Sanjeev Jasani, VP, OgilvyOne, New Delhi writes in.
What is www.myhumannetwork.com?
We often come across groups of people who selflessly go about doing their own bit for the society. As a result they inspire hundreds to come forward and join them in this remarkable movement. At Cisco, we call this the power of the Human Network.
We wanted to build a social platform for these Champions. A platform which allows individuals and organizations, championing causes to locate like-minded individuals, group, network, collaborate and if possible replicate a social experiment in a different geographical zone. In the bargain, we wanted to drive brand relevance as well in the mind of our consumers.
Designed with a Google Earth interface, there are six broad cause categories, such as economic development and infrastructure, environment and animal welfare, education, healthcare among others, under which are specific causes and then initiatives that people can join. About 40 NGOs have already established a presence and the number of members has risen from the initial 600 to 1,270 in a week since the launch.
The next phase of the program is to work with these partners to take the initiative to a practical plane. For instance, if a particular NGO is conducting a drive or an event, then Cisco could put technology to use to probably match their needs with that of members who may be willing to come out as volunteers.
How did it all begin?
We needed to first understand how human networks operate. How can Cisco play a role in these Human Networks? How can we use technology to get people closer?
Increasingly the more we studied the more we were convinced that Cisco would be playing the role of a catalyst and we were really attempting to create an integral open system which was decentralized in approach. We needed to understand that we were dealing with an entirely different creature from the CEO. It was a totally different society and culture.
Let me give you an example of one of the most intriguing catalysts known to us. Jimmy Wales the man behind Wikipedia. His core values are to be thoughtful and kind and to have no personal attacks. It’s an ongoing process of making sure that people are happy doing what they are doing. You trust him because you know that he trusts you. As a catalyst it’s all about letting go and trusting the community to fulfill the task that we have set out to achieve. Our role would be to focus on maintaining the health of the community.
We saw five important legs around which we wanted to build the human network.
Leg 1: Circles
For any community to exist, circles are important. The apaches for example lived in many small non hierarchical groups spread across the south west. Though they shared a common heritage and tradition, each group maintained its own particular habit and norm. Each apache group resembled a circle: independent and autonomous. That’s the thing about circles. Once you join you’re an equal. It’s then upto you to contribute to the best of your ability. The internet has allowed circles to become virtual. Members join from their computers without leaving their homes.
We wanted to identify multiple causes around which people could come and setup their own circle or community. No one was the owner but they would all be equals working and learning together to make a difference to the society.
Leg 2: The Catalyst
Take nitrogen and hydrogen, two of the most common elements on earth, put them together in a container, close the lid and come back a day later, and nothing will have happened. But add ordinary iron to the equation and you’ll get ammonia. In fact ammonia doesn’t have any iron in it. It’s made solely of hydrogen and nitrogen. The iron just acts as a catalyst and facilitates the bonding of hydrogen and nitrogen in a certain way. Likewise Cisco would be a catalyst. We build the platform for the human network to take shape and then step away. Let go of its reins and allow it to become its own entity. The difference between traditional leaders and catalysts is like the difference between Julie Andrews character in the sound of music and Mary Poppins. The catalyst is an inspirational figure who spurs others to action. Circles don’t form on their own. They need a catalyst to spring to life. A catalyst is like an architect of the house. He is responsible for the long term structural integrity of the house but he never moves in.
Leg 3: Ideology
This is the glue that holds the Human Network together.
At Cisco our ideology was that we are more than a network of routers and switches. We are about people and communities. Every single person counts. Because when people connect, wonderful things happen. People meet. They collaborate. They make things better. Technology network helps humans explore new worlds of possibilities. Because when we are together we are more powerful than we ever could be apart.
It’s not easy for others to come around and offer a similar ideology and this is what sets us apart from other technology companies.
Leg 4: The preexisting networks
The internet is a breeding ground for small communities to take shape. The internet not only makes it easy for people to communicate but also provides a fertile ground for discussions leading to action. It’s because of this that we see a revolution. We wanted to take advantage of the many communities that already exist offline and give them a platform to communicate with the world. We brought on board 40 NGO’s across the five cause categories and helped them setup their networks.
Leg 5: The Champion
A champion is relentless in promoting a new idea. Catalysts are charismatic but champions take it to the next level. Catalysts inspire and naturally connect people, but champions take the game to a whole new level. We needed to identify and bring on board those credible names who will relentlessly work on taking this to the next level. We are in the process of identifying Champions across various cause categories like economic development and infrastructure, environment and animal welfare, education and healthcare.
By creating circles, tapping into an ideology whose time had come, drawing upon pre-existing networks, and joining forces with champions, we aspire to change the course of history in the most mary poppins of way. We set the event in action, inspire a movement and then let go. So come forward to either setup your own initiative or follow someone else. Let’s make the world a better place by sharing and collaborating. Welcome to the Human Network.