About Mayo’s Crowdsourcing their Social Media Advisory Board

When Mayo announced that they were going to be crowdsourcing their advisory board, my first reaction was along the lines of , “Hmmm, well, that’s an interesting approach.” I was peripherally intrigued, followed the buzz, which included objections, excitement, concerns, arguments, endorsements, and more. The buzz was actually more interesting than the announcement itself.

I took a look at the announcement. It didn’t say very much about what the responsibilities would be for the Board Members. It said, “Members will provide advice and feedback to our center leadership on various programs and initiatives, and will be a source of ideas for worthwhile projects. They also will contribute content for this site and their perspectives on health-related developments in social media.” That’s all good stuff, but what are they really expecting the board members to do? I’ve been on Editorial Boards & Advisory Boards that were mostly honorary posts with nothing to do, and others where they practically took the place of your “day job.” I also wondered why my own institution is not doing something similar.

Of course, I also took a look at the initial baker’s dozen already selected for the advisory board. To my delight (and fitting my expectations), 11 of the 13 are people whose activities I follow closely and with whom I communicate regularly already. How could I not look at that board and feel a sense of rightness and satisfaction, as if I had chosen them myself. This is my crowd, the people I consider my peers, my friends, my “peeps”. These are mostly the other ‘loudmouths’ (like me!) on the Sunday night #hcsm chats, which is THE place to be for people really committed to health and social media.

There are a few other names I would have liked very much to see there — Suzanne Fox, Gilles Frydman, many of the old crowd from ACOR’s Medical Webmasters List (MWM-L), not the least of which is Denise Silber. On the other hand, a lot of the folk I want to see are folk who’ve been around for a while, watching this area evolve for years, with a long view. They have a couple young folk, and that is a good thing. It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple more, like Andre Blackman or Stacy Stone. An Advisory Board should really represent a variety of views & perspectives, like a jigsaw puzzle or patchwork quilt.

I could see a lot of great names I’d expect to see on a list like this. I still didn’t see where I would fit in. I also had a little sense of, well, conflict, since Mayo and University of Michigan both like to think of themselves as major leaders in healthcare. But since folk kept nudging me, I took another look. I started looking at areas of expertise, type of background, early training, other factors. Then a lightbulb went off in my brain. There were no librarians. No medical librarians. No technology or social media librarians. No information experts or informaticians who have done that kind of work and could represent those skills and perceptions. I also didn’t see anyone who specialized in health literacy or plain language (which are actually kind of another librarian specialty). Nor did I see anyone with special interest or expertise in web accessibility, or who I knew had worked with communities of people with special needs, either in physical or cognitive disabilities. (Originally, my interest in that area was in assuring information access for people with physical disabilities, but then when I found out my son is on the autism spectrum with about as many learning disabilities as I’ve heard of, my interest, ahem, broadened.) OK, I finally saw a place I might fit in. They might have people there who are working in these areas and I just don’t know it. That’s cool. But these are concerns that I very much hope will be represented.

I started thinking about how communities are represented in the board. I see many people who Twitter and blog as their primary social media communications. Note, I would fit in that category myself. I saw a few people who have built exceptional communities, but most of those are communities for health care professionals. Aside from Dave Bronkart, I don’t see anyone who has really focused primarily on patient communities. I would really like to see someone who is either a community manager for active patient communities (like the list managers from ACOR) or someone from an organization like PatientsLikeMe. I’d like to see someone on the board who represents the points of view of the little guy, man on the street, the have nots. Here I am, single mom, special needs kid, no car, hardly ever travel because I don’t have the money. I see these organizations all the time, with great wonderful big name folk on their boards, but no one from the communities they are supposedly trying to help. You need that point of view also, and preferably a few people from “the wrong side of the tracks” so you can make a good effort to ensure your communications reach that broader community. In all the buzz, many folk had mentioned that the current Advisory Board is (ouch) 100% white and almost all men. That’s a problem, a big one. They need more than one person who can represent the kinds of difficulties in accessing social media experienced by people with divergent relationships to the digital divide, and the reasons so many people are deeply profoundly engaged with social media when they have physical disabilities, lack of economic resources, or who are caregivers for people in these situations.

Round about this point, I realized my view of the Advisory Board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media had changed. I wasn’t thinking of this board as Mayo’s anymore. I was thinking of it as THE Advisory Board for social media in healthcare. Not just Mayo, but representing the needs, concerns and voices for a global audience with diversity in every aspect, connecting with international organizations such as WHO and the UN, advising governmental organizations such as the FDA and CDC, providing guidance and recommendations for social media use with communities ranging from micro and niche communities such as support groups for rare diseases through ubiquitous and omnipresent communities with major health concerns such as the homeless. Mayo probably isn’t really setting themselves up to do this. What I’m envisioning is an awful big job. So very likely, what I’m imagining for the Mayo Board is all wrong for them, since they must first and foremost address the needs of their own community, their clinicians and their patients. But … I can dream, can’t I?


13 responses to “About Mayo’s Crowdsourcing their Social Media Advisory Board

  1. Dream away…we have to imagine change on huge levels using instruments (social media being one) to fracture the divide that exists between patients and providers. We have to communicate freely again –to regain trust and improve access to our provider’s opinions outside the 15 minute visits. We providers have to find patients where they are (online). Thanks for this; I liked it. Although I don’t entirely fit the profile you seek, I am considering putting in an application, too. I’ve got about an hour… Meanwhile, keep dreaming…


    • I don’t fit my profile either, in a lot of ways, but that is why they need a range of people! You would be BRILLIANT! I waited until the last second, too, right before midnight here.

      But that’s the problem. So many brilliant people are doing this! I mean, Mayo picked a limit of 25, which is smack dab on the teetertotter tipping towards both too many and too few. The crowdsourcing bit has gotten an enormous number of incredible people involved. They are pretty much all wonderful. Most of them, like me, had people behind shoving, saying “You gotta do this!” 90% of us (or more) won’t make the cut. Well, OUCH. Even if someone maybe didn’t really want the job, they still don’t want to be turned down. The people who pushed them to enter are going to feel special about their favorite people. Worst or best of all, the process required people to put in their own name. In public. That is a process I really question. It is going to embarrass a lot of great people when they are NOT picked, and I challenge Mayo to come up with a way to engage and show value for every single blessed person who was brave enough to throw their hat in the ring. They all deserve it.

      I’m pretty much OK with the idea of not making it myself. Librarians generally don’t expect to be invited to sit on boards with doctors and CEOs and such. There are a lot of great people I adore already on the board. If I have something I want to say, I know who to say it to in order to get things heard. There are enough people who listen to me that I don’t need to be on the Board to have an impact, and I don’t expect my impact to be huge. (I am a firm believer in osmosis, picking my battles, and not pushing my battles as soon as the topic goes viral.) Much of this is also true of most of the people applying. I just want all applicants to feel GREAT about this process and how things work out, and I’m not sure how that will happen. Maybe Mayo should have crowdsourced ideas for their process before crowdsourcing the names. This is going to be challenging. At the same time, it is really exciting. I don’t know what Mayo really wants to do with this, but I have think that what might be really needed is a bigger similar kind of Board, unaffiliated with a single organization, but more part of a partnership, a collaboration of several organizations working in healthcare social media — schools, nonprofits, hospitals, insurance, pharma, government …. Let’s get everyone at the same table!


  2. Patricia:
    I think part of the focus on Mayo is its pioneering role in using social media, so perhaps some have a more critical eye directed to it. I don’t happen to share that gaze. I think it is wonderful they are reaching out, and doing so among real leaders with passion. I think the members serve one-year terms, so there is plenty of room for greater diversity in the future. Once again, Mayo is setting a path for other hospitals to take, so kudos for them. They will likely take your sentiments very seriously and look to improve their model. If they’re smart, they will undoubtedly include a librarian next time. 😉



    • Thanks, Carmen! This is very helpful information. Somehow I missed this. I would hope they wouldn’t all have one year terms, though. A few at one, a few at two, a few at three, so that there is some continuity and turnover blended. Most of the boards I’ve been on have been terms that lasted until someone quit, Supreme Court style, so I had not thought of this approach. I like it! I absolutely agree. Everyone I know on the board is something with real passion, and that is part of what utterly delights me about what I’ve seen so far. With the flexibility you describe, that relieves many (if not all) of any concerns I may have expressed. Thank you!


      • Thanks…the one-year terms are at the beginning, and then we will move to staggered terms. Some may rotate off, while others may renew for another 1,2 or 3 years.


      • Thanks, Lee, this makes a lot of sense and is what I hoped for. This has been a fascinating process to observe. Assuming that the crowdsourcing will continue as part of the process, when this process is refined I could see it being adopted by other communities of practice. There are a few “lessons learned” percolating around, but I think it is provoking more positive attention than negative at this point, and shows some real potential. I am still mulling the process through in my mind. I think the “best practices” are still evolving in a large way, both in this immediate initiative as well as the medium as a whole.


  3. Hi Patricia, thanks for the vote of confidence. I actually did apply at the last minute Friday. We’ll see what happens. My post is at the top of my blog currently http://www.denisesilber.com/ehealth/2010/10/mayo-clinic-social-media.html


    • Yes, I’d actually seen that. Made it a lot easier to pick and MWM-L name! But also I’ve seen you around the social media space longer and with more engagement and energy than most of the MWM-L folk. John (@pharmaguy) would be another good person. I love that you bring an international perspective in addition to having both the long view and active current engagement. The more I hear the more it sounds like eventually there will be room for all of us at this virtual table. 🙂


  4. We through our hats in the ring too. It’ll be interesting to see how the process works.


    • Yes indeed. 🙂 I have mixed feelings about the process, but … this is unveiling and drawing attention to the ENTIRE community in a very powerful and positive way, so far. I hope to see this in the NYTimes.


  5. this is an excellent post that brings to light the strengths, yet the issues of the board. The lack of diversity of the board, in both of peoples and fields, makes me wonder if we will continue to emulate the inequities we see play out in the real world. I certainly hope that you are on it patricia, because your personal story communicated that for some of us the use of social media is not a choice (hence, necessity is the mother of invention). I hope you are on it.


    • Myrna, thank you so much for such an insightful comment. I have learned so much from the comments and conversations that have spun off from this post. Your comment here is important – that it is critical to NOT “emulate the inequities we see….” I’ve been wishing that I had remembered to say something about Second Life or virtual worlds, where I have witnessed such powerful and empowering communities for people with disabilities. Wondering how Mayo is defining social media / social technologies.


  6. Pingback: #MCCSM = Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media | Emerging Technologies Librarian

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