community, conferences

Jewish Futures Conference Liveblogging: Community in the Age of Social Media

0 Comments 04 June 2012


Image courtesy of Gord McKenna, Creative Commons

The next few blog posts are posts that were written during the Jewish Futures Conference, trying to capture what the speakers were presenting while they were presenting, and to try and capture the ideas in as close-to- real-time as possible.

The conference opened with a presentation from Courtney E. Martin,  who spoke on the concept of “Tweeting at the Campfire: Community in the Age of Social Media, Unprecedented Crisis, and Transformative Opportunity.” This was an idea-packed 20 minutes, where Ms. Martin challenged us think about the power of online community to create better world. As my colleague Amy Pollack noted, “Courtney Martin talked about how online community can galvanize individuals into communities in order achieve previously unattainable goals – all facilitated by new online tools.”

Courtney begins by introducing Andrew, a recent Brandeis grad who was inspired by reading Harry Potter. He discovered that there were Harry Potter fans congregating online and discussing themes from the series. He founded “The Harry Potter Alliance,” an organization that leverages online Harry Potter communities to take action in the real world based on themes in the books. For example, it has donated more than 100,000 books all over the world, and is now fighting for Fair Trade chocolate because they want all Harry Potter chocolates made without slaves. There are over 100 chapters worldwide.

Recently, Andrew created The Imagine Better Project, based on The Hunger Games series. “Hunger is not a Game” is the project’s motto. His hope is to use the public’s interest in The Hunger Games to leverage interest in food justice. Shortly after starting the project, Andrew received a cease and desist letter from Lionsgate for using the corporation’s logo. Then what happened? Andrew told the fan community. One fan created a petition. Within minutes, 1,000s of young people signed the people. It was the fastest-growing petition on Ever. Within hours, Lionsgate changed its tune from “cease and desist,” to “how can we collaborate with you?”

This is “cultural entrepreneurship.” Not political, civil, or social.

Tools are pioneered.

In this age, communities are formed and re-formed.

Power is redistributed. The story about Lionsgate and the teens around the world who love the characters in the book, and rose up to protect The Imagine Better Project is a great example.

Borders dissolve. The internet is beginning to facilitate local meetups. We are no longer citizens of particular nation-states, but “netizens” who are citizens of the internet, organizing around things we care about/

Authenticity is King. Companies trying to be like fans doesn’t work. Real authenticity cannot be created by a corporation.

Social entrepreneurship: new ways to do business

  • Kickstarter raised $150 million last year for startups.
  • Kiva: 98.2% repayment, loaned predominently to women in the developing world because of the internet.
  • Carrotmob: a new and interesting idea to influence how businesses operate

Political entrepreneurship: lay out a deeply overwhelming system and make a difference

Cultural entrepreneurship: change societal rules and norms

  • Ring the Bell: ring a bell if you suspect domestic violence
  • Civic ventures: promote the idea of an “encore career”

How do we balance online and in-person?
How do we resist silos online? There are a lot of “echo chambers” and silos online of people who only talk to people who think alike. We hang out with people who think like us, and attack the ones who do no.

How do we articulate what we are for, not just against, online? How do we really paint a picture of the world live in?

This is a convergence of culture and this incredible moment of the internet.
Ending quote by J.K. Rowling: “We carry all the power we need within ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”

Two questions she leaves us with:

1. What can you do to create tools and spark communities to imagine better?

2. What can you imagine better?



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

Follow Debra

Subscribe via email




© 2020 Social Media Strategy for Mission-Driven Organizations.

Site by Arrow Root Media