Sunday, January 13, 2013

Idle No More: Rethink Social Media & Hire an Instructional Designer

If there's one thing that comes up in conversation a lot these days, it's Idle No More. The #IdleNoMore hashtag is buzzing, their Facebook page has racked up almost 75,000 Likes and Chief Theresa Spence has over 35,000 followers of her Twitter account. Impressive numbers, but so what?

Idle No More is taking the wrong approach to Social Media, despite what the press is saying. In a recent Toronto Star article titled, Social Media helps drive Idle No More movement, Karissa Donkin writes:
Idle No More and its rise have been driven by social media, a place where anyone — no matter how physically isolated they are — can participate in discussion and follow news if they have an Internet connection or smartphone.
Yep, similar to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, Idle No More (INM) has used the convenience, simplicity and ubiquity of Social Media to connect, grow and speak out. And with good reason. Facebook and Twitter are free to use and available in the palm of your hand and in a vast country such as Canada, these platforms get the word out fast and to all corners.

But, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram need to be used by INM as tools to educate, not simply to rant and collect people together around drum circles and public squares. And they'd do well to hire some expert Instructional Designers to help create their Social Media strategy.

Currently, there are significant gaps between what the 'average Canadian' knows and believes about Aboriginal Canadians and what the latter would have us understand and accept. This obviously limits any support they hope to gain from Canadian taxpayers and the voting public. As instructional designer Connie Malamed states in her post, 'What is instructional design':
Instructional design involves the process of identifying the skills, knowledge, information and attitude gaps of a targeted audience and creating, selecting or suggesting learning experiences that close this gap, based on instructional theory and best practices from the field.
Therefore, hand in hand with skilled instructional designers, INM must design an approach to closing the knowledge, information and attitude gaps that exist between themselves and the rest of Canada. And the tools to educate, connect and engage should include, at the very least, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Here's what I briefly worked out on my whiteboard that I will expand upon more after the image (please click on photo for enlarged version):

Let me elaborate on what I'm getting at in the photo. Chief Theresa Spence is being criticized -and I think rightly so- for not granting access to the media on Victoria Island where she is undergoing a hunger strike. If INM wants to garner support, then transparency is key. 

Via Facebook and Twitter, INM is connecting and updating supporters, building momentum and organizing protests. 

And the media is doing its part to confuse and overwhelm the public with their biases. 

The result? Idle No More vs. Canada. 

How do INM go from versus Canada to plus Canada instead? Through creative instructional design and use of Social Media. For example:

1) Twitter
  • Host Idle No More Twitter chats that broaden the discussion and involve more citizens. 
  • Educate Canadians on the Idle No More issues via succinct tweets and links to documents that explain what INM is demanding. 
  • Tweet links that illustrate the history of Native Canadians and why current demands exist. 
  • Engage followers AND detractors on the Twitter stream like many corporations do effectively. 
2) Pinterest
  • Pin recipes and photos of unique Aboriginal cuisine. 
  • Pin photos of Native Canadian clothing, styles and fashions from all Aboriginal nations. 
  • Focus on individual chiefs by giving them a pinboard spotlight. 
3) Instagram
  • Show the 'rest of Canada' who you are = photos of reserves, paintings, sculpture, textiles, etc.
  • Demonstrate daily life through photos = Native Canadian portraits, customs, events, etc. 
  • Encourage Aboriginal photographers to submit and participate. 
4) Facebook
  • Include documents, posts and videos that educate and illustrate what it is you're wanting from the rest of Canada and the government. 
  • Announce activities that Canadians can attend and experience, giving opportunities to rub shoulders with members of INM and create meaningful connections. 
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as I'm concerned, but I think even these few ideas I've explored would help bridge the gaps immensely. What do you think? 


  1. Very interesting post and great ideas Jamie. I think with regard to IDM the public has more extreme viewpoints for or against the cause than on other issues such as health care reform or the environmental movement (judging from the what I'm reading in the media) so I'm not sure what percentage of the public would be swayed by any type of approach. Sort of similar to the U.S. election where Obama and Romney were probably campaigning to about 5% of the public who were not firmly in one camp or the other when the campaign started.

    1. Thanks for your kind compliments, Jon. I like your perspective on 'campaigning to about 5%', as I would tend to agree with you there. But, similarly, I believe Obama and Romney would've benefited from the use of good instructional designers who could've helped them design a strategy of educating alongside connecting, so broader discussion might've arisen.
      Reality is, many, many people choose which camp to settle in without really understanding the complex political issues first.

  2. I love the use of the mindmap, Jamie. It captures a complex issue in an accessible visual and your extrapolation which follows then articulates it for the verbal learner. You make excellent points all of which add up to "make connections". My only caution has to do with the content of your examples rather than the methods you suggest, all of which make great sense...I'm having trouble articulating my thoughts on this because it is a subtle thread in your blog. I think it would be important to convey your awareness that Aboriginal life is both on and off reserves. (The cuisine is, for example, entering the mainstream through the efforts of Aboriginal chefs. Are there other cross-fertilizations?) I know a blog is not the place for a full and comprehensive analysis, it's just that little thread that's daring me to pull it to see where it leads.

    1. Thanks for your message, Hilary, and for giving me positive feedback on the visual component of this post.

      I'm glad you've pointed out that life exists for Aboriginal Canadians on and off the reserves and that this should be included. And including in some of the Social Media strategy the history of their cuisine, where it has influenced current mainstream menus and who some of the influential Aboriginal chefs are would be amazing. Sounds like a great Pinterest board!