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By The Numbers

Workplace Survey, Findings

1.Workers are struggling to work effectively. 

When focus is compromised in pursuit of Collaboration, neither works well.

2. Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration. 

Workplaces designed to enable collaboration without sacrificing employees’ ability to focus are more successful.

3. Choice drives performance and innovation. 

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative and have higher-performing employees.

 

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WORKING WIKILY

Social netwoks

Most nonprofits use social media like Facebook and Twitter as an ancillary part of what they do. A few organizations, however, are using these tools to fundamentally change the way they work and increase their social impact


Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been in existence for more than 40 years, with an impressive track record of policy victories and influential corporate partnerships. In 2009, the organization began a new experiment. Under the leadership of Dave Witzel, a veteran social media strategist, EDF launched a network called the Innovation Exchange, focused on bringing together companies interested in sharing ideas and approaches to creating environmentally sustainable businesses.

 

Since it started, the Innovation Exchange has used networks and social media tools as core elements of its strategy. For example, the organization made its internal strategy documents available to everyone by sharing them on a Google Group, and then solicited public feedback. In one instance, the Innovation Exchange posted a draft version of its elevator pitch on its blog; a university professor picked it up and shared it with her students, who proceeded to edit the statement. The result was a better pitch that the Innovation Exchange now uses.

 

 

The Innovation Exchange’s efforts are at the forefront of a new way of working that is now being tested throughout EDF. At last year’s all-staff retreat, 350 EDF employees—including lawyers, scientists, and economists—participated in two days of intensive social media training and were given a charge from the top: Forget message control, go forth and engage with your stakeholders. “This isn’t just a fad or a new way to dress up a press release,” says Executive Director David Yarnold. “It’s about continually finding new ways to solve the planet’s most pressing problems faster, smarter, and more effectively.”

 

EDF’s efforts are examples of an emerging leadership style that we call “working wikily,” an approach that is characterized by greater openness, transparency, decentralized decision making, and collective action. (The term working wikily is based on the word wiki, a Web site that allows groups of people to collectively create and edit the Web site and information on it. The best-known use of a wiki is Wikipedia.) Although EDF is a relatively early adopter of this new way of working, its experiments are no longer unusual. What once seemed a marginal activity became mainstream after President Barack Obama’s election campaign combined grassroots organizing with online tools to mobilize more than 13 million supporters and raise nearly $750 million for his 2008 election.

 

Indeed, for anyone serious about social impact, it’s quickly becoming difficult to imagine not working wikily. Network strategies have helped the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup become one of the largest volunteer events of its kind, growing from a single site cleanup to a global coordinated effort that in one day, on Sept. 19, 2009, mobilized 400,000 volunteers to pick up 6.8 million pounds of trash in 100 countries. Online giving marketplace Kiva has used its technology platform and a web of international partners to help individuals make more than $100 million in microloans. And funders such as the Barr Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Hawaii Community Foundation are working to strengthen ties within local networks of people and organizations as a way to build healthier communities and create greater social impact.

 

Of course, social networks themselves are as old as human society. Everyone participates in networks, such as their family, the schools they attend, the organizations they work for, the churches they belong to, and their groups of friends. What’s different now is that a wave of new technologies—from conference calls and e-mails to blogs, wikis, tags, texts, and tweets— allow people to more easily visualize, communicate with, and act on existing personal and professional networks, and to forge strong connections with new ones. These tools make it possible to link with any number of people (irrespective of geographic distance), to access a greater diversity of perspectives, to accelerate the sharing of information, and to drastically reduce the costs of participation and coordination. That makes them well suited to facilitating progress on complex social and environmental challenges that require people and organizations to coordinate their efforts across traditional boundaries and sectors.

 

As important as these new technologies are, the most important change goes well beyond the tools themselves. The real transformation that is taking place today is the fundamental shift in the way that people think, form groups, and do their work—in part because of the widespread accessibility of the tools and the networks they can help to create.