Sunday, 28 August 2011

How should my organisation approach listening, learning and sharing online?

I now work for Dudley CVS, a voluntary sector infrastructure organisation which employs 18 staff, has a board of 14 trustees, and is helped out by some long serving volunteers, as well as volunteers who are with us for shorter periods. To date the organisation has not developed a coherent approach to supporting its staff, trustees and volunteers (or indeed members) in the use of online social and collaborative tools. Despite this Dudley CVS staff have led some advances which are pioneering for Dudley, for example establishing and hosting regular Social Media Surgeries for local groups, clubs and societies, and being social reporters at events.

I am in the process of drafting an approach which the organisation could take to develop listening, learning, sharing and collaboration online. So far I’ve come up with three elements to the approach and some intended outcomes.

I’d most welcome your suggestions on anything important that I’ve missed, or information out there that I’d find useful.

The approach I’m suggesting is to:

  1. Agree and adopt organisation-wide use of specific platforms (e.g. Flickr for photograph sharing) for the coming period, based on what staff already use and are familiar with, and which will support our organisational aims and work. For some of this I’ll use the advice in @carlhaggarty’s blog post on facilitating a social media strategy.
  2. Develop support which can be implemented across the whole organisation, so extends to all of Dudley CVS’s staff, trustees and volunteers.
  3. Provide support in the form of:
    • a simple policy – using great advice from @davebriggs in this blog post
    • skills and needs analysis 
    • peer support e.g. Social Media Surgeries, cascading training
    • written guidance sheets e.g. for creating, uploading and sharing video, using twitter etc. – in creating these I will revisit some fantastic posts by @theverytiger on her blog
    • access to external training and support, including criteria/guidance to help line managers decide what is worth paying for or promoting to staff

I will also check out how existing strategies and policies in relation to ICT, communications, data protection, HR/training and personal development relate to the above.

The outcomes I’ve framed are that:

  • Staff, trustees and volunteers feel confident to use the Web to listen, learn, share and network. 
  • Staff, trustees and volunteers receive support they find useful in order for them to develop skills and knowledge to use online networking tools confidently and appropriately.
  • There is clear, consistent, accurate and responsive online communication by staff, trustees and volunteers on behalf of Dudley CVS.
  • Staff, trustees and volunteers understand and regularly review the balance of the personal and professional facets of their online identity as an individual representing Dudley CVS. (Thanks to @sburrall for this blog which made me think more about this.)
  • There is alignment of social networking and sharing with other communications including offline communications.
  • Dudley CVS model good practice to both organisations we support and those we seek to influence in relation to effective online networking and engagement.

I found the aforementioned blog post on a good social media policy by @davebriggs really helpful in framing some of the outcomes.

In addition to all of this there is also the consideration of how we provide support to local groups and organisations too, which we’ve started with Social Media Surgeries and I’m hoping to have a regular column in our printed and online newsletter providing tips on using online tools and networks. But in terms of the internal approach – have I missed anything? And/or can you recommend relevant reading?


  1. Hi Lorna,
    This looks excellent to me. The only thing I can add from my own experience is a clear escalation procedure should something go wrong i.e. retraction or deletion, apologies etc and escalation procedures for exceptions when people really don't know how to deal with something slightly leftfield, i.e. receipt of threats etc (unlikely but you wouldn't believe some of the tweets we get sent).

    Finally, I don't know if it's an issue in VCS but the fear of blame if something goes wrong can stop people being 'human' in their responses on social media and if you tackle this head on, I think you'll reap the benefits.

    I suspect I'll be citing this post in future. Thank you :O)

  2. Thanks Louise. That's great advice which I'll take on board. I'm very grateful for experiences you have shared online which I've learned so much from, I'm trying to soak it all up like a sponge!

  3. Hi Lorna, this is great - a very considered and insightful plan!

    The only thing I would add would be to perhaps use the social networks you already have to ask followers/ friends etc in the VCS community what they would like from you in terms of access to a social space, support for their use of social media etc.

    You can also use the analytics that you have available (Google Analytics, Facebook Insights etc) to see what they tell you about how people are using your content... that may held guide you in what you post, and where you post it.

    Lastly, you might want to take a look at the Community Spark website at - always filled with good advice!

  4. Great suggestions Honey, thank you.

    We can no doubt find a number of ways to ask people what they might like from us. And I'll ask our communications officer what analytics we have (we only have a part time comms post, and I'm not sure how much time has been spent to date on the analysis side of our comms).

    I think I came across the Community Spark website through your blog, it is really helpful and I subscribe to that site and yours for regular updates and tips.

  5. Totally agree with the comments so far. I think you are thinking along the right lines and looking in the right places for guidance.

    I look forward to regular updates on progress

  6. I think there is some merit in having this debate with your council - many are going through the same steps and those of us in the VCS are better able to lead and take risk than central control mechanisms..

    (we're going through the same processes in @yorkcvs if you want to share..? - @caseymorrison)

  7. Lorna -a delightful post and good luck with your social media journey. I would recommend looking at the following slideshare presentations from the Third Sector Digital Communications and Social Media Convention

    Optimum Scale: how to apply the techniques of big campaigns to small organisations - Damien Clarkson @damienclarkson and Madeleine Sugden @madlinsudn KnowHow NonProfit

    A step by step guide to developing your small organisation digital communications and social media campaign on a shoestring budget - Rob Dyson PR Manager Whizz-Kidz @RobmDyson

  8. Thanks John, Casey and Shirley. It's good to hear I'm heading in the right direction. Brilliant idea to speak to colleagues in the council Casey - one of the comms team helped out at our first Social Media Surgery, so perhaps he could help, and I know the Head of the comms team is fighting the good fight, though I imagine it's very frustrating for them.

    Shirley thanks so much for the links, I've looked through both presentations, both sparked some thoughts and they have also given me ideas for some voluntary work I'm doing for a national charity. Much appreciated.

  9. Hi Lorna

    i really like your thoughtful approach to this and all the comments and suggestions you have already received. Before I add my ideas I want to be really clear that unlike loulouk, John and others who have already commented, I am not in any way an expert on social media!

    So with that in mind...

    Firstly I would suggest it could be helpful to articulate why you are doing this - what is the intention behind the use of using online means for listening, learning and sharing and how this is one part of the overall approach to listening , learning and sharing within DCVS. This could include listing out the potential benefits (large and small) of effective online collaboration which while it may be obvious to the tech savvy, may not be obvious to some, and it would have everyone on the same page with why this is happening.

    My second thought is that points 2 and 3 are linked together as both are to do with the approach re support, so it might be clearer to have them as one point.

    Given the lovely nature of 3's a possible 3rd part of the approach could be something around an understanding that different people will be using the online tools in different ways that suit them, and that this is perfectly fine. For some people it may be that they "use" the tools as a way to receive info, or to remotely access data or resources when they need them - this person may never upload a photo to flickr or post a blog; someone else might use blogging as a way to help them access support from a wider network - like this :-)

    One final thought, is that it might be good to include in point 1 some kind of process for how DCVS will continue to develop the toolkit as new things become available - and how you will create a balance between adding new tools that are useful but not jumping on every tech trick just cos its there.

    And finally...on the outcomes - I would think maybe the overarching outcome to perhaps add to your list might be that through all of this: that DCVS as a team will be able to work more effectively together which will enable DCVS to better support the community groups you work with.


  10. I don't have much to offer in addition to what is down here. I think you are very much on the right lines. Just one thought you might want to follow @jobrodie's blog where she often collects and posts useful stuff about online tools including social media.

    I particularly like your outcomes and might pinch the idea myself. My slight worry will be how to measure the outcomes sensibly - both in terms of developing useful metrics as well as in terms of finding the time.

  11. Thanks so much Jonny and Simon
    Listing benefits for people who may not be aware of them is a great idea, and I like your suggestion about being clear in the approach that people will use tools in different ways - and points 2 and 3 do sit better together. I'll add something about ongoing development as that will be useful, and the overarching outcome suggestion is really helpful and will be helpful to link this work to other things we do.

    Simon I've subscribed to @jobrodie's blog, it looks incredibly useful, thanks for the signposting. I agree with you about difficulties measuring outcomes, however as we're currently looking at outcomes across our business and trying a few things out I'm hopeful that we can come up with something. I'll let you know if we do.

  12. Better late than never...

    You're already thiknking along the right lines; and you've had some good advice, which I endorse. I would add two suggestions:

    Don't overdo control. Give people room to experiment, without feeling this is an over-regulated medium; allow individuals to find a voice, and learn by mistakes.
    their own and each others'

    And make use of Michael Grimes' flowchart:

    Good luck!

  13. Thank Andy. I agree with you about not overdoing control, the best way to figure out how this all helps is to play with it, in my opinion. Michael's flowchart is excellent, I hadn't seen it before and I will make use of it, thank you.