Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Use Your Voice

When asked to contribute an entry to our Social Media Symposium blog about, I happily said yes! I manage this professional networking site that launched earlier in March 2009. It is designed specifically for emerging and established community development leaders. The goal of the site is to facilitate communication across all types of community development corporations (CDCs) and among people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets. It provides the industry with a platform upon which to share ideas and experiences, access professional development and career opportunities, and create a more effective and diverse field.

That first paragraph reads so nicely because I lifted much of it from a press release that went out shortly after we launched the site. It's a very well-written, manicured introduction, but when contributing to a social or professional networking site, the voice of the contributor tends to become much more familiar, less this blog entry. I think that's part of the appeal of belonging to an online community. In fact, I find that the more conversational and relaxed users are with their tone on the site, while maintaining the appropriate level of professionalism, the more interested I am in reading.

Recently, we surveyed our site members to find out what they had to say about

“I love to hear what is happening across our nation in the housing market...I love being able to bump ideas off of others who may have already gone through what I am going through with my organization. Being young and new to the non-profit housing market, it is great to learn from seasoned individuals and organizations.”

“The opportunity to network with other non profit organizations has assisted in increasing my capacity and that of the organization.”

“Good platform for exploring our work and movement for change.”

These are the voices of our site members speaking to the impact a well-managed professional networking site can offer. This is why people join and engage. Users contribute, comment, ask, answer, and learn from one another. It reminds me of the model our instructor used in my Community Economic Development class to represent a well run community where capital circulates and helps the community to flourish. In this scenario, the capital is information and the members of the community are the ones who govern the process.

This is the part of the blog where my supervisor stops and thinks to herself, “Ah, very good grasshopper. You are learning!”

And, I am learning…as we all are. That's the whole point., as with many professional networking sites, subsists mainly on user-generated content. I learn from you, and you learn from me. That’s why it works.

Debbie Wise writes a blog for called, New to the Neighborhood and this is her voice.

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