Meet Joseph Mwakima, the Ultimate Community Manager

In online circles we believe a community manager is someone who cultivates and activates a group or a brand following on a social network. In Africa I met the ultimate community manager, Joseph Mwakima, a fellow busy activating his community and inspiring change in Kenya’s Kasigau Corrdidor REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Project area through word of mouth.

But unlike his American counterparts, Joseph doesn’t use a Facebook Group, Instagram or Twitter as primary tools of his job (though he is on those Wildlife Works community relations officer, he regularly meets with people engaged in projects throughout the region.

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Joseph could have gotten a job in the city. He has a wife and baby, and could easily justify seeking more bountiful land. He’s also college educated, speaks fluent English, and is well travelled. But he instead came back to the region he calls home to make a difference. His community needs him, as does the overall Wildlife Works effort.

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A variety of issues are impacting the region, including rapid deforestation through slash and burn farming and charcoal harvesting, a lack of jobs in the community, and disappearing wildlife. The REDD+ Project Joseph is part of seeks to counteract challenges with a sustainable community development program that creates jobs and protects the forest.

Joseph Talikng to Us

I got to see Joseph at work, thanks to working with Audi as part of its documentary project produced by VIVA Creative (you can see Joseph talking to the VIVA team above). Audi supports Wildlife Works as part of its carbon offset program that compensates drivers for the manufacturing and first 50,000 gas-driven miles of the new A3 e-tron being released this fall.

Widespread Community Activation

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Nestled between Kenya’s Tsavo East and West National Parks, the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project is widely considered to be a leader in sustainable carbon offsets. Wildlife Works applies a wide set of innovative market-based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity.

Joseph works in the community to socialize the solutions and encourage adoption of them. Here is what I witnessed Joseph doing:

World Environment Day

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Marasi Primary School hosted a World Environment Day celebration the day after we (the documentary team) arrived. It acknowledged many of the positive changes that have occurred as a result of the community’s fight to stop deforestation. There, I watched Joseph help a child plant a tree, speak with children, and converse with many of the community leaders in attendance.

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The school in many ways symbolizes the future of the corridor. In total, Wildlife Works pays for the school fees of more than 3,000 students in the area, including partial scholarships for some college students. Most people who work for Wildlife Works reinvest their wages in their children’s education.

Rangers

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In this picture below you can see Joseph talking with several Wildlife Works Rangers. The rangers are an 80+ person ranger corps that protects wildlife throughout the corridor’s 500,000 acres from poachers seeking ivory. They also stop people from slash and burn farming or from simply cutting down trees for charcoal. So part of Joseph’s job is explaining to them why the rangers are stopping them from using the forestland, and what alternatives they have.

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We spent seven days in the company of Joseph and Evans and Bernard, two of the Wildlife Works Rangers. I was impressed by their work, their passion for the wildlife in the Project area, and the danger they face from poachers. A poaching incident occurred on my last day in Kenya, and the pain was evident on their faces. You can see the rangers at work in the Animal Planet reality TV show “Ivory Wars.”

Eco-charcoal

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Instead of slash and burn farming and chopping down forests for charcoal production, Wildlife Works offers new alternatives to citizens. These include job opportunities, smarter farming education, and alternative methods of creating charcoal. This latter effort — the creation of eco-charcoal — offers an innovative, yet pragmatic approach to fuel.

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Joseph showed us how the eco-charcoal is created. Teams clip small branches, collect fallen tree limbs, and burn them. The ash is then mixed with a pasty substance, and poured into casts for eco-charcoal bricks. The end result is a brick that burns longer and better than the charcoal most Kenyans make when cutting down trees.

Women’s Groups

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Joseph introduced us to three different women’s groups in the region. The loosely knit associations of women engage in entrepreneurial activities like producing arts and crafts that are sold in the U.S. and Europe through Wildlife Works. In all, there are 26 registered women’s groups in the Corridor, touching 550 women, or four percent of the total population.

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The women use the resulting money to build clean water tanks, buy solar lights and clean cook stoves for their households, and provide an education for their children. Husbands see the positive impact on their households and are encouraging their wives’ newfound roles in the Kasigau community.

Joseph Small

These are just some of the programs that Joseph supports in the community. Wildlife Works engages in other economic development actions such as textile production, better farming practices and more to build a sustainable future for Kasigua Corridor REDD+ Project Area.

This type of community management shows the real-world impact that such a role can have in the right situation. When local people like Joseph interact with the community and serve as a liaison for Wildlife Works, adoption of sustainability programs increases, and ultimately transforms the entire region for the better.

Disclosure: Audi paid for me to visit Africa and capture content as part of a larger documentary that will be released this fall.

Working on a Cool Documentary Project for Audi

Last week, I published several photos and social updates indicating that I had visited a landfill in the Salt Lake City metro area to help document Audi’s carbon offset program for the new A3 e-tron launch this fall. The hybrid car is a game changer for Audi, but perhaps what is most impressive is the company’s commitment to do more than just produce a sustainable car. The offset program addresses the carbon produced during the manufacturing process and the first 50,000 gas powered miles driven in an e-tron.

That brings me to the Trans-Jordan Landfill. It was an incredible experience seeing how a landfill that produces toxic methane gas – which is 25x worse for the environment than CO2 according to the EPA – turns that gas into a clean energy source.

Geoff Selfie in Landfill

I won’t lie, it smelled really bad. And the setting between two beautiful Rocky Mountain ridges was surreal, especially with seagulls flocking to peck away at the garbage. I wore a clear poncho to avoid getting pooped on by the thousands of birds. But it was in this bizarre setting that something special happens.

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These orange cones mark wells, places where parts of the landfill are full with trash and the methane is pumped out of the land. They move the gas to a facility maintained by Granger Energy on site where massive turbines turn the gas into electricity for 4500 homes in nearby Murray, UT. While toxic, the methane can be turned into a profitable source of alternative energy and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

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In addition to the methane program, the Trans-Jordan Landfill employs Esther Davis (pictured below). Esther was our guide during the trip, and she helped educate us about the landfill, how it recycles, and the methane to energy program.

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Part of Esther’s job is to educate local school children. We attended a couple of the classes and watched the kids go crazy as a few larger items of trash were destroyed by bulldozers.

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These kids were pretty amazed to learn how their trash is turned into energy, and also how little their community recycles. It’s good to see a general concern for the environment in today’s youth. The sentiment provides hope for the future, particularly with my daughter Soleil. At four years old she is already concerned about the environment and wants to protect pollinators. I look forward to explaining the Trans-Jordan Landfill methane-to-energy process to her when she gets a little older.

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All in all, it was really quite amazing to see this story unfold in person. Just starting out with the Utah sunrise coming through the gas pumps on top of the landfill was incredible. Then watching the seagulls fly into the landfill to pick at the refuse while children watched the bulldozers manage our waste was esoteric to say the least. Finally, the tremendous sound of the massive turbines working to turn toxic gas into alternative energy was powerful.

The Trans-Jordan Landfill trip was part of a larger documentary film being produced by VIVA Creative on behalf of Audi. This will also include a trip to Kenya, Africa later this month to document a second project in the carbon offset program. It’s definitely an honor to be part of the team, and producing the secondary content for the effort. More to come.

Sunrise Over the Trans Jordan Landfill

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I visited Salt Lake City, documenting the Trans-Jordan landfill for Audi and their carbon offset program. I/Tenacity5 became part of the VIVA Creative documentary team producing content for the #3Degrees carbon offset program. This program offsets the first 50,000 miles of gas driving for a new Audi A3 e-tron, a new plug-in hybrid electric coming this fall.

Sustainable Online Communities Begin with Measurement

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” –Aristotle

Sustaining social media communities over years is one of the primary topics in Welcome to the Fifth Estate. Given how much time and financial investment goes into building a successful community, it only makes sense for enterprises to stay in touch and sustain critical online relationships, social web properties and communities. Ultimately the answer to not only achieve success online, but to remain successful begins with measurement.

Today measurement is not built into strategies from the onset; it’s an afterthought, a late addition at the end of the process (if at all), then forgotten about until it’s time to pay the piper (yay, CFOs). To be fair, there are many great practitioners who do measure effectively from the onset, but the vast majority of social communications occurs without tangible business outcomes.

Further, the measurement presented tends to focus on weak influence barometers that fail to measure how a community actually interacts with an organization, and through which media forms. Failing to understand these data points hurts an organization because they have no idea if their grassroots networks are strong or weak. Unfortunately, they find out when it’s tested several times during campaigns.

More importantly, strength of community measurement — understanding media usage patterns and changes, and what organizational actions inspire a group of people to act — forms the basis of long-term success. Through understanding how a community constantly shifts over time, one can manage effectively and move towards new tools and media forms. The behavior indicators and changes point to which media are growing in strength, which ones are waning, and what information the community prefers.

In essence, a community is like water. Water always takes the path of least resistance towards the sea. Similarly, communities tend to migrate towards the most fun, easy to use community platform. Note: Fun does not include being spammed by marketers. Measurement lets you understand which route is the fastest to the sea, and which ones to avoid. People’s actions will show you.

Successful bloggers know this. They tend to maniacally review their analytics, at least during the period of time when they are becoming successful. Rare is the successful blogger that does not check their statistics at least once a week. Note once a week, not once a year to pay the piper. Dell, one of the most successful companies in social media over time, also pays close attention to its metrics with a weekly report to the management team (including Michael Dell).

The ability to measure weekly, daily, even hourly is one of the greatest features of Internet media. The actual practice of measuring is the cornerstone of understanding a community of people, and how to successfully serve them over time. In measurement, we find sustainability.

Related reading:

Debra Askanese: 10 Trends in Sustainable Social Media

Aspiration Tech: Gunner Speaks About Sustainable Social Media (PPT linked to in post)

Welcome to the Fifth Estate Available for Pre-Order

Geoff Livingston & The Fifth Estate

Welcome to the Fifth Estate is now available for pre-order with a release date of May 11! Special thanks to Mashable Editor In Chief Adam Ostrow for writing the forward to Welcome to the Fifth Estate. This introduction offers the experienced journalist’s view of an ever changing media landscape that has moved from blogs to group texting on mobile phones.

You must be thinking, yet another social media book… And from a guy who wrote one of the first social media books, Now Is Gone? Really? Well, after reading Now Is Gone again as well as the plethora of social media books that have been released since, a correction was needed with a stronger foundation in media theory and marketing fundamentals.

This book won’t pretend to be something it is not. Simply put, Welcome to the Fifth Estate guides executives and communicators towards generating a winning and sustainable social media strategy. In that sense, it is a social media book.

What distinguishes Welcome to the Fifth Estate?

  • Strategy: There will be no themed memes about engaging, conversations, instant response or personal branding. Instead, this book aims to advise you on how to get ready for, build and sustain a great online communications strategy. There is a whole chapter on specific social media strategies and a second on tactical implementation.
  • Experience: Seven awards later and dozens of social media initiatives for the likes of the American Red Cross, General Dynamics, Google, the National 4-H Council, Network Solutions, and the United Way provides this book a depth of pragmatic experience-based conclusions that no other social media book offers.
  • Measurement: Part of building a great strategy includes knowing how to measure it. Kami Watson Huyse provides a guest chapter on how to build a measurement program.
  • Pitfalls and Sustainability: Two chapters deal with topics you normally don’t see in social media books. Chapter Two deals with the weaknesses and dangers social media presents for your organization. Chapter Seven provides concrete ways to stay relevant once your effort becomes a success.
  • Commercial and Nonprofit Case Studies: Each of the seven chapters features two in-depth case studies, one commercial, one nonprofit. Every case study has a tangible outcome associated with it a la the prior point on measurement.

If your job involves communicating online, then this book will help you. It is designed specifically to become an off-the-shelf tool that supports your real efforts with guidance that has worked for many other organizations. In that sense, Welcome to the Fifth Estate should become more useful than your average business book. That is a guarantee.

Please pre-order your copy of Welcome to the Fifth Estate today!