Monday, 3 August 2015

Helping Max with his Drive

I've been so busy up loading posts to Declara that I have not had much time to check out the profiles or experience of the people who follow collections that I help curate. 

Last week a member of staff at Declara sent me a message asking if I had any suggestions for encouraging more educators to check out the site.

They explained that the reason for asking this was because they had read some articles from my Community Manager Resources collection, which contains some fantastic links and advice from #Cmgrhangout, events like Community Manager Appreciation Day and case studies mentioned in books like Richard Millington's Buzzing Communities. I offered some suggestions but also highlighted that;

1) I'm still learning a lot of these skills myself

2) I have struggled with finding and engaging the early adopters within education with my own projects. I said I was not sure if this was due to the fact that I’m involved with education… or because I suck at this kind of thing.

3) From the people I knew who have also joined Declara, there were more experienced community managers and educators who were better connected than me, so it might be worth reaching out to them.

Existing Users... and the Wow Factor
But I did offer my tuppence worth and highlighted that all the research suggests that the best way to get new users signed up is by building relationships with existing users which, given my experience as a user, they were already doing.

This question prompted me to find out more about some of the people who were following a collection that I help curate... and WOW! And by Wow, I mean WOW to the MAX!

I was invited to help curate a collection called "Power of Creativity & Imaginationto Transform Education," which is a popular collection with 1,400 followers. Through taking a look at the profiles of some of the people following this collection, I'm more excited about Declara than ever!

Please allow me to remind people of one of the main reasons I got excited about Declara before the beta site went live with this comment from a blog post in April;

"So staying as small as possible, for as long as possible is a big priority during this "Product Market Fit discovery process." This is something EdTech startups in accelerators are able to do.

This is something that Decara will help EdTech startups do too... Their insights page might even set some 9 year old students up as EdTech Co-Founders and CEO's" A Delcara-tion of InterdependenceApril 2015

Max Ramseyer may not be a 9 year old, but he sure has given me a reason to believe that this idea just might be a possibility. Who’s Max? And how did I find out about his work? Here’s how…

Max's Drive: Start HE From Scratch 
So I'm checking out people who are following this collection, and an article by Max which got published in the Chronicle catches my eye. The topic is on Starting Higher Education from scratch. 

The content of this post is the kind of reflection that you hear from educators all the time in EdChats, but is written by a student... A key group that all education stakeholders agree that we need to listen to more with ideas about EdReform.

I added Max's article to the collection and sent him a message about the post, and highlighted that his article was the reason I was excited about Declara before it went live.

We arranged to have a Skype chat last week and WOW!!

Question. Explore. Iterate. 
It wasn't just the ideas or article that this student (who graduated this summer) that impressed, it was the action that he had already taken... And the impressive results!

Max told me about how he came up with his idea and plan of introducing a paradigmatic shift in the education-to-career pipeline to change how people and institutions discover, think about, and realize human potential and make a difference in the world. 

For more information about Max's Drive initiative, his vision, how he came up with the idea, what he's hoping to achieve and where he is now please see this link: Drive.

There can be so much talk about differentiation, the education-skills gap and the changes people would like to see... but people feel these changes are not possible because of SMT/Admins or policy makers who restrict innovation and reform. It was so refreshing to hear how Max was just getting on and doing it.

Max has successfully implemented some innovation and changes at Duke, and he did so in a way that didn't sound too dissimilar to the methods that I've been exploring... Or that education guru Simon Breakspear advocates for in this brilliant presentation
Max worked with a handful of proponents to demonstrate that the idea could work, he discussed his ideas and plans with a few lecturers and mentors. 

Max then experimented with implementation of the idea... using members of his fraternity as a pilot. Getting a fraternity to discuss mindfulness and social good Vs organising wild spring break parties?! If the stereotype in all the films are an accurate portrayal then this is some achievement!! Max's "Just do it" attitude reminds me of a fantastic observation by Henry Ford

“It can’t be done”, said the manufacturer positively, “no machine built will do that – it is out of the question”  “Out of the question!” exclaimed the engineer, “if you will come down to the main floor you will see one doing it; we built one to see if it could be done and now we want more like it.”

The factory keeps no record of experiments …a record of failures – particularly if it is a dignified and well authenticated record – deters a young man from trying. We get some of our best results from letting fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Henry Ford

Scale. Hustle.
As a recent graduate with limited resources, Max is at a stage where he's now wondering where to take this in terms of which colleges and universities to work with, how to get buy in from administrators and students at these new institutions and how to fund and develop the necessary resources. 

Given that I found out about Max on Declara I had a look at some of other profiles. There appear to be some extremely knowledgeable and collaborative people who are also following this collection. Then I wondered:

What would happen if other followers who had an interest in this topic pitched in to help power Max's creativity and imagination to drive education reform?

Future Focused Change 
What if... some of these people took a moment to share some of their experiences and/or let their connections know about Max's Drive Project?

There are people here with some fantastic experience that could help with securing funding, marketing, design and advice from people who have achieved education reform. There's some amazing expertise in one place. 

I did some quick research, check out the kind of expertise that other followers of this Declara collection have and how they might be able to assist Max: 

Given the fantastic experiences and broad expertise of these followers of this collection I created a list of people following this collection on Twitter: Declara Edu people on Twitter (NB Still have more people to add to this list)

What it is… is up to us
I've been exploring various aspects of community from David Putnam's "Bowling Alone" to the early online communities like The Well and AOL etc, to the impact and role of Community Managers today.

I have also found various challenges with using other social media platforms when it comes to the kind of mass collaboration that I'd like to explore and be involved with.

It's not just that Declara appears have some extremely experienced people following this collection, it's that many also appear to be massively collaborative.

If I was to summarize my experiences so far I would say: this space feels special! Finding someone like Max and collaborating with him is the precise reason I got excited about Declara before the site launched.

So, it's been amazing finding out about Max and his work... to then find out about some of the experiences and projects that other early users are involved with is just SOOO AWESOME!
What would make me even more excited would be if people were to pitch in a help Max to establish a business based on his Creativity and Imagination to Transform Education.

After reading Adam Grant's book "Give and Take" last January I followed Adam Rifkin's example and sent a message to my LinkedIn connections asking "How can I Help you Achieve your Goals," I was surprised at the response when I got replies along the lines of "What's the catch," "What are you selling here"

I'd like to repeat this same offer to my connections on Declara, and hope that I might get a more positive and/or collaborative response.

Indeed I hope that this quick "5 minute favour" of writing about Max's work might see others reach out to him to see if there is anything they can do to help out and/or to share this post with their education or business contacts.

I'd like to leave you with Bill Johnston's presentation from the Social Business Forum: Communities and the Collaborative Economy  and this comment from his website and encourage you to consider a few questions

  • There is a tremendous amount of unrealized value within reach of organizations that are willing to be permeable, networked and collaborative.

1) Do you think that companies and people have over invested in social media and not enough in community?

If so, what can we do to make this Declara collection an active community Vs another passive social media channel?

2) If you agree with Bill's comment about the unrealised value of collaborative organisations, would helping someone like Max be worth exploring?

Would helping him now lead to a loyal customer if and when his idea was turned into a business?

Max, if there's anything I can do to help you with your plans... you know where to find me. Let's collaborate!

NB All of the links and resources in this post were sourced through exploring a single collection on Declara and the work of some of the people following it


  1. Great post William, glad you're enjoying Declara! We're enjoying it in Australia too.

  2. Thanks Sophie,

    Glad you liked the post. The fact that I am surprised and delighted that Declara has lived up to expectations demonstrates how a lot of technology is under-whelming when it comes to what the tech promises to do pre-launch (...or in pre-sale presentations).

    I hope that support for Max's project will be found.