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Facebook’s fightback: Zuckerberg offers millions to Facebook community builders

Wants to foster community building programmeFive leaders will be selected to get up $1 000,000 each100 more to get $50,000

Has Facebook instituted a major course correction? Perhaps. After months of disastrous publicity and a general ‘turning against’ social media in general (often led by the traditional media with its usual axe to grind, it must be said), it would be surprising if it didn’t  get on the front foot, splash some cash and try to regain the initiative.

At its  ‘Facebook Communities Summit Europe’ it’s just announced a Community Leadership Program, “a global initiative that invests in people building communities”.

Facebook says it will commit tens of millions of dollars to the programme, including up to $10 million in grants that will go directly to people creating and leading communities.

It told 300 or so European community leaders assembled in London that it was poised to offer substantial cash and other support to all manner of Facebook based community building exercises.

As examples of the sort of thing it wanted to encourage, it cited Blind Veterans UK, which provides practical and emotional support to blind veterans and their families; Donna Mamma, a support group for mothers in France to share advice and information; Girl Skate UK, which celebrates and brings together the female skateboarding community; Berlin Bruisers, Germany’s first gay and inclusive rugby club and, my favourite, High Society PL, a group of sneaker enthusiasts who bond over their shared passion.

You get the idea. Everything from the highly virtuous to the delightfully wacky. Everything, in fact, which doesn’t involve fake stories, political gerrymandering and hate messaging.

The programme is designed to empower leaders (or those who want to be leaders) who are building communities through Facebook apps and services. And Facebook is offering  training, support and funding for such individuals through ‘residency and fellowship opportunities’. Up to five leaders will be selected to be community leaders in residence and awarded up to $1,000,000 each to fund their proposals.

Another 100 leaders will get up to $50,000 to be used for a specific community initiatives.

In addition Facebook is organising ‘Community Leadership Circles’ to bring local community leaders together to meet up in person to connect, learn and collaborate. It says it already piloted three circles in the US in 2017 and will be expanding globally this year.

Obviously the best way to actively ensure that Facebook communities are safe, organized and engaged is to cede more power over content and community behaviour to the communities themselves.  

Essentially Facebook wants more Facebook activity to be centred around shared interests, less around ‘friends’ and their idle chatter. Has it done enough?

It appears to be on the right track. And remember TIP (the Telecoms Infrastructure Project)? That was also initiated by Facebook in the wake of heavy criticism – then over its policy of subsidising access in emerging economies. After some solid investment and effort TIP is seen as having done some great technical work in an effort to drop the price of telecoms infrastructure (see -TIP represents the future for telcos – those that want to prosper).

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