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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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!

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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 and Tactics with your Team

We’ve been talking a lot lately about our Tools and 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 and 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 and Tactics section. Go multi-tasking! (Pro tip: Each Tool and Tactic has only one discussion per Team associated with it. So once someone in your Team has pulled a Tool and 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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