Idealist is hiring a Director of Communications!

We’re hiring!

If you love big ideas, have led large-scale multimedia campaigns, and are experienced in building and leading a communications team, become our Director of Communications in our New York City office.  

Check out the full description and application instructions. The application deadline is Monday, May 5th.

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Field Report! Second Team meeting in Brooklyn, New York

On Wednesday April 16, six Brooklyn Connectors came together for our second meeting. We had a fun discussion that ranged from coining the adjective “connectory” to discussing ways we can build and support our Team.

Over the course of two hours we tackled the following questions:

What are some of the best ways that we can connect the Connectors?

We have a Team of 57 Connectors spread out across our large borough (fun fact: Brooklyn could be considered the 4th largest city in America!).

As we grow our Team, it’s important to us that we spend time building and strengthening our bonds to one another. We came up with some ways to spread information about ourselves and stay connected between meetings.

  • Use the Team message boards more to keep Connector conversations going between meetings

  • Encourage everyone to fill out the Brooklyn Team Resource Inventory spreadsheet so we can collect our shared knowledge, spot connections, and identify skills

  • Create a Doodle survey to find out what meeting times work best for the most people

  • Create a collaborative Google Map where Connectors can plot their location within Brooklyn so we can see if there are more Connectors in our specific neighborhoods

What do we need to be the best Idealist Connectors/Idealist ambassadors?

Before we reach out into the community, we want to make sure we’re being good ambassadors for Idealist and this movement. We decided to plan some future meetings to address our needs.

  • Common language to describe this Idealist movement. Before we start recruiting more Connectors or introducing ourselves to the greater Brooklyn Community, we want to brainstorm some common language and an “elevator pitch” that will quickly describe our mission, goals, and work. We know that Idealist is also working on this wording, so depending on when we schedule this meeting, we can tweak what Idealist creates to best fit the Brooklyn team.

  • Host some Connector trainings to help us build up similar skill sets. Possible training sessions could include:

    • Idealist 101: An introduction to all the things you can do on Idealist.org. Once we know more about the site, we can encourage more individuals and organizations to use Idealist tools to connect with opportunities for action.

    • Action Group Facilitator Training: Give some insights on the best ways to structure meetings, run discussions and brainstorms, help people identify obstacles to action, and follow through on their good intentions.

    • Social Media Boot Camp: Discuss and learn about how can we use our personal social media channels to amplify and spread the Brooklyn Team’s work and message.

    • Best Ways to Reach Out: Invite people from .orgs/.coms/.govs to talk to us about the best ways to reach out to their particular sector when we need help or want to invite them to participate.

  • Schedule fun, informal events to give Connectors time to get to know each other. From happy hours to team rock climbing, the purpose of these events will team building and social bonding. We scheduled our first “Bring a Friend Connector Social” for Wednesday night, May 7th.

Do you live in Brooklyn? Join the Team! Live elsewhere? Check out Teams in your area. Not a Connector yet? Read all about it and join us.

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Open question: Should we form a statewide Team?

If this question has been on your mind, it might help to know you’re not alone.

We’ve been noticing some conversation recently about whether or not to combine Teams in some states across the U.S.

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Currently, there are 517 Connector Teams in the U.S.
(photo by Tom via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

Connector Jack Lockwood from Georgia—a large state with both urban and rural areas—argues the pros:

By being part of a statewide Team, isolated pockets of people would still get support from each other and still be able to work together on common problems. As a by product, people could get a better idea about issues that impact their whole state and also network with people from other areas but are still passionate about the state they live in.

Another reason to have statewide Teams is that there are people who may volunteer with Idealist but may have jobs or personal connections to other people throughout the state and could work together on advocacy, policy and laws that could impact everyone living in the state.

I think a statewide Team could also help as a strikeforce for local Teams as needed. For example. I have knowledge about writing grants but suppose my local Team does not currently need that skill. By also serving as a resource on a stateside team I would be able help another local state team as needed.

Connector Cindy Matthews from Ohio—a smaller state by comparison—speaks to the cons:

I think the main disadvantages to forming a statewide Team (in Ohio at least) are the differences in the areas/concerns in different parts of the state. Some areas of Ohio are rural and small-town oriented (like where I’m living) and others are metropolitan in their outlook (such as Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati, etc.).

The cultures are different, the economies are different, and the square miles in a rural setting could prevent people from joining a Team because of travel costs/times involved. (Rural gasoline prices tend to be higher, we don’t have public transport, and we’re already forced to drive into cities for our medical appointments, shopping, to find work or attend college, etc.)

Regional Teams (smaller than a state, bigger than one town) possibly are the answer.

Our developers are currently working on offering the ability to consolidate Teams in major metropolitan areas, and exploring more combinations as well.

Before we do anything further, we’d love to hear from you: Does it make sense to merge Teams or stay separate where you live? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Have a look: Upcoming meetings

Connectors in Kampala, Uganda are planning to meet today. Here are more Teams with events coming up—you can join them if you’re close by, or get inspired to organize a meeting for your Team on your home turf!

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Austin, Texas: Monday, April 21. 5:30 pm at the Dog & Duck Pub.

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Chicago, Illinois: Monday, April 21. 6:30 pm at the Harold Washington Library.

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Accra, Ghana: Saturday, April 26. 10:00 am at the Accra Mall.

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Phoenix, Arizona: Sunday, April 26. 9:00 am at Paradise Bakery.

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Has your Team met recently, or do you plan to? Be sure to keep your page updated so everyone stays in the loop!

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Open question: How can we keep our Team motivated?

Connecting can be like exercising or healthy eating: we enjoy doing it and see the benefits, but it can be hard to maintain motivation and stay on track. How can we make staying active as Connectors easier for each other? Here are some ideas from Teams who are tackling this issue already.

Connector Kieve from Austin, Texas writes on her Team’s page that they’ll try a standing weekly meetup:

To keep us more productive and accountable to each other, we thought it was good to meet on a weekly basis. It’s too easy to have personal things crop up and forget something. There was a request for another day besides Saturday. So, we’re going to shoot for Monday nights at the Dog & Duck Pub at 5:30pm. They’ve got wifi and some good grub and beers if that’s your thing. If you can’t make it that early, no problem. We’ll plan to be there for a couple hours. As meetings evolve, they may become shorter or start later. We’ll see how it goes.

For the Bucharest, Romania Team, Connector Diana posits that staying in regular touch will be key to keeping her spread-out Team together:

Until now, we have had 2 online meetings and we plan to continue to organize weekly online meetings (every Monday). [Also,] we are planning to organize monthly meetings with the Team, having the objective to share lessons learned, as well as resources (people, ideas, materials).

We have agreed that it is very important to hold our Connectors team kernel together, because this will be the real support to build trust, encouragement and move things forward at our local level.

Nick in Atlanta, Georgia is not only a Connector—he’s also an Idealist Community Manager, helping to maintain our Atlanta Local Page. On the Atlanta Team page, he recently offered a couple of options for staying in the loop:

I have been hosting a very informal networking get-together on Mondays (except the last Monday of the month) from 6pm to whenever you want to leave… [And] I wanted to just throw this out there:

I will be at Dancing Goats Coffee Dancing Goats Coffee Bar tomorrow (Saturday, 3/22) at 2pm if anyone feels like meeting. There is no agenda. I will be wearing and Idealist.org t-shirt and am planting myself there for at-least 1 hr (longer if people show up) so we can get to know one another… I would love to meet the wonderful Connectors of Atlanta.

Has your Team started a weekly beer or coffee meet-up, or a regular online base-touch? We’d love to hear how you’re staying on track and motivated—please share in the comments below!

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Tech Tip: Taking advantage of your Team’s page

No doubt, you already know some of the ways your Team’s page can help you in your work as a Connector: you and your Teammates can share ideas on the discussion forum, post upcoming events, easily see everyone on your Team and link to their Idealist profile…

But your page offers a lot more than just those prominent features. Here are three other easy things you can do to source new connections, share resources and info, and grow your Team:

1. Find local organizations.

Scroll down to the middle of your Team’s page and you’ll see the heading “Network” on the left side. Click the “Local organizations” link below it and you’ll be taken to a list of search results for all the nonprofits in your area who’ve registered on Idealist. I live in Brooklyn, New York and just tried it: we have over 1,200 organizations right in our backyard!

Local orgs

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2. Post a resource.

Been meaning to create that resource inventory for your Team? Want to start a reading list of interest to Connectors? Or maybe you want to create a shared document to hold your ideas for future meeting spaces? All you have to do is click the blue “Add a resource” button, give your link a name, and paste it in. Resource accomplished!

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3. Meet more Connectors.

If you’re looking to beef up your Team, you’ve come to the right place. Also under the Network heading on the left, the “Connectors in the area” link will show you how many other Connectors live near you. If you see any who aren’t on your Team yet, you can message them from their Idealist profile to introduce yourself.

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How have you been using your Team’s page to get Connecting? Please share how in the comments!

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Next steps, and expectations

Before Action Groups go live, I wanted to give you some context for where we are now, and what’s happening next.

As of now, here are all the pieces we have in place:

1. The concept of Connectors, as people who want to inspire and ignite more action and collaboration around them.

2. Local Teams for Connectors to support one another in doing this work.

3. An initial menu of Tools and Tactics for Connectors.

4. Personal profiles that allow any person on Idealist to share their interests and skills, and connect with others on the site.

5. Coming today or tomorrow: Action Groups – started and facilitated by Connectors – where people can share their intentions and ideas, and help each other act on them.

And of course all this is sitting on top of the 100,000 organizations that are already using Idealist to list their jobs, events, and volunteer opportunities.

So what’s happening next? Three things, in broad strokes:

1. Tying all these pieces together, in every possible way.

A small example is that when you visit a Team page now, you can see a link to all the local organizations listed on Idealist. But there is much more we can do. People and organizations in city X who care about issue Y should know when a relevant Action Group is launched in their area. And so on… This will be an ongoing process, and the more ideas the better.

2. Outreach to the Idealist community

Right now, 99% of the people who use Idealist every day don’t know that most of this is going on – and that’s OK. Before inviting more people to join us we wanted to have all these pieces in place, and we are almost there. Next steps: a new homepage for Idealist.org to reflect all of the above, and an email to our whole list to tell them about it.

3. Outreach beyond Idealist

Once a new home page is up, we’ll be ready to reach out more widely and start building this ecosystem of possibility all around us, day by day and step by step.

All of this will take some time, but if I think of where we want to be by March 11, 2015, we still have 47 weeks to go, and at this rate we’ll be in a good place.

Thanks again for your ongoing support and feedback!

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Tech Tip: How to discuss Tools & Tactics with your Team

We’ve been talking a lot lately about our Tools & Tactics—replicable templates for action that range from holding a 3Qs meeting to hosting a nonprofit career fair. Now it’s your turn!

If you’re feeling inspired by a particular Tool & Tactic and want to start a conversation about it on your Team page, here’s how to do it:

1. Start at the Connector Hub. In the top section, “Tools and Tactics for Connectors: More and Better,” click the “Learn more” button.

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2. Scroll down until you find one you want to discuss. In this example, I clicked “Host a civic write-a-thon.” Notice the message on the right that says, “Want to try this? Talk about it with your Team!” The big orange “Start a discussion” button is just begging me to share.

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3. So I clicked on the button and the discussion now lives on my Team’s page. Behold!

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4. At the same time, my Team page gets a Tools & Tactics section. Go multi-tasking! (Pro tip: Each Tool & Tactic has only one discussion per Team associated with it. So once someone in your Team has pulled a Tool & Tactic onto your page, you’ll be able to join the discussion and upvote comments.)

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That’s it. It’s a small thing, but we hope it makes connecting easier.

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Sara Jensen is a technical support representative at Idealist. Feel free to reach out to her if you need help or have questions: sara.jensen@idealist.org.

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Meet a Connector: AJ in Lima, Peru

Originally from Boonton, New Jersey, AJ Wildey is currently a graduate student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru where she’s pursuing a Master’s in anthropology. Here’s AJ in her own words on why she’s a Connector.

“I know a guy”

After college, I reached out to a friend in Peru to see if he knew of any opportunities to work on a cacao farm in the Amazon.

The convoluted chain of contact that emerged was of a type very familiar to me: growing up, if you needed something—from an air conditioner installed to a pair of padded bike shorts—nine times out of ten you didn’t hit the White Pages to find the answer. You asked a family member or a neighbor. And nine times out of ten their response was, “I have no idea… but I know a guy.”

Several months after graduating, I found that this same “I know a guy” chain had landed me in the middle of the Amazon jungle on a cacao farm that belonged to the mother of a friend of my friend.

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AJ in the Amazon!
(image courtesy AJ Wildey)

The beauty of connecting to accomplish something became bigger than just a Jersey thing for me. I learned that it’s human nature to want to get to the bottom of a problem, and that often the best solutions come by reaching out to someone else for help.

Also, sometimes the new relationship you forge in this process is just as good as accomplishing your goal. Those relationships can live on—and that’s how networks are built!

As I listened to Ami talk about facilitating these types of connections, I began reflecting on all the times a query I threw into the wind came back in the form of a solid connection that enabled me to act. There were so many! If joining this initiative as a Connector could help take the casual “I know a guy” way of forming connections to the next level, I knew I wanted to help.

How Lima could benefit

I would love to see a better network of contacts here in Lima—a real forum people know they can turn to for resources. In Lima today, there’s a lot of dynamism between the government, third-party organizations, and the people.

There are many energetic, passionate social justice movements going on, and when Ami presented his analogy of the apartment building, I couldn’t help but think Lima was just the same: a space filled with people and ideas that would benefit from better coordination.

A glance at the Team page for Lima doesn’t speak much to our efforts to connect here. But that’s ok for now. For me, one of the most important roles of a Connector is to adapt the standard model to the local context. Connectors need to be flexible and in tune with their areas—what works in one context might not in others.

In the case of Lima, Internet-based social movements are not the norm, so the number of online Team members won’t necessarily reflect how we’re getting connected, at least right away.

The first thing to do as a Connector here is simply to spread the word. After explaining the initiative to future allies throughout my own networks, I’ll encourage them to jump on board and keep the momentum going by sharing with their friends in turn. It’s important to remember that successfully connecting will happen in a more organic way here.

You can message or connect with AJ on Idealist.

If you live in or near Lima, join her Team! Or look for Teams in your area. If you’re not a Connector yet, learn more and sign up here.

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Field Report! Team meetings in San Diego, California

San Diego is on a roll!

The city is already home to 26 Connectors who have held two meetings. And so far, so good.

“Everyone was very enthusiastic, worked well together, shared their backgrounds, and came up with great ideas and questions,” says Lissa Tsu.

Fellow Team member Diana Osorio agrees.

“I feel that we all are going to work great together; we all have our minds and intentions in providing services and helping others. Everyone is interested in pitching in and helping,” she says.

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Four of San Diego’s finest
(photo courtesy Lissa Tsu)

So far, here’s what the Team’s been tackling:

  • Meeting spaces. The first cafe they chose was noisy and crowded, but the second had a large private lounge, free wi-fi, and was centrally located. (A lesson for Teams: if at first you don’t succeed…)
  • Paper handouts. “One thing that immediately came up was a lack of tangible advertising,” says Lissa. “We all see the need for some sort of card to distribute to people we know and meet describing the movement. It would be nice to post some flyers/postcards around our neighborhood.” Idealist is currently working on developing some handouts, but this Team is eager to start making moves so they’re drafting their own possibilities now.
  • Gender equality. “We noticed out of the first 24 Connectors here in SD, only six were men,” says Lissa. “So that may be a good place to focus our recruitment efforts!”
  • The whole Internet. In addition to maintaining a great Team page on Idealist, San Diego is using (or considering) Facebook, Hangtime, and Nextdoor to help them stay organized, connected, and spread the word.

What do they feel are their biggest challenges? Diana says:

San Diego, as any other city or community, has always many issues—so many that ‘it takes a village’ to make a change. But that’s precisely what Connectors are about: a big group of people involved and constantly growing to make things happen.

Our biggest challenge at this point is to be able to gather a large group to attend the Connector meetings and also how are we going to grow our Team. We haven’t been able to get a high attendance to our meetings so far, although we have changed the date and place.

We are hoping that by creating more massive advertising, we can get more people involved. [Connector] Janine and I, during our second meeting, found some local magazines and were thinking that it will be nice if we could get a press release or comment published about our Team.

All in all, we understand this is just the beginning and it will get better as time passes by. I am an eternal optimist and am sure that things will only get better.

Do you have advice for the San Diego Team? Share it in the comments or message one of their Connectors. If you live in the San Diego area, sign up to join them!

If you live elsewhere, look for a Team near you. If you’re not a Connector yet, learn all about it and sign up here!

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