Here’s a sweeping generalisation: people under 25 are deeply engaged with the Internet, and with their cellphones; people over 25 are not.
Like all generalisations, it can easily be challenged (it’s not true of the writer, for example), but it does contain an important seed of truth.
Add another generalisation — that most community groups are dominated by people over 30 — and we have a clue that leads us to a communications gap.
‘Social’ sites such as MySpace and Facebook are increasingly popular. If your groups wants to reach out to and engage with younger people then you need to go to where they are.
But it’s MySpace today, and Facebook tomorrow. These things change all the time. How can your group keep up? Especially when you’re already busy doing the things you’ve been doing for a while.
My suggestion is to create a new volunteer (or paid) position: Technology Scout. This person needs a willingness to learn about two things: your organisation and new technology.
They don’t need to know it all already, but they do need a decent computer, a broadband connection, and the time to explore and learn.
Their job is not to fix the broken printer, or to figure out why a spreadsheet formula doesn’t work.
Their job is to explore the world of new technologies, especially, but not only, the Internet, and to work out where and how your group should be involved: to scout the terrain and suggest a way forward.
While blogs such as Groupings can provide general clues for community groups about what’s happening in technology, a Technology Scout could take that information, explore it, and apply its possibilities to your group’s specific situation.
The Scout should also engage with Webstock — perhaps applying for a free registration for the February 08 conference. Note: applications close on 3 November, so apply now.
Also watch yMedia and keep an eye on the yMedia Challenge that “aims to connect media students with [NZ] not-for-profit organisations (NPOs). In one weekend, students and NPOs will come together to hear inspiring leaders, brainstorm possible digital solutions and share knowledge and ideas.” The students will go on to compete to produce an effective and intelligent digital media solution for their chosen NPO.
A few New Zealand groups are already taking steps into this new territory — Webguide 2.0, to be launched soon, will carry Case Studies — but many more need to be investigating the possibilities.
I believe a Technology Scout would be an asset for every organisation.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, October 2007. This article may have been modified from the original.