Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I’ve been watching the time zones wake up in the US and start Twittering about the various service projects and community building activities everyone is participating in. It’s been heart warming and also frustrating – I wish I could be so many places at once! I can only be in one place, though – but I can start a conversation that goes many places. Here goes…
When I think of Martin Luther King, Jr., the first thing that comes to mind is community: building it, empowering it, moving it to action, and nurturing it. When I think of those four focus areas for community, I do NOT think of the number of fans on a Facebook page, the number of people on an email list, or even the ranking of a Google search results page.
Earlier today I followed a link from Twitter to an archived guest post on Pamela’s Grantwriting Blog by Aerin Guy. To be honest, I often skim, and when the title of the post mentioned 15 Social Media Resolutions, I figured I’d just skip to the list 🙂
That’s where I found Aerin’s resolution to “consciously rephrase Return on Investment with Return on Engagement.”
Is ROI limiting our community impact?
As I explained above with the example of MLK, Jr.’s focus on community, the idea of ROI doesn’t make sense. Then or now. If we are after impact, we have to reevaluate the way we approach evaluation!
Look at this way:
- ROI asks how many Facebook fans you have; ROE asks how many people are “liking,” commenting and sharing your Facebook content.
- ROI asks how many staff and how many hours; ROE asks how many posts, updates, replies or individual responses.
- ROI asks how many email subscribers; ROE asks how many people send you emails.
- ROI asks how much money you raise; ROE asks how many people are campaigning on your behalf.
- You can go on and on.
We can’t make change without community, whether locally or globally. And in order to start making change and empowering our communities, we need to approach our work with a frame that’s focused on the same attributes as our goals (engagement) and not simply on the traditional business frames (costs).
What do you think?
And to close with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”