Time to say goodbye… and hello!

Way back in 2006, we started the Idealists in Action blog to share tales and tips about turning good intentions into action with the Idealist community.

In March 2014, we launched the Idealist Network—a platform to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally, online and in person.

Now, we’re devoting our blog entirely to the stories and strategies of the Network—particularly as they relate to Connectors, the volunteers at its heart. And to keep everything in one place, we’re going to start blogging exclusively on the Connector Hub—please come visit us there!

If you signed up to get daily digests from Idealists in Action, you’ll stop receiving them today. But don’t fear! If you sign up to be a Connector, you’ll get a daily Connector Update email with links to our most recently-posted stories (along with news from your Team, updates about Network happenings all over the world, and other great stuff).

Plus this site will remain up for your searching pleasure—peruse our archive of thought-provoking, inspiring, quirky, fun, and useful posts anytime you like!

Thank you for eight wonderful years. We look forward to seeing you around Idealist, and, as always, please feel welcome to drop us a line with any thoughts or questions at idealistblog@idealist.org.


Open question: How can being a Connector benefit me?


As a Connector, you help others. But you also might be thinking, “How does being a Connector help me?”

Being a Connector has all sorts of perks related to making the world a better place: you’re connecting people, sharing good ideas, and encouraging action in your community.

But we’re learning that there’s also some personal gain to be had in the role. No shame there! Here are a few Connectors sharing how they hope the Idealist Network will benefit them:

From Seana in Tulsa, Oklahoma:

I hope it will provide me with joy, but also career development. This is the sort of work I want to do full time.

From Amanda in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

It would take a lot of the workload off my shoulders for people to connect with each other and not feel like they have to go through me. I first signed up because I feel lonely out here. I want to meet more people who think like this. I want to meet more people who think like a solutionary. Mostly so I don’t feel like I’m going crazy. I want other Connectors in my life and the support of like-minded people who already get the process. They are going to have ways of connecting I want to learn from. That will make my job more fun and easier. Connectors coming together is a huge benefit for everybody.

From Anna in Cambodia:

Being a Connector is a great way for me personally to build a network, and also keep connected with issues outside of Cambodia.

Your turn! How do you hope being a Connector will benefit you?


Tales of Tools and Tactics: Host a civic write-a-thon

Tools and Tactics are replicable templates Connectors can use to multiply and amplify action and collaboration in their communities. We find they also make for great stories about people all over the world who are promoting good in interesting ways.

A new breed of online projects that make a difference in local government are popping up in cities around the world. One of the best parts of these new models? Anyone can contribute something, regardless of their tech skill level. With this Tool and Tactic, you can learn how to produce a crowdsourcing event that involves the community and begins a collaboration between government and citizens. No coding required!

In 2012, the city of Honolulu debuted Honolulu Answers, a website intended to allow citizens easy to access government information. Building the site was pretty simple; filling it with content turned out to be the challenge! With help from Code for America, the city hosted a day-long “write-a-thon” wherein more than 55 community members and city employees collaborated on researching and writing 120 answers to common civic questions.

Below, Sheba Najmi, a 2012 Code for America Fellow, tells us about her personal experience helping to organize the event:


Q: What was something that surprised you about how the write-a-thon went?

A: One of the things that took me by surprise was that 14 city staff members (including a police officer in full uniform) came to participate. They were there, bright and early, at 8:45 AM on a rainy Saturday, unpaid.

I was surprised and grateful that they made the time to share their expertise with citizens, and in the process of answering citizens’ questions, I could see their perspective shifting—from the way the city is structured internally to the way things would make sense from a citizen’s perspective. They explained things to the people, and they also sat down with their computers to write answers to questions themselves. This was truly the first time I’d seen “government being what we do together” in action.

I was also very touched by their dedication to doing “homework assignments” for four months afterwards. I asked them to review and rewrite citizens’ answers over and over, and they did. Not because they were mandated to, but because they wanted to.
And a nice update: Oakland, California city services website Oakland Answers is holding its second annual write-a-thon this weekend! Great to see this idea spreading. Check out their event website: oakanswers.eventbrite.com.

Read the civic write-a-thon Tool and Tactic here.

Tags: , , , ,

Good Idea: Open mic for connection-making

One of the best things that came out of the Portland Team’s meeting a couple of weeks ago? Nick Berger’s idea for an open mic.

It’s simple: bring together Connectors and people/organizations who need support for their ideas in one space. Think Sunday Soup (a grassroots model for funding small- to medium-sized creative projects through community meals), but instead of giving funding, you give connections.


Connectors, think about all the potential this stage has! (photo via MaggyMcMagMag on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

“Portland is full of people that have tremendously exciting and progressive ideas,” Nick says. “I imagine that the collective group of Connectors would be able to leverage resources, provide perspective, offer assistance, and/or connect them to resources that they might not have known about—in real time.”

Connectors would be encouraged to invite people whom they know personally. That way, there could be a more focused approach.

“Having Connectors bring in specific people with action-oriented ideas would also create a certain level of vetting, screening, and investment that might allow the process to find more stable roots and support,” he says. “This would also help keep Connectors ‘neutral’ through the initial incubation stage of the process, and allow us to take on some specific case studies or trial runs for larger-scale connecting.”

Right now, the idea is in its beginning stages. There are more logistics to be thought through, including space (maybe the Idealist offices or The Oregon Public House?), what the invitation would look like (casual or more formal with a space for listing needs?), and in general, how the night would flow (on the spot connections or more advance thought?).

For Nick, an open mic event would give Connectors a better sense of needs and strengthen what already exists in the community.

“There’s power in bringing people together in a space where organic dialogue and collaboration can be supported through reflective listening, inclusion, and openness,” he says. “There’s a greater potential to ignite sparks and create fire when all of the elements are in the same place at the same time.”

What do you think? Could this idea work in your community? Do you have thoughts on how best to organize such an event?

Tags: , , , ,

Meet an Action Group founder: Lissa in San Diego, California

Connector and Action Group founder Lissa Tsu is committed to helping people make the leap from online to on-the-streets action.

“I think Action Groups are exciting because they can be as big or as small as you want them to be,” she says. “They also get people offline and actually engaged in making the world a better place.”

Originally from Southern California, Lissa attended Boston College before making San Diego her home base. “I actually started volunteering early in life,” she says, “but going to a Jesuit university really cemented my love for immersing myself in under-served communities.”


Lissa and her daughter

Lissa considers herself a “Connector-type” in her personal as well as professional life. “I am always thinking about how people I know can help out other people I know. It makes me feel like a part of a community,” she says.

“I feel my strength is following through on what I said I would do. I rarely commit to things and then not follow through. I am thoughtful about how I want to spend my time and energy so when I commit to something, I commit.”

The Action Group Lissa started is called Downtown San Diego Planter/Bed Beautification. Why this focus? “I started with an AG that would personally make my day,” she explains. “Living in Chicago for eight years I saw how truly beautiful sidewalks can be and what a difference that makes in living and working in a place.”

“San Diego streets need a lot of love and I think that if we revitalized them we could really improve the image of SD. I live and walk downtown with my daughter most days so I would love a few flowers to brighten the path.”

One challenge Lissa’s facing so far is recruiting others to join her and start taking action. “I’m a little stuck here,” she says. “I think the largest challenge is that once you set [an AG] up it seems easy to get sucked back into ‘cyber world.’ And I would love some more ideas about how to let the SD community know I started a Group so they could choose to join me.”

Other AG founders: how have you recruited members to join your group? Post a comment below or write directly to Lissa through her Idealist profile.

Tags: , ,

Tech Tip: How to sign up as a Connector (video)

If you’re not a Connector yet or want to give someone else a hand with signing up, this short-and-sweet instructional video will show you how easy it is to get started.


Tags: , ,

Tales of Tools and Tactics: Loan assistance for careers in social good

Tools and Tactics are replicable templates Connectors can use to multiply and amplify action and collaboration in their communities. We find they also make for great stories about people all over the world who are promoting good in interesting ways.

College debt can greatly affect the career paths of recent graduates concerned about paying back their loans. New York University’s Stern School of Business recognized this issue and developed a loan assistance program for MBA graduates working for the public good.

Through the program, alumni earning $100,000 or less while working for a nonprofit or social enterprise can receive as much as $15,000 annually towards their school loans.

Our Tool and Tactic on the subject can tell you more about instituting this benefit at your school, and this article on Stern’s website, featuring alumna Dorrit Lowsen, is a perfect case study in how the positive effects of the program can be felt beyond graduates’ bank accounts. Lowsen, a 2008 Stern MBA graduate, has spent the last few years living and working in different countries as an IT project consultant for social enterprises:

Dorrit NYU

Dorrit Lowsen (photo via NYU Stern School of Business)

“I’m incredibly thankful to Stern for recognizing the importance of nonprofit work and for supporting alumnae like me who sometimes forgo larger salaries in more traditional industries to do other meaningful work. Because of the Loan Assistance Program, my decision to switch career tracks into the social enterprise sector went from a tough choice to a no-brainer. ”

Read the rest of Dorrit’s story here, and check out the loan assistance Tool and Tactic here.

Tags: , ,

Spreading the 3Qs in Denver, Colorado

Every Thursday, Connector Dave Revere will be hosting an open 3Qs meeting at a local Denver coffee house for anyone in the Idealist community.

“We’re all connected. I really believe that. So I wanted to create a space for people to come together and help plot each other’s well-being,” he says. “As a community manager for Denver Idealist, I had the perfect platform. With the launch of the Connectors, it seemed like a great space for these people to meet as well as to form Action Groups for our community.”


Denver Community Managers Dave Revere and Heidi Box spreading the Idealist love.

Five people showed up for the first meeting a couple of weeks ago and shared their intentions, obstacles, and what they needed to take their next step.

Connections were made right then and there. For example, one participant was passionate about criminal justice reform and wanted to work with inmates. Someone in the group provided her with a personal point of contact for a volunteer coordinator at a Colorado criminal justice nonprofit.

Dave was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

“We had some folks cancel at the last minute, so I was a bit worried we wouldn’t have much to give each other with a group so small, but I was delighted with everyone’s input, and everyone agreed that they received valuable takeaways from the meeting,” he says.

Dave wasn’t the only one to have initial doubts. When he approached people about coming, they were concerned they wouldn’t have anything to offer. But he encouraged them not to worry about it.

“When someone asks for help, the natural response of the group is going to be to help them, not to say nothing. People surprise themselves by contributing knowledge and resources they didn’t know they had,” Dave says.

He’d love for 3Qs meetings to become a regular event.

“This is a real-time space with real people who want to help each other out,” he says. “We’re not idealists in some vague sense with our heads in the clouds. We’re real people who care about our community and are coming together to figure stuff out.”

Want to organize a meeting series like this? Feel free to reach out to Dave for more info and advice.

In the Denver area? Come out for their next meeting this Thursday at Hooked on Colfax.

Tags: , , , ,

Video: “Together We Can Do More”

Our video team recently hit the sunny springtime streets of New York to ask Connectors why they’re excited about the Idealist Network.

Here are their top takeaways, in two bite-sized minutes:

What excites you about the Network?

Tags: , ,

Meet a Connector: Lotta in Arusha, Tanzania

The thing that most excites Lotta Saiteu about the Idealist Network? Its reach.

“I like the fact that Idealist connects people of all kinds,” he says. “I want to help give a common ground to all, especially to those who have no voice.”

With experience in marketing, tourism, anti-violence training, nonprofit management, and as the founder of the organization Volunteers Service for Africa, connecting comes easily to Lotta.

Most recently, he’s been working on a project that connects local human rights and women-focused organizations with each other and with overseas volunteers. He’s also been helping high school graduates find scholarships to study outside the country.

“Staying neutral enables me to act as a facilitator and nurture all sides despite any differences,” he says.


Women in Arusha market. (photo via Marc Wisniak on Flickr’s Creative Commons)

Home to more than 128 tribes, Tanzania is no stranger to difference, yet it is a peaceful and democratic country.

In Lotta’s opinion, the social sector is progressing (healthcare facilities are free for children under five and their mothers, for example, which has reduced the infant mortality rate) and there is no government oppression. The challenges he sees are corruption and shaky commitments from volunteers and nonprofit employees.

Still, Lotta is hopeful. He also wants to work across borders, connecting his city of Arusha with nearby Nairobi, Kenya, to create a platform for change.

“Arusha will benefit so much from this connectivity. There is much to be done here but knowing what to do and when and how is the challenge,” he says. “Being a Connector will give me a chance to learn new things and train others on what I have learned. I just think I have a lot to give.”

Live in Arusha? Join the Team! Live elsewhere? Look for a Team near you or start one of your own.

Tags: , , ,

Like what you're reading?

Subscribe and get fresh daily updates from Idealists in Action.