blogging as a tool for empowerment

Blog wordle (image via mashable.com)

This week I lead a workshop about the joys of blogging for the staff of Girls Action Foundation/Fondation Filles d’Action. The non-profit, which advocates for empowering young women and provides resources/networking, is dealing with the challenges of implementing an organizational blog.

While I am no professional blogger or social media guru, I’m enthusiastic and passionate, and I truly believe in the power of blogging to connect people, create conversation and build community. I’m also very familiar with the unique challenges which overstretched, overworked staff at non-profit organizations face with blogging, after my experience editing and blogging for ascent magazine. The irony is that these organizations can benefit enormously from the free marketing and outreach opportunities that blogs and social media provide.

So I started off the little 1.5 hour workshop by telling the lovely GAF ladies about the evolution of it’s all yoga, baby, and the joyous community that I’ve discovered through the blog. Then I lead them through a 15 minute writing exercise, based on the amazing comic articst/novelist Lynda Barry’s excellent book, What It Is. Based on Lynda’s suggestion, I made a “word bag” composed of keywords that I pulled off GAF’s website – like “girls,” “empowerment” and “leadership.” And some that weren’t, such as “Lady Gaga,” “crush,” and “sexting.” Each woman pulled a word from the word bag and had to write about it continuously for 15 minutes, without removing her pen from the page.

The objective of the exercise was for everybody to leave with a blog post ~ and to prove that blog writing doesn’t need to be time-consuming. However, what each person wrote was for their own enjoyment and they can only publish it if they want. We didn’t workshop or discuss what was written. It was purely for each woman’s own process. GAF gets to keep the word bag forever, and hopefully it’ll come in handy if they need inspiration in the future.

We ended with some open brainstorming and questions for the GAF blog. The most common challenge for the staff was navigating the “be yourself” dictum of the blogospere when the blog is for one’s workplace. I didn’t have an answer, but I’m very familiar with that challenge. The only thing I could suggest was to just write and blog until the natural voice that can straddle both worlds emerges.

Similar to the GAF ladies, my introduction to blogging when I was working at ascent magazine. It drove me crazy – the blog was this extra thing that I had to do, on top of editing magazine content. Nobody on our small staff had the extra time to write on the blog, so it was a constant challenge.

However, after the magazine closed and I found myself unemployed, I started to write my own blog, for fun! I spent my sudden abundance of free time reading and commenting on blogs, and researching and writing my own blog. And in the process, I discovered a latent passion.

I hope that the workshop inspired the wonderful women at GAF, and that they will be able to get comfortable with this great medium, which offers enormous potential for them. And for other non-profit, grassroots and activist organizations, for whatever causes.

  1. What a great role model, you are! It sounds like a cool project and I’ll bet your real-life experience (and sassy demeanor) was very inspiring…

  2. Hi Roseanne! This sounds like a great experience. I enjoyed hearing how it all came together. Good for you. Keep up the good work!

  3. Good story gwarrior.

    We’ve been debating the plusses & minuses of the blogosphere on Elephant Journal:
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/03/on-the-death-of-gaia-com-the-future-of-social-media/

    Your enthusiasm for blogging would be a welcome comment over there if you have a minute.

    M wife Jane runs workshops for teachers on how to get their kids excited about reading and writing. She uses techniques just like you describe above in her workshops and also these are the types of techniques she shows teachers how to use in their classrooms.

    I love blogging, too. Partly I learned about it by watching what you were doing here. Thanks.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  4. This morning I found your blog and I feel like writing to you. I have two passions, as it seems. I love to do Ashtanga yoga and I love to blog about it mainly (I love to write). I want to leave my accounting life behind me and since quite a while I consider to give writing workshops. Somehow I lack the courage to do so. Perhaps you have some advice.
    Happy blogging.
    Ursula

    • hi ursula ~ it’s good that you know what you love to do. before you quit your accounting day job, i suggest that you try creating a writing workshop and offering it to a group of people in your community. they could be at an organization that you believe in, or at a community centre, or even at the yoga studio where you practice. offer workshops in your free time, to develop your skills and create a network. this practice will also give you courage and confidence, so when you’re ready to make the leap from accountant to writing workshop facillitator, you’ll be able to do it!

  5. Great post! When I was a girl I used to write compulsively as a way of processing my journey to find myself in the world. It was a way of expressing my angst, heartbreak, or joy, but it was also a very narrow experience because I was only writing for myself. I think writing for a ‘public’ audience is hugely different, because suddenly there is the possibility that your words will have an impact on someone else. It’s a big responsibility and one that I can see would be very empowering!

    Girls and young women (ok, and even us not-so-young-anymore-women) have so much to deal with in the modern world, so many conflicting messages and pressures. I think it’s amazing that you are sharing some of your warrior spirit with them. 🙂 Here’s to a new generation of girl warriors. 😉

  6. sounds rocking. any lessons learned about what to do more (or less) of?

  7. Hi Roseanne,

    What a fabulous idea.And I agree – it does take time to find our voice.

    I often thought it would be fun to go to our local senior center and teach seniors to blog. I’m guessing the stories they could tell would be priceless.