Action Group in Pune, India gets serious about empowering the underprivileged

This past Saturday, Abhishek Surywanshi hosted the first meeting of his Action Group “Empowering the underprivileged in Pune.

Before the meet-up, Abhishek and a few others gathered at a mall food court to plan it. They decided that the venue for the first meeting would be of utmost importance to inspire conversation, and settled on Jnana Prabodhini, an educational nonprofit known for launching great ideas.

Twenty people from incredibly diverse backgrounds showed up for the seminal meeting—the fields represented included engineering, psychology, fashion, international business, and medical research, just to name a few.

“We expected a few people but never thought we would get a response from almost every professional field. It was brilliant to see multidimensional views on same thing,” he says.

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The group sat in a circle on the floor—an arrangement that helped everyone have eye contact with one other and feel comfortable participating—and talked about issues ranging from traffic to growing one’s own food to how the government could help them achieve their goals.

Their next steps include forming new Action Groups, going out into the city and recruiting members, and meeting again and again to maintain momentum—and increase the fun.

Abhishek attributes the success of the meeting to proper planning. His advice to other Groups? Keep it simple. Know your members. Plan accordingly. Make sure everyone in the group speaks. And have coffee afterward to connect on a more personal level.

Abhishek couldn’t be happier with the results.

“When people from ten-plus different fields gather on a pretty evening with a common goal, things tend to be awesome,” he says.

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Want to learn more tips and tricks for organizing a great meeting? Reach out to Abhishek.

Curious about Action Groups? Find one near you or start one of your own!

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The wheel’s been invented: Resources you can use now

Not reinventing the wheel is an important part of this Network, starting with identifying existing resources that can help us all be more effective Connectors. Finding and sharing these resources is a group effort, and we’re already seeing some great offerings bubble up from Teams.

Take these three, recommended by Connectors in San DiegoFayetteville, and St. Louis:

Tool Box

Jude Jordan Kalush of San Diego, California likes The University of Kansas’s Community Tool Box, an online suite of resources for people who want to up their social good game:

“The Community Tool Box was created to help people build healthier communities and bring about the changes they envision. We provide educational modules and tools to help people work together to make their communities what they dream they can be. Although the Community Tool Box has thousands of pages of resources, its design makes it easy to find what you want.”

 

Bank

Amanda Bancroft of Fayetteville, Arkansas suggests consulting the Solutionary Knowledge Bank’s Community Engagement Sources section which has how-tos on everything from developing a community asset map to creating a shared vision as a team. The Bank was created by Grand Aspirations, a non-profit which cultivates youth leaders:

“This knowledge bank was compiled for sustainable community organizers around the world to allow for the replication of innovative green economy projects and the sharing of tools and resources. We hope the site will allow organizers to avoid ‘recreating the wheel’ and rather harness the work of others to build more effective projects which meet the needs of their communities.”

 

Fairplays short

Lloyd Kinder, of the St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri Teams, offers an innovative spin on the traditional (aka un-fun) meeting model with Fairplays:

“A ‘fairplay’ is a fun event in which all attenders, if possible, take up to 5 minutes each to give a speech, a performance, or just an introduction, which are called acts. The purpose of fairplay acts is to facilitate maximum information, education and entertainment. Members may do their acts individually or in groups. Speeches may be informative, educational, and or entertaining. Performances are educational especially for performers. Performances may also be demonstrations, which are also educational for audiences. Cooperation is involved in preparing for Fairplays and ‘executing’ them.”

Do you have a resource to recommend to the Idealist Network? Post it to the Resources section on your Team’s page!

You can also share it in our discussion forums, or drop us a line at idealistblog@idealist.org.

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Tales of Tools and Tactics: Donate time through pro bono services

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.

Organizations need helping hands of all kinds. Those with skills in especially great demand—like lawyers—do an extra-good deed when they donate their time and expertise to people who need it. If you’re a lawyer or work in a law firm, this Tool and Tactic can show you how you can help nonprofits and individuals who could benefit from your support.

Jessica Perrin is Head of NGO and Social Enterprise for TrustLaw Connect, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, based in London. Below, she tells us why it’s so great to go pro bono.

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Q: How did you get into pro bono work, and what’s your favorite thing about it?

A: Up until joining TrustLaw, my career had firmly been on the NGO side. When I made the jump to the pro bono sector and started here, I knew we had something big to offer. I knew the value of external expertise for NGOs, and I knew that without it most organisations aren’t able to have the impact they set out to.

So, what does it look like sitting on the other side of the table? In all honesty, it’s pretty wonderful.

Instead of working with beneficiaries who want to create change in their own lives, I have walked into a buzzing network of passionate lawyers who are willing to help create that change using their own expertise, and from their desk! This means my day job is saying ‘yes’ to NGOs who reach out for pro bono legal support, ‘yes’ to helping them grow, ‘yes’ to helping them have an impact, and ‘yes’ to my favourite question of all: ‘Is it really free?’

To learn more, read the Tool and Tactic here.

Interested in becoming a Connector? Get started here!

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Meet an Action Group founder: Geoffrey in Carpinteria, California

An appreciation for clean sand is the norm in his coastal community of Santa Barbara County, yet Connector Geoffrey Berz believes more can be done.

“Focusing on our beaches—a mutual love of just about everyone—can benefit Santa Barbara County by bringing those of all backgrounds to the beach cleanup and giving them a safe place for dialogue at various levels,” he says. “This dialogue can lead to identifying other needs in our community while building stronger ties between vastly different demographics.”

Surf Ready

Geoffrey ready to surf.

Strengthening ties across different groups and promoting collaboration is how Geoffrey spends his time when he’s not surfing and or playing beach volleyball. Professionally, he helps organizations scale up and problem-solve.

“This involves pooling resources, project management, shifting organizational responsibilities, and naturally, connecting individuals who have skills/needs that can foster positive change,” he says.

His Action Group, “Monthly Beach Cleanup,” is one extension of this work. Initially, he plans to reach out to the Idealist community to garner more support, and then go beyond, with an emphasis on face-to-face connection.

By being a part of the Network, Geoffrey ultimately hopes to expand his own circle of go-getting Idealists.

“Organizing action in an entrepreneurial spirit is not an easy task. It’s important to have individuals and organizations that are like-minded in the same place,” he says. “A place like Idealist.”

Feel the same way about clean beaches that Geoffrey does? Join his Action Group.

Curious about Action Groups? Find one near you or start one of your own!

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Connectors, this is your blog! What do you want to see?

Idealist started a blog in 2006 to share with our community a variety of tales and tips about turning good intentions into action. Our subjects spanned everything from cupcakes to incarcerated youth to software development.

Then, this past March, we launched the Idealist Network and began devoting the blog entirely to stories about and for Connectors—you wonderful volunteers at the heart of this platform for action and change.

So now, the blog is your oyster! And we want to know: what do you want it to be?

GLOBE

  • What would you most like to read about that we haven’t covered yet (or haven’t covered enough)? Could you use more advice about how to run Team meetings, or how to talk about the Network? Would you be inspired by more stories of the positive change the Network is helping to create? Do you want more open questions to get you and your Team members thinking? Or…?

Please send your ideas to idealistblog@idealist.org, or leave them as comments below.

Thank you! We want to write what you want to read.

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Field Report! Team meeting in Washington, D.C.

Connectors in the capital of the U.S. are all about action.

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A few of D.C.’s Connectors. (photo courtesy Brad Ogilvie)

Last Wednesday, seven of them met for the first time at the William Penn House. Their backgrounds ranged from community development to environmental sciences to county politics.

“The collective wisdom and experience in the room was great to see, as well as the shared passions to try new and creative things to bring people together. I think we also were energized by the fact that we see the challenges of collaboration, but believe that with good planning, we can overcome them,” Connector Brad Ogilvie says.

The Team started by introducing themselves and taking an inventory of the skills and networks in the room. Then they identified next steps, which included pledging to deepen connections with their communities over the next six months to get a better sense of what’s already going on.

More specifically, they all agreed to sign up on the community websites Nextdoor and Meetup. Longer term, their plan is to host a “Vision/Imagine D.C.” event early next year that would get people together to talk about concretely addressing social issues in the city.

In Brad’s opinion, the D.C. Team can help provide a stronger sense of community in a place where politics and power rule.

“We hope to break down some of the divisions that exist,” he says.

In the Washington, D.C. area? Join the Team and keep an eye out for their next meeting in late June or early July.

Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

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Meet a Connector: Stephen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Growing up in the small town of Brusly, Louisiana, just outside Baton Rouge, Stephen Hebert felt like an oddball. The environmental issues that mattered to him didn’t seem to matter to others. So he left eight years ago and was surprised to discover like-minded tribes in other states.

“I spent a lot of my life thinking that no one else thought like I did. So once I started to discover similar people, I became kind of greedy,” he says.

Stephen is now back in Brusly and is all about reconnecting with the community and finding more socially-minded people through the Idealist Network. As an ideas guy, he’s even dreamed of something similar that would match people’s needs to other people’s skills, and make it easy to get involved.

“It was pretty much that first email I got from Ami,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh! It’s here. Someone is building this network.’ ”

 

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Stephen at a recent Team meeting. (photo courtesy Ashifa Sarkar Vasi)

Stephen’s learned a lot about working with people as a result of all of the different roles he’s had over the years—from software developer to gas station attendant to Americorps teacher in a jail to, currently, restaurant manager. It’s in this last role that Stephen sees an especially good opportunity to become more engaged with Brusly as the owner is all about bringing the community together.

As part of the Baton Rouge Area Team, Stephen is hoping to share and learn with others who are as interested in connecting with their community as he is.

“Our local team is small, but we are pithy. It has been a great experience in co-leadership, as each of us brings something unique to the table that adds strength as well as perspective and balance,” he says.

Given his background in IT, Stephen is currently working on a wiki, blog, and map for the group.

He’s also been thinking about how to best categorize and make accessible all the resources, local events, public spaces, and good ideas happening in Baton Rouge for an inventory similar to the ones Brooklyn and San Diego created.

For Stephen, being a part of the Team also gives him the same satisfaction teaching does—that is, giving people an understanding and power they’ve never had before.

“The Connector role just seems so fundamental. You find out what’s good and then share it with other people looking for it,” he says. “That’s what I want to do. Empower others to get the things they want.”

Want to learn more about Stephen and his thoughts on community engagement? Feel free to get in touch.

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

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Tech Tip: Shortcut to your Action Group

As a Connector, you’re invited to create an Action Group to help anyone take action on a particular issue or cause with you.

If you’ve created an Action Group or are gearing up to create one, you can keep track of it on Idealist via your personal menu:

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Since Action Groups are for everyone, they can be found on Idealist.org and on the Connector Hub to make it easy for all the people in your community to participate—whether or not they’re Connectors.

Pro tip:

Want to invite your social networks to join your Idealist Action Group? Navigate to your Action Group, then scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll see a list of members.

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Click a button to “Invite” folks to join or “Share” this page. Then, personalize your message and click “Share On Your Timeline.”

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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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Meet an Action Group founder: Foday in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Foday Kallon can’t stand government corruption.

As a young accounting and finance professional, he would love to see the government in his home country of Sierra Leone be forced to make all financial reports public so people can ask questions openly and freely.

Simply put, he believes in power to the people.

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“My greatest passion in life is to bring equality to where inequality exists, and bridge the widening gap between the rich and poor through peaceful civil activism and public sensitization campaigns,” he says.

So far, to draw attention to the abuse of public funds, Foday has launched several radio campaigns and organized a rally to bring this issue to youth and the general public.

He also recently created the Action Group “Seeking for a Transparent & Accountable Government in Sierra Leone” to build momentum for a second rally and get more support for the issue – especially from those living outside the country.

“The Action Group will be of pivotal importance in enabling us to secure more resources (human and material) in order to spread the message nationwide and in the diaspora to combat corruption as quickly as possible,” he says.

Of course this issue doesn’t come without its challenges, mainly, political interference. But for Foday, the Action Group is also a way to grab the attention of the world.

“We look forward to international partners helping us overcome such challenges peacefully,” he says.
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Have ideas? Let Foday know or join his Action Group. Curious about Action Groups? Find one near you or start one of your own!

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What Connectors have in common

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When you signed up to join the Idealist Network, you saw our What makes a Connector? list that explains some basic things all of us have in common. For example, Connectors:

  • Want to work in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect
  • Have a passion for connecting people, organizations, and resources
  • Are willing to be neutral

But we’ve started to notice that a lot of Connectors have other things in common, too. Looks like a lot of you…

Want to find kindred spirits

“I first signed up because I feel lonely out here,” says Amanda in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “I want to meet more people who think like this.”

“I’ve been wishing to connect with other action-oriented folks,” says Steven in Seattle, Washington.

“I don’t want to be by myself doing good work. I want to be with everyone else doing good work,” says Ginny in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Are excited to help people take action on their own terms

“Nowadays society doesn’t wait for the political people to act in their interest. Through Idealist, I see people confirming this phenomenon of ‘taking my life in my hands, because I can,’ ” says Diana in Bucharest, Romania.

“There are so many young people and so much energy as the city is growing and rejuvenating. It’s a good time to give people the tools to ensure it grows in a direction they envision,” says Karim in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“You have to be able to address the issues within your society with your own work plan and your own means, little by little impacting society. I think that’s what’s great about the Idealist Network. It enables you to do this,” says Ibrahim in Kampala, Uganda.

Enjoy being there for others

“I’m easy to talk to. I don’t get overly worked up over things. I’m a good co-conspirator. And I’m good at getting things moving, but I don’t like to steal people’s thunder,” says Adam in Bozeman, Montana.

“I don’t feel a need to lead on other people’s ideas/projects but I like assisting with implementation,” says Leonie in Brisbane, Australia.

“Connecting people is what I do and have done my entire life. I see the inherent value of connecting people and ideas,” says Ellee in San Francisco, California.

Connectors, do these characteristics resonate with you? What else have you noticed that you and your fellow Connectors have in common?

If you’d like to suggest a stellar Connector to be profiled on Idealists in Action, shoot us an email: idealistblog@idealist.org.

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