I came across Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus” some time ago, thanks to my always beloved TED Radio Hour addiction. The basic premise is that in modern society we actually find ourselves with both free time and the desire to take collective action. There are also small moments when organizations and institutions have found ways to use our idol time … the quick acts of sharing a petition on Facebook, typing in one of those funny little codes when buying concert tickets (which is deciphering a whole world of code), or contributing to a news story in a variety of mediums (how many comments and trolls can we handle?).  Whether we know it or not, we are contributing to the Collective all the time.  And I share one of Shirky’s perspectives that the most important impact Cognitive Surplus can make within technology is the way we can mobilize and utilize the surplus to spur social change.

While I can’t be as clever as maximizing those ‘are you human? codes’ I find myself typing in all over the web, I thought I might start a component to the Innovation Lab that relies on an old tried and true method for borrowing some of your free time and Cognitive Surplus: a quick poll.  But this poll is a little different than do ‘you like Pepsi or Coke?’, or ‘which way do you hang your toilet paper roll?’. Instead, this will be the first in a series of Collective Thought Projects that allow us to gather some insights in real time (opinions and best practices are constantly changing and we need up-to-date thouhgts) about a pertinent topic that is affecting nonprofits and community organizations right now.

For this first Collective Thought Project we’re interested in nonprofit campaigns that have inspired you recently and why. 2017 has already been a year of great action in this arena … what highlights are appearing through the cacophony for you? Taking just one minute to answer these four quick questions will contribute to a collective brainstorm that just might be the key we need to Break Through in how community organizations are inspiring people. Some organizations find the magic, others struggle to get there, and we want to help small organizations with limited resources get their message out in an effective way that matters today. Share your innovative insights!