Did Someone Say NAACP Twitter Channel

This year the NAACP turned 100 and the challenges it faces are different both externally and internally. Like all organizations, they have to deal with the same core issue -how to stay relevant and differentiated. How does the NAACP address the problems of its constituents today?  How do they stay meaningful in people’s lives.  How does the organization attract and engage new contributors in its human rights mission? Who are its constituents?

Last fall the NAACP selected Ben Jealous as its new President and CEO.   What a good move. Ben is young, incredibly smart, trustworthy, steeped in the contributions of the NAACP, and yet at the same time, keenly aware of the organizations new role in the future. As Ben once said, [in the Brown v Board of Education era], “the fight used to be about going to the same schools, today people want to go to good schools.” I think he gets the relevance thing and the new challenges, but I suspect a 100 year old organization steers more like a tanker than a jet ski.

During the last U.S. Presidential elections, the NAACP demonstrated relevance through its voter registration efforts that used both old school get-out the vote techniques as well as viral, electronic organization methods. There are even some NAACP twitter channels which no doubt will be used to help engagement and generate heat on current events. This is a good start on the next 100.

It was even more exciting to learn that the NAACP is interested in exploring ways to use web 2.0, and open source tools and organization principles to enhance the impact of the organization. I suspect there’s a wealth of technical experience and an untapped willingness to assist out there which is available provided people connect with the purpose, and are given easy ways to engage. It will however require a new and broader concept of membership.

There are folks who’ll spend hours figuring out how to apply software to the problems, use social networks to spread information, make great contributions, and who may even remain anonymous, but they won’t go to chapter meetings or be involved in traditional ways. Morphing the organization to capture this kind of engagement will be essential to its future success, and I’m optimistic the current leadership will adapt.  For sure it will be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but the very willingness to solicit feedback and new ideas is a really good start. Merely communicating about the needs of the institution opens up the possibility for greater engagement by larger and more diverse audiences, all for the good.

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