Apologies for the lack of updates recently. I've been alternatively buried in work and snow as DC has experienced another record-breaking snowfall and the marketing team at Ashoka has been intensely focused on the Tech4Society conference hosted by Ashoka and the Lemelson Foundation in Hyderabad, India, last week.
As we were planning Tech4Society, the fourth and largest in a series of events as part of the Ashoka-Lemelson partnership to find and support social change inventors and innovators, I was determined that unlike the first three this conference would be fully social media enabled. I wanted it to be an example of "distributed eventing", where the event is more than just what goes on within the convention center and is instead a platform for interaction and dissemination on a much wider scale. In this I think we succeeded beyond anything Ashoka has done before.
In the lead-up to the conference we held a "Blog Your Way to Hyderabad" competition to select the official blogger of the conference. The winner would get an all-expenses trip and all-access pass to the conference and be given the reins of the AshokaTECH blog and Twitter account during the event, to keep the world informed of the conversations, examples and insights being shared. This was a gutsy move on Ashoka's part, giving an unknown person the responsibility of being the main conduit of information to the world about one of our most important gatherings. In every respect, however, the bloggers competition was a huge success. We received a number of excellent entries (all fo which served to spread the word about the event in the lead-up) and with the help of an outside judging panel of experts chose Elliot Harmon, a full-time blogger with TechSoup, as the winner. This was a fantastic win-win: we secured the services of a professional and experienced blogger and TechSoup was essentially able to send a correspondent to the event, something they never otherwise would have been able to do, doubling the audience and impact of his updates. You can read through all of Elliot's blog posts from Hyderabad (and the other coverage) here.
Not everything went to plan however (it almost never does): I spent much of my week organizing a conference call exclusively for bloggers featuring two Ashoka Fellows live from the event, only to be defeated by technical difficulties on the day. Still, I think this is a promising model of blogger engagement (and will, in fact, be trying again tomorrow on the occasion of the launch of Ashoka's new Globalizer initiative). We also sent a videography team to Hyderabad but were unable to upload their videos in real-time due to the bandwidth limitations on-site (it apparently took five hours to upload this one video).
The final stage of the Tech4Society social media strategy is to share the learnings gained from the event. We will be doing this by hosting a forum on SocialEdge and holding the next of our monthly #SocEntChat Twitter chats on March 3 on the topic of "Technology, invention and social change."
Overall this was another huge step forward for Ashoka in how we utilize social media to increase the impact of our work. Social media helped make Tech4Society a more global event which extended well beyond it's geographic location and those able to attend in-person. People from all of the world joined the conversation on Twitter and read in near real-time about the work being presented on the blog. Over the next week we'll be uploading a series of videos to further share this work. And this is the most important thing social media is allowing us to do: shine a better spotlight on the incredible and important work of Ashoka Fellows. As one of my colleagues said in reflecting back on our work in this area, "the world can’t adopt and help what it doesn’t know about."