Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Twestival Global 2010

Twestival Global kicks off tomorrow, this time bringing thousands of people in 175 cities around the world together to support the cause of education. Last year, the first global Twestival raised money for charity:water. This year, all proceeds will go to Concern Worldwide, a global organization that works to boost education for children born into poverty.

During a visit to London last week, I spoke with Renate Nyborg, a Twestival cofounder who parlayed her social media skills into founding Madhouse Collective, an interactive events company in the UK. [Nyborg was on a panel I led last week at's Social Media and Stakeholder Engagement conference in London.] Here's an edited transcript of our short conversation about Twestival:

What led you and Amanda Rose to start Twestival last year?
I was running an events company at the time and had started using Twitter; at the time, just journalists and bloggers and tech geeks like myself were using it and we thought:
Wouldn’t it be great to bring a bunch of these people together in the world to connect and share resources and give each other advice and use this collaborative idea to raise money for a good cause? So we rallied people on and offline, at first to benefit a local soup kitchen, and then we put that idea of a larger event out there on Twitter, and rather quickly, we started asking people where they were based, what were their skills, and what would it take for them to get involved? Two weeks later, we had 200 registered cities, 1,000 volunteers and we ended up raising $250,000 for this in the space of a month.We knew we were on to something from the start -- though I must say, we had no budget; basically, there were two of us doing it alone from London, but leveraging the buzz around it allowed the infrastructure to scale. We ended up being one of these online swarms that made a huge difference. We used the money to build 55 water wells in Ethiopia and Uganda, which directly affected 70,000 people. That was one campaign –we’ve done several others since. I think campaigns like Twestival are a strong example of how people can use social media to collaborate, versus popping up to exert pressure. And it's a sustainable group so far. It's building on what we started, not having to start from scratch.

What's next in the evolution of Twestival, in your view?
I believe passionately that collaboration is the way forward. Since we did the first Twestival campaigns, we have engaged a number of corporations and other stakeholder groups to help us to facilitate the work that we do -- PayPal, eBay, and other companies are helping us to do good and raise money for charity. The proposition to them is this: we tell them we have 1,000 people worldwide investing their time and skills and speaking well on their behalf, so let us build this for you. I think that's how things will evolve in many uses of social media for good, once the social capital -- the sheer numbers of people can be charted and brought to bear. I think corporations, rather than having to sit down and figure out what they have to do, or how they can change things or put up a budget, might better simply align themselves with people already out there doing things that can help change their organizations from the inside out.

Last year, we raised $750,000 for Twestival and we'll raise more this year. Now we have in place an infrastructure, and every single day, we've been getting lots of requests from corporations and individuals wanting to do something -- a design-for-good competition, for one, and a group of musicians offering to donate downloads of their music for charity, to cite two examples. It's really all about using social media to moderate group activity, to keep connecting the right people to each other, and the right brands to the right actions. We have high hopes for this year but we're still just getting started about seeing how widely this can scale over time. For those asking us where the money goes and how it gets there, this year, there's a Twestival Results section to the site, where you can look at detailed statistics including funds raised to date and how they're being spent. (Click on Impact tab)

For more on Twestival Global, check out the promotional video, below:

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