When I went to my first Share our Strength Conference of Leaders in the fall of 2000, I was amazed by the vibrant, passionate community of people the organization had put together to address the issue of hunger.
As a relatively early adopter of social media around 2006, I became really excited about the idea of that community bringing that energy, enthusiasm and spirited conversation online. I waxed enthusiastically in blog posts here.
We brought the incredible Beth Kanter to the Conference of Leaders in 2008, to try to jump start the social media discussion. Maybe a bit before its time. John Haydon came in the following year. Another great presentation, but still the online community was limited to a few of us. Amanda Hite led the social media discussion in 2011, after which she was part of a great group of folks who created the No Kid Hungry Social Council.
As a result of all the hard work that group has done, this year’s conference last week, was the very first major hunger gathering I’ve attended, where social media happened right. It happened mostly on Twitter. Two large screens ran the Twitter feed in the plenary sessions. Amanda kicked it off with another great session. Events saw tremendous traffic with #nokidhungry trending on Twitter at one point. People recognized great content. High-profile attendees like The Food Network’s Ted Allen and Marc Murphy, and WNBA star Ruth Riley interacted online with attendees. People shared!!!! The community truly came together. Now it’s time to keep that momentum going.
Online communities thrive because of real-life connections. We can have stimulating, compelling online conversations. We can share with each other; educate each other. But the real bonding occurs when we finally see each other face-to-face. Sometimes it occurs the other way around: We meet each other at an event, and that initial meeting can set up an online conversation that evolves into genuine friendship. A lot of both occurred at this year’s conference.
Kudos to No Kid Hungry Online Community Director, Clay Dunn, Amanda Hite, and the No Kid Hungry Social Council and all of the folks who’ve been working to energize and connect the online tribe. I believe you’ve done it. You’ve set the bar for every hunger organization that might want to mobilize stakeholders online.
One more thing: the No Kid Hungry folks have put together two cool apps to further the cause: Their No Kid Hungry app, which integrates gamification to engage people in various program activities. And an app that features recipes from their Cooking Matters program (Tyson Foods is donating $1 for each of the first 5000 downloads of this app, so get on in to the iTunes Store and check it out).
BTW–Big shoutout to early adopters in this community, like Michael Farver, Bill Shore, Tim Cipriano, Joni Doolin (and others whom I’ve no doubt omitted, but can be seen on this Twitter list of hunger advocates we’ve been putting together for the past few years).