Category Archives: Generative Conversations

Journey Maps

Download this tool

Journey maps are used often in the private sector to map out a customer’s experience of a product or service. It identifies customer needs and wants, motivations, and interactions with the product or service from beginning or end.

In terms of a journey map for you collaborative or collective impact initiative, here are some of the things it can do for you:

  • Tell the story of your collaborative journey from initial start through engagement, to where you are today
  • Can be the whole story or part of the story.
  • Identify key milestones, interactions, successes, set backs and other key touchpoints
  • Provide history for new comers
  • Deepen/expand understanding of what works and what doesn’t or of choices that were made or need to be made.
  • Helps visualize where the journey is going.

Journey Maps are visual treatments in which key steps, milestone, and decision points are identified in relationship to each other.

Download the entire Journey Map Handout (PDF).

Together, Differently

I sit on the Mayor of Edmonton’s Task Force to End Poverty. It’s a diverse group including the expected mix of leaders from government, business, education and community services. At a recent gathering we were working together to increase common understanding about poverty as well as to move forward with identifying strategies.

In this session we were gathered in small groups around round tables. At my table the folks there represented those that might be considered to be on the far left and those on the far right and everything in between. (I will let you imagine where I fit on that spectrum!)

This little story is not about left or right, but about how people from all walks of life, each with their own ideologies, their lenses and biases, as well as their compassion and insights can walk together toward a day when poverty is no more.

One of the gentlemen there clearly operates at the opposite end of the “spectrum,” than I do. For a time, he and I (and others) seemed like we were debating positions more so than exploring possibilities together.  We listened to one another, expanded on one another’s thoughts or beliefs and there were numerous points where we did not agree.

Here is what I found to be so amazing and encouraging. No one was facilitating our round table conversation. We went back and forth; everyone spoke, granted some more than others. I imagine some of the things said by one rankled the sensibilities of another, but we were respectful and we kept at it. I remember thinking as things progressed that despite our differences, all of us were there for the same purpose: to end poverty in our community.

I know it wasn’t magic, but it had that feel to it. Perhaps it is was more like a mysterious convergence. Why? Because we all discovered, through the sharing of, and dialogue about, our differences that at the end of it all, we were on common ground. We just travelled to it from different places.

Yes, our differences remained. Our politics were not transformed. Our fundamental beliefs were maintained, but we used them to create understanding and commitment to the work before us.

There are a host of tools we can use to foster dialogue, but in the final analysis, it takes people to welcome other people into their minds and hearts, accept our differences as well as our imperfections, and move forward together.

I discovered as the meeting drew to a close that the gentleman that was most different from me had become my ally and I had become his. To paint a bit of a stereotypical picture: imagine a gentleman in a suit I could never afford, neat and tidy hair, shoes that shone and another gentleman in jeans, untucked shirt, sandals, and a tad scruffy walking together toward the same place. Together, differently.

It made my heart sing. And I have to believe, his did, too.


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Social Media – What Now?

Most non-profits are active on the web and understand the importance of ensuring there are ample opportunities for cross sharing between websites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms like Pinterest. My sense is that only a minority of non-profits – truly understand and then embrace social media as being vital to communication with stakeholders, increasing brand awareness, promoting a cause, and generating philanthropic interest and action in their organizations.

I understand it is difficult for many non-profits to allocate a staff person or more importantly overall staff time to social media work. Not doing so, however, will make it harder and harder to connect with one’s stakeholders deeply and continually. Not only is it imperative non-profits get sophisticated about social media, it is also an affordable undertaking, given that social media is typically free or very low in cost. Not having and acting on a social media strategy is a missed opportunity to experience significant impact with stakeholders at a very low price point.

Here are some trends that may help you understand the need for your organization to get more involved in the Internet and social media.

Mobilization of the Internet
Sometime this year, it is expected that accessing the Internet through mobile technology will surpass traditional desktop access. More and more people are engaging businesses, non-profits, and one another on their smartphones and tablets. According to comScore, nearly two-thirds of social network users use their mobile devices rather than their desktop. These two trends suggest that non-profits need to create websites that are easily transposed to mobile interfaces. If they aren’t people aren’t likely to ramble through a site that does not display simply and well in terms of navigation and content.

The Rise of Influencer Marketing
Stephanie Frasco (SocialMediaToday) reminds us that the sharing power of social media is critical to our success, especially if we can connect with what she calls “ambassadors and influencers.” Getting others who support your cause to post about you to their followers is a key strategy to be considered if you want to reach a high volume of people. This is called “influencer marketing” and while it may be a tad scary to put your marketing in the hands of others you cannot control, receiving support and affirmation from influencers are far more meaningful because the sharing is voluntary not orchestrated by your organization.

Emails are Still Important
What you need to consider is that the use of mobile devices to access emails has increased 110% since 2010. Today emails are opened on mobile devices 44% of the time, and that rate is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. Your emails should be written and laid out with that in mind. Don’t use a font size less than 11pt. Double that size of headers. And don’t get too fancy. Stick to a single column communication.

Where Should You Be Active?
The graph below tells us that people are using applications that do the following:
1. Storing and sharing pictures
2. Storing and sharing videos
3. Communicating via the Internet with friends and colleagues

Vine, the fastest growing mobile application. According to Wikipedia, “Vine is a mobile app owned by Twitter that enables its users to create and post short looping video clips. Video clips created with Vine have a maximum clip length of seven seconds and can be shared to Vine’s social network, or to other services such as Twitter… and Facebook.”  Note the videos are very short and implies that our messaging should be brief and to the point.

Take a look at the list below. Are you actively involved with these applications?  Are you integrating them amongst each other and with your website?


Of course being on social media is not enough. You have to know why you are there and what you are trying to accomplish.

Dialogue is one the key strategies worth considering. One way communication  (print materials like brochures, advertisement, newsletters, and static websites) are far less effective that two way exchanges between your organization and your stakeholders. You can create dialogue on a blog (allow people to make comments) and via Facebook and Twitter. You do that by not just expecting people to engage you on your Facebook page or through your Twitter page. You also create dialogue by visiting the pages of those who follow you and by retweeting other people’s tweets or commenting on them.

Information-Sharing is another purpose of social media. It’s less effective if that’s all you do, but if you are optimally engaged in social media, you are likely to get more results from sharing information about an event, an online fundraiser, or a show you are putting on.  Social media is also helpful in terms of informing others of facts they  may not be aware of and then linking them to places they can get more information if they wish to.

Calls to Action also can work well. When Bissell Centre had a devastating fire at its Thrift Shoppe, the organization lost all of its contents (primarily clothes and household items). Twitter was deployed very successfully to launch a “Restock the Shoppe” campaign. The retweets exceeded our expectations and people mobilized clothing campaigns at work, at their schools, and places of worship. Others got their friends to participate and many individuals showed up with bags of clothing they gleaned from their closets. Within a month we had more than enough stock to re-open at a temporary location.

Services can also be delivered via social media. I have resolved issues with Telus through its Twitter-based customer representatives and frankly much more quickly and effectively than through their telephone-based services. Perhaps there are ways for your organization to better serve donors, volunteers, and in some cases clients through Twitter.

If you are not yet as active as you should be or if you are reluctant to fully commit to social media as a social engagement strategy, I can understand the reluctance. You have to be prepared to give up control of your messaging for one thing and trust that your brand will be treated respectfully by the masses. Keep in mind, however, that even if you are not on social media, others can and do “talk” about you. Your absence is no guarantee that you are in control of things anymore when it comes to messaging, branding, marketing, and so on.

As I wrote previously on this blog, “Social media is communication to be sure, but also about engagement. It’s dynamic and more unpredictable.  The buzz created about your brand is no longer under your control.  Those doing the buzzing are commenting on your brand, interpreting it, judging it, and promoting it. Not only that, they are talking about you (having social conversations) in ways you might not, altering the message for context or effect (and yes, their bias), and if your social media efforts are successful, they are influencing and involving others in your cause. Actually, they are playing an instrumental role in shifting the your cause mindset toour cause. As Beth Kanter says somewhere on her blog, ‘Your supporters are the message’.”

In a slide show on social media, Beth Kanter referenced the work of Neil Perkin. I have adapted below. This outlines the differences between traditional and social media communications.

Some of the above may make you uncomfortable because social media is less predictable than traditional communications strategies. But the more people you have involved in conversations about your cause, influencing their friends, creating messaging together, the better able you will be to connect with people and learn from them.

More About Generative Conversations

Reprinted from our e-newsletter – see back issues and sign up HERE

What is a Generative Conversation?
A generative conversation is basically a dialogue among people interested in learning and exchanging ideas about a topic they have agreed to talk about. More specifically, dialogue is: “shared exploration towards greater understanding, connection, or possibility” (Co-Intelligence Institute).

Another way of saying this is that dialogue is the art of listening together. An effective generative conversation, then, has people engaged in the sharing of perspectives, questions and ideas that produce a common understanding and help identify a common sense of direction or conclusion.

Effective Generative Conversations are reliant on the following assumptions of those engaged in the conversation, as follows: Continue reading More About Generative Conversations