Using technology to make a difference

I’ve worked in the world of business collaboration for coming up 6 years. The holy grail of success is being able to answer the big question “what is in it for me” or WIIFM for short. People like me write strategies, join tweetups, attend conferences and share ideas about how we can tackle this question for executives, middle managers, remote workers etc.

In the last few weeks i’ve witnessed the most unbelievable collaboration and sharing of information, the levels of engagement a community manager like me can only dream of and the WIIFM is simple – humanity, saving lives, because I have to, because I can, because if we don’t who will?

I’ve been overwhelmed by the innovation that is taking place on a daily basis, the continuous improvement approach and the ability the volunteers have to organise themselves around skills, knowledge and strengths rather than a structure or hierarchy.

Whilst my blog was in draft Mashable published this article How entrepreneurs and aid groups are helping refugees with digital tools if you haven’t got time to read the article in full it is a summary of this wonderful low bandwidth information portal for refugees http://refugeeinfo.eu/

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Another example is refugeemap.com an interactive mapping platform using Google tools that provides details on where refugees are traveling and what needs they have – the map is able to assist volunteers in best ways to provide aid and volunteer. I have personal experience of this map, I used it when planning our trip to Slovenia in October, the network of people updating it were able to help me find Brezice and Rigonce. You can read more about refugeemap.com here.

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On facebook there are a number of co-ordination groups for refugee hot spots, we’ve joined Volunteers Co-ordination (Lesvos) group  it is a great source of information and collaboration for people on the ground. The group was getting flooded with questions about best flight deals, where can I stay?, does anyone want to share a car? etc. Through self selection some members split off the activity into a different group, they’ve created essential information for volunteers in google docs and sheets. And another group Information Point for Lesvos Volunteer  leaving the co-ordination group to focus on people in Lesvos reacting to the needs on the ground, this all happened in 3 days.

There are similar groups popping up throughout the Greek hotspots and along the Balkans route refugees take. These groups are filled with ideas on how to do things better, work with NGO’s, authorities, links to supermarkets who will do deliveries, lift sharing, accommodation tips, the situation, the facts and kindness.

WhatsApp is being used for on the spot translation services with refugees who have special medical needs putting them in touch with a native speaker. Google translate comes in handy on a daily basis, I’ve recently been using it to decipher the refugee situation in Finland for research (a sentence I never thought i’d find myself writing).

5kWe can not forget that most of this is possible because volunteers are taking to sites to crowd source funds, like gofundme.com. We also have first hand of this tool, our own GoFundMe site has already received £5k in donations. Grass roots groups are making the impossible seem possible.

In time the refugee crisis across Europe, will be analysed, it will make history books and i’m certain it will be a turning point for how we see the world today. Underpinning the entire movement will be the part technology played in telling the story, helping the refugees on their journey and providing people who want to help a digital guidebook to make a difference.

No one has sat in a boardroom thinking up these plans or visions, there is no big social media marketing budget, it is quite simply people helping people to make a difference. Thankfully we have the technology to help us make this difference faster and in full view of the whole world.

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Personally i’m in awe of some of the innvoation, collaboration I see daily and I can only hope that I am able to play a small part in making a little difference.

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Networking 101

IMG_5802I read this (short) article today How to end a conversation any conversation gracefully – there isn’t much in the article that is new but it did remind me of a situation I found myself in recently. The article is essentially giving you some top tips for ending a conversation with purpose thus leaving a positive first/last impression; networking 101 if you like.
Whilst reading the article my mind wondered to a networking event I attended recently where the start and finish of the conversation was irrelevant it was the behaviour in the middle that disturbed me the most. I was pulled into the conversation and introduced to the group, one individual didn’t seem to be able to engage in the conversation, his eyes were darting to the door and and he did lots of disingenuous nods and “hmmm’s very interesting”. Eventually he left, he’d clearly spotted someone far more important, interesting and I was relieved. Because what I realised is this person was making me feel very uncomfortable and their disinterest left me questioning the value I was adding to the conversation

Lucky for me I have a thick skin, I also used the other people I was talking to as a benchmark for the value being created in the discussion and I came to the conclusion this person was plain rude.

The lasting impact for me is i’ve now got a very negative view of this person and it has tainted my view on all of their work and i’ve actually found myself having a conversation about this person with someone else and we both came to the same conclusion this individual is someone we’d prefer not to work with.

Networking is one of the best ways to make contacts, meet new people, share ideas and passions, but remember you never know who is watching how you behave, it is worth being mindful of how you start a conversation, end it and behave in the middle of it.

Networking 101:

Be present: leave the mobile on silent and most importantly leave it in your pocket. If you have to check messages make your excuses and take some time out deal with the emergency and then return.

Ask questions: being curious can work really well if your an introvert as it will give you an opportunity to take a back seat and listen, if you are an extrovert asking questions is a good way of taking a step back and allowing others to speak.

Have energy: this might just be a smile, it might be sharing your stories or knowledge with passion. Energy is contagious whether you are acknowledging someone else’s story or telling your own. It will make for a memorable connection.

Be true to your word: if you commit to helping someone by introducing them to someone you know or sharing information or content make sure you follow through.

Be authentic: people will see through your false smile, disingenuous nods and compliments, if you can’t be authentic perhaps it is time to leave the conversation.