Tag Archives: Malcolm Gladwell

How to be a Change Agent Blogger

“Can blogging be used to help others?”  The question was posed by Darren Rowse of problogging.com in a recent post titled “Come with Me To Tanzania” .  Rowse is widely considered to be one of the rockstars of the blogging world.  His blogs are read by about 4 million people a month.  That’s about a million shy of half the population of my country, Sweden.  I am impressed that Rowse is harnessing his blogging and his online reputation/name recognition to do humanitarian work.   He is flying to Tanzania in a few days to observe and report back on maternal health work done by an Australian charity.

The charity is CBM Australia, an organization that, according to its website, is “part of the world’s largest organisation working with people with a disability in the poorest places.”

Rowse’s role on the humanitarian trip is a unique one.  As far as I know, he doesn’t have any clinical skills.  But in my opinion, he is even more useful to CBM than a clinician.  The awareness he can bring to the need in Tanzania as well as the work of CBM, is huge.  A few years ago, someone like Rowse would have been seen as “great PR” or a “useful reporter”.  Although these labels are not incorrect, bloggers on Rowse’s level can be huge change agents that defy conventional attempts to categorize them.

I believe Rowse is the kind of change agent that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book The Tipping Point – an individual capable of bringing about great social change.   “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts,” says Gladwell.

Gladwell divides change agents into the following categories (summary courtesy of Wikipedia):

“Connectors are the people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” They are “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances”. He characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people.

Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.” They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.  “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know”.

Salesmen are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them.”

Rowse seems to be a combination of all of the above.  He is absurdly connected.  Four million readers a month rely on him as an information broker “maven” and he is obviously a salesman whose product people are gobbling up.

We’ll see how Rowse does in Tanzania.  If you want to follow his adventures, the bulk of his writing will be on CBM’s blog but there’s also the ProBlogger Twitter account and, of course, Rowse’s main blog – problogger.com.

I wish him the best of luck.

Bjorn Karlman

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Grin and Bare It… Topless Culture Change

Topless - summer beach conceptIt was hands-down one of the funniest things I had ever seen on a beach.  I was with a friend in Nice, on the French Riviera, surrounded by locals and tourists in various stages of undress.  Not far from me were a couple of topless girls and local etiquette stipulated that everyone had to act like everything was normal.  And, for a French beach in the summer, everything basically was.  Well, at least it was until a group of American teenagers, in predictable khaki shorts and baseball caps, came over and struck up conversation with the topless ones.

The guys’ intent was clear: they wanted a picture with the women.  Amused at the ballsy request, the women obliged the horn dogs and posed with their newfound American friends.  The guys were delighted but conversation quickly dried up because of the language barrier and they took off.  The best part was when one of the guys hollered, “Y’all keep it up now!” over his shoulder.  Beautiful.

The young guys’ break with etiquette was amusing.  If they had been locals or at least somewhat accustomed to Mediterranean protocol, they would have been considerably less eager with their photo requests.  Everyone came out of this one well – the nervous kids, the nonchalant boob models and the amused onlookers.  Observing the whole incident made me think about the huge role of cultural rules in the day-to-day – right down to beach attire and how to acknowledge topless strangers.  It also made me think of what allows us to bend the rules of culture (in this case, approaching topless women) and test the boundaries society decides are appropriate.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point” identifies the drivers of societal change as Connectors (social magnets that are master networkers and love nothing more than working a crowd), Mavens (information specialists, people that have the information society needs) and Salesmen (Charismatic, persuasive people that can get people to agree with them).  When all three kinds of personalities come together and benefit from a strong message and favorable circumstances, you get enough traction to affect major societal shifts.

Watching the kids I saw each of the personality-based change agents.  There was the Connector – the kid in the group that probably was the reason they were all on the beach, skipping the assigned lecture on Franco-Spanish relations. Then there was the Maven – the pervy nerd who’d worked out what stretch of beach would yield the best topless odds. And finally, there was the Salesman who talked both his friends and the busty French into posing for the camera.

So there you have it:  a little example of how cultural change, however insignificant, can be achieved. Whenever cultural rules feel rigid and overbearing, remember that with some clever planning, some key leadership and a little luck, rules can bend and boundaries can shift.  And there’s nothing that some teenage spunk and some multicultural levity can’t fix.

Rise to the occasion, LEAVE A COMMENT

Bjorn Karlman