Participation and influence

11 July 2008

At the Social Tech meetup last Wednesday we were discussing ways of visually representing the interplay of “levels of engagement” (a good summary from Priscilla here) and “influence ripples” that are so prevalent in social networks, following on from discussion our dinner with Beth Kanter a few weeks back.

We didn’t quite succeed in our aim, but as we jammed ideas, the following diagram emerged from the discussion.

Participation Types

It outlines the different types of participation that constituents are likely to take around a particular issue or campaign.

  • Communicate (online): people using their personal networks (mostly online) to spread the word about a cause they’re interested in. The barrier to participation is reasonably low, and the networks are likely to be reasonably large.
  • Physical: people “hitting the streets” to organise events, send letters to or meeting with their local politician. The barrier to participation is reasonably high, and the networks are likely to be relatively small (compared to online networks).
  • Financial: donors. Depending on the person, the barrier to participation is either low (for those that prefer to “pay” for an organisation to do work) or high (those that don’t have a lot of money), depending on how you look at it.

There is also a body of people that have an interest in the issue – and one challenge is for us to engage those individuals.

Participation Types Continuum

The continuum represents individuals that participate in a given way on a particular issue. Ideally, as organisers, we’d like for those participants to work in multiple spaces – but each type of participation has merit and achieves certain objectives. Participants may jump from one form of participation to another.

In part it’s also important to help broaden the base of “interested” people – to draw them into the issue. The arrow demonstrates this goal. One suggestion is that, from an organisational perspective, we can consider the idea of “Circle of concern” versus “Circle of influence” – a concept that I first heard about through the book “The 7 habits of highly effective people”.

The broader issue and expanding awareness of the issue can be considered our “Circle of concern”. This might include elected representitives or company CEOs or any number of key people that can influence the outcome of the issue.

Our “Circle of influence” in this model consists of the participants and folks that are interested in the issue. The “7 habits” approach is that by focusing on our Circle of influence, we increase it’s size, thereby increasing our influence in our Circle of concern. Mapped onto the diagram we end up with:

Participation Types Influence

So, although we didn’t quite achieve our objective, perhaps this model is of interest/use in it’s own right?

We’d love to continue the discussion – leave a comment if you’d like to add your thoughts…


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