My Experience at Social Mastermind//Social Media for Social Change

A story not so often heard about social media  is how it can be a tool used by those who don’t wish to  make a profit but rather by those who want to make a change in today’s society. This past week I was lucky enough to get myself  out to see how some great people are looking to use social media tools for the better good and was able to lend my albeit limited knowledge to help out one organization in  effectively using social media  tools to reach their goals.

What was this? It was Net Change week described on their  website as a week to connect Toronto’s digital natives with the city’s social change organizations. Held at MaRs discovery district with the backing of both for and non profit organizations the week looked like it was a great success. Now where did I come in? I had the pleasure of volunteering my time as one of the social media ‘experts’ in  a one day session  with a charity to analyze their current operations and develop strategies to implement social media in their work.

I had the opportunity to work with a good friend of mine  Dan Hocking a partner in a digital agency. We were paired with Pencils for Kids a small charity based out of Markham who’s goal is to see all children with the tools needed to have an education. Currently they have projects in a community in Niger where they have worked to  help provide the school supplies and facilities needed for an education. Overall an organization that despite only having one full time (unpaid) staff  person has been doing great things to create social change.

While Pencils for Kids is doing some great things offline, Dan and I felt that building a stronger social media presence would work well in expanding their fund-raising efforts.  Here’s a bit of what we were able to discuss in our meeting:

Telling their story: The founder of this organization , Robin Mednic  who is in the thick of things when it comes to this organization’s projects has  an uncanny  ability to just grab you into the cause. By telling her experience with the organization and the changes Pencils for Kids has made  she almost immediately sold me on the charity.  We felt this strong message needed to be found on their website as well.  By better integrating the photos they already had on flickr and placing the content amassed  in her travels on the site in either blog or in web page form we felt Pencils for Kids could represent themselves as the amazing change creating organization that they are.

Fund-raising: We also got into the development of a fund-raising campaign with a strong on line component. Focused around the idea of providing every child in the community they support with text books Pencils for Kids would actively engage supporters in this campaign . Relying heavily on visual imagery ( X amount of money = X% of a child’s text books) Pencils for kids through its offline work could drive on line donations to its site. Through this campaign they would be able to directly demonstrate the effect an individual ‘s donation  would have to the cause and they would appeal to literacy groups, schools and the general public in reaching their goal.

Awareness: Pencils are a strong source of imagery for the organization and Pencils for Kids uses it as a initial topic for discussion about their organization. To build stronger feelings for this organization it was felt that Pencils for Kids could engage the public by encouraging them to  create content around this key item.  Some suggested mediums were photos, drawings, and videos and these would be posted on the Pencils for Kids website where viewers could vote and comment on these pieces of work  potentially with prizing to follow for  the most votes.

Overall this was a great experience and I was happy to have been brought aboard. I think I took away something from this experience as well. In the social media realm a lot of people with knowledge feel that organizations should be on all the major tools and they will then seem to have this major success.  I’ve learned that  certain tools aren’t for every organization.  Really I think that goes back to basic marketing. What tools will meet the organizations needs and goals? We didn’t go very heavy on a social media tool set in our ideas during the session because we knew that the volunteers of Pencils for Kids would be overwhelmed or not put in the  large  amount of effort needed to see  what would probably  be limited success. Instead we stuck to basics and worked on Pencils for Kids strengths.

PS: Remember how I said I was sold on this organization, after the session Dan and I  put our names down for working with Pencils for Kids in the future.

Have any questions/comments? Contact me at or send me a twitter message .

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  1. Great post, Kevin! I enjoyed the final Pencil for Kids presentation; it was obvious that you had a great team going.

    At the event, I worked with Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) and it was one of the most eye-opening consulting sessions I’ve had. We are dealing with situations where live blogging or instant tweeting simply is not possible – these volunteers are working in war zones and alike. I have summarized a few points in my deck presented at Net Change Week/Refresh Events

    I wish you all the best with your continuous social tech work with Pencil for Kids. Please keep us posted!

  2. I agree that it was an eye opening experience, not for profits are in a very different position compared to companies and not every social media tool applies. That being said using target tools can still help them out in big ways. It was awesome that you along with with everyone else at Netchange week were able to take the time to help these organizations find yet another way to tell their amazing stories.

    I was at Evelyn’s presentation at Refresh Events, it hit a lot of great points and encourage people to go and check out the link she provided!

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