Open question: How can we get others to self-identify as Connectors?

A few weeks ago, Denver Connectors met to get to know each other and talk about how their collective skills could help the city.

Nate Savery brought up this question that we imagine has been on your mind, too:

“How can we find the individuals out there who already have connecting roles in the community? They may not be affiliated with Idealist. They may not even recognize themselves as facilitators. So how do we reach them and get them to self identify?”

Nate suggested a video that would show how the often-invisible actions of Connectors are crucial in making social change happen.

We think that’s a stellar idea. But we’d also love to hear from you. What ideas do you have for drawing Connectors out of the woodwork?

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Field Report! Team meeting in Phoenix, Arizona

On April 5, six Phoenix Connectors met up at Paradise Bakery for the first time. They all came from different backgrounds, ranging from editorial to corporate to education.

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From left to right: Anne Furlong, Meg Matlach, David Jenny, Meha Narain, and Cheryl Piedrasanta. Not shown is Tonia Jenny who graciously took the photo!

Amid the sweet smells of baked goods, the group had a lively conversation that got the ball rolling.

“I didn’t have any particular expectations other than a group of open and friendly people. We had a good time getting to know a little about each other and shared book and documentary movie favorites which I particularly liked hearing about,” says Meg, founder of e-card site HarmonyWishes. “I love getting ideas and being inspired to create a better world through others’ stories.”

They talked about what their role as Connectors would be—admittedly waiting on Action Groups to help clarify it—and kicked around ideas about how they’d spread the word once they perfected their ‘elevator pitch.’ Anne suggested they try to get time on the local PBS station, for example.

They also discussed the 3Qs to help inform their next meeting on April 26, where they’ll hone in on Team goals.

For Meg, she’s excited to enlarge her sphere of social good.

“My past volunteer experiences have been very positive but they have been singular in their objective and tied to a specific cause,” she says. “Idealist is trying to expand beyond the traditional model of volunteerism and provide something much larger in scope through their worldwide platform. That’s exciting!”

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

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Tales of Tools and Tactics: Volunteer speed matching

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.

Modeled after speed dating, volunteer speed matching allows lots of potential volunteers to “meet” lots of organizations in the span of one morning or afternoon to learn more about what’s going on in their community and how they can help out.

Below, Tony Frew, General Manager for The Centre for Volunteering in Sydney, Australia, shares a bit about his experience with The Centre’s first volunteer speed matching event:

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Dragons as well as people came to learn more about their volunteering options.
(image courtesy The Centre for Volunteering)

Q: Did your event go as planned? If not, what changed?

A: We made minor adjustments throughout the planning process but nothing major. Planning was meticulous by a very experienced team and we had excellent support from the City of Sydney. The event was well-resourced and managed on the day.

The MC was great in reading the audience and making changes on the fly—the most significant in being more direct during the afternoon session and closing early as the audience thinned out. We issued a survey after the event and one respondent wrote, “They persevered and adapted very well to changes in pace throughout the day.” So I guess it was noticeable!

Although we also got the comment, “Reduce speaker volume,” so maybe we should persevere more quietly next time.

To learn more, read the Tool and Tactic here. Interested in becoming a Connector? Get started here!

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Meet a Connector: Leonie in Brisbane, Australia

In Leonie Sanderson’s opinion, here’s what Brisbane has going for it: innovative groups that eschew traditional nonprofit models, diverse projects that don’t rely too much on government funding, and overall, lots of people-powered good.

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The Brissie skyline
(photo by Cyron on Flickr’s Creative Commons)

What’s missing in “Brissie,” she says, is a sense of connectedness.

Nonprofits and groups typically compete for funding and resources, and they’re uninterested in banding together. For Leonie, this is one reason the Idealist Network is appealing.

“I am attracted to networks because I think more is possible. I like linking into the bigger picture. I believe there is value in a coordinated approach that doesn’t reinvent the wheel,” she says.

If there’s anyone suited to a Connector role, it’s Leonie. From hosting Feasts for Good to volunteering with the homeless on Sundays to being a Fellow with the Global Resilience Collaborative to leading her own informal do-good collective, she’s heavily involved in the Brisbane community.

She’s all about moving ideas into action, and she’s honest about what she can bring to the table.

“Actually I don’t know that anyone is ever truly neutral. It’s not possible as human beings,” she says. “However, I believe that I am good at facilitating change and encouraging new perspectives. I don’t feel a need to lead on other people’s ideas/projects but I like assisting with implementation.”

So far, Leonie is a one-person Team. To encourage others to join her, she’s considering her next step to be showing how awesome it is to be a part of a bigger network.

“I like to connect the dots, and I like collaborating,” she says. “I believe collaboration leads to better outcomes and more resilience.”

Do you live in Brisbane? Join Leonie! Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

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Tech Tip: How to subscribe to Team discussions

It’s important to keep up with conversations on topics you’ve started or joined on your Team page, and many of you have asked for an easier way to do so. We heard you!

The next time you start a discussion or leave a comment on an existing one, you’ll receive an auto-email from Disqus, the company who hosts our discussion forums.

In this example, I started a discussion called “Testing topic subscriptions” on the Portland Team page.

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Within a few minutes, Disqus sent me an email asking me if I’d like to subscribe to discussions on Idealist. (Note: the subject line looks a little funky right now—we’re working on that!)

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The link in the email takes you to Disqus’ website where there’s a friendly subscription confirmation waiting for you:

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Now you’ll receive an email notification anytime someone comments on a discussion thread you’ve started or joined.

You can also turn on discussion subscriptions in your Settings. (When you’re logged into Idealist, you can find your Settings in the drop-down menu under your name in the top right corner of almost any page.) You’ll see the box below with the checked option “There are new comments in discussions I begin or participate in.” (Or you can uncheck that box to unsubscribe.)

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Now you’ll receive an email anytime someone comments on your discussions. That’s it!

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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Ami and Megan field questions from Seattle

A couple of weeks ago, six Connectors met in Seattle for an awesome kick-off meeting that included lots and lots of Post-Its.

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Connectors Talya, Nic, Alyssa, Lisa, Traci, and Kimberlee

The Team talked about what brought each of them there, and why they were excited by the Network. They also generated a great list of questions that we’re sure some of you have also been thinking about.

Here are a few of them and our answers from Idealist’s Executive Director Ami Dar and Community Relations Manager Megan O’Leary:

Q: How will Groups form? (and when?)

A: We’re planning for the Groups functionality to be ready in late April. You’ll hear about it when it goes live! At that point, any Connector will be able to start a Group.

Q: What is the relationship between Connectors and Groups?

A: Connectors start and admin/moderate/facilitate Groups.

Q: How many Connectors do we need? Are we aiming to get more or have a core group of Connectors (there are 34 of us on the Seattle Team now)?

A: The more Connectors the better. We have been waiting until Groups are live before doing more outreach, but soon after that – and with some more materials for outreach – we will be sending many more people your way, and also unleashing you to invite others.

Q: What does it mean to be neutral in the role of a Connector (what are some examples)? What if this conflicts with us moving forward (moving from talk to action)?

Neutrality: all it means is that your focus is on generating action, and connecting and match-making, as opposed to coming up with specific projects or actions. Your role is to invite people to voice what they want to do, and help them (or help them help each other) do it. You are a moderator, facilitator, cheerleader, mini-coach, cross-pollinating bumble bee. But you don’t take sides on specific issues.

Q: Is there a structure we can use as a guide as we continue with our in-person meetings?

A: Structure for meetings: we will be providing more of that asap.

Q: How can we make sure we’re not duplicating work already being done?

A: Individually or as a Team, it might make sense to set some goals for what success looks like in Seattle to help shape your offline connection and to avoid duplication. Maybe it’s to grow your Connector Team, maybe it’s to recruit any missing nonprofit organizations to join Idealist, maybe it’s promoting Idealist as a resource in Seattle, or maybe it’s none of these and something totally different! There’s lots of room for it all.

What other questions do you have? Let us know in the comments!

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Meet a Connector: Blaise in Nairobi, Kenya

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Local pride on the streets of Nairobi
(photo by Meena Kadri via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

When Connector Blaise Jabo was a kid, he saw firsthand the power of a network—albeit in the face of tragedy.

“When we were in Burundi as refugees, everybody was sharing solutions to people’s problems,” he says.

Blaise was raised in Rwanda but when his parents were killed in the genocide, he moved to Burundi with his uncle. He then attended college in Australia, where he studied computer security, and later in Kenya, where he received a Master’s in security management.

Having experienced the effects of the Rwandan genocide, this notion of security compels him.

“I believe it’s time we think of security in another dimension, because clearly our state securities have been failing us. We should put people at the center,” he says.

It’s no surprise that Blaise is drawn to the Network’s simple philosophy: freedom and dignity for all.

New to Nairobi, he’s planning to get together with another Team member soon. As for who else he’s hoping to meet, his criteria are pretty broad.

“Anyone with a heart to share,” he says.

Live in Nairobi? Join Blaise! Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

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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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Your future coworkers?

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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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