This has been my mantra for the last 5 years of my life. It is the refrain I've sung in good times and bad. I have chanted it in deep distress, curled up in the fetal position on the couch. I have sung it from actual rooftops in joy - usually when a contract lands. I have passed it along as my only sage advice for the self-employed. I've based my business on the idea of social capital, and the belief that somewhere, somebody needs what I can offer, and that through the power of social media, we can connect. I help them, they help me. We all win.
And that win, for me, hopefully comes in the form of interesting work and a nice, fat cheque. That is the theory, anyway.
But it strikes me that this power of social capital can - and should - be used for more than just business-building. Social media is an amazing tool to rally the troops, circle the wagons - insert the crowd-building metaphor of your choice. It has famously been used to build camps (does "I am the 99 per cent" or "invisible children" ring a bell?), but that's not the same thing as being used for good.
The more we can use our own personal power - our human capital - to connect with others who have a need we can fulfill - our social capital - the better able we are to use social media to effect positive change.
That change does not have to be big, it does not need to turn into a global movement. In fact, I think it's the small, human-sized actions that can have the most profound impact on any given person, at any given time.
I've been inspired lately by the actions of two wonderful women I'm proud to call my Facebook friends. My friend Jennifer was moved by a tweet about a single teenaged mom who had need of a crib. Forty-five minutes later, the crib her own baby daughter had just outgrown was packed up and delivered to the mom in need. Jen didn't stop there - she started a campaign in honor of her upcoming birthday called "Make Jen's Day" and she asked her friends to donate something to a charity, and to Facebook or Tweet her with the results. Within four days, she collected 115 acts of kindness - from donations to the food bank to cooking for a family with a seriously ill child. She received attention from the local media and the kindness count continues. If you want to contribute to "Make Jen's Day," be sure to tweet your good works to #makejensday.
It's a perfect example of social capital at work for good.
My friend Lisa is another excellent example. Just today she created a Facebook page called Project Help Out in support of her friend Ashley. Ashley is a young mom of four who, after recently giving birth, was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She is about to begin an aggressive round of chemo, and needs to close her day home - a significant means of income for her family. Lisa is organizing a meal drive to help out this family in urgent need. While her primary request is that people prepare a freezable meal for six, she is also coordinating any donations of money or resources people are willing to offer. She has mobilized her network that extends across North America, and her friends are coming up with creative ways to help this Edmonton family from as far away as Texas and Oregon. Links to some of the fundraising ideas are here and here. She is also asking for letters and cards to wish Ashley moral support at this time of crisis - if you'd like to do this, please send me a direct message on Twitter (@Marlissw) and I'll connect you with Lisa and Ashley.
These are just two ways social media and social capital can be used for good. I believe in the network, and I believe it can be used in a powerful way. My network has already proven itself as caring, compassionate and empathetic. I want to help, so do people I know. So how can I help you?
One way I can help is to use the power of my social capital to be your curator of good. If you have ideas to connect with individuals in your community for the purposes of good - I will sing it from the rooftops, actual and otherwise. If your ideas are designed to connect someone with a worthy need to a network that can help, send them my way.
Respond to this blog, message me on Facebook, tweet me @Marlissw. I'll do what I can to spread the good word.
I have trust in the network. So how can the network provide for good?