Are You Networked?

We've mentioned Beth Kanter and her recent work to network nonprofits in sub-Saharan Africa before, and here she is again with some great ideas on how to get started using social media as a professional networking tool.  Beth's workshop at the Akilah Institute for Women in Rwanda trained 39 young women to get online and start networking.  Her story below outlines what they did and why they did it. If you have any questions about social media or want to offer more networking ideas, leave them in the comments below and we'll answer as best we can!

Akilah Institute for Women: Social Media Workshop Written by Beth Kanter

After the ACE leadership training, I had the opportunity to spend a day in Kigali.  I volunteered to do a Social Media and Professional Networking workshop for second year students at the Akilah Institute for Women.  The Akilah Institute mission is to empower young women in East Africa to transform their lives by equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to find meaningful employment and launch ventures in the fastest growing sectors of the economy.  The organization was founded by Elizabeth Dearborn Davis and Dave Hughes.  I got an opportunity to do a workshop with second year students during their IT class.  Since students who participate in Akilah’s Leadership Program are required to do a social change project and participants are on a professional career path, I did a workshop about using social media to support social change projects and how to use it as a professional networking tool.

I worked with 39 young women between the ages of 18-30.  Everyone was using Facebook.  There were a handful who were using LinkedIn and Twitter as professional networking tools.  One student, Gisele Bahati, has already implemented social fundraising by using Razoo to raise funds to attend the Global Youth Connect human rights conference in New York City this summer.  She still has $2,300 left to raise; you can help her get to New York!

Woman leading a workshop with several students and a screen with an image projected on it.

One of the messages I wanted to share with this group of young women was that women can do technology – and that they can use social media to help them with their social change projects.   I shared my story and my experience in doing some online blog mentoring project with young women in Nigeria through my colleague Ore Somolu.  I focused on showing them Twitter because there were so many examples of women leaders here in Rwanda and other countries in Africa using it for networking and professional development.

We spent most of our time looking at the importance of setting up a professional profile on Twitter.  I had them view other profiles and share what struck them.

A picture of the Twitter profile of the Minister of Health in Rwanda



They were very excited to see the Minister of Health in Rwanda on Twitter.  They remarked about her professional appearance.

A picture of a Twitter profile of a woman in Rwanda



I shared Ory Okolloh’s Twitter profile and shared some of her background as a co-founder of Ushahidi and now working for Google.  What they found inspiring was that a women can balance being a mother with a career in technology.


girl working at a desk










young women shaking hands and talking with eachother










Young women shaking hands outdoors







Next, I had them write out their 160 character description for their Twitter profile or what I called a “Twitter Elevator Speech.”  I also had them practice it verbally in pairs and then in front of the whole group.  We were able to briefly share what Twitter looks like online.  I asked participants to share what they learned and most shared that they had never considered tools like Facebook as ways to help them with their social change projects or professional networking.  If I were teaching this as a full course, the next session would go much deeper into privacy and security techniques.

All in all, I had a lovely day at the Akilah Institute. Read the write up of my visit to Akilah Institute on their blog.

Originally posted at Beth's Blog