I can’t count how many times an organization, a campaigner or a consultant has asked for my opinion about “how can I make this go viral?”  My response is usually broken down into two parts: 1. what do you think viral means? 2. what are you actually trying to do (no campaign, no program, no service has the goal of simply being “viral”)?  This week a great example of someone who has an idea and wants it to go viral has emerged – and you have the opportunity to join the discussion!

Christopher Fabian has a great blog post up on the MobileActive blog about the way the #1MillionShirts idea emerged and grew via social media, especially Twitter, this week. The idea to gather 1 million t-shirts for Africa (yes, that general) was put out there, publicly, and the ball really started rolling – but not in support of the idea.

Development professionals, charity-minded folks, those interested in social media all responded.  There were uniformly negative tweets from everyone with any sense of the “African” context.  Mixed comments from those without.  The obligatory blog posts followed (at least 7 that I’ve counted) filled with personal experience on the issue, reasons it wouldn’t work, and sources for what had come before.  You can read the full blog post here.

What is so interesting about the #1MillionShirts case study is that it shows how social media has allowed us to experiment, learn, iterate and evolve in our technologies and our work at a previously unheard of speed. There’s no need to think your initial R&D phase would take a year – not when you have 48 hours of tweets, blog posts, and comments from people working in the development field from around the world weighing in on your idea, in real time and for free.  The power in the network is incredible.

Here’s where you come in:

You can join in a call with Jason Sadler of One Million Shirts, @talesfromthhood, @tmsruge, Christopher Fabian (@unickf) and Erica Kochi (@uniemk) of UNICEF, @penelopeinparis, Laura Seay (@texasinafrica), and anyone else who would like to join in to discuss this project, sustainable and responsible aid work, and the questions that the #1millionshirts project has raised.  The call is expected to be lively but respectful.  Please join!

Suggested agenda for a 1-hour call:

  • Introductions of roundtable participants
  • Overview of 1 Million Shirts (Jason)/Goals and plan
  • Comments from the aid community and response
  • Discussion and questions/comments from the audience (submitted through Ready Talk online)
  • Closing remarks, Jason and Panelists

The call will be Friday, April 30, at 12 pm EST – get the details.

#1MillionShirts and the Power of the Network
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