In this new era of public engagement, the Neighborhood Networks National Consortium (NNNC) has begun to leverage social media to change lives and attract potential new members. It is part of a new strategy designed to energize the national consortium by engaging stakeholders in two-way, interactive communication.
Launched during the Neighborhood Networks 10th Anniversary National Training Conference in 2005, the NNNC is focused on assisting Neighborhood Networks centers in the pursuit of funding, training, staffing, partnerships and other vital resources. The NNNC mission is to build the capacity and ensure the sustainability of Neighborhood Networks centers through peer-to-peer networking, collective resource sharing, national policy and program advocacy. All 22 regional consortia and the more than 1,800 Neighborhood Networks centers are eligible for membership in the NNNC.
NNNC Seeks Broader Participation
While the NNNC is growing as a membership network for centers and regional consortia, it is seeking to broaden participation even further. The first step for centers and consortia is to join the NNNC.
“We want to be an effective advocate for all centers to represent them in the way they want. For that to happen, centers and consortia need to join us because their voices and input are vital,” said NNNC President Thaddeus Miles. “Ultimately, the NNNC vision and the strategic roadmap we develop as we move forward will be shaped by our members. To facilitate communications and more, we are leveraging social media.”
Social Media in Action
Social media are creating exciting new opportunities for nonprofits, foundations, associations, and government agencies to engage and interact with audiences and stakeholders. Social media increasingly are playing a role in:
- Attracting new members, volunteers, and partners
- Inspiring action
- Promoting special events
- Raising online revenue
The NNNC is using social media as an online communications and marketing tool to raise its national profile and increase awareness of the Neighborhood Networks Initiative. The NNNC has a Facebook page, Twitter and Ning sites. Neighborhood Networks centers and consortia are eagerly encouraged to join but are also invited to be active. They are expected to attend annual consortium meetings, participate on committees, attend special events, and engage in activities sponsored by the NNNC.
NNNC stakeholder participation in social media has tangible benefits. For example, one corporate partner that wishes to remain anonymous has pledged $25,000 to the NNNC when it reaches 5,000 fans on Facebook. Ning will allow members to more easily communicate and conduct committee meetings despite geographic distance. In the near future, the Consortium will add contests to its repertoire of social media activities, although participants will have to be members to enter.
Empowering Community Leaders
Part of the new NNNC social media strategy is to attract and engage younger members. With its outreach to youth, the NNNC is employing a similar approach to other organizations that have successfully implemented efforts to encourage “collective leadership” at the community level.
“Collective leadership” aims to empower leaders in their own communities across traditional boundaries like gender, race, culture, class and age. It particularly seeks to attract and involve young people in developing meaningful solutions to difficult local challenges as activists and leaders instead of just consumers or observers. The NNNC is starting a youth advisory board and youth slots on the board of directors will become available in 2010. This is all part of a visionary, long-range plan.
“We want the NNNC to be relevant. Youth are important to our growth and future. They are likely pretty familiar with the new media we need to employ so they are integral to our success,” Miles said. “If all our members are using social media, we could disperse information widely and quickly and help our members to become conversant with cutting edge, new technologies. The more skilled members become engaged in new technology, the more prepared they are to take advantage of opportunities to partner with larger corporations and foundations.”
NNNC Membership Benefits
Besides the chance to learn new skills, opportunities to secure more funding, and networking, the benefits of consortium membership include shared resources, access to specific partnerships and joint programming. The NNNC also will offer centers a chance to interact with experts in the fields of education, nonprofits, social media and technology. Currently, the NNNC is partnering with universities to do online training, Webinars, and Web casts. Different experts will lead discussion groups and panels. Some universities and students will participate in these discussions that will remain open so experts can answer questions.
Call to Action
Miles is calling on centers and consortia to join the NNNC and to be active and vocal. He expects centers, consortia, and other stakeholders to tell the national consortium what it is doing well and what needs improvement. Miles wants centers to go to the NNNC Web site, become members and fans on Facebook. He also wants center staff to encourage youth to become fans on Facebook.
The NNNC is about to convert to a mobile Web site and is looking for board and committee members as well as candidates for an independent advisory board. As incentives for centers to join and participate, the NNNC will be giving away hardware and software, a laptop, other items, and a center makeover to one urban and one rural center.
Stakeholder Input Needed
Membership in the NNNC is free. Centers that become members are encouraged to participate in an online survey on the NNNC Web site, which is seeking information for a possible application for funding in the next grantmaking round of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Centers and partners that can share any insight about their experiences applying for funding under the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA’s) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) are urged to speak up.
“We are trying to get the most useful reflections on broadband access and programming needs from centers,” said Miles. “For centers and partners who may have applied for BTOP funding during the first round of grants, we are keen to get information on any lessons learned as we move forward. We want to hear the good news and the cautionary tale. All practical knowledge that helps us ascertain and address center priorities is useful.”
For more information about the Neighborhood Networks National Consortium, contact:
2501 Crestwood Road, Ste. 205
North Little Rock, Arkansas 72116