Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Implementing a social networking strategy to drive effective green technology and sustainability – a practical guide

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 2, 2010

I have built a foundation for this posting on implementing green technology and sustainability initiatives that connect to and support real communities with two preceding postings:

All the Time and Everywhere, and Green – moving towards a more responsive computing and communications framework.
Social Networking as an Essential Driver for Effective Green Technology.

These postings set the stage for this posting, in which I am going to discuss:

• Some practical steps for actually developing the types of community organizing social networks that would be needed to bring a community needs focus to green technology and sustainability implementation.

In my second installment in this series, I wrote of conflicting interests, there citing our real needs for developing greater energy independence and local resources to meet that, and our concurrent and equally compelling needs to protect our environment and in sustainable ways. I picked hydrofracking as a possible route for addressing the first of these issues, but that would do so in ways that destroyed opportunity to meaningfully reach the goals of that second set of needs – sustainability and environmental protection. I repeat that point here to help bring a couple of basic organizational requirements into focus as to developing effective, sustainable social networking systems:

Any social networking and community organizing initiatives that are to have long lasting, effective impact, beyond simply taking a gadfly approach is going to have to:

• Clearly articulate its basic goals and objectives for the issues and priorities it seeks to address and move forward on.
• Do so from an understanding of conflicting needs and objectives that also need to be met, so that effective arguments can be made in working with people and organizations that focus on them. (In the case of my energy management and production example, that would mean knowing enough and planning enough to be able to work with people who promote long term energy goals in finding alternatives to approaches like hydrofracking that can help them meet their goals without causing damage for everything else.)
• I used the word compromise, though the word negotiate is in many ways more effective, and so are the approaches of educating and listening, and working with people of good will who do not start out focusing on the environmental impact side of what they would do, except insofar as they are required to by current law but who could be brought to see the value of that too.

These points address what can be seen as crucial requirements for the leadership of any effective social networking initiative that would seek to both organize interest and grass roots political will, but also take that to the next step and into realized policy and action. And I continue from that point by going to the basics of social networking and the taxonomy of a social network. That is where you want to go when you initially start organizing.

Identify a starting group of hub networkers who have a demonstrated interest and involvement in the issues you seek to work on. These are not, I add, necessarily people who see themselves as super networkers, or even as networkers per se, but they are people who others will see as carrying a level of legitimacy and genuineness for this issue. For sustainability and environmental concerns based networking and organization that was developed to challenge hydrofracking in Upstate New York, this definitely included small farmers who grow organic crops and who live on land that would be affected directly by introduction of this process in their area. And they also live on lands that serve as aquifer water sources for large urban areas like New York City and as they organized they started sending some of their members to these urban areas too.

I attended a general meeting at a local food cooperative I am a member of in Brooklyn New York where three organic farmers from this to-be-affected area came to speak. They had fliers to hand out and pins to hand out and they had done their homework. In this case they did not touch on alternative solutions to energy independence but rather focused on the problems of hydrofracking as an undesirable path to energy production and independence. One of their goals was to build support from people in the urban areas who would also be significantly, adversely affected by developing hydrofracking-based shale oil and gas recovery in Upstate New York. A second goal was reach outside their current network to increase their networking reach and to add to their socially organized community of action.

These are important goals but are not sufficient in and of themselves. A longer term, more sustaining social networking effort to promote effective environmentally sound development would also have to work with people who share legitimate concerns as to energy issues too. This would ideally include working with members of that community to find mutually agreeable alternatives to approaches like hydrofracking. And this is where a movement focusing on green would need its boundary networkers.

In this case effective boundary networkers would definitely include people who are actively involved in both the environmental and energy camps, and would ideally include at least a few (at least one?) member of the environmental community who could be seen as a hub networker in the energy community – who could present themselves as having credibility and legitimacy of involvement and participation there.

These networkers would form the bridges of shared understanding that any negotiated agreements would require in resolving the seeming conflicts between these groups. If you simply say that hydrofracking is bad and come across as if you see any energy independence solution as bad, members of the energy independence community will simply dig in their heels and resist as their legitimate needs would be unmet. Working with them to find an alternative will make promoting that a better approach for them as a mutually developed approach would come with a larger supporting voice.

The third key networker type I highlighted in my social network taxonomy posting was the somewhat maligned boundaryless networker, and I bring them up here as these are people who can play an invaluable role in promoting a socially organizing cause or objective. There is a saying that the devil is in the details, and in this type of situation, the details can mean having to reach out to a diversity of groups and sometimes to ones very distant from your usual circles. These are the people who can help you connect far and wide, and to individuals and groups of most any sort and focus of interest.

So build your online groups and your social networking sites – a site like www.ning.com can be invaluable for building a social network with sharable member profiles and all of the connectivity tools a modern networking site offers, and sites like www.yahoo.com, www.linkedin.com and www.google.com support development of online groups as well as an increasing range of other connection and sharing options. Then:

• Start by developing a message and a clear understanding what your goals and priorities are.
• Build your network with a foundation of hub networkers.
• Add in boundary networkers and boundaryless networkers to help you move forward.
• And network with an open and inclusive strategy to build your community and involve as many as possible who can come to agreement as to core issues and priorities. This means strength of numbers, but at least as importantly it means strength of diversity of background and experience, and this means a richer source base of ideas and approaches and of insight that can lead to effective resolution of your key issues.

I am going to look into some of the issues of managing a network and tapping into its potentials and strengths in the next posting in this series. I will simply note here that the larger a network grows the more important that becomes and it becomes critically important as your network community grows to the point where no one in it can know everyone else in it personally.

As a final thought, I add that I posted a note a few months ago in my job search and career development series on negotiating that includes several references for books on this subject, as well as offering pointers itself. I have found these same approaches helpful in social networking and community development so I cite this posting here.

5 Responses

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  1. uberVU - social comments said, on April 2, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ImpactAdam: Implementing a social networking strategy to drive effective green … http://bit.ly/9PqbjJ

  2. […] Implementing a social networking strategy to drive effective green …17 hours ago by Timothy Platt  These points address what can be seen as crucial requirements for the leadership of any effective social networking initiative that would seek to both organize interest and grass roots political will, but also take that to the next step … […]

  3. […] Implementing a social networking strategy to drive effective green … […]

  4. […] networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 5, 2010 A couple of days ago I posted the first installment of a practical guide for building and managing a social networking capability, for developing and promoting effective green technology and sustainability. This was my third in a […]

  5. […] Implementing a Social Networking Strategy to Drive Effective Green Technology and Sustainability –… focusing on the basics and building a networking and goals oriented community by leveraging an […]


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