Bieber. Bottom line is this: most of the conversations I run into out there do not deeply engage the issues you and Iface while leading movements. Instead of social justice, they talk social media. Instead of activism, the web thrives on slacktivism. And worse of all – instead of meaningful conversations, the blogosphere is fueled by meaningless chats.

The good news is – you and I can change this. But we’ve got some serious work to do. This blog is directed at non-profit leaders, and yet, we’ve so far had very few people joining this conversation. Now – I get it – you’re busy, and I’m new to you, so you want to get to know what we’re up to a bit more before you join our conversation. That’s cool. But as I’ve taken a deep dive into the onlineconversations in this space, I’ve realized that it’s not just our blog you’re not commenting on. The reality is – true change agents are just not participating in these conversations anywhere. And that’s a scary thing. Think about it – this is an interconnected world – people are doing so much online nowadays that it is little surprise that activism and charity have moved into that space as well.  

We have to invest time in these conversations, or activism and charity will start to look like this. I know that blogging/commenting often seems like a distraction from actually serving people, but we as a community of change agents have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with each other, and, most importantly, move the dialogue into a more meaningful place. For example, anytime we see a ‘charitable’ post talking about something as superficial as a celeb’s couch donation, we should LIGHT THAT POST UP. We should make it crystal clear on the comment board right under that post that a couch donation is not a meaningful way for a celeb to drive social change. Instead, we should encourage that celeb to get actively involved with a particular cause that has deep meaning for him/her.

Even more importantly than that – we need to be engaging in conversations with each other. Don’t just subscribe to newsletters & blogs – comment on them! Challenge people! Disagree! It is only by having meaningful conversations that we can learn best practices, serve our communities more effectively, and better understand the social problems we face. By and large those conversations are migrating online – and it’s up to us to ensure that they are meaningful.

We at VolunteerMark are committed to transforming the online conversation around social change – but we can only provide the tools for engagement – it’s up to you to engage. So, did this post move you? Do you disagree with it? Share that with us! The comment box is right below for you to chime in – take action!

Also, if you haven’t heard, we’re launching the VolunteerMark Podcast this Friday, and it will be totally devoted to you and your questions. If you haven’t already, you can record a question here – ask us anything related to your cause! Don’t miss this chance to join a conversation!

Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments below, and on the podcast this week!