Go Glocal: How to build communities most effectively

Last week the Brookings Institute kindly included me in the U.S./Islamic World Forum in Qatar. It was a fantastic collaborative and learning experience. The theme for our working group was ‘New Media in the Age of Globalization”.

Our group was comprised of State Dept. officials, religious leaders, private sector business leaders, Middle Eastern philanthropists and social media leaders. The concerns of the group were many and far reaching. They included how to use new media to promote cultural understanding within and between Muslim communities in the Middle East, and between the U.S. and Middle East itself. Many factors were considered including the propagation of literacy and education, the regionally specific rights of women and girls, the community and gender-based distribution of technology and the effective promotion of civil society.

For all these nuances one theme emerged that proved critical to the effective community building using new media. No matter the region, the specific cultural challenges, or whether you are a private sector company, government entity or non-profit institution, community building must be approached through a local lens.

I call this approach “glocal”. By that I mean any institution must take the local global, rather than the other way round.

Let me give you an example. Literacy is a huge issue in many Arab countries, yet the solution is not as simple as translating educational tools into English. Those tools themselves have to be arabized which means the structure of the narratives, logic of ideas and teaching syllabi must be made culturally relevant to the country, region and specific community where they will be used.

I couldn’t help but think that same principles applies to brands. For if brands listen only through the lens of their own community and culture their efforts will be misunderstood as self-serving even if they focus on listening.

The quality of listening and the ability to communicate glocally are two of the critical factors that determine which brands will build online communities most effectively. Such respect will be returned in kind by the community ensuring the longevity and well-being of both.

Do do you know of any good examples of brands both listening and going glocal?


The Conference in Qatar.