Thursday, March 24, 2016

We Can't All Be Pilots

I was flying on a tiny shuttle plane from DC to Atlanta. We were running 40 minutes late and I only had an hour-long window before a presentation (the sole purpose of the trip.) The pilot announced we were beginning our initial descent into Atlanta.

“Phew!” I thought. I would make the meeting.

Then, an unsettling amount of time later when we were still above clouds, the pilot abruptly announced, “We are being diverted to Huntsville, Alabama.” End of announcement.

Passengers pushed call buttons. One flight attendant hurriedly walked from one end of the plane to another without stopping to talk.

Then, an announcement from the flight attendant: “Passengers, the pilot has asked me to take a vote. Would you rather be diverted to Huntsville or Nashville?” – silence – “Please press your call button if you would prefer Huntsville.” A pause. Two call buttons light up.

What? I look around.

Then, mutiny.

My fellow passengers ruthlessly attack the two flight attendants who were unluckily within earshot. “Is this a prank?” “Are we on TV?” “Never in my life have I heard of such a thing!”

The question I wanted to ask was, “Is the pilot conducting a social experiment in distributed leadership?” I may never know, but if so, his experiment failed for several fairly obvious reasons.
  1. Trust. A plane load of strangers cannot be thrust into a high-stress situation and be expected to function as an effective network. Networks are measured by the strength of the ties between the people in the network. There are seven elements that Netcentric Campaigns analyzes to determine those ties and of them, I’d say this group of people barely had two: Vision (we wanted to finish the flight and get to our destination as soon as possible) and Common Language (we were annoyed to be late and confused by the pilot’s unconventional decision-making process). 

  2. Information. Without enough transparency of information, people in a network will not feel empowered to step up to leadership roles. We did not have one percent of the information the pilot had at his fingertips. My seat mates burst into laughter when the woman across the aisle desperately flipped open the map in her in-flight magazine to try to calculate with her fingers which city would be closer. There was no information hub or feedback mechanism to evaluate the other passengers’ reputations and expertise to determine if anyone on the flight might have more information or expertise we could draw on.

  3. Culture. As passengers on a flight, there is no expectation or protocol in place that you may be entrusted to make critical, time-sensitive decisions that impact everyone on the flight. Instead, you walk in as a passive participant. You know that in order to participate in the culture of the flight, you must trust that the pilot is making smart decisions, is focused and hopefully not on any mind-altering substances.
In the end, the bewildered flight attendants, who clearly didn’t share the pilot’s vision for navigational equity, abandoned the vote and ramped into full damage control mode.

The results from the failed vote were never mentioned again, and we landed in Huntsville. The pilot, perhaps aware of the spectacular failure of his experiment, remained behind his armored door until all the passengers had exited the plane.

Related Reading:

"Vertigo and the Intentional Inhabitant: Leadership in a Connected World," by Bill Traynor

"Distributing Leadership, Promoting Stewardship," by David Nee and Curtis Ogden

"Leading in a Hyperconnected World," by Ben Hecht

"Is this what it takes to be an innovative leader?," by Linda A. Hill

"The Dawn of System Leadership," by Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton and John Kania

"How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations & Leadership in the 21st Century," by Hahrie Han

Monday, August 17, 2015

Multiplayer Missions that Matter: Advocacy, Video Games and Networks

In my personal life, I’m passionate about three things: dogs, advocacy and video games. It’s those last two really have me excited lately, thinking about how I can combine my love of video games with my love of advocacy. It turns out, sometimes the two aren’t so different (though I’m still working on how to include dogs -- I’ll keep you posted).

I’m thrilled to announce a chapter that Marty Kearns and I have written and published in Emerging Research and Trends in Gamification. This chapter is truly a labor of love, and is something we’ve been working on since fall of 2014. Titled “A Framework for Collaboration Among Game Designers and Social Change Makers: Multiplayer Missions that Matter,” it connects the similarities between advocacy networks, gaming networks and video games. It also touches on ideas for how the two sides can learn from each other.

Our hopes are two fold. First, we envision advocates learning how to include gamification techniques in their mobilizations and campaigns to drive engagement. And second, game designers and developers can incorporate lessons from advocacy network building that can help create deeper and stronger connections between players, leading to a more complete and satisfying experience.

After many lunch discussions, hours logged on Steam and lots of research, we came to realize that the Seven Elements that Netcentric has identified as being key to building effective advocacy networks are also present in video games and established video game networks and platforms.

Advocacy network builders and the game industry could benefit from each other’s knowledge. If both game designers and advocates utilize the same framework in their work, it will be easier for each side to understand and learn from the other’s successes or failures, and if game developers and social activists are willing to take a look at each other’s systems – both of which work to connect people together for a common cause – significant advancements could be made in both fields.

I’m excited to hear the feedback on our chapter, and also this framework. Over the next few months our team will be thinking more deeply about how we can use these insights to help both advocacy organizations and game designers.

If you have ideas, we’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at meredith (at) or comment on this post.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Netcentric Campaigns Celebrates 15 Years: The Big Finale

We have had an excellent time celebrating our 15th birthday with all of you. To cap an excellent month of birthday celebrations, we sat down with our president, Marty Kearns, for an interview. Here's to the next 15 years!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Where were you in 2000?

As part of our birthday month bash, we thought it would be fun to see where our staff were 15 years ago when Netcentric was born. Enjoy this week’s day-late (and admittedly slightly embarrassing) #tbt, the staff flashback!

Bobbi Russell (left) our Chief Operating Officer, Marty Kearns (right) our President, and former staff member Carl Coryell-Martin (center) were hiking Old Rag Mountain in Virginia.

Dawn Arteaga (left), Director of Digital Strategy, was enjoying time hanging out with her friends.

Chris Casey, Director of Digital Strategy, was working on Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign website.

Meredith Wise, Digital Communications Strategist, was having fun at Epcot with her dad.

Prarthana Gurung, Digital Campaign Coordinator, was celebrating her 10th birthday.


Donna Munoz, our Director of Finance and Administration, was enjoying spending time with her daughter, Isabel.


Katrina Ledbetter, our Operations and Program Coordinator was enjoying some quality family time with her new headphones.

Zach Brooks, our Digital Campaign Manager, was already rooting for his favorite team!

And Horacio CarreƱo-Garcia, our Office Assistant, was enjoying his birthday cake by having his family cover him in it.

We hope you enjoyed this flashback! Feel free to share your own pictures from 15 years ago with us on Twitter using #hbdNC15!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another #TBT, Another Walk Down Memory Lane

This week's #TBT is dedicated to taking a walk down memory lane, and looking back at some of the great things Netcentric Campaigns (and formerly, Green Media Toolshed) has accomplished over the years.

These definitely aren't all of our high points, but are some of the most memorable.

We're really looking forward to what this infographic looks like in another 15 years!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#TBT: 15 Years of Netcentric Homes

For the first Throwback Thursday post of our birthday month, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the many places around D.C. that Netcentric Campaigns has called home over the years.

When creating this map I noticed that we may or may not have a preference for being right in the heart of the city. (And luckily for me at least, close to all the best food trucks!)


We’re now in our sixth location, but many of you were with us in the other five. We’d love to hear some of the stories you collected with us in our other homes! Feel free to post them here, on Facebook or on Twitter with #hbdNC15!

Monday, May 4, 2015

We’re Turning 15! Join the Celebration!

May marks the 15th birthday of Netcentric Campaigns. To celebrate, we’ll be posting content here and on our Facebook and Twitter all month to commemorate the occasion. We have some fun and exciting posts coming up, so we hope you’ll stay tuned!

We’d also like to invite you to share your memories of Netcentric Campaigns on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #hbdnc15. We’re looking forward to hearing from you, and sharing what we’ve learned over the past 15 years. Stay tuned all month for our insights on organizing, lessons learned, birthday wishes and more while we celebrate our big 1-5!