Friday, January 31, 2014

Whack-a-Mole Tactics to #StopCyberbullying

You wouldn't begin a business without a business plan, would you? (okay, some of you might, but shouldn't).
But with cybersafety, cyberbullying and cyberabuse issues, too often schools, policymakers and non-profits practice the "ready, shoot, aim" method. They want to do something, and start before they have learned enough or thought it through enough.

That wastes, time, money, volunteers and in the end hurts more than helps.

I have received thousands of emails asking about our #Stopcyberbullying Canada Youth Community Action Plan - why did we take the time to create it, how did we do it, who was involved and can others use ours. I will tell you what I tell potential privacy law clients. "It's easy to copy someone's privacy policy online, but if it doesn't fit your practices, and procedures and values, you're worse off than with nothing."

To build a good business plan, or strategic plan for cyberbullying, you start with a review of the field. Who else is out there? what are they doing? can you improve on their offerings? Can you collaborate to avoid reinventing the wheel? where is your strength? your weakness? are there special opportunities? Special risks? what's your perspective? how does it add to the mix?

You look at everything you can find to see what others have done. A thorough Internet search will help pull up templates, recommended plans and ideas. But don't copy them. Learn from them. Are they created form the governmental perspective? if so, is it an educational institution approach, legal or mental health approach? or something else. How does the culture of the jurisdiction from where it was written compare to yours? Are you looking for a more formal structure? more community structure? kids, parents or professionals?

Start from your strengths. We have been doing cyberbullying prevention and triage work since 1995, before it had a name. I am a lawyer and sit on Facebook's international safety advisory board, MTV's a think line advisory board, developed the cybersafety program for the Girl Scouts, the digital dating abuse program for Liz Claiborne Foundation and have advised the UN and UNESCO, among others. I approach things form the community perspective, using volunteers to deliver our programs and expert volunteers to help guide them. We look at things form a policy and legal perspective and work within the industry to help implement best practices. we also rely heavily on youth as both experts and distribution agents.

Your group may be different.

What's your budget and funding sources? even with using volunteers, travel, phones and programs have out of pocket costs. How are you going to handle those? It would be horrible to have a promising program stopped dead in the water because you couldn't afford a necessary expense.

Are you going it alone or using partners? (if alone, expect a larger budget!) local or national or international in scope? how will you manage communications? social media feeds and pr? legal niceities? branding?

what's your credibility factor? are you well known in the field? a newcomer with good credentials? have transferable skills/expertise? starting fresh because you care? if you are realistic, these can all work as long as your know your stuff.

then plan, brainstorm, discuss, argue and improve. run it by others you trust. run it by others you admire. then, scale it back a little. Better to under-promise and over-deliver. set priorities. make the first ones easier to show traction. do what you do best first. and build a network of others to help when you need it. you will need it.

post your plan online and get feedback. share it among friends and family and get feedback. make it measurable and meaningful. explain why you, why now and how you are different.

then, hold your nose and jump! Use your plan as your roadmap when you get lost, confused or off-track. if you did it right, it will help. if it's not helping do it again, better this time.

good luck!