Evolve with Online Communities to Stay Relevant
Communities are inherent to human existence as they have been around for millennia. We are now in a time where online activities are on their way to becoming intrinsic to human existence too.
“Humans are inherently technological beings or tool users. We are deficient beings who use technology to complement, enhance, or disburden ourselves.”
(Research | Human-Technology Relations | Department of Philosophy, 2016)
The rise in online activity and our need for technology makes marrying the two an essential aspect of community building.
Online communities are thus the evolution of the community. And as with the evolution theory, those who evolve thrive and those who don’t perish. In your case, as an organization, it means staying relevant or not.
Here are just a few ways an online community can keep your organization relevant:
- Easier access to your community members
- Improved customer experience if you offer products or services
- Quality feedback, that helps make better products and programs
- Increased revenue through in-community promotion
- Advocates who drive referrals by speaking out in the online community
In our process of adapting to the new and evolving type of community – the online community – it is important to learn from each other’s successes and failures.
This is why today we take a look at how Changemakers for Children successfully built an online community of changemakers globally using local child rights practitioners.
The Changemakers for Children Online Community
Experts estimate that there are globally up to 9.42 million children separated from their families or orphaned and living in institutes.
Family for Every Child (FFEC), the project owners of the Changemakers for Children online community, is a global alliance of forty local civil society organizations based in forty countries.
“It is a member-led organization which means we have a secretariat but all of our members are spread worldwide. They are involved in all of the decision processes for our campaigns.”
– Filipe Meirelles
The Objective: Giving Back Dignity
FFEC and its affiliated online community of changemakers aims to create a world where children and their families worldwide live in dignity. They do so by offering support to children and families to survive and thrive.
Although they understand that the best place for children is inside a safe and permanent home with family, they also know that this is not always possible. They, therefore, also help local institutions provide that dignity for the children to thrive and reach their full potential.
Some aspects of their community work include:
- Raising awareness
- Capacity building
- Knowledge exchange
“We learn from our members because they are deeply rooted in their contexts. So they understand the issue. They also understand the solution, but those local civil societies often lack capacity and can’t reach international levels. That’s what we try to facilitate: our secretariat staff works to ensure our members can exchange and learn from each other. We can promote their models and work together on joint initiatives and campaigns to change realities”.
– Filipe Meirelles
How the Changemakers for Children Online Community Drives Impact
Where it All Started
Changemakers for Children efforts commenced at the height of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
The pandemic was a major threat to the work that FFEC members were doing. Those working closest with family members and vulnerable children now had to find a way to do their work without risking contracting or spreading the virus.
Thie situation disrupted efforts in the field and most of the services that the local institutions delivered. The situation was so dire that it was almost impossible for many of them to keep reaching out to the families and children that needed support the most.
But tenacity would prevail as Filipe explains:
“ They were resilient, brave, creative, and they created innovative ways to keep providing those services, and then we decided to launch Changemakers for Children. Initially, it was for members only. We supported them to exchange information on best care practices during the pandemic.”
Filipe and his team also supported them with funding opportunities, relevant resources, and anything that could bring benefit and add value to the work they were already providing to their local territories.
Facilitating a Space for Child Rights Using Community Software
FFEC used to work with its members separately and with several teams that specialized in projects ranging from prevention of child sexual violence to family and kinship care, prevention of sexual abuse, children with disabilities, and more
“Changemakers for Children allows us to concentrate all the information in one place, as well as expand our network far beyond our member alliance. We welcomed the shift of having everybody in the same space. With the resource library, they can access a place they can post and meet each other.”
– Filipe Meirelles
By launching the Changemakers for Children global online community, FFEC facilitated space for child rights practitioners and institutions from all over the globe.
“The platform feed is like many other social networks, and as I know, many other colleagues who use Open Social use this platform’s main feature. We also have a resource library where we concentrate all of the reports, blogs, news, and information.”
– Filipe Meirelles
The Online Community Members
The Changemakers for Children online community which resides on an Open Social community software platform currently has 1626 people from 124 different countries.
Members, individuals, and organizations can register to the platform and create a unique profile that expresses their interests, specializations, etc.
Changemakers for Children has two types of dedicated members on their community platform: Family for Every Child Alliance Members and community members.
So the former are those families that have been with FFEC before Changemakers for Children was launched and make up the community’s core. Community members are all the other people who register a profile on Changemakers for Children (child rights practitioners, staff from civil society organizations and international NGOs, specialists, researchers, government representatives, and more).
Structure of the Changemakers for Children Online Community
The platform hosts seven different communities of practice. Each community has one moderator from the Programme’s team who is a specialist in the issues of the respective community, be it reintegration of children on the move, prevention of domestic violence, prevention of child sexual abuse, or kinship care. The platform also has two side administrators, one of whom is Filipe Meirelles himself and the other is Liselle Finlay.
We are also creating other Communities of Practice in partnership with external networks, bringing their professionals to Changemakers for Children. One example is the “Child Protection in Humanitarian Action” community.
“It’s a community we created in partnership with the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (ACPHA) to discuss best practices on how to better protect children in humanitarian contexts, as in the case with Ukraine currently.”
– Filipe Meirelles
Real-world Success of the Changemakers for Children Online Community
United Nations Day of General Discussion (DGD)
The United Nations committee on the rights of the child organizes a bi-weekly “Day of General Discussion”. The objective is to reflect on the convention of the rights of the child and also on what it means in terms of children and their rights. Last year’s (2021) DGD theme was “children’s rights and alternative care”. It hosted a space on Changemakers for Children to hold consultations with care-experienced children and youth.
Changemakers for Children created a private group on its platform with specific visibility settings because they didn’t want other people on the platform to be able to reach out to children and youth.
They also had an open global consultation. They made it public using the survey extension on the Changemakers for Children platform for children to participate in the discussion.
Filipe on the initiative’s success:
“As a result, we got more than a thousand children and young people (1188; ages 5-25) taking part in our surveys. We used the information from those surveys to submit one global report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, and we’ve contributed to another two reports, all of which we presented to the UN during live sessions. Those reports contributed to recommendations the UN committee produced, which are currently in use worldwide to make the world a better place for children.”
– Filipe Meirelles
BICON Conference is the largest conference on alternative care for children in Asia. In 2021 it was supposed to happen in Kathmandu, Nepal but was canceled due to the pandemic.
Changemakers for Children took the initiative to host it virtually for the first time since the conference’s inception. It featured some major organizations advocating children’s rights worldwide, including
- Family for Evey Child,
- Udayan Care,
- Better Care Network,
- Hope and Homes for Children,
- Forget me Not,
- SOS Children’s Villages, and
- Save the Children.
As a result, the virtual event received 390 registrations from almost 180 organizations, and 23 sessions across two days, with 48 speakers from 19 countries. There were delegates from government bodies, NGOs, UN agencies, civil society organizations, etc.
Key Open Social Features That Helped the Online Community in its Success
The best person to explain how Changemakers for Children uses the key features offered by the Open Social community platform is Filipe himself. Here is a recap of what he told our Senior Customer Success Manager, Jamila Kheil, during a webinar on how to create a global movement of local changemakers.
Custom Registration Fields
“So we have some custom registration fields. We highlight the community of interest and the kind of organization so people can select their communities of interest upon registration.”
“We have auto-translation, which is key for us because, as you can imagine, Changemakers for Children is global; we have people from 124 countries, and we should expect that most of them will not speak English. So we want people to be able to read the content in their preferred language. Not only that, we want them to be able to post and comment and share resources in their preferred language because that way we can make it a truly global and decolonized space.”
Time Zone Change
“Another thing that we find very useful as well is that we really like the possibility of changing your time zone in the account settings because we can organize transcontinental conferences, events, and webinars, and people can be aware of the exact time it starts based on their location.”
“We use the platform stream for sharing the latest news; an example would be a post sharing recent practitioner guidance papers. We also use it to signpost recent content, remind people about events, and share the weekly tip on, for example, how to access our resource library.”
“Our dashboards for our communities of practice are a hybrid between the landing page and the group. We use this format because we want to organize content for communities that have multiple groups.”
“We really enjoy using the events feature on Changemakers for Children, and we use the zoom integration. That’s great because people can actually register for events.”
Ready to Start or Enhance Your Online Community?
Online communities are the evolution of what communities used to be. Transforming your offline community into an online community or enhancing your existing online community can become the reason why you succeed or fail in your purpose-driven objectives.
The Changemakers for Children user case is living proof of this concept. They went from being a mainly offline community to an online community and saw the results of their initiatives skyrocketing. Their tenacity and passion for their mission, combined with the right set of tools from the right community engagement software, made all the difference.
If you want to know more about how you, as a community owner, can boost engagement and entice action in your online community, here are 31 community engagement ideas just for you.
However, if you are ready to take your community to the next level by using community software, schedule a live demo with Open Social today. Alternatively, you can click and download the guide below: