Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Networked Nonprofit - book review

I eagerly awaited the virtual launch of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change, by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter and bought my copy during their virtual launch party two weeks ago.  I read it this week, when I could read it in one sitting.   It took patience to wait that long, but I am tired of starting something I really want to read and having to put it aside for days. 

Fine and Kanter are leaders in the social media (SM) movement for nonprofits.  They are the people that people like me go to for advice; we follow their blogs, tweets, FB pages...they are our virtual guides in this world of getting our non profit organizations connected to clients in a meaningful way beyond the borders of our organizations' walls.

Beth Kanter introduced me and the Cyber Cafe @ Malden Square, back in 2005, to how easily SM tools can be used for various purposes.  A tool designed for blogging quickly became our Community Resource Guide, giving us a powerful way to share many resources among staff, volunteers, clients, and...the world.  She doesn't just think outside the box; she thinks beyond the box.  The box does not exist -- there is no barrier.

Straightforward, Practical, and Proven
Both Fine and Kanter are energetic, knowledgeable, and engaging.  The Networked Nonprofit is what you'd expect from them.  Straightforward advice, tested and with proven examples, on how nonprofits need to change their view of the world to survive and flourish in the digital world.

I won't say compete in the digital world because one of the points they make is that nonprofits have to stop seeing other nonprofits as competitors.  Networking is not about competition; it is about collaboration.  I think this is one reason I have never liked the chamber of commerce meeting model, where businesses in the same industry are not supposed to sit together because they are competitors.  Even when I was consulting a lot in the for profit world, my "competitors" were my colleagues.   We often worked collaboratively because it made more sense; my skill set would complement a colleague's from another organization and vice versa. 

I have one foot in the networked nonprofit world at the Cyber Cafe.  I have another foot in the not-so-networked world with my major organization.  They do network with other organizations, but they are not so ready for the digital foray.  (Young padouan must practice patience daily while straddling this dichotomy.)

What's in the Book?
The Networked Nonprofit introduces and defines this concept of the networked nonprofit, describes the social media revolution, and examines the myths surrounding it.  These myths, along with lack of a comfort level (shall we say skill?) with SM, is what prevents many non profits from embracing a set of digital tools that could help them with their mission.  Fine and Kanter then examine the challenges and trends that non profits face, which creates an urgent need to confront their own lack of understanding in this area and make the transition into becoming a networked nonprofit.  The remaining book is divided into how organizations can become a networked nonprofit and how they would operate as one.

Why is this so important?  
...because doing so will help them achieve their mission. 

Kanter has set up a wiki for The Networked Nonprofit where people can share ideas on how put this book into action.  You can help them develop curriculum and instructional materials to help nonprofits learn at a pace that makes sense for them.  Several years ago, I developed a simple model and then a presentation based on the premise that community building in the nonprofit world is like creating a jigsaw puzzle.  Collaborations are enabled and enhanced when you view each organization like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.  To find the right fit, turn it around and over - examining all the angles - until you see how there might be a fit between your organization and others.  Naturally, I call this the JigSaw Puzzlin' Approach (c).  I'll work on adding that to the wiki later.


  1. Claire: Thank you for your terrific review of the book! I can't believe that worked together almost five years ago this summer! You are on the cutting edge!

    BTW, have you come across @hardlynormal on Twitter? He is a homeless activist. You should get to know his work.

  2. Thanks Beth. Time does fly!

    I will look up @hardlynormal; thanks for the reference.

    Stay in touch!

  3. Great article. I attended an event and have video of Allison Fine and Beth Kanter book release of Networked Nonprofit in NYC last June: