ONE TWEET AT A TIME

CSR is old school. In Sil­i­con Val­ley, com­pa­nies be­lieve in help­ing peo­ple by teach­ing them to help them­selves. And they call it So­cial In­no­va­tion. We learn more from the per­son who is at the fore­front of this new move­ment.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THE ISSUE -

CSR is old school. In Sil­i­con Val­ley, com­pa­nies be­lieve in help­ing peo­ple by teach­ing them to help them­selves.

Claire Diaz- Or­tiz is the kind of per­son you don't for­get eas­ily. Pro­lific blog­ger, public speaker and So­cial In­no­va­tion Head at Twit­ter, she is best known for be­ing the woman who got the Pope on Twit­ter and also for live-tweet­ing the birth of her daugh­ter re­cently. When we meet her in per­son at WISE, she is ev­ery­thing we ex­pect her to be – ca­sual, cu­ri­ous and sin­cere.

An an­thro­pol­o­gist by ed­u­ca­tion, we won­dered aloud about her en­try into the tech world. The story be­gan, be­lieve it or not, in Africa. “I was trav­el­ling through Kenya a few years back and had ar­ranged for a cheap ac­com­mo­da­tion for a night in what I thought was a hos­tel.” As it turned out, it wasn't a hos­tel at all but an or­phan­age that would oc­ca­sion­ally take in board­ers. Some­thing clicked for Diaz- Or­tiz and she ended up stay­ing much longer than the one night she in­tended to. Long enough to start Hope Runs, an NGO which worked to bring in sport­ing pro­grammes like run­ning in var­i­ous or­phan­ages, many cater­ing to HIV-AIDS in­fected chil­dren in the coun­try. “The idea was devel­op­ment through sports.

This way we fig­ured the kids would have some ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity to fo­cus on and plan their study habits around that. We also pro­vide schol­ar­ships for the stu­dents who fin­ish school,” she says. Though cur­rently, due to the lack of time, the run­ning of the NGO has been left to her friends and part­ners, Diaz- Or­tiz was deeply in­volved in this cre­ation and op­er­a­tion dur­ing its early years. In fact, this is when she first en­coun­tered Twit­ter.

“We had no money of our own to fund the pro­grammes but man­aged to raise much of it on­line, mainly be­cause I had a very popular blog at that time – a per­sonal mem­oir of my trav­els and daily life,” she re­mem­bers. Serendip­i­tously, the same peo­ple who had founded and de­vel­oped her blog­ging plat­form were work­ing on some­thing else – a so­cial me­dia plat­form that al­lowed users to com­mu­ni­cate in 140 char­ac­ters or less. The team in­vited her to try out Twit­ter. “Ini­tially I didn't know what it was and what it could do. I just treated it like an ex­ten­sion of my blog, send­ing a mix of per­sonal mes­sages and tweets about the NGO. But I then re­alised how I could use the plat­form to raise aware­ness about Hope Runs, fund projects, raise ap­peals and talk about out work, though back in 2006, not many were tweet­ing and cer­tainly not in Kenya,” she says.

But things turned on their head within a few short years. Her ex­pe­ri­ence with NGOs helped shape much of Twit­ter's so­cial in­no­va­tion strat­egy. With pro­grammes like Ads for Good, where Twit­ter donates ad space to char­i­ties or spe­cific cam­paigns, Diaz- Or­tiz tries to an­tic­i­pate and cater to the needs of small NGOs and help them max­imise the po­ten­tial of the plat­form. But much of her work in­volves get­ting in­flu­encers and celebri­ties to use Twit­ter and “use it bet­ter”. This is where her aca­demic ex­pe­ri­ence comes into play. “An­thro­pol­ogy, at the heart of it, is about study­ing how and why peo­ple do things they do and tech­nol­ogy is very much about that. My work is a lot about un­der­stand­ing hu­man be­hav­iour - zero­ing in on the mo­ti­va­tions of cer­tain types of users and mak­ing Twit­ter a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for them and their fol­low­ers,” she says.

Giv­ing back to so­ci­ety

Of course, her coup de grâce was help­ing the pa­pacy in the Vat­i­can get on the plat­form and start con­vers­ing with the mil­lions of young Catholics on­line. “It was one of my big­gest projects; it was in­no­va­tive and ex­cit­ing work team­ing with the Vat­i­can to set up Twit­ter ac­counts (eight, to be ex­act, in dif­fer­ent lan­guages) for Pope Bene­dict. Af­ter him Pope Fran­cis has taken the Holy See's tweets to new heights. They are more per­sonal, off the cuff, of­ten funny and po­lit­i­cal; he and his team are us­ing Twit­ter ex­actly how it is meant to be used,” she says hap­pily.

In­ter­est­ingly, many celebri­ties and in­flu­encers join Twit­ter to talk about their pet causes and char­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to her. “We worked with War­ren Buf­fet when he was think­ing to join the plat­form and did a live tweet­ing event with him. And he wanted to do it mainly to talk about his phil­an­thropic work and so­cial is­sues.

In fact, one of his first tweets was about women in busi­ness.” Diaz- Or­tiz has more ex­am­ples, par­tic­u­larly be­cause for many Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties too, this is the main driver. “Ben Af­fleck, for ex­am­ple, joined Twit­ter to spread the word about his char­ity. And though Matt Da­mon doesn't have a per­sonal ac­count, he reg­u­larly tweets through Wa­ter.org, his pet project.”

And the art of giv­ing (and in­no­va­tion) starts at home. Diaz- Or­tiz says that at Twit­ter there is a keen fo­cus on get­ting em­ploy­ees to vol­un­teer time for in­ter­est­ing projects.

“Even in the early days, we en­cour­aged peo­ple who wanted to give back to the com­mu­nity and we con­tinue to stress on this ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar work. Em­ploy­ees are al­lowed to de­vote a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of their time to find projects, out­side their daily jobs, that in­spire them,” she says.

“We had no money of our own to fund the pro­grammes at our NGO but man­aged to raise much of it on­line, mainly be­cause I had a very popular blog at that time – a per­sonal mem­oir of my trav­els and daily life.”

CLAIRE DIAZ-OR­TIZ So­cial In­no­va­tion Head Twit­ter

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