Creating Momentum: The Bricks and Mortar for Spreading Ideas

By Benjamin Wood

Over the past year, CFFN has radically changed its outlook. Whereas once the organization’s goal was to bring about prosperity, justice, and equality through debates and political means, its focus has narrowed to finding innovative ways of delivering education to the masses. The idea is that a stronger, more educated population can better affect its own environment. This is a much more long-term solution, but it can lead to a country that sustainably changes itself, leading to prosperity, justice, and equality on many fronts.

At the organizational level, CFFN’s challenge is how to take this new mandate and be so successful with it that other organizations, businesses, and even governments examine our methods or ask for advice. How does the message of spreading education reach those who can help do so? How can that message gain enough momentum and reach a critical mass such that the support and resources for CFFN’s initiatives are as wide and diverse as the people they will serve? This is a lesson important for the continued growth and success of CFFN as a whole, and to any other organization looking to flourish and accomplish their goals.

My quest for an answer begins with Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is a writer for the New York Times and author of international bestselling psychology and sociology books. His first title, The Tipping Point, is considered by many as one of the most influential books published in the last decade. It explores, through the use of many extraordinary stories, how ideas, rumours, and products spread through a society. The Tipping Point defines the three agents of change as, “the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.”

The Law of the Few suggests that successfully spreading an idea involves the influence of three different types of people: connectors, mavens, and salespeople. Connectors are the people who have many acquaintances across different social groups, the people who “have a special gift for bringing the world together.” They are able to spread an idea to a wide array of different people with different interests, who can in turn pass the idea to all their peers that have similar interests. Mavens are information specialists, the gatherers of knowledge that connect everyone with new information. A maven is very much interested in solving problems with the information they have, or can find. They, along with the connectors, have the social skills to start an idea epidemic. Lastly, the salespeople are those that can persuade other to act, they can “persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing.” These people can convince others of the importance of an idea, or how it will be successful. Together, connectors, mavens, and salespeople make up the messengers that spread the idea.

The Stickiness Factor discusses the message itself. Stickiness is the quality that a message needs in order to spread. The idea itself needs to be memorable such that it evokes change and action. The best messages are short, targeted, and relevant to the audience. Also, people often need to be exposed to messages several times before they can be retained – they stick better through repetition. The challenge is as much to create a compelling message as it is to have it repeated.

The Tipping Point’s final message, the Power of Context, states that “sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.” The environment itself can affect how an idea can spread. Fortunately, it is possible to change the environment.  For example, CFFN’s Community Child Care Centre gives young siblings a place to be so that their older brothers and sisters can go to school without them – this leads to a learning environment with fewer distractions and interruptions. By changing the environment, we’ve created an environment where messages can spread. Group dynamics also plays a role in the power of context. Groups are susceptible to pressures and dynamics that can spread ideas.

Malcolm Gladwell brilliantly outlines in The Tipping Point how vital the people, the message, and the context are at creating idea epidemics. The many examples Gladwell uses illustrate how possible it is to use them to become successful. The question we should be asking ourselves is how can CFFN use Gladwell’s theories to bring the light of knowledge to the margins of society? How can the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context work together to ignite passion for our initiatives?

Please visit an informational website http://blog.cffn.ca that is currently evolving and learn more about our mission. The proponents look forward to having cooperation and participation from many generous individuals and institutions for educating rural and marginalized people of Nepal.

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