Our TechNow 2010 keynote speaker, Katya Andresen, is the Chief Operating Officer at Network for Good. In addition, she is a speaker, author and blogger about nonprofit marketing, online outreach and the basics of social media. Katya has trained thousands of causes in effective marketing and media relations, and her marketing materials for nonprofits have won national and international awards.
Katya graciously answered the following questions that gave us a glimpse of her beyond the official bio.
TNotes: Have you been to Pittsburgh before? If so, what brought you here in the past?KA:
I have been once before, many years ago, on a business trip with a purpose I don’t recall. But I’m sure this trip will be entirely different in that it will be memorable! I hear your conference is special, so I’m making the trip back to be a part of it.
TNotes: What are you reading right now? Would you recommend it to others?
KA: I just read two completely different writings on social media. Both are recommended. First, I read the book Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith wrote about the power of social networks, The Dragonfly Effect. Named for “the only insect that is able to move in any direction when its four wings are working in concert,” the Dragonfly Effect lays out how four key actions can together produce large results online. The book was a highly practical field guide to building a passionate community behind causes online. The idea is that by combining the four wings—a focus on a concrete goal, an appealing cause that grabs attention, an experience that engages the individual and an easy call to action—you can generate momentum for a movement.
Then I read a contrarian piece by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. He says this book has it wrong. While social networks can get a lot of people engaged with simple actions, he says, they won’t truly increase anyone’s motivation or build a movement. He says revolutions won’t happen online. While Gladwell is at times overly dismissive and a bit snarky about online organizing, the thrust of his argument is very valid: That the connections we form online are generally looser than those forged in person. Therefore, while online networks work well for information sharing, dissemination of information and innovation, collaboration and marketplace creation, they likely can’t alone prompt the kind of deep personal commitment that results in high-risk activism. For revolutions like the sit-ins of the civil rights movement, says Gladwell, you need the strength of human contact and the discipline and strategy of a more hierarchical offline organization.
Here’s the real question in my opinion: is online organizing not resulting in more change because of its intrinsic limitations or because our sector hasn’t quite sorted out how to build relationships with online supporters effectively, thereby creating offline action? It seems to me the ideal is to be doing both, together, in concert. The revolution may not begin and end on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean Twitter has no role in change that happens in the real world. We need the bonds of human contact AND the scale of the Internet, together. I recommend reading both Aaker and Gladwell – and thinking about their arguments. It’s exactly the kind of debate we need to be having in our sector right now, exploring in earnest what technology can and can’t do.
TNotes: If you could have any job in the world (no limitations), what would it be and why?
KA: I’ve always said a wonderful job for a week would be taking over for Terry Gross on Fresh Air or some other journalist who gets to have in-depth, probing conversations with a huge variety of brilliant people. What an amazing job she has. One of my favorite jobs was as a journalist in Cambodia in the 1990s -- I loved following the people shaping history and asking them anything. So that would be on my list. I’d also like to spend an afternoon as a headline writer for the New York Post, just for fun. When big news happens, I always go look at their cover. It’s hilarious.
TNotes: What person has had the most influence on your life? Tell us why.
KA: Probably my dad. He taught me how to work very hard and have incredibly high standards for myself, especially in how I contribute to the lives of others.
TNotes: What do you like to do for fun when you're not working?
KA: Spend time with my husband and three children and work on my novel, but not all at the same time.
TNotes: Are you a dog person or a cat person? Why?
KA: Cat. They don’t slobber and are self-possessed. Those are good qualities.
Hear Katya’s keynote presentation “Homer Simpson for Nonprofits: The Truth about How People Really Think and What It Means for Promoting Your Cause
” on Thursday, October 28 at TechNow 2010. Learn more at http://technow2010.wordpress.com