#NonprofitBookClub: New Power

By Caylin Haldeman

When I started #NonprofitBookClub earlier this year, I hoped to use this platform as an opportunity to drive conversations and engage with others who are reading about nonprofits, community and social justice. In my last post, reviewing Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas, I asked readers for book recommendations for my next post and boy, did I get some great ones.

The first recommendation we’re diving into for #NonprofitBookClub is New Power: How Anyone Can Persuade, Mobilize and Succeed in our Chaotic, Connected Age.

Written by Jeremy Heimans, founder of Purpose, and Henry Timms, Executive Director of 92nd Street Y, New Power is a compelling argument for individuals and organizations to embrace new values and models focused on collaboration, transparency and broad-based participation. Heimans and Timms have strong backgrounds in building new power movements – the former founded multiple organizations focused on public mobilization and storytelling, and Timms is the original founder of #GivingTuesday, a global campaign to encourage philanthropic acts.

Old power, according to the authors, is characterized by concentrations of ownership and control. Fortune 500 companies, top-down politics and currency are all cited as examples of old power – traditional approaches to how individuals and organizations accumulate and exercise their influence. New power is more like currents of water or electricity – open, crowd-sourced, and gaining strength through numbers. Increasingly, people and companies are responding to far-reaching cultural shifts in attitudes toward activism and social good by utilizing models of new power to grow their influence and achieve their goals. From a branding perspective, new power has become critical for fostering trust and buy-in from a more socially conscious consumer base.

Through CULTIVATE, Next Stage aims to help emerging leaders get ahead of subtle cultural shifts like the ones outlined above and build nonprofits that are positioned to succeed in a world in which technology and social media drive connection and engagement at scales far beyond traditional human networks. Modules focused on partnership and collaboration, volunteer engagement and online communication provide tools and resources that help cohort organizations create strategies to engage with the broader community and “build the army”.

Yet we continue to advocate – like Heimans and Timms do – for a combination of new and old power approaches (or, as they say, blended power). The combination of innovative or gamified platforms that encourage community-building, co-creation and authentic engagement with more centralized models of traditional support like a well-positioned board of directors are a recipe for nonprofit success.

It is no surprise that this recommendation came from our friends at Share Good – the umbrella organization behind Share Charlotte and its marketing campaigns like #GivingTuesdayCLT and #SummerShareCLT that benefit so many local nonprofits in our community every year. Their online community engagement platform is a great example of how local nonprofits are capitalizing on new power to grow their networks and acquire new volunteers and donors.

If you’ve followed the growth of movements like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and Occupy – or watched with fascination as politicians like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump or companies like Airbnb, Uber and Facebook have exploded in popularity (and, often simultaneously, scandal) – New Power is an eye-opening window into the strategies, values and approaches that have made them so effective in their efforts to scale.

The book has left me wondering – if new power is about harnessing the broad collective, how do the smallest, most deeply embedded nonprofits in our community access it? Does the ability to utilize approaches and values characterized by new power inherently require access to the existing social networks that were created by the structures of old power systems?

Next up, I will read Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization and the Decline of Civic Life, in which Eric Klinenburg argues that the future of democratic societies rests on our shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, churches, and parks where crucial connections are formed. I heard a great 99% Invisible podcast episode with Klinenburg, and am excited to read more.

Join in on Twitter and Facebook at @NextStageCLT!

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