Lessons learned in four years of working in NGO and social media

by Donata Columbro

The most dangerous thing to do is to remain motionless.

William Seward Burroughs

It was my last week of work for an NGO 2.0., Volunteers for development and CISV. The latter was the leader NGO for this editorial project, first, and then also the leader in terms of innovation applied to cooperation for development.

In 2010, after my graduation in international relations followed by a period of study in Burkina Faso, I made it to VpS. I literally could not wait to write for one of my favorite newspapers, which had, incidentally, helped me define – and refine – my academic career.

In these four years, I have learned a lot. I was lucky enough to both study and live through the evolution of a newspaper  able to turn itself into a speaker and an advocate for change among Italian non-governmental organizations. Although I cannot remember who said the phrase “If you want to learn, teach,” all I can say is this is so true for me. ONG 2.0 Webinars and online classes were a precious window of lifelong learning. At that time,  NGOs and nonprofit associations were slowly starting to allow new working and design paradigms to shape them, with no fear of comparing experiences and holding conversation through the many web and social media applications.

Three things lesson I learned that I would like to share with you in this entry.

  1. The change happening by virtue of the digital media and economic  crisis is scary to most NGOs. As a matter of fact, much is yet to be done, so  whoever “knows” and “can do” something needs to be willing to be an agent of change. Requests for help to understand “new” media (we accept the fact that for many are still new) do exist and should be listened to.
  2. Participation to community life is 60% of our job. It is akin to reading the newspaper to know what happened in the world. If you want to know the people, who chose and are still choosing you, you need to get acquainted with them. Long live Facebook groups! In our specific case, long live to Cooperanti si diventa (Becoming aid workers).
  3. Research and experimentation make up for the remaining 40% of the job. Getting your hands dirty (see picture) by trying out new tools and strategies is essential, in order to both be credible to who we want to educate about digital media and start the change ourselves.

Sometimes, change also means stopping and deciding to pass the baton.

The web doesn’t change the world, but allows the meeting of people who wish to do.

Claudia Vago (@tigella) said so during the last edition of Internet festival of Pisa. It is a beautiful phrase indeed, and the foundation of much of our work. Even more so today, given that my baton passes to her. The whole ONG 2.0 team is left in good hands.


7 replies
  1. Insurancewhisper
    Insurancewhisper says:

    It’s seldom that an article interests me enough keep reading after the first few lines these days. This article kept me interested from the beginning. It’s informative and good reading.


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