5 Good Ideas for building your services online

How you use the internet should be connected to the work you do every day

This presentation is from 2008. However, I still use these core principles in my own work, and in my consulting work with social service non-profits and charities.

Christopher Wulff and I decided to build on Jason Mogus’ Five Good Ideas presentation, Reaching Out in a Web 2.0 World. In our presentation, we further demystified online communication, looking at the next steps in making practical, daily use of the web in community engagement, client service and public campaigns.

We tried to create ideas that are technology agnostic. They don’t depend on the current cool tech, or “last year’s” obsolete tech.

They depend on you.

You know you need to get up to speed on technology and how you can harness it to better serve your clients. But, you shouldn’t forget everything you already know how to do. Take the time to be strategic about your technology choices. Realize that, at least initially and probably for the most part, your services will be an online version of what you offer offline.

That will probably evolve. For now, you have everything you need to do the work. You just need to think about other channels, online channels, where you can extend your amazing work and deepen and scale up the impact.

Questions we sought to answer

How you use the internet should be connected to the work you do every day. But, online, what do we mean by “conversation”? Who are we trying to talk to? What are we trying to say? Is technology most effective when used to enhance an existing relationship? Can technology really help us connect with people we may never see or talk to? If we define our community broadly, how does that impact our conversations with them?

Christopher and I think you should always be asking these basic questions, whether you’re just getting started with online services, or are building your next big online idea.

Have a look, I’d love to hear what you think.

Our five good ideas

  1. Online conversations are still conversations. The language may be different online, but the principles are the same.
  2. Connect and integrate your online work with your offline work.
  3. Isolate technology from conversation. Don’t let the technology become the conversation.
  4. Your conversations will evolve, be prepared to evolve with them.
  5. Don’t just innovate, participate. Go to where your audience already is, join them, engage them, use the technology that’s already working for them.

Five good resources (updated from the original presentation)

1. Design for Community by Derek M. Powazek, 2001 (available in the Toronto Public Library) – this book has been out of print for some time. But, the lessons and ideas are timeless. They don’t depend on 2001 technology. They depend on your ability to think strategically about how you want to better reach, serve and impact your community.

2. Mobilizing Generation 2.0: A Practical Guide to Using Web2.0 Technologies to Recruit, Organize and Engage Youth, by Ben Rigby, 2008 (available in the Toronto Public Library)

3. TechSoup Canada – if you’re a charity in Canada and not already a member, get over there. Not only will you be able to save money on technology, but they’ve got great meetups and online resources for you to learn from.

4. #nptech (non-profit tech) on Twitter – a great place to see the most up to date resources and information shared by people passionate and knowledgeable about non-profit use of technology. And, no, you don’t have to have a Twitter account to follow along!

5. Your staff and clients. Let’s be honest, over the past few years, you’ve been hiring staff who are technology users. Heck, you’re one too. We’re all walking around with amazing technology, phones, computers, video cameras, cameras (the list is endless) devices right in our pockets, bags and purses. Your frontline staff want to use technology with their clients. Their clients are asking them about it. Harness their energy, enthusiasm and ideas and start figuring out your best way to move forward using technology.

Your staff are easy to consult with. So are your clients. They’re a survey and focus group conversation away from helping you figure out what technologies make sense to start thinking about. Harness that. Don’t lose the opportunity. Asking clients how you can better serve them will only bring benefits to you anyway, so what have you got to lose?

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