We hear about networks all the time in every aspect of our lives. Network is a long overdue buzzword - but today is precisely the right day to declare it as such because June 21 marks the virtual launch of the must read manual on the topic, The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine.* I hereby declare Network as Philanthropy Buzzword 2010.3!
Change is all about the network. Your social network - who you know. The organizational network - how you interact with other organizations and how permeable you make the "walls" around you. The technological network - how you connect electronically.
Now, it isn't every buzzword that comes with its own user's manual. In fact, this is the very first one. And The Networked Nonprofit is exactly that - the user's manual for today's activists, professionals, donors, and volunteers. What David Pogue does for tech consumers, Kanter and Fine have done for change agents.
It is the most complete practical guide for making change in our global, digital, always on world. Beth and Allison have worked with, experimented with, and documented just about every iteration and evolution of social media tools. From blogs to wikis to social networks to video to slide decks to online competitions to twitter fundraising to geolocation tools - you name it, they've played with it, used it, tested it, learned from others, and shared their wisdom.
But the book is about more than tools - it is about an operational culture that starts with the values of openness, sharing, and connections and uses those traits to accomplish a purpose. A perfect example - the book's launch party is all about working in a networked way. Starting on June 21 at 4 pm EDT/1 pm PDT the authors are throwing a virtual launch party - on twitter at #netnon and on u-stream - geared toward driving sales of the book and donations to The Sharing Foundation and Hope for Henry.
Kanter and Fine live and act like the very types of organizations they explicate in the book. As leaders and learners they connect, share, give credit, invite, discuss, rehearse, improve and introduce. They try things out in public - the book was written collaboratively across different time zones, drafted and shared in countless speeches, slide decks, workshops and twitter feeds.
And they've done their homework. The Networked Nonprofit has a dozen examples for every idea it offers - from big organizations and small, digital native enterprises and transformed "old line" institutions, freelance activists and professionals of every stripe. You might read the book from cover to cover, as I did. Or skip from chapter to chapter, looking for nuggets as you need them. Either way, bring your marker (actual yellow highlighter or the e-book reader button of your choice) - you'll dog ear, post-it-note, and underline your way through this. And clear space on your bookshelf - real or virtual - this one's a keeper. Technology changes quickly, but the culture shifts and modes of operating that Kanter and Fine describe are here to stay.
*Full disclosure: I know both Beth and Allison and have learned a tremendous amount from both of them.