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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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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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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Meet a Connector: Diana in Bucharest, Romania

Diana Cocoru is a Connector in Bucharest, Romania who recently reported back on her Team’s first meeting.

“Connecting is my definition,” says Connector Diana Cocoru. “Although I didn’t know until recently.”

The 26-year-old Bucharest local makes a habit of knowing lots of things, though.

With three Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees, experience working with the European Parliament and African social change network Kabissa, and proficiency in three languages, Diana brings a lot of valuable resources to her Team and community.

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Bucharest’s Victory Avenue
(photo courtesy Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

Equally important, she’s coming to her work as a Connector with the right mindset: she wants to connect people while remaining impartial.

I have always been a conflict mediator in my family, and any team I have coordinated or led. Actually one professor in secondary school told my mom that never ever has one person managed to break into all the smaller groups in our class. It was not my purpose anyway—I was just asking and speaking with all people, not paying attention to the invisible borders between the groups.

I have bridged resources with those who needed it. I have learned diplomatic networking and saw how important it is to know that A is looking for something and B can give it and the satisfaction of bringing A and B together.

From my short experience on Idealist, people who surface through this [Network] are all very strong personalities with good resources. It is important to know when to let other Connectors organize, express, change, and not put your frustration in front of it. It takes maturity to do this.

For Diana, Romania has nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming a part of the Network:

Romania is too closed as a nation, still lacking trust in the other. By getting involved in this initiative, perhaps people will get to know “there is another way.” 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.”

Do you live in Romania? Become a Connector on the Bucharest Team! Live elsewhere? Check out Teams near you. Not a Connector yet? Learn all about it and sign up here.

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Meet a Connector: Elif in Istanbul, Turkey

Connector Elif Soykan has her feet in two worlds: Istanbul and Los Angeles.

She grew up in Turkey, where she studied sociology, but found herself drawn to Hollywood post-graduation where she worked at an advertising agency. Unfulfilled, she returned home after a few years.

Back in Turkey, Elif transferred her love of meeting new people from different cultures and backgrounds into a job as a cross-cultural consultant.

Elif hopes to use this training to its fullest in her new role as a Connector on both the Istanbul and Los Angeles Teams.

“As a cross-cultural trainer and a coach, I believe I can show people how powerful they are, how beautiful they are, and how much value they can bring to life to make it better,” she says.

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Elif on her terrace in Istanbul
(photo courtesy Elif Soykan)

Elif naturally connects others in her social circles all the time, but admits that when it comes to herself, one of her weaknesses is asking for help.

With the Idealist Network, she’ll use this focus on others to her advantage and help Istanbul become better connected. There are a lot of nonprofits in the city, but bureaucracy, lack of consensus in organizations, and commitment on behalf of volunteers can be challenging.

Still, Elif is hopeful. Next week she’ll be meeting with another Connector in the city to talk about how they can best pool the city’s resources.

“Sharing is so valuable. I’m afraid that in this new era, we’re losing it,” she says. “This Network gives me hope to unite again for the ultimate goal: make the world a better place.”

Do you live in Istanbul or Los Angeles? Join Elif! Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

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Meet a Connector: Nick in Atlanta, Georgia

If there’s one thing Nick Reynolds learned from his time in Peace Corps Ukraine, it’s this: meeting in-person is always a good idea.

“In Ukraine, you only knew something was definitely going to happen when you had that face-to-face meeting. When you looked that other person in the eye and said, ‘This is how it’s going to happen, this is what we’re going to do, right?’ And if they said ‘yes,’ you could count on it,” he says.

As the Community Manager for the Idealist Atlanta local page and a member of the Atlanta Connector Team, Nick has transferred that lesson to meeting in person with local organizations to see what they’re up to and share more about how Idealist can support their work.

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The MLK grave site, near the King Center in Atlanta
(image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

His first step is always encouraging employees to create an Idealist profile if they haven’t done so already. And nine times out of ten, they’re likely to pop up on the site if he’s had the opportunity to shake their hand.

He also plants himself at a local cafe each Monday for anyone—organizations, Idealist community members, Connectors—to chat.

“I consider myself to be an involved person. If there’s an opportunity to serve and I can’t come up with a reason not to do it, I’m going to wind up doing it,” he says.

Nick hopes the Idealist Network will help make more in-person connections in Atlanta that will lead to greater resource-sharing among organizations and more people getting involved in the causes they believe in. Living in the birthplace of the civil rights movement, he’d be hard pressed not to.

“[Atlanta] is a beacon of activism,” he says. “You can’t drive through the city without passing something that reminds you that the potential for positive change is here if you just get involved and engaged.”

Do you live in the Atlanta area? Join Nick! Not in Atlanta? Look for a Connector Team near you.

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Meet a Connector: Derek in Jérémie, Haiti

Derek Dell loves meeting new people. As an avid backpacker, encountering other travelers thrills him. As does deepening relationships and helping out when needed.

“Once you know someone, connecting becomes easier and more personal,” he says. “If I can help someone with a project, mission, or job, I’m always happy to write an email or make a phone call if I know someone else can contribute.”

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Derek in Jérémie
(photo courtesy Derek Dell)

Derek is now settled in Jérémie, Haiti as the Director of Finance at the Haitian Health Foundation. In this context, being a neutral Connector just makes sense.

“When you’re working in a developing country, your mission is always similar to others,” he says. “No one takes sides.”

Jérémie is one of the poorer and more isolated cities in Haiti. Dubbed the “city of poets,” it sits on the lower peninsula of the country and is cut off from the national highway. There are some bigger nonprofits in the area, and a number of smaller ones, and sometimes they work together.

Derek hopes the Idealist Network can add to the existing partnerships, and create new ones. He’s also hoping to meet other like-minded people in the area. His next step? Recruit more members to be on the Team.

“Realists and dreamers are all welcome,” he says. “No ideas are too small or too large.”

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If you’re a one person Team, how have you been finding other members? Let us know in the comments!

Do you live in Jérémie or nearby? Join Derek! No? Look for a Connector Team near you.

 

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Meet a Connector: Adam in Bozeman, Montana

Adam Poeschl is a middle child. It’s partly the reason he signed up to be a Connector.

“I’m pretty good at staying neutral about things,” the Bozeman, Montana local says. “I grew up having to be the diplomat between us [brothers].”

The other reason is that he’s already helping plug people in to the resources in their community as an Americorps VISTA volunteer at the Human Resource Development Council of District IX. With the Idealist Network, he’ll be taking those skills one step further.

“There are a lot of people who lie in bed at night thinking about how to make the world a better place. But they have no idea how to take action,” he says. “What I’m really excited about is facilitating an easy way for people to start.”

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Gallatin Valley in Bozeman, Montana—known for Montana State University,
world-class skiing, and the great outdoors.
(photo courtesy Adam Poeschl.)

Adam’s experienced this firsthand: when he became interested in nonprofits, he had no idea where to begin to look for ways to get involved. Bozeman has an active volunteer community, but many of the more visible opportunities with food banks and mentoring organizations quickly get snapped up. It took him six months to get a volunteer gig shelving books at the library.

“I think a network like Idealist can help lay out all the other agencies and opportunities in town that people didn’t even know existed,” he says.

Now, as a Connector, he’ll start by calling nonprofits in Bozeman to suggest they create a profile on Idealist. He’ll also be thinking about how else he can pass on good information.

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

Do you live in the Bozeman area? Join Adam. Not in Bozeman? Look for a Connector Team near you.

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How a Colorado company is reworking social entrepreneurship

One obstacle to doing good we often hear people talk about is a lack of skills and/or knowledge. Boulder-based recruiting firm ReWork tackles this obstacle by connecting a skilled talent pool to the social enterprises who need them most. 

You’ve probably heard the term “scrimmage” before. In sports talk, it’s a practice game that doesn’t count.  In ReWork’s vocabulary, it’s an event that matches startup social entrepreneurs with willing volunteers to help them problem-solve.

Here’s how a typical Scrimmage works: Participants are presented with a challenge or project , and then break off into teams. At the heart of the event is rapid prototyping as inspired by Google. Instead of brainstorming at length, for example, the teams hammer out ideas on the fly, continually testing and iterating on them in the moment to help get them in the best shape possible. Failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn.

The process is then repeated throughout the day until the teams report their solutions to the rest of the group, and everybody (of age, of course) can celebrate with a beer!

Since starting the Scrimmages last year, ReWork has collaborated with a variety of local incubators such as HUB Boulder, Social Venture Partners, Unreasonable Institute, and more.

Scrimmage in action

Meet Shane 

Shane Gring launched Denver-based BOULD in 2011 after becoming interested in energy efficiency and the ways it could create savings for the low-income families he was serving while working for Habitat for Humanity via AmeriCorps in Boulder.

Like most startups, BOULD, which strives to greenify affordable housing projects, had a few kinks to work out. Needing help on simplifying the enrollment process and creating enticing messages for potential participants, they partnered with ReWork for the very first scrimmage in November 2012.

Two teams took on one problem each. One streamlined the enrollment form. The other team came up with messages and tested them right there with people on the street and at CU Boulder’s architecture school, eventually coming up with simple, accessible communication.

“I like that this process allows you to see how people react, right away, without the space of waiting to roll out an idea and seeing how people like it,” Shane says.

Because of its success, rapid prototyping is something they do at BOULD all the time now in their day-to-day work as well as special events like their Green Building Hackathon.

Meet Brett

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Photo credit: ReWork team.

After a stint with TOMS shoes and living abroad to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability, Brett Dioguardi moved to Colorado and found himself without a gig. He learned about ReWork through Twitter, and was accepted to their talent pool in the midst of his move.

Brett was familiar with BOULD before the Scrimmage, having worked with them in a volunteer capacity, including helping to get them ready for the event. The day of, he worked on the team that was responsible for putting together messaging.

“I was a great fit for this group because although I had some knowledge of BOULD beforehand, I was still able to bring fresh ideas and thoughts to the discussion in a group of folks who were new to the company,” he says.

To him, it was an amazing experience where he got to meet new companies and people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. More significantly, however, after helping out BOULD pre and post-Scrimmage, Brett was offered a full-time position to work on partnership development.

“When I reflect on the experience, prepping for the Scrimmage and all the work before and after was even better than a job interview because I got to show [BOULD] what I was actually capable of,” he says.

Ultimately ReWork’s Scrimmage taught both Brett and Shane a lot about the power of face-to-face interaction, how iteration is key, and that continued problem-solving can help them tackle a constantly evolving business model.

In your everyday life, how do you practice the principles of Scrimmage?

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While they’re mostly in Colorado right now, this year ReWork will be holding open Scrimmages across the country as well as private ones for companies. Get in touch by emailing info@rework.jobs. 

To learn more about green building, starting your own social enterprise, or any of BOULD’s programs, contact Brett and Shane.

Learn more about Colorado month at Idealist!

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