Michelle Wright, founder and CEO of Cause4 discusses the idea of ‘sharism’ and why its important to charities
The term ‘sharism’ was first coined by Isaac Mao, Co-Founder and Director of the Social Brain Foundation. Sharism is the term for the collaborative building of value that results from sharing content and ideas. In the essay Sharism: A Mind Revolution, Mao believes that sharism can be practised at any point in time – by simply communicating with others whether its blogging, sharing photos or arranging offline group discussions meetings. It’s through these actions that Mao believes you can become more open-minded.
The internet and social media have produced a boom in user-generated content. The way we digest news, knowledge and content has changed and it’s clear to see those who share tend to get ahead. So how can charities participate in sharism and retain their brand individuality?
In essence, sharism is a simple practice, where secrecy fears are put to one side and choose to be a part of co-creating. As a charity, understandably the fear of retaining brand identity may not sway you to the sharism school of thought straight away. The key concept is openness and innovation and it can differ from the way we normally go about daily business.
A great opportunity
However, I think that sharism presents a great opportunity for charities. There are many organisations that are shrouded in secrecy and which are essentially still a closed shop. This is where charities can step in – thinking about their beneficiaries. Why would beneficiaries engage with your products or services if you hide your content behind closed doors? Society has changed, we are now more social than ever – and so, engaging with beneficiaries via social networks can only benefit your charitable organisation.
Our charitable beneficiaries have more power than ever due to the internet. One tweet can essentially be a review of a product or service and will be seen by thousands of others. We’re social beings, so driving the engagement of beneficiaries through social networks can benefit a charity immensely. We don’t need to give away our secrets because we are in control of what we share. It’s going to be the charities that are more open that are able to get ahead and that will be more attractive for both beneficiaries and donors alike.
Generous and open
At our social enterprise Cause4, we regularly blog about charity, philanthropy and social enterprise and allow charities and social enterprises to attend our training events for free. For us being generous and open has always been part of our core values. The benefit is that transparency brings out the best in people and we can then turn the best ideas into content that adds value for our charitable clients. One of our key organisational values is “curiosity” and I feel that sharism embraces this concept, as well as supporting our goal of celebrating and developing staff.
Mao thinks that it’s easy to tell if a person, a group or a company leans towards sharism or not.
I see sharism as a generosity of spirit, a trait that one could argue comes with more ease to charities than bigger business. It’s quite common to work with organisations or corporations that are secretive or protective over intellectual property or knowledge and, of course, this behaviour is driven largely by fear.
However, this is where I believe charities can step in to fill a gap. The sharism concept champions collaboration and openness and will subsequently challenge the competitive nature of the corporate world – it will be the companies that share best that end up with the competitive edge.
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