A space for change makers.

Social Innovation Interview (2): Mobilising Your Community


This week we discuss how to mobilise your community for an open innovation challenge. Enjoy!

Kayla: Hi, I'm Kayla.

Christian: Hi, I'm Christian.

Kayla: Today, we're answering a question from Lucy. Lucy's question is, "What is the best way to get people to participate in my events? I'm planning an idea competition for October. At the moment, we only have a few people signed up for the event. Do you have any advice on finding enough people to join in the events?"

Christian: Yeah, that's a great question. We always often talk about, don't we?

Kayla: Yeah, it comes up a lot.

Christian: I think it is also a very often underestimated point. It is a huge challenge, maybe one of the biggest challenges when you really drive social innovation. Many people think implementation is difficult and collaboration around solutions.

It is definitely, too, but if you don't do the mobilization right, you have a huge problem, because you don't have enough people together to work on a great solution.

Kayla: We can talk all we want about methodologies, and what challenges are, and how to create an impact, but if you can't get enough people mobilized for your issue, none of that really counts. It's such an important part of the process. It's definitely a huge challenge.

Christian: It's a motivating challenge. We've seen communities where there aren't enough people, and not enough people really depends on what community you're in and what topic you're in. Not enough means there's not interaction. There's not many comments. People ask something, and nobody answers it. It's not really motivating.

It's great to have enough people, a critical mass let's call it, that there's a lot going on. There's always a conversation, on different ends people talking to each other. I think it's also very important for diversity. If you want to work on good, sustainable solutions, you need a lot of diversity. You need a lot of different people with different expertise.

That means, also, you have to mobilize in various areas. If you just mobilize at one point in one community, it might be sufficient depending on your topic and your question, but often it is not. The more diverse, the more different the people are who join your process, your social innovation community, the better it is.

Kayla: It's not necessarily about the numbers but about the diversity and the quality of interaction that you're getting.

You might have what you think is a low number signed up, but if they're from a lot of different communities, and they're very passionate about the project, then that is actually better than having a whole bunch of people who are not participating, and who don't have a whole lot to say about the subject.

Christian: Yeah, exactly. You should always try to get more, often better, so at least you have a backup, or the chances are higher that people actually interact with each other. As you said, I think passion is a good reason. You can have a small group and be passionate about.

Let's talk about maybe some tactics we can tell the audience to mobilize very good.

Kayla: The first thing I'd recommend, especially because your event's coming up very quickly, Lucy, is to mobilize your existing network. If you have a small mailing list, if you have a social media page, even employees in your company if you're working with a company, reach out to all of them and find out who's interested in your idea competition.

Then, ask them for a favor. Ask them to forward it along to anybody that they think might be interested.

Christian: Exactly. Think about, from the start, does it really have to be closed? How open can it be? The further it is opened, the more chances you have to invite people to it. I think it's also important is the message you're sending out. It has to be intriguing. It has to be interesting. Would you yourself like to follow that or would be part of it?

People have very little time, and how do you motivate them to be part of this?

Kayla: Before you send out anything, just getting crystal clear what your message is, what you want from people, how you want them to participate, and what challenge you're trying to solve, and how that can benefit them in their community.

Christian: Exactly. Various examples you can mobilize for those communities. What we're saying is, basically, you probably have already community, or you have people you can think of in your organization or your network.

I think it's very helpful, that's what our clients often tell us, that after a while, they've mobilized, they ask all the people that they've sent messages out to all they thought of and the result is maybe not so helpful. What they did is they tried other communities they hadn't thought about before or partner communities, and then they've tapped into it.

That helped them often a lot. It's, of course, important that it fits for the topic, you really ask the right people. Looking out in the communities, there could be things like a mailing list, newsletters. Maybe they allow you to send an announcement. There are various other communities you can tap online, and offline.

Kayla: There's a lot of social media communities, and groups, and different forums online. Acting on that is really easy to reach a whole bunch of different people. If you've got that really clear and engaging message that you know these people are going to care about, you can reach large amounts of people with a small amount of effort.

Christian: Yeah, that's a good point. Small amount of effort. If you have already prepared a very great list of emails, find a large email list over the years, that's perfect to work on to really establish maybe such a community. It depends, of course, whether you have already a community or you're just building it. The latter one makes it much more difficult.

Kayla: Lucy doesn't have a whole lot of time until her event, so what do you think is the most critical thing she should be doing?

Christian: I think sitting down before you even start and really planning is a good point. Really think it through how many people you can reach. Really calculate it, roughly estimate it how many you're going to reach. You also have to work maybe a little bit of metrics, think about how many people actually participate. Don't be too optimistic.

It could be like 20 percent of the people are participating or maybe 30, but that's already very good. It can be much higher. It really depends on the topic. Then, you come up with a rough number. If you're sending emails to 100 people, think about 20 participate. Is that going to be enough for your solution for your project?

That's, of course, the question. I would make some calculations beforehand and rather write to more people if it fits these people, if they're the right audience you want to talk to. There's one more point I was just thinking of. It's, of course, mobilization is not just a one timer.

We experience, also, that mobilization just one email can have an effect that people just jump on-board, but it's important that even those people who are already on-board the community and they're involved, that you really mobilize them again and again. I think this kind of activation mobilization through the process is important to get people engaged again.

We experience a lot, especially through emails, and conversations, and alerts, or newsletters, summaries weekly, that people from these jump back into the platform again or into that social process and engage again.

Kayla: Perfect. Hopefully that was helpful, Lucy, and good luck with your competition coming up. Thanks very much for your question. We'll see you guys next time.

Christian: Thank you. Bye.