28 April 2011

Here Comes Clay Shirky

Another post in my irregular series, "What I highlighted and why while reading Here Comes Everybody."
"The military often talks about 'shared awareness,' which is the ability of many different people and groups to understand a situation, and to understand who else has the same understanding....Shared awareness allows otherwise uncoordinated groups to begin to work together more quickly and effectively."

Shirky, chapter 7, page 165
Shirky uses the example of: we both see a fire, one of us grabs an extinguisher while the other calls 911. But that's a fairly easy situation to understand, with a clear course of action. Same thing if, say, your significant other cuts his finger while preparing dinner. And, of course, with the military, people not only have a shared understanding, they also have shared training. You see the same sort of thing with a team of medical people in the ER or operating room. And we've had recent experience with large-scale shared understanding (facilitated by social media) with the uprising in Egypt.

I find myself wondering how this might apply to associations. Certainly, our members should have the basis for shared understanding at some level: after all, they must have something in common that made them want to associate in the first place. But how often does this kind of spontaneous action happen? In my experience, not very often. That, in turn, makes me wonder why. Is there something structural that prevents this? Member apathy? Control issues by staff, boards, and/or committees? Something else?

Has your association experienced something spontaneous happening as a result of shared understanding among the members? If so, what was it? If not, why do you think that is?

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