The following is a guest post by Christian Simamora, Program Director at Dalai Lama Fellows
My name is Christian Simamora, and I am a Program Director at a start-up nonprofit called Dalai Lama Fellows. Dalai Lama Fellows believes compassion, collaboration, and service are integral to generating skillful, sustainable responses to the urgent global challenges we face. Over the course of a Fellowship year, we equip outstanding emerging leaders with new perspectives, tools, and networks as they launch self-designed projects to diminish violence, protect the environment, promote intercultural and inter-religious understanding, and alleviate poverty.
As Program Director, I wear many hats. One of them is to spearhead the technology and social media we use for the program and as an organization. Recently, we recruited and selected our first cohort of 14 Fellows from universities and NGOs around the world. We convened in June for an intense, week-long retreat before they left to launch their projects. At the conclusion of the retreat, we asked ourselves, “How do we create community for a disparate group working in places as diverse as Oakland and Kashmir, Orange County and Manila, especially when they’ve only been together for a brief period of time? How do we foster thought partnership so that Fellows leverage each other’s expertise and experiences, thereby maximizing impact?”
I selected Yammer as the tool to pilot with our fledgling group in response to these internal questions. Given the intense work the Fellows were about to immerse themselves in, I recognized that the initial adoption strategy would be critical for sustained engagement. How do we get over the barrier of “another social network”? While it is a Fellowship expectation to engage with the platform, I wanted to make the first interactions fun and functional, a guided exploration if you will. That’s how I conceived of the Yammer Treasure Hunt.
The idea was to utilize game mechanics and the incentive of a prize to facilitate experiential learning of the core functions and features. I wanted them to realize they could solicit feedback from the community and have their colleagues comment on a document in-line, or post video they shot in the field, or bookmark a post so it’s easily accessible when they need it.
To build the Treasure Hunt, I reflected on how we wanted Fellows to leverage the platform. From there, I identified the tools and functions in Yammer that would facilitate that interaction. These became the steps in the treasure hunt.
Before launching the hunt, I also took two important initial steps. First, I huddled with my team to identify content with which to prepopulate the platform, so that Fellows would not be welcomed with a blank canvas. This included photos from the recent convening, program specific groups, and preliminary resource materials for their use. Second, I recruited staff to the Yammer Adoption Team, where each member would be responsible for:
● creating at least one engaging message per week for the first month of launch
● replying to or commenting on one Fellow message per week
● participating in the Launch Activity
With the Treasure Hunt created, content in place, and the Yammer Adoption Team formed, I sent Fellows the following cryptic email to pique interest for the impending launch:
A few days later, I sent a follow up email resolving the lighthearted question and announcing the launch of Yammer. Attached to this email was a Welcome to Yammer memo, which ended with a section entitled “How do I get started?” Here is where I announced the treasure hunt itself.
To set the tone of having network members access program-wide information via the platform, the only place the Yammer Treasure Hunt document lived was in Yammer.
Gradually, after invites were sent, Fellows started appearing on the platform and made their way through the hunt. Photos were shared. Praise was given. Responses to a poll question made. The hunt was successful in creating buzz and engagement. Numbers speak volumes, so here are the stats from that first week.
● every Fellow logged on at least once
● 187 total messages were posted during launch week
● July 19 saw the largest number of separate posters on a given day (9)
● the most active conversation had 24 messages with 10 participants
● our power user had far and away the most Likes of anyone else on the network (15)
Now to the next level of sustaining engagement! Stay tuned…