Andrea Learned

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“New Power” As Social Impact Currency

Social impact currency. Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

“The most effective crowdbuilders will be those who are able to move people up the participation scale and sustain and nourish a community over the longer term, dealing with the many challenges, compromises and balancing acts that requires.” – Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms in Ideas.Ted.Com


I have not yet read the new book by Heimans and Timms, New Power: How Movements Build, Businesses Thrive, and Ideas Catch Fire in Our Hyperconnected World (Published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018), but everything about this excerpted article resonated so loudly that I wanted to quickly share a few thoughts:

  • In both my recent writing and my conversations with clients, I’ve been discussing the idea of leaders developing at-the-ready social capital that anticipates opportunity. When you consistently engage and build trusted relationships over time (and, not frantically the week before an event), you will be much more likely to nudge people “up” the participation scale that Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms write about here.
  • What I learned through my involvement with KEXP’s International Clash Day aligns with the co-authors’ guidelines as well. While this Seattle-based nonprofit, community radio station had celebrated the event in the past, they were really able to ramp up global city, record store, and radio station involvement this year by making it SUPER easy to sign on (see their event-specific site). They also made it “self-help” to quickly download materials that supported the effort, including art work in appropriate social media formats. Worth note: KEXP did not demand that their brand be “all over” whatever it was that other stations or entities were up to. It was about the cause. But, of course, many participants who got involved of their own accord DID “love up” KEXP in return. Along the way, the event made an already supportive collective of community and college radio stations much stronger and more resilient for future “actions.”


New Power framework step up chart

To build a lasting movement, followers need to be moved up the participation scale. Courtesy of Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms.

  • SHARING other’s content or ideas is the transitional step between typical “old power” and this incredible new power (see the shift from the sleepy grey to the change-agent orange in the graph). This aligns with a phase I’ve called “loving up” in my own 5 L’s of social leadership theory: Listen, Learn, Love Up, Leverage, and Lead. Most organizations still operate in old power ways even when they are using supposedly “social” media. The talk about themselves, they communicate in the same old “look at us now” manner, and while they might “like” an occasional external tweet, for example, they rarely re-share a thing, with any intentional amplification or “cheering” words. That keeps them from being able to move into the orange.

It seems like Heimans and Timms are not introducing anything completely new here. They are instead, perhaps, trying to hit us over our wooden heads with something really obvious.

Traditional leaders will continue to grasp ever-more tightly to their “owning the power” frame. But, times up. Let’s all celebrate “new power” to the people!

I’m all about this. It spreads the love as much as it distributes the work, and amplifies your cause to whole new layers of audiences or stakeholders. I’d STRONGLY suggest those of us in sustainability, climate action and social impact, especially, read and apply this book to our daily missions.


As ever, contact me when you are ready to step UP to sharing and to explore all the opportunity that awaits on the other side of it.