I haven’t been blogging or tweeting much in the last couple weeks. I’ve had my head down while getting the magic quadrant for externally-facing social software ready for review and finishing the bulk of work on the Cannes Symposium agenda. Neither of these are completely finished yet, but both are close enough for people to start yelling at me about them, an important milestone. While that happens, I can start looking around to see what the rest of the world has been up to over the last couple weeks.
This week I got to spend a day with with the IT and external communications staff from several United Nations agencies in Geneva. As I expected, use of social media is a hot topic there both inside and outside of their organizations. They were concerned both with how to prevent or minimize missteps from their own staff, and how to react to others using social media to talk about their operations and activities. The political and humanitarian aspects of UN work added extra dimensions that I don’t usually hear about when talking with commercial enterprises. While politics is never very far from what they do, most people working at the agencies try to steer clear of it to get their jobs done. For those working in humanitarian areas, it is especially important to step gingerly around political considerations.
I was impressed by the earnest desire to not only be effective in using social media, but also to contribute to the greater good. I could see from the discussions and questions that each of these agencies is driven by a clear, specific purpose, whether it is caring for refugees or analyzing economic statistics. The sometimes inflexible funding methods and often Byzantine administrative structures of UN agencies must not make it easy to concentrate on this purpose always, but it was certainly top of mind with the people I spoke with.