Listening for True Voices

A question frequently asked about blogging is: How do you
write a successful blog? At the NVHA Innovations Conference we heard over and
over similar recommendations. A good blog is:

  • Unfiltered by editorial oversight
  • Honest
  • Open to comments
  • Has personality
  • Is written with passion.

I think Stowe Boyd has put the best phrase on the essence of
blogging: True Voice. He says that the term comes from Shoshana Zuboff’s in The
Support Economy,
and therein we find it comes from psychologist Ronald
Engenhard.. I recommend reading Stowe’s whole post on the subject, but I’ll
quote some of his quotes to get to the definition.

Now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, people have
new dreams. In spite of the heterodoxy and diversity that mark the advanced
societies, we observe a common source for many of these dreams. It is expressed
in a psychological awareness of one’s own complex individuality. Today’s people
experience themselves first as individuals and share a common longing for
psychological self-determination…

As a result of these new dreams, a chasm has opened up
between people and the organizations upon which they depend. People have
undergone a discontinuity in mentality, but organizations have not. Business
organizations, and other institutions too, continue to treat the new
individuals’ actions according to the terms of the older mass society.

…the values surveys of Ronald Inglehard indicate that the
new postmaterialists demand true voice…. Today’s individual rejects
organizational mediation, seeking instead to have a direct impact on matters
that touch his or her life…. In the early twentieth century people joined
organizations as a way to reestablish a sense of influence and control in a
world that was spinning away from individuals. Now it is those very
organizations that make them feel "out of control." They shun those
associations in favor of an unmediated relationship to the things they care
about. The new individuals thus demand a high quality of direct participation
and influence.

These remarks grabbed me for two reasons. One, I agree
bloggers tend to be people with the chutzpa to express true voice, to
communicate directly and without intermediation. Two, it is essential for
organizations that depend heavily on people volunteering their time and money
to do everything they can to create an environment where volunteers can have
direct impact, express their true voices in deeds if not in words.

The idea of people communicating with the public unfiltered,
with personality and passion tends to make some administrators of companies and
organizations uneasy. After all, for the past decade we’ve all been perfecting
the disciplines of marketing, branding, and risk management. In the ACS, for
example, we have frequently spoken of reducing inconsistencies within the
organization so we can speak to the public “with one voice.”

However, I’m optimistic that organizations that are willing
to relax intermediation and encourage its passionately committed volunteers and
staff to communicate through blogs and other vehicles will find an enormous
resource of people who will speak positively about those organizations.
Encourage them to join the blogging community, to express their passion for the
cause, and to communicate honestly and sincerely about their experience.