Research Chatter

Ideas on a Social Network for UPG promoting and networking.

My thoughts after a call from Chris D. about creating a social network to connect users who are interested in specific unreached peoples. Ok, here we go again. I had to put myself in your shoes and say to myself “I have been given the task to create a social network that links people, churches, agencies etc. together on a specific people group.”

I’ve worked closely with the coordinator of Adopt-a-People COMIBAM for over ten where on occasions we have tried to network Latin American churches and leaders on the people group level. We don’t have a solution. Actually the first Etnopedia was in Spanish only and had all the mechanisms for tracking adoptions. It was invitation only/password protected as well. We removed those mechinisms when changing to the multi-lingual Etnopedia because they were not being used. So I too have tried to network and track engagements and have failed. The mechinisms were in place for two years before we removed them. We really tried hard to make it simple and had very little participation.

Years of trying and failing at this effort have show us some things. We see that most networking happens behind the scenes and we (the mechanism) were but one link in the long chain of events. If we try to network churches, agencies and people, the mechanism is just one link in the chain. The networking (linking up) of people, agencies etc. happens one time. From there those entities seem to do what they do beyond that initial linking up. To sum it up, we could not track engagement at the Latin American level. We just couldn’t get people to tell us that they had adopted, much less engaged unreached peoples. Mexico had about 60 adoptions that did not give updates, so we don’t know if those entities actually went and reached a people group. So at the country level we had more success, but since then we have tried tried to get updates with little response. Very little has been done with Adopt-A-People in Mexico since then. This dosen’t mean that people aren’t going, they are, we just don’t know about it. So we don’t do adoptions, we just give people information and they go.

So maybe what we are after is a starting point to create that one link that produces a longer chain of events beyond the initial linking up of people, churches etc. If you create a linking up place, you may not get to see a bustle of activity like you see on public social networks. You also may not get much feed back on what happens behind the scenes. But God knows and the Gospel is gettng out into the unreached peoples!

Discussing issues and creating forums on problem solving is not social networking really. Even though it is valuable, you might not want to create a discussion forum on the networking/linking up place. I have been on FaceBook for about three years and have met personally with one person that I knew in High school. Many friends accepted my invitation to network with me and about 20 more have emailed me personally on one or two occasions. So you see that even FaceBook with 300,000,000 users doesn’t really provide much REAL socializing or networking. Most people I know and who communicate with me use email. I get three personal regular emails now from friends I found or found me on FaceBook. Those have come out of about 250 friends I have accumulated. 

The 240+ members of the Last Mile Calling initiative may have “Connected” and are now networking and working together beyond the website, thus you won’t see activity in the database, but it might be happening!  So if the goal is to track engagements or activity, it may not be attainable.

If the ultimate vision is to see networking happen for UPG’s you may also find there are not that many people interested in going or even funding the going. I calculate that about 2% of the entire Christian body is “interested” in UPG’s. And a much smaller percentage of that 2% is actually doing something about their so called interest. Not a criticism, just my opinion and an estimate. Of course there are people doing something about upg’s but those people are in Afghanistan or where ever and can’t or don’t have time to social network. So the vision is to network at best 2% of the Christian body worldwide AND that has an Internet connection. Those are some fairly accurate but hard realities  you are looking at. That is your audience. 

Question: What is the core vision, creating forums? Everyone wants to forum, Lausanne Conversations proved this. Is the vision to creating problem solving venues? Or is it a place to track activity? Or should it simply be to create a place where people link up one time that creates behind the scenes activity. If we do create a social network for people interested in linking to UPG’s I have some suggestions below. However, we have some hurdles. 

First Hurdle

You will need to connect them to a list of UPG’s and this problem has not really been resolved at the global people list level yet. Unless you just choose one list to work with which is problematic. So you might need to build the linking place around a more flexible, open people list and not a closed people list that has limitations or restrictions. Even if you use an existing people group list then you have the greater problem of  updating it. Jim C. (IMB) Dan S., Duane F., Chris M. and myself recently spent four days trying to resolve this problem and we don’t really have a good solution yet. Just syncing the different people databases on people groups is on thing, the greater issue here is scale of reachedness. On one source the people group is reached and on the other unreached.

Second Hurdle

If we are trying to track engagements (activity from the network) among UPG’s, our website will probably not show us the results. Again, that activity may happen beyond the site but we will never know how much or how little for that matter. So I would not create a second hurdle for ourselves at all. The scales of reachedness on ethnic people data shows engagement once Christians are recorded, and that data comes from the field after many years if the data comes at all. That should be the only engagement data we track as it will be hard enough to gather and never be completely accurate. It should be placed directly on the people group data gathering point. Why have two scales Engagement and Reachedness, we can’t even track reachedness yet at the world level. Example of an engagement scale we experimented with for FTT. 

Trying to track which groups your network are engaging is also probably not going to happen enough to warrant the creation of the tracking mechanism and its maintenance. The president of COMIBAM asked me several years ago about how we plan to track which groups were engaged from Latin America. I told him that we aren’t concerned about this. Putting the best UPG information in the hands of the people is all we can do. We do however need to tell them to have a plan B and C just incase their people group is already engaged. This way, if they get to the field to and their people A and it’s reached, then they can go to B or C.

My suggestion is to create a linking up place connected to an open, flexible people group list and let the work part of networking happen naturally. 

Thoughts about the social network:

1. It needs to be fast

2. It needs to be almost as functional as what is available to the secular public.

a. More than a user photo isn’t necessary in my opinion.

3. It needs to be tied to a UPG people list that is flexable and easily updateable.

4. It needs to be secure if you are tying to connect your community to specific people groups.

Thoughts about security and UPG connections:

    a. I’m not sure I would want to connect your members to specific peoples although this is the idea. I could have faked my identity when getting into Last Mile Calling. If you just had your community join a country and not a people group, then they can communicate with those interested in the country.

    b. I don’t know that there are too many people who even know which people group they want to newly work with, those who know about the specific people group are probably already doing something and don’t need to network. They have probably already googled to get their networking contacts or work in a denomination or with a country level agency..

    c. Here is an idea, maybe your linking place chooses a people group for the users. I tell new missionary candidates to click the random page button on Etnopedia, or pray through a countries people profiles they are interested in.

    d. I think you will find that with all the newly NEEDED social networking, the people don’t have a specific people in mind yet. Or it’s a cluster like Kurd or it’s a country.

    e. So it could be that beyond the scenes they will connect in private about specific peoples. Those country level groups give more specific info to people wanting to do pioneer church planting and Bible translation among a totally unreached group.

    f. For example: If I were an agency reaching 5 people groups in Chad and I was aware of an Online Network for people interested in UPG’s I would be a member of the Chad group and connect with those members in private. Also if I wanted to get involved in Chad I would look for the members of Chad that were marked as members who could get me connected (such as the agency). Then once that connection is made something happens beyone the Online Network.

    g. You might have everyone register anonymously and have a group within the Chad group called “Members of Chad that know about specific people groups” or something. Then you do away with the need for high security.

    h. The process of verification to these connecting individuals could be in a manual that tells them how to do it. That leaves the verification process up to the members and is not part of the mechanism. Then you do not have a need for a monitoring staff.

5. People like Chris D. and Chris M.  need to be heavily if not directly involved in the development of it as they have had the most success at networking people.

6. It needs have a narrow focus in order to gain participation and be significant.

    a. Only UPG focused in my opinion

    b. Last Mile Calling had a very broad scope. Businesses, Funders, Agencies, Churches, people etc.

           I think that funding, agency work etc. will happen beyond the linking place or those businesses and funders will get involved and the actual work done will not be seen on the website.

   c. Everyone is on the same level which is “member”, be they businesses, agency, interested party etc.

7. Researchers don’t seem to collaborate as they are focused on their own projects so this social network might not need to have a research group within that community. Keep UPG research and Social Networking separate. All research collaboration can take place on the people group list, if it is set up for discussions, histories, private messaging etc.

8. It needs to be based on a existing software that has a lot of users so that future development isn’t a problem



    c. Developers need to think 10 years and even 20 years down the road as the Internet goes through a major metamorphosis about every 10 years.

9. I also would use an open source database; MySQL

10. I would also use PHP as this is where most development is happening.

11. I would gather a survey from some key people on what they would like to see in the UPG social network.

    a. Barb B. is involved in much networking

    b. Chris M. has much knowledge and experience

    c. Jim H. is involved in the HIS community Sharepoint team portal.

        Just a few ideas for people on your survey

12. Have several skype meetings on the development

    a. Missionary conferences may not be the best place to talk about this as many people go to conferences to talk and input but not actually do work.

13. You might also analyze all the other failed attempts and get input from those who developed them and maybe even users (a second survey or research)

14. Comparison on the existing social networking software available




15. It needs to be in other languages

    a. This is the main reason I would use an existing software as they have developers on different language interfaces.

16. Please don’t sell anything or advertise, we get enough of that on Facebook.

17. I personally would use (domain not being used) to build your social network to tie it to a practical collaboration effort on UPG information.

    a. This way you are promoting to some degree one place and not completely inventing another wheel.


1. Linda B. Two Way Prayer Networks – Linking Together For The Unreached

2. Last Mile Calling

3. Prayer Guard 

4. GMINet


6. Efurther

7. Tokyo Basecamp no longer exists.

8. UPG Researchers my test to narrow the scope for UPG researchers and try out software.

9. WorldWideOpen

10. Mission Infobank

11. Finishing the Task

12. I think Liz A. also has some prayer networking on the Internet

13. Google Docs various things

14. Lausanne Global Conversations (a World Wide Open product.)  

15. Lausanne Research Network

16. Facebook. We created a facebook account to connect people to upg and missions information (in Spanish). I started it about 18 months ago and added one friend, it has grown to over 3,000 friends with no work on my part, other than approving the friend requests. but we have yet to see any real connection to upgs (that we know of) and there are probably hundreds of pastors and churches aroung Latin America connected. So Facebook seems to be more a lite social tool and not a serious connection tool.