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.

stage

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: , , , ,



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.”

dave

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: , , , ,



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.

ActionGroupIndia

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.

_

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!

Tags: , , , ,



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

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

dc

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.

Tags: , , ,



Field Report! The buzz on Action Groups in Portland, Oregon

Last Wednesday, a couple of Connectors and Idealist staff met up to talk through Action Groups.

Connector Monique Dupre admitted she was considering starting an Action Group about sustainability in Portland, but was a bit hesitant.

“One of my thoughts was okay, I propose the group and we get together and then what?” she says. “I know what I’m interested in, but I don’t have specific examples or immediate action steps.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 1.25.44 PM

Connector Liqin chimed in and told the Team about her idea to start an Action Group dedicated to helping refugees and immigrants adjust in Portland. As an immigrant herself who came to the city from China nine years ago, Liqin especially sees the need to create a community interested in helping this vulnerable population.

The Action Group would bring people together to seek out what needs exist, share resources, and provide ways to get involved.

What she described was perfect – and the energy in the room suddenly shifted. Inspired by Liqin, Monique then had an idea that was more specific and exciting to her: an Action Group dedicated to saving the bees.

Within minutes, everyone around the table had something to offer: one person was eager to join, someone knew of a few organizations, another had recently spent time on a bee farm in Asia, and still another rode past a bee shop on her bike commute everyday.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 1.15.13 PM

Both Monique and Liqin created their Action Groups right then and there. For the Team’s next meeting, an idea was put on the table to invite Connectors to share their ideas for Action Groups and launch three to five of them on the spot.

Once launched, Connectors would commit to seeking out Idealist members to join – especially those who are formally connected to organizations on the site or have listed the issue on their Idealist profile.

This spirit of intentional community building is how the Portland Team hopes to build buzz around Action Groups.

“It can be hard to get momentum around it,” Monique says. “What better way to do this but personally invite people?”

What questions do you have about Action Groups? Ask away in the comments!

 

Tags: , , ,



Field Report! Team meeting in Kampala, Uganda

When Kampala’s five Connectors met at a beer garden a few weeks ago, one of their first thoughts was: What materials, skills, and tactics could we employ to better connect people to local resources?

Being that so far all of the Connectors in the Team work with youth in some capacity—from running an orphanage to empowering girls to global education—the first idea that came to mind was targeting young people, in addition to adults, who are interested in community development.

“We believe that today’s youths are tomorrow’s flag bearers—the ‘Gen-Next’ who shall manage and lead our country,” says Ibrahim Bahati, a trainer at a marketing agency with a background in economics and library management. “Development is a process. We need youths to start working to secure the future.”

Kampala

Kampala’s Connectors from left to right: Tony Mawejj, Namisango Juliet, Robbinah Hakiza, Ibrahim Bahati, and Tony Kabuye.

Kampala is a major center for nonprofits and social enterprises: there are a lot of them, and many are well-funded and supported. But in Ibrahim’s opinion, corruption, nepotism, and poor resource management plague these organizations, too, and can cancel out the good.

The Team thinks the best way for them to combat this problem is not through the elders—who may be set in their ways—but through mobilizing youth to become Connectors and training them to identify the resources around them.

How will they find these young people? Their plan is to tap into social media and the city’s cultural centers. The Team thinks the big challenge will be getting youth to see that money isn’t the only resource worth cultivating—there are also ideas, people, and information, to name just a few.

“When people here talk about effective resources, all ears go to the money. But that’s not all,” Ibrahim says.

Besides their initial focus on youth, the Team agreed on three core values of compassion, integrity, and empowerment, and also set up a Team structure with clearly delineated roles.

Their next steps include collectively encouraging 20 Connectors to come to their follow-up meeting on May 17, which will also be broadcast live.

For Ibrahim, being part of the Team is nothing short of inspiring.

“It’s a big world right now. 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,” he says. “I think that’s what’s great about the Idealist Network. It enables you to do this.”

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

Tags: , , ,



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?

Tags: , , , ,



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.

PHX-Connectors

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.

Tags: , , ,



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.

seattle_meeting1_overivew

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!

Tags: , , ,



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.

Tags: , , , ,