Create Your Rebel Alliance

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“Change happens one lunch table at a time,” Carmen has often said referring to her informal Rebel Alliance at the CIA.

The point is that to move new ideas forward at work we need help from others. We can’t do it alone. The best “experts” on how to make change and move new ideas forward in our organizations are almost always the people in our organizations.

The people inside know how the organization really works. The hidden gatekeepers. The risks and trends the execs are secretly obsessing about. How to streamline contracts through Purchasing and Legal. What helps IT to respond more quickly.

Like-minded Rebels can help us figure out how to get things done within the quirkiness of our particular organization, how to make our ideas better, and when to hit the pause or go faster button.

As importantly, our Rebel friends can offer support, empathy, and, if we’re lucky, sick humor to keep everything in perspective.

Tips for starting online Rebel community

Some of us we can have regular lunch or after-work get togethers. There is nothing better than being together in person. But for those spread across geographic locations, an online Rebel community might be helpful.

We asked Rachel Happe, co-founder and chief wonk of The Community Roundtable, for suggestions on how to create a stealth Rebel Alliance. (ps -- No one knows more about communities and networked communications than Rachel. An added bonus is that she is a good Rebel.) 

Here’s what she suggests.

PURPOSE: start by establishing the purpose and value of the Rebel Alliance. What do you want to do together and why? 

When Elwin Loomis started a secret invite-only Rebel Alliance at Target the purpose was to get help and provide help to people who want to get sh*t done. Members were invited based on their track record of taking action to get things done and done fast, and their knowledge of the rules at Target and their experience circumventing the rules to get things done for the betterment of the company and team.

In starting the Rebel Alliance, Elwin explained its value this way:  “Large companies are hierarchies. But while the people at the top of the hierarchy tree seem to be the most important, they often are not the ones who are the most influential (or most impactful) to get stuff done. More often, it is the guy off in the corner of the org chart who has the access to the systems that you need, or the assistant to the president who can get you that info that you need. The Rebel Alliance members are the company’s “do-ers. Let’s care and feed people who are makers, who can create, and who ‘do’. Continue to ‘get sh*t done’!”

Challenge coins are created for elite organizations to recognize and prove membership. Here are the Rebel Alliance coins given to members of the Target Rebel Alliance, a secret support group, not endorsed by Target.

Challenge coins are created for elite organizations to recognize and prove membership. Here are the Rebel Alliance coins given to members of the Target Rebel Alliance, a secret support group, not endorsed by Target.

BASICS: figure out who will loosely manage the community, who to invite and what validating questions to ask people who want to join, what platform to use, and who’s in charge if someone misbehaves.

START SMALL and SIMPLE: Rachel suggests starting really small and uncomplicated. Maybe the Rebel Alliance starts with just five people. And you could start small and inexpensive by using a Facebook private or secret group.

GET TO KNOW ONE ANOTHER: This is hugely important for any group, especially one where you need to trust one another and be able to talk candidly. 

Have  a simple but interesting format for rich profiles: some serious information, some quirky. For example: what you do in the organization, your superpower, three things people can ask you about, and or whether you’re a cat or dog person. (See the bios on The Community Roundtable site as examples.)

Adding photos is hugely helpful in getting to know one another. Beyond a personal photo, consider asking people to share a photo of their desk, or of their favorite Rebel in history.

WEEKLY SHARE: to orchestrate serendipity get into some simple weekly habits, like posting the three big things you’ll each be working on this week. This helps people get to know who knows what, which helps you know who to turn to for specific help. Consider, too, what regular prompts might be helpful in encouraging people to share about what they know and what they’re experiencing.

For more in-depth ideas about creating and running a Rebel Alliance, check out the many resources at The Community Roundtable.

And if you’ve created some sort of stealth way to support Rebels in your organization, please SHARE your experience in the comments.

Rebel on, dear friends.