The wheel's been invented: Visual events get shared

by April Greene on December 1, 2014

Many of the best strategies we can employ as Connectors have already been tried by others. "The wheel's been invented" series spreads the word about great existing ideas and resources that can help us do our work. 





One of the many reasons to organize events for your Team is that meetups make for great publicity. Who wouldn't want to snap a photo of their cool Team getting together for afternoon coffee chats, evenings at the pub, or awesome open mics and share it on social media?

The more images floating around on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest of your fun, colorful events, the more people will be interested in checking out your Team and getting in on the action.

But some events are more picture-worthy than others. How can you give your next gathering some visual punch?

We recently came across some great advice from a pro event planner on the blog of online marketing company Constant Contact:

"Everyone likes sharing photos, so design your events to be photo-centric. Think about what your attendees can take pictures of. Then think about how you can collect all those pictures and share them on social media, or encourage your attendees to," says planner Liz King.

Here are a few easy, inexpensive ideas:

The little things

Think about bringing something cool and colorful to your meeting that you can put on display: a sweet centerpiece—like a small bouquet of flowers, funky candy jar, or single helium balloon—will stay in attendees' view throughout the meeting and add a little liveliness to the scene. 

Keep color and design in mind

If you provide name tags and markers for your Teammates, make them colorful. If you plan to start off with an icebreaker activity that requires materials—like paper and pens or a rubber ball—choose fun ones that will communicate "good times" more than "corporate meeting."

Curate group photo ops


Encourage your Team to gather for a couple of group shots—at the end of the meeting, when everyone's gotten comfortable, usually feels like a good time. Get everyone together with something nice in the background, maybe a tree or a mural on a wall. Avoid gathering the group in front of a bright window, or their faces will be too shaded in the photo.

Then mention that sharing these pics on social media will be a great way for your Team to spread the word and get others to take an interest. And comment on their posts when they do!



Connectors, what do you do to make your meetings look fun and shareable?

Meet a Connector: Judy in Santa Monica, CA

by April Greene on July 8, 2014

Santa Monica's Judy Julin is passionate about education, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.

"I love bringing people, services, and ideas together in support of a better world," she says.

Judy founded and runs a multimedia education business and signed up to be a Connector this spring.


Judy

What do you bring to the Idealist community?

A working knowledge of successful, conscious business principles; a love and respect for the permaculture philosophy of working together with compassion and groundedness; and strong leadership qualities. I'm self-aware, kind-hearted, and confident.
How could Santa Monica benefit from the Network?

As an international hub of innovation and exuberance, Santa Monica could benefit from connecting more of our evident energies and thus showcasing a successful working model for creative collaboration for global good.
How do you think being a Connector will personally benefit you?

I love community and helping people and will reap internal rewards many times over.

Live in Santa Monica? Connect with Judy and join the Team!

Connectors, would you like to be profiled on our blog? Email us at idealistblog [at] idealist.org!

Meet a Connector: William in Brooklyn, NY

by April Greene on July 7, 2014

"The possibility of connecting with people both online and in-person in order to 'think globally and act locally' is very exciting to me," says William Cerf, a Connector in Brooklyn, New York.

"The Connectors and Connector Teams located throughout the world offer an incredible array of energy, insights, and innovative ideas."

William

What's his experience as a Connector been like so far?

The Brooklyn Team has had three meetings at the Brooklyn Public Library attended by a half-dozen or so people. The relationship-building between us has been a little slow-going so far, but I believe that developing a robust Team in Brooklyn will allow for much greater collaboration among corporate nonprofits and activists.
What does he hope the Network will accomplish?

Eventually I see the Connector program meshing very well with Idealist's other offerings to create an extraordinarily robust set of platforms for effectively and efficiently engaging with extremely complex social problems and a frayed social safety net.

Personally, I believe that activists, social enterprises, and the nonprofit sector need to collaborate with each other and rely much less on large institutional programs.
What are his best ideas for moving his Team forward?

I would love a mapping tool to show Connectors how physically close they are to one another. Maybe we could work out a deal with [private social network] NextDoor to allow people to search for all the census tracts in a particular borough? People might want to create new Teams based on proximity to each other.

Live in Brooklyn? Connect with William and join the Team!

Connectors, would you like to be profiled on our blog? Email us at idealistblog [at] idealist.org!

What is a Connector?

by April Greene on July 3, 2014

At Idealist, we're used to describing Connectors in many ways: as facilitators, knowledge vendors, liaisons, community touchstones, and more.

But how does the larger Idealist community define Connectors, we wondered?

So we asked! And here are some of our favorite responses:
A Connector finds out what people want to do and links them with people who have the same idea, suggests resources to help them accomplish the goal, and offers encouragement to give them confidence.

Like worker bees, they take inspiration and pollinate the flowers in the community.
A Connector can help anyone turn their intentions into action by pairing them with resources and kindred spirits. A Connector can help solve the problem of, "I want to, but I can't, because..."
It's about taking responsibility to get involved with problem-solving instead of sweeping the dust under the rug. The Connector is the one who has the initiative to put words into action and spur on others accordingly.

Connectors, do these descriptions resonate with you? Why or why not? How would you describe your role?

Small wins: Find one more Teammate

by Megan O'Leary on July 2, 2014

Seattle, Washington Connector Lisa Zenno posted a comment on a story we ran earlier this month that piqued our interest. She suggested that Teams might do better in these early stages of the Network to focus on getting active involvement rather than "big wins."

That got me thinking about how valuable this "small wins" mindset can be for all of us as we start this new movement.

Why?

While having big goals is important for knowing where you’re headed long term, celebrating small victories and remembering that it’s the little things that lead to the big things are really important parts of the process, especially when you’re just starting up.

What's one great example of a small, early-stage win? For small or one-person Teams, it could be finding just one more person to join you.

How can you make it happen? Try these two steps:

Think small to start


If you're a one-person Team, don’t become overwhelmed by thinking of all the things you’d love to do if only you had an army of help. Consider making it a goal to recruit just one more person—two makes a Team! Then you can start bouncing ideas off each other and sharing resources to really get the ball rolling.

Share with your social networks


You can let your friends, colleagues, and online communities know about your involvement with Idealist and invite them to join you. One way to do this is on the virtual “community boards” you use every day, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can even share a link to your Team page and invite your contacts to join you!



In an upcoming post, we'll think about what a small win could look like for a large Team.

Connectors, tell us about a small win you’ve had or are working toward.

Meet a Connector: Maria in NYC

by April Greene on July 1, 2014

"I’ve always been told I’m a connector," says Maria Yuan, a New York City investment banking professional and founder of the social enterprise IssueVoter.


Maria
What kind of Connector is she?

"I’ve always gotten along well with different types of people. In high school, for example, there tend to be different cliques, but I didn't belong to any of them. I had a lot of friends, but a lot of my friends weren't friends with each other—they all came from different places.

I find I have the same attitude today: I feel like I could talk with anyone for an hour. But even though I’m a friendly person, I’m not the type who would approach a stranger—I’m not going to chat someone up when I'm in line at Starbucks."

What's she bringing to her Team?

"I've led large groups of volunteers before, and I have a large social and professional network. Plus I’m very open about my connections—if someone tells me they’re working on something, I don’t hide my resources if I have something to share."

Why is she excited about the Idealist Network?

"I've been using Idealist since about 2004, and have always enjoyed how easy it is to connect one-on-one with other people and organizations using the site. But what's interesting for me about the Network is that it's a way to get a lot of people connected in a short time, and in person. And they could all be from different neighborhoods and sectors!

If it wasn’t for Idealist, I know I wouldn’t have come across a lot of the great, different people I now know. It’s so cool to get folks together from all these diverse areas but with a common goal: to help others."
Live in NYC? Connect with Maria and join the Team!

Connectors, what do you bring to your Team? Share with us in the comments below.

5 tips for organizing your Team

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 30, 2014

We've heard that some Connectors are unsure about how to help get their Team organized, especially when it's a large group. So we spoke with Connector Rebecca Needler Dinar, founder of Miami, Florida-based The Tribe, a nonprofit that empowers young professional Jewish leaders, to ask for her advice about organizing.

Drawing on experience leading community-building exercises with everyone from doctors to techies, and health gurus to real estate entrepreneurs, here are her five top tips for cultivating good organizational habits:

1. Get early buy-in from lots of people.

Before deciding that, for example, a volunteer speed matching event would be good to organize in your community, first talk to people beyond your Team. What influential people do you know in your social sphere? Who could help or give advice? You could also try more formal methods such as focus groups, polls, etc. to learn more.

“Being a leader means assessing a community’s needs, and sometimes, to do that well, you need to let go of your assumptions of what that is,” Rebecca says.

2. Share responsibility.

Just because you’re reaching out within your Team doesn’t mean you have to take on all the work. Divvying up tasks not only takes the burden off you, but gives others some ownership, too. The more people involved in a decision-making process on all levels, the better.

“The goal really is to make sure everyone has the tools to participate in their own way,” she says.

Google Docs, for example, are a good way to pool information and collect data so that everyone's activities are transparent to each other. This will encourage people to report to a collective, not one Team leader.

3. Be practical about what you’re trying to achieve.


Define your Team goals from the start. But be mindful about setting goals that are too big to accomplish right now, given constraints like time, money, etc. It often makes sense to think small at first.

“I'm a big fan of momentum-building. Everyone feels good about a success, even a small one. Biting off just enough to chew—even if it's a few hairs short of your full objective—is often exactly what you need to attract new volunteers and get things going,” she says.

4. Be self-aware.

“If you want to take on the responsibility of being a resource for the community, you have to be able to identify what your own personal perspective brings to the discussion,” Rebecca says.

We all have passions which motivate our work and life choices. The trick is to harness those passions. Allow them to be building blocks, along with others' passions, and deliver something for the greater good. 

5. Seek out strategic partners.

Identify who in your community who is working on something similar or could be a strategic partner for your Team. Reaching out to them, especially early on, could provide you with all sorts of resources.

"The truth is, you'll find them in places you might not think," Rebecca says. “The more people you engage in what you are doing, the more people will be invested in what you’re trying to achieve. And when others get excited, it's empowering to the Team."  



Connectors, do you have any tips about Team organization that you'd add to this list?

Trending: Resource inventories

by April Greene on June 27, 2014

Whether your Team is made up of one person or 100, you have a wealth of skills and knowledge to share with your community. Keeping it organized can help others see what you have to offer, make it easier to find what you're looking for, and illuminate any gaps you might want to fill.

How can you save and arrange all this info in a helpful way? Try a resource inventory!

Here are three Teams doing it already:

Washington, DC

This Team's inventory has tabs for contact info, meeting places, multimedia resources, and lots more.

Brooklyn, New York

13 of Brooklyn's Connectors have entered info about their neighborhood, special skills, and preferred meeting times into their spreadsheet.

San Diego, California

The San Diego Team has packed their inventory with relevant notes about their professional experience (which ranges from patient care in hospitals to AmeriCorps service to child welfare law).

If you haven't started a resource inventory for your Team yet, read all about getting started here.



Connectors, what are your tips for creating the most useful resource inventory?

Meet a Connector: Janine in San Diego

by April Greene on June 26, 2014

Janine Carson, a Denver native who recently moved to San Diego, is ready to take action.

"I am so excited to be here and can’t wait to dig in as an Idealist Connector," she says. "It's been a slow start for me, but I'm looking forward to it. I am left-handed, right- and left-brained, and right most of the time, ha ha."


Janine Carson


Janine brings a wealth of skills and strengths to the Idealist Network. Her background and interests include marketing communications, advocacy, policy, and diverse areas of legislation including family law, indigent defense, and civil rights. She has worked as a public defender and parent representative in state court cases, and plans to take the California bar exam next year, after which she might start her own practice.

"I will always be a natural advocate and a born public defender," Janine says. "In 'real life,' I tend to be the center of connecting people for social functions. I like to say I have never met a stranger, and love helping people accomplish their goals. I'm friendly and enthusiastic, and my personal network of awesome people—if I may say so myself—along with my professional network of lawyers, marketing professionals, and taste-makers are plugged in to communities all over the country. This is all a recipe for ideas, ideas, and more ideas!"

Through the Idealist Network, Janine hopes to encounter "other people and organizations who truly care about the betterment of humankind and have dedicated their professional lives to it." So far, she says her brief interactions with her Team members have told her they are enthusiastic, caring, friendly, and dedicated, with very diverse backgrounds.

"My dream is for our impact in San Diego to be a visible one," she says, "where the community can see—with their eyes—the work we’re doing."



Do you live in San Diego? Join the Team and start taking action!

Have a question or idea for Janine? Connect with her through Idealist.

Welcome to Idealist!

We know Oregonians are ready to get involved in their communities and take action on causes they care about. So we are excited that Meyer Memorial Trust has selected us as the permanent home for the connection-building and idea-generating components of Oregon Unlimited.

Idealist is the most popular online resource for the nonprofit sector, connecting people around the world to jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, and events every single day. We are happy to have you join us and want to help make your transition to our network as easy as possible.

Here are three easy ways to get started:

1. BUILD YOUR IDEALIST PROFILE

Create your personal profile to share your story and skills and begin connecting directly with individuals and organizations near you

2. JOIN THE OREGON UNLIMITED ACTION GROUP

This is where you can share your ideas, get connected and create solutions about issues you care about - click the orange JOIN button on the left side of the page

3. FIND EXISTING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTION

Search current volunteer postings and events posted by organizations in your area

To read more about the partnership, click here.


If you have questions or would like to connect with someone who can help you move forward, please contact us today.  

Megan O’Leary is Oregon’s Community Relations Manager at Idealist. You can reach her at megan@idealist.org.

Meet an Action Group founder: David in Minnesota

by April Greene on June 24, 2014

"One of the things I love doing is bringing people together, throwing out an idea and seeing what gets created," says David Stocum, founder of the Action Group LGBT Community in Northern Red River Valley.

"The Idealist Network and AGs are going to be great tools for doing this on a larger scale. They will be especially great for those of us working in small cities and rural areas," he says. David is planning to use his Action Group to link the LGBT communities in the Northern Red River Valley area of North Dakota and Minnesota for the purposes of "support, education, and advocacy."

"I’m a walking Internet, connecting people of like minds all over the place," David says. "I’m fortunate to have worked with some fabulous people all over the country—that's given me a great network of resources and people. One of my passions is sharing that network with anyone who gets in touch: if I know someone who can help, I connect the two."


David, left, serving on a panel at a CenterLink event


With his Group, David hopes to meet more people who believe in respect for everyone, LGBT equality, and who want to create a sense of community and support where they live—people who want to make things happen and are willing to put in the effort to do it.

"But," he says, "I'm trying not to have rigid expectations of the outcome. Let’s see who comes to the table, the ideas they bring, and build the impact from there. It’s more of an adventure that way."

So far, David's biggest challenges in building the Group have been devising a plan to grow it and finding the time to work on it—in the past few months, a new job and becoming founding president of PFLAG Thief River Falls, to name two endeavors, have taken up lots of his time. To get a better foothold, he wants to ask other Connectors:

"What is your best, or favorite, tool or resource for advancing the work you do? Something that makes your impact possible or easier in some way. One of mine is my whiteboard—my partner jokes that I’m addicted to white boards. I use it to map out projects, outline a document, and capture ideas so I don’t forget them before I can get started."

But overall, David is optimistic about surmounting these obstacles, in part because he believes other Connectors will have good advice to share.

"The plan is to research on Idealist what others are doing to grow their groups, manage their time and projects, and choose ideas that seem like a good fit for us," he says.



Do you have advice for David? Share it as a comment below or message him through Idealist.


Live in the Northern Red River Valley area and interested in LGBT issues? Join David's Action Group!


Field Report! Team meeting in Kampala, Uganda

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 23, 2014

A little while ago we wrote about the Team in Kampala, Uganda. They had met once, decided to focus on youth, and were planning another meeting that would include a Livestream video.

Now we're happy to report that they're keeping up the momentum! The Team met again a couple of weeks ago at The Heights restaurant, and participants included both original members and some new university students who were excited to take on the challenge of the Connector role.

They talked about how being a Connector was about linking the community to resources, and how getting more Team members could create more change. Since their focus is on drawing out fresh ideas and energy from youth, they also created a Facebook page to reach out to more young people.

“Our highest need is for effective communication. If we have a platform where we can all share opportunities and discuss, this shall keep us going,” Connector Tony Kabuye says.

About 17 people from around the world had signed up to watch Livestream as the Team met, but due to slow Internet and no funds to buy the premium package that included the ability to record the meeting, they ultimately weren’t able to broadcast. Their solution for next time? Coordinate with big hotels to find a place with a reliable Wifi connection.

Tony highly recommends Livestream, but advises other Teams in similar situations to take into account potential obstacles.

“Teams in countries where there’s a slow Internet connection should try to schedule their meetings in times of low traffic of users, usually before breakfast or mid-morning,” Tony says. “Also, since it’s so technical, study the software ahead of time.”

Despite the Livestream glitch, Tony and the Kampla Team are excited by their progress and only see good movement ahead!



In Kampala? Join the Team and keep an eye out for their next meeting.

Open question: How can we help you feel less alone?

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 20, 2014

This post originally ran on June 3 and we're eager to hear more from you!

As a Connector, you’re excited to meet new people and pool resources. But time has passed and you’re still the only one in your area.

Or maybe it’s the opposite: you have company, in theory at least. You have Team members, but when you try to get something started with them, nobody responds to your discussion topics or messages.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

We know this is happening, and we’re thinking of organizing a conference call in the next few weeks for you to share ideas, tips, and strategies, and in general, to create a camaraderie of folks like you who are in a similar boat.

So our questions to you are these: Would you be interested in such a call? What kinds of things would you like to talk about? Please let us know in the comments or drop a line to megan@idealist.org with any other ideas you have.

Thanks for being on this journey with us!

Meet a Connector: XiaXiahn in Cape Town, South Africa

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 19, 2014

XiaXiahn Vaccalluzzo is an unintentional connector. It’s just how she is.

“Every meeting is an opportunity for connection and reconnection,” she says. “When I connect with somebody my first question is, ‘How can I help you?’ ”

As the founder of the social enterprise and global online community Waken Und@ground (WUG) and the sister radio station Radio Waken, XiaXiahn is always facilitating conversations and connecting people to opportunities. She believes this skill is innate in everyone.

“Cultivating networks and really embracing what we love comes naturally to all of us. We don’t have to wait until some mythical time in the future when we have enough experience,” she says. 


For XiaXiahn, the Idealist Network is appealing because it taps into the interconnectedness between us all.

“Success is a team sport. You are made up of a hundred other people, and you cannot be successful alone,” she says. “In South Africa we have an ancient African word ‘Ubuntu’ meaning 'humanity to others'. Loosely translated it means 'I am what I am because of who we all are.’ ”

In her opinion, Cape Town has thousands of people addressing social issues in both conventional and unconventional ways. However, more often than not, people remain hesitant to pool resources and organizations are nervous about collaborating.

“Idealist offers a global opportunity to reflect, connect, and reject old ideas, replacing them with vital connectivity and the realization that there are many companies, organizations, and individuals out there with similar goals,” she says.

“Through the Idealist Network we are able to start answering the question, 'What can we do together that we can’t do by ourselves?’”

XiaXiahn is hoping to seek out solutions and inspire connections not only in Cape Town, but beyond.

“The world is full of amazing people, initiatives, and ideas that need to be seen and heard,” she says.


Are you in or near Cape Town? Join XiaXiahn and the rest of the Team!

Field Report! Team meetings in Chicago, Illinois

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 18, 2014

The Chicago Team is on fire!  

Since March 11, they've held a few meetings at coffee shops and libraries. The members' backgrounds run the gamut from community and business development to design and leadership coaching.

“Having the opportunity to meet other Connectors is exciting,” Mike Bendoff says. “We’re collectively unrolling a huge blank canvas. Nobody knows exactly what the painting is going to look like but everyone has arrived with an open mind and we’re sharing information that will help us find ways to collaborate. I believe we’re all excited to be part of that process.”

A photo from the Team's most recent meeting. From left to right: Steve, Paula, Abbie, Robert, and Mike.

They may be all about action, but the Team has realized it requires it some reflection to get there. So far, they’ve created a resource list that showcases their individual talents, abilities, connections, and interests.

“I think our culture underestimates the benefits of simply sitting and talking, which I think may be the greatest resource for Connectors,” Abbie Chase says. “But in this day and age, who has the time? Convincing people (and myself) to take the time to chat with strangers when we could be with friends or family, particularly when there is no guaranteed—or even articulated—return on investment, is a challenge.”

To help address this challenge, the Chicago Team is hosting frequent meetings and reaching out to individual members to encourage engagement. They’ve learned that consolidating Teams into a single Chicago Area Team helped get things started (although as they expand, it might be beneficial to splinter again) and that being on the Team allows for great networking opportunities.

Their next steps are continuing to define and explore the Connector role, including figuring out how to nudge others to take advantage of people's interests and volunteer activities listed on social networking sites, which they view as resources in and of themselves.

In Robert Bates' opinion, the Idealist Network can only stand to benefit the city of Chicago, which is home to numerous social good organizations and projects. He sees it as an opportunity to spread solutions throughout the large geographic area and encourage awareness about what other like-minded people are already up to.

“This is why the Connector Hub is so important: whether you’re a person looking to make a career change, someone who is seeking to add value to your day-to-day life, or someone genuinely concerned about an issue—this is a great place to ‘connect the dots’ by promoting public service stewardship,” he says.



In the Chicago area? Join the Team and attend their next meeting on June 22.

Meet an Action Group founder: Ned in Cincinnati

by April Greene on June 17, 2014

Ned Hamson is a writer, editor, and nonprofit consultant "devoted to making the earth whole for people of all races and origins." That sounds like a full plate, but Ned's also making time this year to be an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati, and to helm an Idealist Action Group called "Cincinnati Can Do It."

What gives him the energy for all these endeavors?

"The potential for progress in many parts of the globe at the same time excites me," he explains, "as well as everyone sharing their stories—so folks know they are not alone."


Ned and a fellow AmeriCorps volunteer at work on an urban gardening project


"I have been a journalist and information-sharer for more than 50 years," he continues. "I see or hear something, and then share it with people who I know need the information. I have also helped people organize around issues of interest to the community and have worked on a number of election campaigns and policy issues."

In his Action Group, Ned is looking for passionate people with the will to get things done. He plans to use social media to communicate with other Connectors and recruit new people who might be interested in joining the Network but who are not currently active in the world of social good.

"My work is full-time right now, so finding time for the Action Group is the biggest challenge," he says. "But I think using social media more will help—when applied well, it seems it can be used to almost multiply or expand time."

Big picture, Ned wants his Action Group's impact to reach beyond its current time and place.

"I want to help assure those who come after us that caring and working together works for the whole system," he says.



Live near Cincinnati? Check out what the city's Team and Action Group are up to.

Want to talk with Ned about how social media can help the Network gain traction in Ohio? Reach out to him through Idealist.

Open question: Are you a certain type of Connector?

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 16, 2014

Over the past few months, we've learned that the Idealist Network appeals to you for a myriad of reasons: empowering others, spreading good ideas, and filling in the gaps where needed—just to name a few.

Each of you brings something unique to the table, and nowhere is this more apparent than in your Teams.

At a recent meeting in Portland, Oregon, both a Connector and Idealist developer Craig Dennis noticed that while you all have the desire to connect in common, you’re likely a certain type of Connector.

“I noticed it in response to the question, ‘What tools do you need?’ It caused people to verbalize what their view of the Connector role was based on their personality type,” Craig says. “It was interesting to see this resonating so strongly with the skills they use all the time in their own lives.”

Here are the types he noticed:

  • Cheerleader. “This idea is so awesome! Let’s tell everyone about it!”
  • Facilitator. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
  • Doer. “I don’t want to talk. I want to act.”
  • Professional. “I know a lot of people. Just tell me what you need.”
  • Observer. “Here’s what I see happening here.”
  • Scribe. “Let’s get this information down so we can share it with others.”
In Craig’s opinion, identifying types in your Team can be beneficial.

“In a group situation, everyone has different skills to bring and it’s important to realize this. There are a lot of ways to connect. And the more you have of the different types, the more connections will be possible,” he says.



This list is by no means comprehensive or official but it got us thinking: have you noticed types within your own Team? What type do you identify with? What’s missing from our list?

Trending: AmeriCorps alums are jazzed about the Connector movement!

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 13, 2014

We’ve been noticing that a lot of you are AmeriCorps members or alumni, and it's gotten us thinking: What about the Connector movement is appealing to former AmeriCorp'ers?

A few Connectors tell us why in their own words:

Amanda Bancroft in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

The AmeriCorps alumni network is focused on employment and job openings, maybe reunions, but I like how the Idealist Network is fulfilling more of a need. Now that you've been trained in capacity building, what do you do with all that? You become a Connector.

Joshua Evans in Portland, Oregon:

AmeriCorps is about service to the community and so is Idealist. I think we have a generation that has grown up with a good amount of exposure to inequality and need. As a result, I think there has been a bit of a call to action on college campuses about doing something to better our world. AmeriCorps capitalizes on that call by offering opportunities to be involved. Idealist does the same thing.

Adam Poeschl in Bozeman, Montana:

I think it absolutely makes sense for AmeriCorps members to join the Connector movement. Many AmeriCorps projects rely on input, investment, and manpower from the community they serve, meaning that AmeriCorps members are already doing everything a Connector does (like bringing together people, organizations, and resources to achieve a common goal).  


Signing up as a Connector is just another great tool for AmeriCorps volunteers to use to contact and organize community members. The challenge lies in making AmeriCorps members aware of Idealist and the Connector movement, and letting them know how easy and valuable it is to become a Connector.

Are you a current or former AmeriCorps member and up for the challenge? Our very own Megan O’Leary is an alumna! Reach out to her for tips on getting in touch with your local AmeriCorps chapter: megan@idealist.org.

Municipalities around the world share many of the same concerns. To tackle two of them—limited meeting space options for community groups, and lack of involvement in the school system by the larger community—consider starting a program like the Seattle public school system's “Evening Community Meetings in School Libraries.”

For the past two years, every public school library in Seattle has been available for use by non-commercial community and neighborhood groups between the hours of 6:00 and 9:00 pm Mondays through Thursdays for a flat fee of $15. The arrangement has been a boon to both local nonprofits and school stakeholders.

Below, Kathy Johnson, Facility Operations Program Manager for Seattle Public Schools tells us about one little oversight they made along the way that wound up going public.


School libraries make great places for extracurricular meetings, too.


Q: Did you or your team make any mistakes while you were developing this program that you really learned from?

A: Well, a big oversight on our part was to forget to put the program on the website when it first launched in summer 2012. Fail!

Here all these agencies had gotten together to develop it, the city had it on their website, people started calling and asking for information... And, whoops! So we had to take care of that quick.

Read the Tool and Tactic here.

Connectors, have you been involved with a similar program? Tell us about it in the comments!

Meet a Connector: Katie in Minneapolis, Minnesota

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 12, 2014

Katie Campbell is a natural connector.

The nonprofit she founded, Aynah, is all about matching students with developing communities to work on local projects. As the link between students, resources, and vulnerable populations, Katie finds leading this connector organization incredibly rewarding.

“I'm passionate about people engaging and taking ownership in their communities. I enjoy connecting resources with people as they carry out their initiatives and dreams, in a pay-it-forward mindset, especially considering the support I received during my journey founding Aynah,” she says.

Aynah is based in Minneapolis, which has one of the largest concentration of nonprofits in the U.S. In Katie’s opinion, the social good sector in the city is only getting stronger. More and more social enterprises and organizations are popping up each day, and there are lots of opportunities to meet like-minded folks and collaborate.

In addition, Minneapolis has a thriving immigrant community (including the largest Somali population in the U.S.) and Katie sees this global perspective as a perfect complement to the Idealist Network.

“I think Minneapolis can benefit from the Idealist Network and its international reach, bringing lessons and ideas from around the world to communities closer to home,” she says.

Katie is hoping to meet up in person with the other 10 Connectors on the Team soon, and thinks collaborating with the Saint Paul Team would be good to inspire momentum.

By being a part of the Idealist Network, Katie's natural connecting instinct can only get stronger.

“I'm a firm believer that passion inspires passion and I make it a hobby to listen, learn, and draw inspiration from other peoples’ stories and passions,” she says. “Creating meaningful connections with people is one of my top strengths and greatest joys in life.”



Katie is also well-versed in team tools such as empathy mapping and listening exercises. If you want to learn more, feel free to reach out to her.

Using the Resources link on your Team page

by April Greene on June 11, 2014

We're excited to see many Connectors using the Resources section of their Team page to share good ideas ranging from helpful new tech tools to lists of local nonprofits. Here's a sampling:
  • Brooklyn, New York has started a resource inventory to keep track of Connectors' contact info, interests and skills, neighborhood resources, and much more. Read this Tool and Tactic all about resource inventories and how you can start one for your Team.
  • Mexico City's resource list includes this article about good team management practices. Takeaways include: "A good team is more than the sum of its parts, involving both individual and collective responsibility," and, "Achieving specific goals helps teams stay focused on getting results."
  • On Reston, Virginia's Team page, Connector Matt Miller posted a link to ArcGIS, a mapping platform that enables organizations to create interactive maps and apps and share them with the group. Imagine the possibilities!


Connectors, what's a great resource you've seen on another Team's page? Share with us in the comments.

Survey Says! How the Seattle Team is engaging its members

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 11, 2014

Seattle’s handful of active Connectors are dedicated and motivated, and have met a couple of times now. Still, they’re left wondering: With almost 50 people signed up, why haven't more turned out for meetings?

Recently, they endeavored to find the answer by surveying the Team’s members.

“I figure, the better we understand why they’re silent, the more effective we can be in cultivating interest and commitment,” says Kimberlee Weller.

So together the Team created a Google survey, being careful to share ownership like they always do.

“The responsibilities of taking action have shaped organically and voluntarily,” says Lisa Zenno. “I can’t speak for others, but I am still hesitant to 'delegate tasks,' knowing that there is not ‘one’ leader. I think it’s really owning up to your own actions at this point—taking initiative when you know you can be of assistance.”

The survey is out now. The Team is hoping to get a better understanding of why people are Connectors and where they’re located, and plans to use the nifty pie graphs and charts as “data swag” to visually show where the interests, skills, and connections of the Team intersect. Then, they'll use all that info to inform action steps, whether it's moving ahead with an Action Group or choosing a Tool and Tactic to get started on.

While they’re waiting on responses, they’re also thinking about ways they can team-build now with the active members. Events like potlucks, short weekend hikes, dinners, happy hours, and more are all on the table.

“At the end of the day, the important part of wanting to stay on a team is the relationships you build. I can give my resume and a list of interests, but others won’t understand me until they have interacted with me and get to know me. We don’t have to be best of friends, but it helps to know where people are coming from and what they each bring to the table,” says Lisa.

For Kimberlee, it’s also about maintaining momentum.

“It’ll keep us coming back. It’s a different situation for everyone, but in this digital age, I find it especially difficult to move from digital participation to in-person activity and commitment to action,” she says. “The more in-person activities we plan, commit to, and see the benefits from, the better off we and the community will be.”



Want to learn more? Feel free to reach out to Kimberlee or Lisa.

There are many great reasons to get to know your neighbors, but depending on where you live, connecting with them face-to-face might not be convenient or even possible.

To get over the in-person obstacle, some neighborhoods are creating ways to connect online so neighbors can meet, share resources, and work toward social good together—if only electronically at first.

When Caryn Solly lived in the historic Brooklyn Jewish Hospital apartments in Brooklyn, New York, she wanted to meet her neighbors but found few opportunities for organic conversation in the huge complex. So she decided to take her intention to the Internet and start an online group for building residents. It grew steadily through word of mouth, and years later is still a much-used resource.

Below, read about the impact the group has had on Caryn's community and in her own life.


The Brooklyn Jewish Hospital apartment complex


Q: What were some discouraging and encouraging moments you encountered while working with this online group?

A: The most discouraging part was at the beginning, when I tried posting flyers to introduce the group on the doors of our buildings and they were all taken down within hours! I knew the maintenance staff was just trying to keep the place clean, but it was so disappointing. I knew that if people were aware of the group they would use it, so I resorted to having a lot of awkward conversations in the elevator. "What a cute dog!," I'd say. Then, "Oh, and I’m starting this neighborhood group…"

It was rough going at first, but it did get people interested. Now I know people who've swapped pet sitting duties with neighbors, bought and sold things—even little acts of help can be fulfilled easily now. I've seen success stories with requests like, "Does anyone have a shopping cart I can borrow for two hours?" and "Can I use someone's printer for my tax return?"

Also since starting the group, I’ve made a lot of new friends. It actually got to the point where I couldn’t walk two blocks to the subway without seeing someone I knew and waving to them. That was so cool. Other than people who’ve lived in New York their entire lives, I don’t know too many people here who can say that.



Read the online communities Tool and Tactic here.


Connectors, have you started an online group for an offline community of yours? Tell us about it in the comments.

Tech Tip: How to follow a Connector’s comments

by Sara Jensen on June 10, 2014

Since we launched the Idealist Network on March 11, Connectors have contributed a myriad of thoughtful and creative comments to Team pages, the blog and Network updates, and our FAQ.

If a particular Connector (or two or three) has caught your attention, you can “follow” them to hear what else they have to say in the future. When you follow someone, you'll get an email whenever they write a comment.

Here's how you can start following your favorite Connectors:

Start by logging into the Connector Hub. Then, root around for whatever strikes your fancy. For this example, I’m investigating a Topic on the Portland Team page.

 


I really liked what Megan O’Leary had to contribute, and I’m interested in how she'll make things happen in the future, so I clicked on her name to follow her. Wow, she’s already commented 38 times! Go Megan!


After I clicked the blue “Follow” button, it turned green to confirm that I'm all set. Now, the next time Megan writes something, I’ll get an email that will link me to the comment, where I'll also have the opportunity to contribute.

Pro-tip:

You can also follow all comments on any Topic. Just click on the Topic, then scroll all the way down until you see a little envelope icon. Click that, and it should turn green and say "Subscribed."



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.

Meet a Connector: Diana in San Diego

by April Greene on June 9, 2014

"I am an idealist by nature," says Diana Osorio. "I have always dreamed about being part of making of this world a better place."

Diana studied political science in school and then went to work in the healthcare industry, with the intention of "creating changes in policies and politics." When she turned 30, she had one of those "life-questioning moments" and realized that her work wasn't fulfilling her emotional needs or her professional aspirations.

Diana Osorio


"I wasn't able to see change or any positive influence through my work and felt very frustrated. So I decided to change my career and do something I'd find more satisfying: helping women and children." Diana became a health educator, mainly working in hospitals with newborns and new moms.

Diana's passion for supporting women and children comes largely from her own life experience.

"I moved here from Colombia and for a long time felt that I lacked resources. It was particularly hard to be a female immigrant and single mom with no family in the USA. So yes, I have to say that the difficult situations I’ve gone through have influenced my desire to help women and children. Unfortunately they are the weakest link; they tend to be abused and used."

Although Diana sees the difficulties many women face, she also believes they have an innate talent for communicating that can help improve their lot—and that makes them especially good Connectors.

"Women are natural communicators," she says. "We talk about what we learn, what is new or what we see or feel. We enrich our lives by telling our stories and listening to the stories of other women. All of that helps us to have a larger approach as Connectors."

As for what she personally brings to the Idealist Network in San Diego, Diana says, "Thanks to my ethnic background, I am able to comfortably navigate between the Anglo and Latin communities. I am also resourceful, persuasive, and assertive."

Ultimately, she hopes to help build a strong network in a city that already has a lot of accessible resources.

"In every person I meet I find a possibility or a message," Diana says. "I enjoy learning from all those who cross my path. I hope I can use this vision to help others and connect them to the right resources."



If you live in San Diego, connect with Diana and join the Team!

Field Report! Team meetings in Cambridge, Massachusetts

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 9, 2014

The Cambridge, Massachusetts Team is slowly gaining traction.

Four of the city’s Connectors recently met for the second time at the local coffee shop Bourbon. They came from all different backgrounds: student financial services, biology and engineering, social work, and materials science.

So far, they’ve been using their meeting time to get to know each other and throw around ideas about how they could best serve Cambridge.

“It is a very good, if small group,” says Jennifer Knapp-Stumpp.

From left to right: Kim, Kate, and Jennifer. Taking the photo is their fourth member, Sophie.

Cambridge is a city in transition. Historically, its makeup of academia (Harvard and MIT call Cambridge home) and industry resulted in rich economic and cultural diversity. Now, according to Jennifer, an influx of biotech start-ups is changing the landscape. In her opinion, it’s the perfect moment to take advantage of the Idealist Network.

“It has big city inequalities, and new city problems of balancing a huge influx of big money with what was once a 50 percent blue collar community. Cambridge could use help in all of these areas and is also a source of committed people and nonprofit resources—a good mix,” she says.

At their last meeting, Kate Wilson proposed an Action Group dedicated to increasing accessibility for the disabled in retail stores. The Team saw this as a great way to practice their connecting skills, and decided their first step will be to meet with the Cambridge Disability Commission.


Jennifer’s hoping that being a part of the Idealist Network will expand her sphere of service.

“What excites me about this is that is gives me an opportunity to serve others in a larger context than I would have on my own,” she says. “It also provides a venue in which I can put intent into action and help others do the same.”



In the Cambridge area? Join the Team and attend their next meeting on June 19.


Want to learn more about what the Team is up to? Feel free to reach out to Jennifer.

On the Idealist Network blog, we do our best to share relevant, interesting posts with you, but we always want and need your input to make sure that what we're delivering is helpful and timely (and hopefully enjoyable!).

So, what would you most like to read? Please drop us a line and let us know...
  • 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 share your ideas in the comments below.

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

The experience of being a college student is of course about learning from books, lectures, and research. But it can also be an ideal time to learn from the larger community, give back, and explore different areas of interest.

This Tool and Tactic illustrates how University College London (UCL) holds annual volunteer fairs to help give students the most comprehensive education experience possible.

Below, Tony Louki of West Euston Partnership Ability Bikes, a participant at the fairs, tells us about his experience interacting with staff and students:


A West Euston volunteer in action
I was most impressed by the communication in the run up to the event and the organisation on the day. Our senior UCL volunteer, a 3rd Year Mechanical Engineer, actually had time to hang out at our table and give firsthand stories to students contemplating a more physical outdoor placement for their volunteering choice.

We ended up recruiting three students from that fair who now participate on a regular basis. West Euston will be there again next year, as we see this as a fine opportunity to showcase our unique project to new eyes, ears, and legs.


Read the entire Tool and Tactic here.

Connectors, do you have experience with university volunteer fairs? Tell us about it in the comments!

Traffic Action Group in Pune, India not stopped by city protests

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 5, 2014

Amid violent city riots in Pune, India last Sunday, 18 people met to talk about next steps for the “Traffic related issues in Pune” Action Group.

“We were thinking about canceling the meeting, but many volunteers called and said, ‘If we stay at home, these violent protestors will win,’ ” Connector Abhishek Surywanshi says.

The group was a mix of people from all types of active social initiatives, including TEDxPune, Pune Instagrammers, Wikipiedia Club Pune, Let's Ride, Idealist India, and Humans of Pune. Abhishek was careful to respect all the different personalities present.

“Some people love to listen and later on, in the end, they give feedback. It’s important to respect even silence,” he says.

Despite the Group’s diverse backgrounds, they were able to come to a consensus to focus first on the issue of illegally charging for parking on college campuses.
 
By the end of the meeting, the Group decided on three big action steps. First, they’re going to prove that charging for parking is in fact illegal by filing for a Right to Information (RTI), an act that grants citizens in India the right to request information from a public authority. Second, they’ll be collecting evidence by having people post photos of parking receipts on Instagram. Third, in addition to regular meetups, they’re planning an outing at an adventure park to help team-build. 

Abhishek has been already impressed by the level of commitment he’s seen so far, but he was stunned by the braveness shown at this last meeting given the shaky political climate.

“When people are frustrated with the system, they stay at home and blame,” he says. “In this situation, Idealist members came out of their homes and brainstormed positive ways to change society.”



Want to learn more? Feel free to reach out to Abhishek.

Trending: The tech tool "Nextdoor"

by April Greene on June 4, 2014

We've been enjoying seeing what Connectors around the world are posting to the Resource section of their Team pages. One that's seeming to gain traction is Nextdoor, "the free private social network for your neighborhood community."

Teams in San Diego, California; Washington, D.C.; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (likely among others) have all added it to their resource libraries. What's the draw?

Connector Stephen Hebert from Baton Rouge says:
The appeal for me is in the flexibility and free advertising. Nextdoor allows would-be community organizers to define neighborhood boundaries for new virtual communities based on what they think their neighborhood is. It also includes features like auto-mailing postcards announcing the network to your 50 nearest neighbors—for free.

Because users draw boundaries on maps around particular households, it is anchored to the land in a way that encourages localization. My Nextdoor network is just a few square miles (<5), 584 households, and about 27 members, but I've heard of other networks with thousands of members. Also, only members who are verified to live within the boundaries of the neighborhood are granted access to view and post.

I look forward to bringing it up to the Team at our next meeting.


Connectors, have you used Nextdoor, or another social network built for neighborhoods? Tell us what you've liked and haven't liked in the comments.
Many of the best strategies we can employ as Connectors have already been tried by others. "The wheel's been invented" series spreads the word about great existing resources that can help us do our work. 



Great tips for being an effective Connector often come to us directly from the Idealist community. But we know there are tried-and-true, replicable ideas to be found in every industry, field, and discipline, and we want to offer those up for your consideration, too.

Following on the heels of this post last month where a Connector gave us her top five ideas for facilitating a meeting, we unearthed these tips for hosting effective meetings from the academic and nonprofit sectors:
  • From the University of Kansas' Community Tool Box (previously recommended to us by a Connector in San Diego) comes a slew of insightful advice like: "Don't have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting—meet to achieve a clear goal," "if you're leading the meeting, transition between agenda items by summarizing the conclusion of each point aloud before moving on to the next," and "make sure to schedule informal social time after the meeting—this is often when real connections are made and the best ideas are born."
  • From the Western Organization of Resource Councils, see these tips about removing barriers to participation (such as addressing childcare needs), sending multiple reminders before the meeting (if you really want people there, send notice a week before, then the day before or the morning of), and making sure your meeting space isn't too big for your group, because "empty chairs and empty space are demoralizing" (that's one we'd never thought of!).


Connectors, if you try any of these tips, let us know what you think!

We also want to hear your best tips for facilitating excellent meetings, and what other aspects of your connecting work you'd like advice about. Please comment below, or write to us at idealistblog@idealist.org.

Upcoming Team events

by April Greene on June 3, 2014

The Baton Rouge, LA Team is holding a New Members Welcome meeting at Coffee Call this evening at 9:30.

Baton Rouge


Tomorrow at 6:00 pm, Idealist and PDXTech4Good will host Using Tech to Inspire Action at the Idealist offices in Portland, Oregon.

Portland


On Saturday, June 14, the Seattle Team will hold its third Connector meeting at 11:00 am, venue TBD.

Seattle


Connectors in Cambridge, MA will meet on Thursday, June 19 at 7:00 pm at Bourbon Coffee.

Cambridge



When's your Team's next meeting? Be sure to post the details in your page's Events section to get the word out!

Open question: How can we help you feel less alone?

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on June 3, 2014

As a Connector, you’re excited to meet new people and pool resources. But time has passed and you’re still the only one in your area.

Or maybe it’s the opposite: you have company, in theory at least. You have Team members, but when you try to get something started with them, nobody responds to your discussion topics or messages.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

We know this is happening, and we’re thinking of organizing a conference call in the next few weeks for you to share ideas, tips, and strategies, and in general, to create a camaraderie of folks like you who are in a similar boat.

So our questions to you are these: Would you be interested in such a call? What kinds of things would you like to talk about? Please let us know in the comments or drop a line to megan@idealist.org with any other ideas you have.

Thanks for being on this journey with us!

Securing a regular meeting or event space is proving to be a challenge for some Teams. If you're finding yourself in this situation, consider setting up dedicated days and times in different locations where people can meet, talk, and start taking action.

Since early 2014, Connector Nick Reynolds of the Atlanta, Georgia Team has been hosting monthly "office hours" called Coffee, Collaboration, Tea, and Teamwork in cafes around Atlanta. People come to network, get advice on their projects, have their resumes peer-reviewed, and more. Nick also finds it's a great way to recruit other Connectors. Check out the Tool and Tactic about starting "office hours" where you live.

Here's Nick's take on his experience so far:

Q: What’s one moment that stands out for you when you think about the events you’ve organized?
A: I remember one of the first times the Atlanta Connector Team got together. People down here aren’t familiar with Idealist for the most part, but here were these people who knew enough to sign up and come out to meet like-minded folks. The mechanism of Teams pulls a unique group of people together and out of the woodwork. Atlanta is a diverse city full of people with different backgrounds, and our Team is no exception.

I always keep my eyes and ears open to making connections. My radar is on. I’m interested in making things happen. I just want to keep learning and finding information, and giving it to the right people. You never know when you’re staring a future Connector in the face. It could be anyone—the guy who dropped in to ask for advice with a project, even the barista behind the counter.

We learned that with the right way of explaining what a Connector is at these meetings, the sky’s really the limit with who you can get on board.


To learn more about starting office hours where you live, read the Tool and Tactic.

Have a question for Nick? Message him through his Idealist profile.

Tech Tip: How to use Team pages (video)

by April Greene on June 2, 2014

So you've signed up as a Connector (maybe with a little help from our tutorial?). Great! Now you can start getting the most out of your Team's page.

Your Team's page is the primary hub for Connectors in your area. It's where you can find events, connect with other members, share resources, start discussions, and much more.

This short video will show you all you need to get started.

Open question: How can being a Connector benefit me?

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 30, 2014

As a Connector, you help others.
But you also might be thinking, "How does being a Connector help me?"



Being a Connector has all sorts of perks related to making the world a better place: you're connecting people, sharing good ideas, and encouraging action in your community.

But we're learning that there's also some personal gain to be had in the role. No shame there! Here are a few Connectors sharing how they hope the Idealist Network will benefit them:

From Seana in Tulsa, Oklahoma:

I hope it will provide me with joy, but also career development. This is the sort of work I want to do full time.

From Amanda in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

It would take a lot of the workload off my shoulders for people to connect with each other and not feel like they have to go through me. I first signed up because I feel lonely out here. I want to meet more people who think like this. I want to meet more people who think like a solutionary. Mostly so I don’t feel like I’m going crazy. I want other Connectors in my life and the support of like-minded people who already get the process. They are going to have ways of connecting I want to learn from. That will make my job more fun and easier. Connectors coming together is a huge benefit for everybody.

From Anna in Cambodia:

Being a Connector is a great way for me personally to build a network, and also keep connected with issues outside of Cambodia.

Your turn! How do you hope being a Connector will benefit you?

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.

A new breed of online projects that make a difference in local government are popping up in cities around the world. One of the best parts of these new models? Anyone can contribute something, regardless of their tech skill level. With this Tool and Tactic, you can learn how to produce a crowdsourcing event that involves the community and begins a collaboration between government and citizens. No coding required!

In 2012, the city of Honolulu debuted Honolulu Answers, a website intended to allow citizens easy to access government information. Building the site was pretty simple; filling it with content turned out to be the challenge! With help from Code for America, the city hosted a day-long "write-a-thon" wherein more than 55 community members and city employees collaborated on researching and writing 120 answers to common civic questions.

Below, Sheba Najmi, a 2012 Code for America Fellow, tells us about her personal experience helping to organize the event:



Q: What was something that surprised you about how the write-a-thon went?

A: One of the things that took me by surprise was that 14 city staff members (including a police officer in full uniform) came to participate. They were there, bright and early, at 8:45 AM on a rainy Saturday, unpaid.

I was surprised and grateful that they made the time to share their expertise with citizens, and in the process of answering citizens' questions, I could see their perspective shifting—from the way the city is structured internally to the way things would make sense from a citizen's perspective. They explained things to the people, and they also sat down with their computers to write answers to questions themselves. This was truly the first time I'd seen "government being what we do together" in action.

I was also very touched by their dedication to doing "homework assignments" for four months afterwards. I asked them to review and rewrite citizens' answers over and over, and they did. Not because they were mandated to, but because they wanted to.
And a nice update: Oakland, California city services website Oakland Answers is holding its second annual write-a-thon this weekend! Great to see this idea spreading. Check out their event website: oakanswers.eventbrite.com.

Read the civic write-a-thon Tool and Tactic here.

Good Idea: Open mic for connection-making

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 29, 2014

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.


Connectors, think about all the potential this stage has!


“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?

Connector and Action Group founder Lissa Tsu is committed to helping people make the leap from online to on-the-streets action.

"I think Action Groups are exciting because they can be as big or as small as you want them to be," she says. "They also get people offline and actually engaged in making the world a better place."

Originally from Southern California, Lissa attended Boston College before making San Diego her home base. "I actually started volunteering early in life," she says, "but going to a Jesuit university really cemented my love for immersing myself in under-served communities."

Lissa and her daughter


Lissa considers herself a "Connector-type" in her personal as well as professional life. "I am always thinking about how people I know can help out other people I know. It makes me feel like a part of a community," she says.

"I feel my strength is following through on what I said I would do. I rarely commit to things and then not follow through. I am thoughtful about how I want to spend my time and energy so when I commit to something, I commit."

The Action Group Lissa started is called Downtown San Diego Planter/Bed Beautification. Why this focus? "I started with an AG that would personally make my day," she explains. "Living in Chicago for eight years I saw how truly beautiful sidewalks can be and what a difference that makes in living and working in a place."

"San Diego streets need a lot of love and I think that if we revitalized them we could really improve the image of SD. I live and walk downtown with my daughter most days so I would love a few flowers to brighten the path."

One challenge Lissa's facing so far is recruiting others to join her and start taking action. "I'm a little stuck here," she says. "I think the largest challenge is that once you set [an AG] up it seems easy to get sucked back into 'cyber world.' And I would love some more ideas about how to let the SD community know I started a Group so they could choose to join me."



Other AG founders: how have you recruited members to join your group? Post a comment below or write directly to Lissa through her Idealist profile.

Tech Tip: How to sign up as a Connector (video)

by April Greene on May 28, 2014

If you're not a Connector yet or want to give someone else a hand with signing up, this short-and-sweet instructional video will show you how easy it is to get started.

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.

College debt can greatly affect the career paths of recent graduates concerned about paying back their loans. New York University's Stern School of Business recognized this issue and developed a loan assistance program for MBA graduates working for the public good.

Through the program, alumni earning $100,000 or less while working for a nonprofit or social enterprise can receive as much as $15,000 annually towards their school loans.

Our Tool and Tactic on the subject can tell you more about instituting this benefit at your school, and this article on Stern's website, featuring alumna Dorrit Lowsen, is a perfect case study in how the positive effects of the program can be felt beyond graduates' bank accounts. Lowsen, a 2008 Stern MBA graduate, has spent the last few years living and working in different countries as an IT project consultant for social enterprises:


Dorrit Lowsen (photo via NYU Stern School of Business)

"I’m incredibly thankful to Stern for recognizing the importance of nonprofit work and for supporting alumnae like me who sometimes forgo larger salaries in more traditional industries to do other meaningful work. Because of the Loan Assistance Program, my decision to switch career tracks into the social enterprise sector went from a tough choice to a no-brainer."

Read the rest of Dorrit's story here, and check out the loan assistance Tool and Tactic here.


Spreading the 3Qs in Denver, Colorado

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 27, 2014

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.”

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.


Video: "Together We Can Do More"

by April Greene on May 26, 2014

Our video team recently hit the sunny springtime streets of New York to ask residents why they're excited about the Idealist Network.

Here are their top takeaways, in two bite-sized minutes.

What excites you about the Network?

Meet a Connector: Lotta in Arusha, Tanzania

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 23, 2014

The thing that most excites Lotta Saiteu about the Idealist Network? Its reach.

“I like the fact that Idealist connects people of all kinds,” he says. “I want to help give a common ground to all, especially to those who have no voice.”

With experience in marketing, tourism, anti-violence training, nonprofit management, and as the founder of the organization Volunteers Service for Africa, connecting comes easily to Lotta.

Most recently, he's been working on a project that connects local human rights and women-focused organizations with each other and with overseas volunteers. He’s also been helping high school graduates find scholarships to study outside the country.

“Staying neutral enables me to act as a facilitator and nurture all sides despite any differences,” he says.

Women in Arusha market (photo via Marc Wisniak on Flickr's Creative Commons)


Home to more than 128 tribes, Tanzania is no stranger to difference, yet it is a peaceful and democratic country.

In Lotta’s opinion, the social sector is progressing (healthcare facilities are free for children under five and their mothers, for example, which has reduced the infant mortality rate) and there is no government oppression. The challenges he sees are corruption and shaky commitments from volunteers and nonprofit employees.

Still, Lotta is hopeful. He also wants to work across borders, connecting his city of Arusha with nearby Nairobi, Kenya, to create a platform for change.

“Arusha will benefit so much from this connectivity. There is much to be done here but knowing what to do and when and how is the challenge,” he says. “Being a Connector will give me a chance to learn new things and train others on what I have learned. I just think I have a lot to give.”
_

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

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.

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!

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:

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."


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."


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.

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.

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!

Meet an Action Group founder: Geoffrey in Carpinteria, California

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 21, 2014

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.”


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!

Now that we're several weeks in to posting featured stories on this Hub, we'd love to hear more about what you think of the posts and any suggestions you have for new content:
  • 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 share your ideas in the discussion forum below this post. Thank you!


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

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 20, 2014

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

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.

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

“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.




Meet a Connector: Stephen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 19, 2014

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.’ ”

 

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.


Tech Tip: Shortcut to your Action Group

by Sara Jensen on May 19, 2014

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, you can keep track of it on Idealist via your personal menu:

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.

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

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.


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

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 16, 2014

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.

“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.


Have ideas? Let Foday know or join his Action Group. Curious about Action Groups? Find one near you or start one of your own!


What Connectors have in common

by April Greene on May 15, 2014

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 inKampala, 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 Connector to be profiled on Idealist, shoot us an email: idealistblog@idealist.org.

Meet a Connector: Seana in Tulsa, Oklahoma

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 14, 2014

Seana Wilkerson has her fingers on the pulse of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I’m very active in community events and committees in Tulsa and I can’t help but spread the word about the opportunities that I hear about. It’s a passion of mine to facilitate the success of others,” she says.

Seana has a wide range of interests from photography and Harry Potter to human rights and global poverty. Currently, she works as a Diversity & Inclusion consultant and coordinator for DiversityConneX, an employment matchmaking website.

Seana Wilkerson

For Seana, who’s both local and global-minded, the Idealist Network is the perfect intersection of these two mindsets.

“It’s exciting because it seems much harder to get plugged in or have a global reach from where I sit in the Midwest. I’m hoping to catalyze my efforts and those in my region through it,” she says.

In Seana’s opinion, Tulsa is a great place to do something like this right now. The city is home to an award-winning young professionals network well as a collaborative, socially minded network of organizations and business leaders. The art scene is thriving, downtown is blossoming, entrepreneurship is encouraged, and small businesses rule – with two out of every five being started by minorities.

With all these pieces in place, Tulsa is poised to make these connections stronger. The challenge?

“I think every city struggles with how to get people engaged and the further south you travel in Tulsa, it seems the awareness and engagement drops,” she says. “Another challenge is that many people in the social impact scene are involved in several organizations and projects, so convincing them of another thing, even if it may make things easier in the long run, is tough.”

Seana is a one of two people on the Tulsa Area Team at the moment and remains hopeful that others will join. The Connector role couldn’t be any more suited to who she is.

“Neutrality doesn’t come natural because I hold strong opinions, but I recognize it is not all about me,” she says. “However, most of the time I get so excited thinking about ways to help someone that I don’t care if it is something I would do myself. I just want to see them reach that next step.”


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



5 tips to facilitate a great meeting

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 13, 2014

To Connector Monique Dupre, facilitation is much more than simply making sure a meeting runs smoothly.

“When you can draw out ideas and potential, amazing things can happen,” she says. “If people walk away from a meeting feeling empowered and motivated, you would see how that would change a lot of things – not only in the workplace, but on the personal level.”

Monique’s interest in facilitation began when she realized that the event planning she was doing for a variety of organizations and personal projects over the past 11 years – from helping refugees start gardens to fundraising at her daughter’s school to leading eco-culinary tours in France – required meetings.

In her experience, there is nothing worse than a meeting that goes on too long or has no clear purpose.

So she took an intensive workshop with renowned facilitator Barbara McKay, and began practicing what she learned. Here are her top five tips especially as it relates to Connector Teams:

1. Assign a facilitator.

A facilitator’s main role is to draw out people’s ideas as it relates to the agenda while staying neutral.

If nobody steps up, rotate turns. If someone is hesitant or thinks they might not be good at it, an alternative is to have them take notes on the board.

2. Have a clear agenda and stick to it.

At the beginning of the meeting, go around and ask people what’s most pressing to them to talk about and how much time they have. Once the agenda is agreed upon, post it up on the wall for everyone to see.

An ideal time for a meeting is one hour, but if it goes longer, make sure to take a break. Use a timekeeper to help stay on track. A “parking lot” is also a way to capture ideas or questions for another time.

3. Listen. Really listen.

The biggest responsibility of the facilitator is to make sure everyone feels heard. Writing ideas on a whiteboard, for example, helps people to see they were listened to. It also keeps things on track, and eliminates repetition.

Another way is to repeat back and summarize what someone just said: “This is what I heard you say. Is it okay if I put it like this?” This is good with someone who’s especially chatty.

“Even the most hot-headed, can’t-stop-talking person wants to be heard. Getting them to stop talking is the exact opposite of what should happen. Instead, channel that energy and conversation in the right direction,” she says.

How else to do this? Stand next to them. Encourage others who haven’t said much to talk. Pose a question and go around the room.

4. Ask specific questions.

Instead of questions that lead to “yes” or “no” answers, try questions that are specific and have “why” in them.

Think of it this way: asking a kid how their day was like always yields a vague answer such as “fine.” But if you ask who they went out to lunch with and why, you’ll find their answer to be much more robust.

5. Be humble.

Leave your ego and judgment at the door.

“The way I do it in my head is that I see each person as a treasure chest of amazing knowledge and wonderful experiences. They might not see it that way, but they are,” she says. “If you can step outside yourself and simply listen to what’s going on and who’s bringing what to the table, then I think you can be neutral in your actions.”

With all of this, Monique encourages you to practice  – with your partner, your kid(s), a stranger at the grocery store. Look people in the eye. Be in the moment.

“Facilitation can be learned. It’s stuff we do already but we don’t realize it. It’s just awareness and listening skills that overlap with every single conversation we have in life,” she says. “It’s communicating in a way that each person feels they have brought something to the table and walks away feeling good.”

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Feel free to reach out to Monique on her blog or contact her directly for additional advice: moniquedupre@gmail.com. For more good tips, Monique recommends Barbara McKay’s blog.


Meet an Action Group founder: Abhishek Surywanshi in Pune, India

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 12, 2014

Connector Abhishek Surywanshi is all about providing access and opportunities to others.

As the curator of TEDxPune, he hosts periodic events for seven slum areas in the city along with community programs. He’s also working on the Spoken Wikipedia project, which brings recordings of articles to the rural, illiterate, and visually impaired population.

“If we want to make the world a better place, it is important to empower each and every section of society,” he says. “I believe knowledge and opportunities must be free, open, and accessible to all.”

Abhishek recently created the “Empowering the underprivileged in Pune” Action Group to find like-minded people willing to help bridge the gap.

Abhishek (middle) at a recent TEDx Pune community event.

“Pune is known for ideas worth spreading,” he says. “We are hopeful this model will inspire Pune’s underprivileged communities as well as the world.”

He believes in organic growth, and is currently using Facebook and email to spread awareness about the Group. He’s also open to all kinds of support and guidance from others outside Pune, and will be planning online meetings through Skype and Google so anyone anywhere can jump in on the conversation.

“Playing the role of catalyst is important. The community and Group must feel the ownership of activities, and to make sure everyone is participating in the long run, it is crucial to give justice to each and everyone’s idea,” he says.

As of right now, five new members have joined Abhishek.

“It looks like a promising tool to channelize energy and efforts,” he says. “Already we have got potential volunteers through the Action Group so it’s a fantastic start.”



In Pune and interested in the cause? Join the Group’s first meeting on May 17. Not in Pune? Check out the Action Groups near you or start one of your own!


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.

Whether you’re a municipal employee or an ordinary citizen, delivering feedback to your local government—and getting it from your fellow locals—can be a challenge, but online platforms are proving to be one good solution.

Wichita, Kansas’ local government has seen great success with Activate Wichita, an “online conversation about the future of the Greater Wichita metropolitan area.” The city created the site last year to help it reach and ask a larger and more diverse representation of the population for feedback about municipal priorities and services. By all accounts, it’s already become a rich and useful source of questions and comments from the community.

Below, Cynthia Berner Harris, Director of Libraries in Wichita and a key organizer of Activate Wichita, talks about her experience with the website as a librarian and administrator:

Wichita encourages all its residents to use Activate Wichita.
(image courtesy Wichita Public Library)

Q: Can you tell us about a particularly memorable moment in your planning or using the site?

A: An obvious moment was when we were notified we’d won a national award, the 2014 LibraryAware Community Award. A large part of that was the Activate Wichita project, as a component of the way we just get out and partner with the community, listen to the community, because we are ourselves a part of the community, too.

It didn’t occur to us that this work was extraordinary or revolutionary, and certainly we’re not the only library involved in engagement. But perhaps we’re a little farther along than other libraries. We don’t often consider ourselves in that position. It’s catching notice.


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


Tales of Tools and Tactics: Hold a 3Qs meeting

by April Greene on May 9, 2014

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.

The goal of a 3Qs meeting is to surface people’s intentions by inviting them to share their answers to three short questions (the 3Qs):
  1. What do you care about/what do you want to do for the common good?
  2. What’s stopping you or getting in your way?
  3. What would help you take the next step?

Wherever you are, you can do the 3Qs as a one-time exercise to engage people in your community and find out what inspires or concerns them. Or you can make it a regular event—a way for people to connect in person and inspire follow-up.

Some Teams find the 3Qs especially good as a getting-to-know-you exercise at their first meeting. Below, Connector Ashifa Sarkar Vasi of Baton Rouge, Louisiana tells us about her experience when her Team did the 3Qs:

Ashifa Sarkar Vasi

Q: What are some particular memories you have of doing the 3Qs exercise with your Team?

A: I had not really thought about how it would go. I went to the meeting expecting anything since I did not know my fellow Connectors. It was a surprisingly easy and comfortable meeting that set wheels in motion for ongoing conversations and meetings.

I remember that towards the end, despite our differences in passions, we all felt a sense of common desire to improve our local communities and the lives around us. And that it was a wonderful feeling to find like-minded individuals. We may be called Connectors, but that meeting connected us to each other in a powerful way.


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




Meet a Connector: Daniela in Quito, Ecuador

by Elena Martín on May 9, 2014

Daniela Pardo

As soon as she began volunteering with small organizations years ago, Daniela knew that she’d started down a road from which there was no turning back. These early experiences volunteering led her to jobs with organizations such as UNICEF and her beloved TECHO in Ecuador, which works toward eradicating poverty in slums.

“Being in contact with people and seeing their evolution is an amazing feeling,” says Daniela.

She first learned about Idealistas, Idealist’s sister site in Spanish, while getting her Masters degree in Barcelona. She’s been following Idealist ever since and joined the Idealist Network as a Connector in Quito when the ideas shared during the March 11 presentation captured her imagination.

Daniela is passionate about networks in Ecuador that focus on the nonprofit sector, social entrepreneurship and social impact. She believes that the Idealist Network will contribute to helping more people put their ideas into action.

In this sense, her role as a Connector reflects perfectly her personality.

“When I have only have one thing to do, I feel like I’m wasting my time. I like having many things to do. I like learning about other projects and, from my experience with TECHO, I know that if you stay seated, things are not going to happen just because you want them to, you have to make them happen,” she says. “Even though I’m at a point where I’m trying to define which other projects I could take on, I would really like to help others who are already clear on what they want to do and simply need support to do it.”

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

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Daniela es Ecuatoriana y supo cuando comenzó a colaborar como voluntaria en organizaciones del tercer sector que había iniciado “un camino sin vuelta atrás”. Ese primer contacto como voluntaria la llevó a trabajar para organizaciones como UNICEF o su adorado TECHO en Ecuador. Para ella “el contacto con las personas, ver la evolución en el proceso es una sensación incomparable.”

Fue estudiando una maestría en Barcelona que supo por primera vez de la existencia de Idealistas.org y desde entonces, lee todos nuestros mails. Fue así que cuando recibió la invitación de Ami, siempre abierta a ver qué más hay ahí fuera que la pueda hacer crecer, se quedó atrapada con la idea y acabó sumándose al movimiento como conectora en Quito, la ciudad donde vive.

Daniela está muy ligada al ecosistemas de redes que poco a poco se va desarrollando en Ecuador y que tienen que ver con el tercer sector, los emprendimientos sociales y la generación de impacto social. Participa en varios espacios para emprendedores sociales e imagina que esta red añadirá más semillas a este ecosistema, para que puedan ser más los que conectando consigan poner sus ideas en marcha.

En este sentido, su rol como Conectora encaja totalmente con su personalidad. Como nos comparte:

“Cuando yo tengo solo un cosa que hacer, siento que estoy desperdiciando mi tiempo. Me gusta tener muchas cosas que hacer. Me gusta conocer otros proyectos y por la experiencia de TECHO se que si te quedas sentada las cosas no van a pasar porque tú quieras, tú tienes que hacerlas pasar. Aunque yo estoy en un punto en el que estoy tratando de definir qué otros proyectos podría abarcar, sí que me gustaría ayudar a aquellos que lo tienen más claro y que necesitan algún tipo de apoyo”.

¿Vives en Quito? Únete a este equipo. O si vives en cualquier otro lugar, encuentra el equipo de Conectores más cercano o crea el tuyo propio.



Meet an Idealist staff member: Megan O'Leary on team work

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 8, 2014

Megan O’Leary, Community Relations Manager at Idealist, will be the first to admit that working on a team is hard. Really hard.

“It’s some of the hardest work we can do. I tell groups of people all the time, if you think it’s easy, you’re probably missing something,” the AmeriCorps alumna with City Year says. “But I think it can be really worth it.”

With the Idealist Network, Megan’s evolving role is part-cheerleader, part-resource, part-guide. So far she’s been reaching out to Teams with upcoming meetings, troubleshooting any problems, and in general, being a source of support for Connectors.

Being a part of a team is her favorite way to get work done. From her time with City Year, Megan has a ton of experience working with others toward a common goal.

She started out twelve years ago implementing service learning projects with middle school students in San Jose, California then formally came on board City Year as a fundraiser. Before long, she was leading the team as Deputy Director.

Then she moved to Sacramento in 2011 where she was in charge of opening a new site. It was a crazy time – her team was made up of strangers thrown together from ten different City Year sites and they had six months to open the doors.

As the new kids on the block, they worked extra hard to build bridges with the community, and get to know the systems already in place.

While reflecting on all these experiences, Megan’s had some realizations about what it’s meant to be a part of a team all these years, which as an only child, she admits she’s drawn to.

“Something I really struggled with in my first year of AmeriCorps is that I couldn’t always tell if the people on my team cared as much as me. There were any number of ways I felt offended that they weren’t always demonstrating their commitment in a way I thought I was satisfactory or identical to what I was doing,” she says. “But I think everyone’s 100% looks different. You can’t give 100% everyday. You give what you can when you can.”

Her other advice for Connector Teams? Have a shared goal. Figure out what you’re doing and more importantly, why. Take the time to get know each other on a human level and share a meal. Realize the value you bring to the table. Appreciate one another. Lean into the process even if it seems scary.

“This might be hard or feel funky, but try it anyway. What do you have to lose?” she says.

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Megan would love to help your Team and hear what you’re up to. Whether you’re wondering what should be on the agenda to how best to do local outreach to which tech tools to use, Megan’s here for you. Get in touch: megan.oleary@idealist.org.

Open question: Have resources, need connections?

by April Greene on May 7, 2014

We’ve noticed some Teams talking about how they live in a resource-rich community, but feel that all the great stuff they have to offer could be put to better use if they were more connected.

This is a good problem to have, and tackling it is one of the goals of the network: how do we connect more resources and people so that fewer opportunities for action are missed?

Here’s what some of you are saying about it:

AJ in Lima, Peru:

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.

Normally I’d say that being enthusiastic will help me as a Connector to keep the momentum going, but there’s already so much energy and passion at play here on the part of the people themselves—they just need a solid network to complement their efforts!

Nick in Atlanta, Georgia:

Atlanta is a city of the civil rights movement, and the history down here is a very active one. What’s great about the city is that there’s a nonprofit for everything you can think of. We have some serious market saturation going on. So there’s no lack of opportunity to serve.

But what I hear a lot from the organizations I’m meeting with is that as much as we have all these different organizations out there trying to promote positive change, there’s a real lack of connectivity and collaboration.

Kieve and Noah in Austin, Texas:

We have a very large non-profit sector here in Austin – over 7000, and potentially growing. This is a little daunting when it comes to connecting people to organizations and volunteer opportunities.

What would help us, is to get some input from sister cities/teams that also share this unique demographic. How they are getting started and what first steps they are taking in tackling such a large span of organizations. Can you shed some light on this for us… or connect us to a similar group or groups?

What do you think? Does your community have a wealth of resources but need help connecting them? How are you and your Teammates approaching the issue?
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.

A great way to bring your organization together while benefiting your local community is to organize a volunteer service project with your coworkers. For extra credit, consider putting money allocated for company BBQs or parties back into the community and host a service project with it instead. In 2001, global visual computing company NVIDIA began directing funds originally intended for their annual holiday party toward volunteer service projects that involve employees, their families, and the community. Since then, they’ve hosted “a party with a purpose” each December.

Below, Megan O’Leary, Idealist’s Community Relations Manager and a City Year alum, reflects on her personal experience working with NVIDIA on their fun service projects.

Q: Can you tell us about some particular times that stand out in your mind when you remember your time working on this project?
A: I was lucky to work as a member of the City Year team with NVIDIA on Project Inspire in 2009, 2010, and 2011. As a member of the planning team, my greatest fears leading up to the service days were always, “Will anyone actually show up? Will we have enough coffee? Will people have fun and be glad they came out?”

But each year on a chilly Saturday in December starting at 8:00 am, the volunteers did come, there was enough coffee, and NVIDIA employees told us they were proud to work for a company that decided to forgo their annual holiday party in favor of coming together as a team and contributing to the community.

I’ve seen firsthand that volunteer service projects can be a powerful way to build bridges across teams of employees, and can also be an effective way to collaborate with communities and neighborhoods to meet critical needs.

To learn more, read the Tool and Tactic here. Connectors, have you had experience facilitating a team volunteer project at your workplace? Tell us about it in the comments!

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

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 5, 2014

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.”

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.

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!

Making connections in Malmö, Sweden

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 5, 2014

Connector Julieta Talavera first heard about Connectors when we did some preliminary testing of the concept with a small group of New Yorkers a couple of years ago. The idea immediately resonated with her.

“I thought, this is amazing. We need Connectors,” the Argentina native says.

She decided to try out an early version of a 3Qs meeting at her local laundromat, and also set up a box at the library where people could write what was stopping them from taking action and why.

While she never got to see the fruits of her efforts there because she soon moved to Malmö, Sweden, to study international relations, Julieta carried the idea of Connectors to her new home.

In Malmö, with the help of her friend Jonathan Ng, she recruited people to participate in a 3Qs meeting by telling people they knew and posting flyers across the city. Their particular interest and focus was people interested in social entrepreneurship and innovation.

By promoting and hosting the 3Qs meeting, “we had an excuse to knock on doors, find interesting people, make friends, share experiences, and learn from each other,” she says.

Connectors Malmö is all about looping the city’s resources together.
(photo courtesy Șuiu Marius)

After the initial meeting, they became a support group for their own social innovation projects and then began inviting more people to join the group and speak at their meet-ups. Eventually, they evolved into Connectors Malmö, an organization that encourages connections and collaborations to make Malmö and the world a better place.

They do this in a variety of ways, such as bike tours that introduce people to creative spaces, incubators, and more around town; 24 hour social innovation camps that pair problems with creative problem-solvers; a networking event called the Connectors Salon; a citywide calendar; a map that will visualize and categorize all the resources in the city, from libraries to funding opportunities; and more.

“We help people take their first step,” she says. “If you can prove to yourself you can do it once, then the second and third time come along easier. We really try to encourage that.”

Recently, they also started the Networking Bank, a database of people willing to share their skills for the common good.

“If you want to do something, you need to collaborate with others. You need to meet other people,” she says. “There’s no other way.”

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Think something like the Connectors Salon or Networking Bank could help your Team? Feel free to reach out to Connectors Malmö for advice on getting started: contact@connectorsmalmo.com.

Visualization: Austin’s mind map

by April Greene on May 2, 2014

Noah Stoehle and Kieve Garner, two Connectors from Austin, Texas, think visually.

At one of their first meetings, they created this mind map to express “how we see this vision of the Connector Team and the Action Groups.”

“What we did,” Kieve explains, “was define specific roles on the Connector Team. It helped us to make things more concrete so we could cut out confusion for ourselves and new Team members. We wanted to share this with you too and get your feedback. Maybe this will help cut out confusion for other folks. We found that it helped to see it visually.”


Our feedback? First, we appreciate the deep thinking that went into putting this map together! The roles and goals are quite clear. We’re not sure it’s necessary to put “cause” in front of Connector, though, but we’re thinking on it. Thank you, Austin!

Connectors, does seeing your roles and the relationships between Teams and Action Groups mapped out make it easier to envision the Idealist Network? Does it raise any new questions or thoughts? Please share in the comments below.



Action Groups are live!

by Elise Hoffberg on May 1, 2014

Action Groups are live, and ready for you to start one.

When we first shared this whole idea with you, we described those two people looking out their windows, dreaming about a garden below. Now we can start closing these gaps, and we’d love to do this with you.

You can start an Action Group for your neighborhood, workplace, school, university, or house of worship. Or you can choose to focus on an issue you care about, such as education, homelessness, or the environment.

The first and most important step is to define the community you want to serve, and start your group.

For now, please don’t worry about how you’ll get people to join it. We’ll work with you on that. But first we need to know that you want to do this.

As with everything we do at Idealist, we’ve started with the minimum set of features, and with your feedback we’ll build up from here.

To start, please let us know if anything is not clear, or if anything is not working the way you think it should. (Feel free to post your questions or ideas right on that page so that everyone can see them.)

Thanks again for your support over the past few weeks. With this last piece in place, we’ll soon be in a position to start promoting this whole initiative more widely, and we look forward to that.

Tech Tip: U.S. cities are now metro areas

by April Greene on May 1, 2014

Here's an an update from our tech support team's Sara Jensen:

If your Team is in the United States, you may have noticed your name is different today.

We just updated the Team pages so that many cities across the U.S. are now organized by metropolitan area, which includes surrounding suburbs.

Why did we do this?

We noticed there were several one-member Teams close to cities with engaged Connectors, and we wanted to help those Teams of one connect with others nearby. This change most impacts suburban Teams who are now grouped into a single metro area Team.

We consolidated all existing Topics and Resources into the Area Teams, so anything you posted through the Idealist Network should still be available.

Note that when you search for a Team by location and it’s a part of a metro area, you’re directed to the Metro Area Team. For example: searching for Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, gets you to the Portland Area Team page:

We excluded a few cities because they are seriously buzzing with Connectors! These include NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, L.A., the Bay Area, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.

Tech Tip:

If you’d prefer to continue having a Team for your specific town, you can propose it at the bottom of the Team page. To be created, a proposed Team must have three additional members join you.

Meet a Connector: Anna in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on May 1, 2014

When Anna McKeon moved to Cambodia from the UK three years ago, her connecting powers multiplied.

“I’ve always been something of a connector, and that’s especially true in Cambodia,” the nonprofit communications consultant says. “Working as an expat you quickly become a point of contact for new people arriving in a country, or for visitors passing through. I enjoy introducing like-minded people.”

Anna’s also one of those people who’s linked to a variety of groups. A singer in her spare time, she has contacts in the music industry as well as at hotels and restaurants. With her job, she’s always in need of writers and designers, and stays in regular touch with different nonprofits and social enterprises.

“I enjoy meeting new people and am always happy to take some time out for a coffee, or send a few emails to introduce people,” she says. “I also try and be pretty open about my experiences in Asia – I believe in sharing mistakes I’ve made, so that other people can avoid doing the same!”

For Anna, transparency and a collaborative mindset are two things that make the Idealist Network most appealing.

Living in Phnom Penh, Anna can’t help but want to do more with the abundant resources around her. The city is home to a number of socially responsible for-profit initiatives and tech start-ups led by young Cambodians, for example.

It’s also a hub for large aid organizations as well as smaller nonprofits. In Anna’s opinion, real change can happen here because there are so many decision makers in one place.

The challenge? The greatest need isn’t in the city, but in the rural areas where most organizations tend to run their projects.

“This is good and bad—as it’s easier for people to make powerful connections here, but equally Phnom Penh is not representative of the majority of Cambodia, nor of the challenges that many people face in their daily lives,” she says. “However, it’s a very positive, dynamic place to be”.

With the Idealist Network, Anna hopes to make more connections happen throughout Cambodia, and has a particular interest in helping to facilitate responsible volunteerism.

So far she’s exchanged messages with another Team member and is hoping that when her workload lightens she can devote more time to the Network. But one of her work projects right now—where she’s connecting people from faith, travel, education, and corporate communities —is priming her for the Connector role.

“Neutrality is really about not judging others’ choices, and I think that is always important! So I’m getting quite a lot of practice,” she says.


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


Check out our first Action Groups!

by April Greene on April 30, 2014

Last week, we launched Action Groups. These location- or issue-based support groups are started and facilitated by one or more Connectors, and open to anyone who wants to take action on an issue, or help others do so.

We’re excited to see the first Action Groups starting to form and get moving! Here’s a quick sample of what’s going on so far:


Monthly Beach Cleanup in California

This Group is focused on “protecting the habitat of land and marine life on the Carpinteria, CA beaches through removal of trash, excess soot from fire, etc… Our goal is to keep the beaches clean for the animals who call these places home and the people who enjoy visiting our beautiful coastline.” They’re planning their first meeting for May 10.

 

Empowering the Underprivileged in Pune

Connector Abhishek and five others are focused on “inspiring our underprivileged community for a better tomorrow,” and remembering that “simple things like donating one hour for the community can make a big difference. It is about bridging the gap.” Their first meeting is set for May 17.

 

Alliance des ONG pour le Developpement Durable et la Lutte Contre la Pauvrete

This Group of nonprofit leaders in the Ivory Coast is acting en français to better help the Ivorian community “participate in democratic debate and development.” Their first meeting is scheduled for May 30.

 

If you’d like to start an Action Group for your setting (such as your neighborhood, workplace, or school) or for an issue you care about (like homelessness, the environment, or education), read all about it and get started here!

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.

Many nonprofits can’t afford to pay sticker price for services, software, or other expensive but beneficial products. To help bridge the gap, companies can choose to provide in-kind donations or very deep discounts to organizations. This practice can help to spread a company’s name, identify its brand with “good” stuff, and make a real and lasting impact on the ground.

For over ten years, the Salesforce.com Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Salesforce.com, a cloud computing company) has been offering a very useful product donation: ten free licenses of the Enterprise Edition of their customer relationship management application to any eligible nonprofit or higher ed institution in the U.S. or Canada (with similar programs in many other countries). Great discounts on further licenses, as well as on other Salesforce products and trainings, are also on offer.

Below, Nat Robinson, CEO of Juhudi Kilimo, a nonprofit that provides loans and business training to farmers in Kenya, relates his experience as a recipient of Salesforce.com Foundation donations:

Juhudi Kilimo works to empower farmers in Kenya
(photo via Juhudi Kilimo)


Q: What are some of the ways these product donations have affected your work?

A: Our business is all about generating large volumes and sustaining high efficiency, since we cannot charge high interest rates to our rural farmers. When we collected information on paper, it used to get ruined in bad weather. With Sales Cloud, staff can enter information straight into our Farmers Lead Management system. Also, other organisations don’t venture beyond 20 kilometres from the closest rural town. Thanks to the Salesforce1 Mobile App, we can go as far afield as 100 kilometres, which opens up a lot more communities.

We now have much better visibility of our finances and can check each farm’s repayment status on a daily basis, which makes it easier for us to manage potential risks. With Salesforce, staff only need to come back to one of our eight field offices once a week, which cuts down on our operational overheads. We can also track the different ways we are reaching people and determine which are the most cost-effective.

By giving the right people the right tools, we’ll be able to meet our goal of supporting 100,000 farmers by 2015.


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



Field Report! Team meeting in Kampala, Uganda

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 29, 2014

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’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.

Meet a Connector: Amanda in Fayetteville, Arkansas

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 29, 2014

Amanda Bancroft connects people all the time. Locals come to her to find jobs, organizations to volunteer with, and more.

“I’m an introvert. I’m not a social butterfly. So it’s not based on me having a huge network of friends,” she says. “It’s more based on the way I think about the layout of cities and the layout of resources: what already exists out there, what events are coming up, what organizations are doing what and when.”

A former AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, Amanda is obsessed with capacity building—that is, making sure people and nonprofits have the know-how to do more with the resources they have or fill in the gaps where needed.

When she’s not working at a clothing store downtown or studying to become a master naturalist, Amanda’s full-time volunteer gig is developing and blogging for Ripples. She describes it as “a loose global network of capacity builders and others who want to make positive impact with small droplets that lead to big waves.”

Amanda on a hike at Ozark Natural Science Center.
(photo courtesy Amanda Bancroft)

Amanda and her husband Ryan are currently creating a checklist of 30 questions for people to ask themselves before they take action. They range from “Does this action help or hurt the environment?” to “Does it support diverse communities?” to “Is there a foundation for long-term change?”

Amanda sees this accessible methodology as a way to encourage others to take their first step.

“Knowing how to think about making a difference might help people utilize these resources that are just flying all around us. There’s almost an overabundance,” she says.

Fayetteville has hundreds of nonprofits, tons of people motivated to do good, progressive values, a lot of creative types, grantmakers and donors, and in general, a culture of helping others.

But in Amanda’s opinion, people aren’t taking full advantage of all that’s there. For example, despite the large amount of nonprofits in the area, only a dozen or so are listed on Idealist.

Additionally, projects pop up and die all the time. Amanda would love to see lasting change, more ripples of action, and a shift in thinking about connecting.

“The Idealist Network could offer Fayetteville a lot in terms of connecting,” she says. “The trick and challenge will be to help people understand why connecting will get them what they want.”

Want to learn more about how Ripples might help you or your Team? Get in touch with Amanda: MakeSomeRipples@gmail.com.

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

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.

A great thing about the Idealist Network is that everyone brings their own skills, connections, and knowledge to the table. A great thing about Google Docs (or even a spiral notebook) is that they allow you to use a simple template to create an inventory of all these resources. Share the knowledge, Team!

Below, Connector (and Idealist video producer) Liz Morrison of the Brooklyn, New York Team tells us a little about her experience starting such a resource inventory.

Team Brooklyn. Liz is on the left.
(photo courtesy Liz Morrison)


Q: What’s been the biggest challenge of creating or maintaining your resource inventory and how have you addressed it?

A: The biggest challenge has been getting people to start using it! I’ve mentioned it at meetings, posted it on our Team page’s discussion board, and talked it up to every Brooklyn and New York Connector I’ve met. We’ve started to see people filing out the first sheet with contact information, which is great and helpful. But the next step is to get them to complete the info in the other tabs—that includes memberships/affiliations, meeting locations, and existing action resources.

In order to continue growing this document, I’ll keep giving friendly reminders about it at meetings and explaining the various information categories people can contribute to; post it again on our discussion board; and maybe print a paper copy for people to fill out on-the-spot at our next meeting. Hopefully as more Teams start creating their own resource inventories (like San Diego), more Connectors will learn about the concept and start using it as a matter of course!

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



Tech Tip: How to update your Idealist profile

by April Greene on April 25, 2014

Completing your profile on Idealist is one of the best ways to connect with the Idealist community.

Through your profile, you can message other people and organizations doing good; create Email Alerts to hear about new opportunities for action; and view people in your area who share your passions—to name just a few.

Additionally, as a Connector, maintaining a colorful, informative profile will help you in your work.

Displaying more of your interests and areas of expertise will help more people to find you, and they’ll feel more invited to connect with you if they know what you’re about.

Creating a stellar profile is easy—Kat from our video team walks you through it in this short video.


How has your Idealist profile helped you in your work as a Connector?

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

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 24, 2014

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?

Field Report! Team meeting in Phoenix, Arizona

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 24, 2014

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.

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.

Tales of Tools and Tactics: Volunteer speed matching

by April Greene on April 23, 2014

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:

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!

Meet a Connector: Leonie in Brisbane, Australia

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 23, 2014

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.

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.

Tech Tip: How to subscribe to Team discussions

by Sara Jensen on April 22, 2014

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.

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!)

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

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.)


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.

Ami and Megan field questions from Seattle

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 22, 2014

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

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!




Meet a Connector: Blaise in Nairobi, Kenya

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 21, 2014

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.

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

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.




Idealist is hiring a Director of Communications!

by April Greene on April 21, 2014

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.


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
  • 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.

Open question: Should we form a statewide Team?

by Celeste Hamilton Dennis on April 19, 2014

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.

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!


What's this all about?

by Ami Dar on April 17, 2014

On March 11 we launched this new project with a live presentation that was streamed online. Here is the recording.

Next steps, and expectations

by Ami Dar on April 16, 2014

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!

We’ve been talking a lot lately about our Tools & 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 & 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.



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.



3. So I clicked on the button and the discussion now lives on my Team’s page. Behold!



4. At the same time, my Team page gets a Tools & Tactics section. Go multi-tasking! (Pro tip: Each Tool & Tactic has only one discussion per Team associated with it. So once someone in your Team has pulled a Tool & Tactic onto your page, you’ll be able to join the discussion and upvote comments.)



That’s it. It’s a small thing, but we hope it makes connecting easier.

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.

Meet a Connector: AJ in Lima, Peru

by April Greene on April 15, 2014

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.

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.

Field Report! Team meetings in San Diego, California

by April Greene on April 14, 2014

San Diego is on a roll!

The city is already home to 26 Connectors who have held two meetings. And so far, so good.

“Everyone was very enthusiastic, worked well together, shared their backgrounds, and came up with great ideas and questions,” says Lissa Tsu.

Fellow Team member Diana Osorio agrees.

“I feel that we all are going to work great together; we all have our minds and intentions in providing services and helping others. Everyone is interested in pitching in and helping,” she says.

Four of San Diego’s finest
(photo courtesy Lissa Tsu)

So far, here’s what the Team’s been tackling:

  • Meeting spaces. The first cafe they chose was noisy and crowded, but the second had a large private lounge, free wi-fi, and was centrally located. (A lesson for Teams: if at first you don’t succeed…)
  • Paper handouts. “One thing that immediately came up was a lack of tangible advertising,” says Lissa. “We all see the need for some sort of card to distribute to people we know and meet describing the movement. It would be nice to post some flyers/postcards around our neighborhood.” Idealist is currently working on developing some handouts, but this Team is eager to start making moves so they’re drafting their own possibilities now.
  • Gender equality. “We noticed out of the first 24 Connectors here in SD, only six were men,” says Lissa. “So that may be a good place to focus our recruitment efforts!”
  • The whole Internet. In addition to maintaining a great Team page on Idealist, San Diego is using (or considering) Facebook, Hangtime, and Nextdoor to help them stay organized, connected, and spread the word.

What do they feel are their biggest challenges? Diana says:

San Diego, as any other city or community, has always many issues—so many that ‘it takes a village’ to make a change. But that’s precisely what Connectors are about: a big group of people involved and constantly growing to make things happen.

Our biggest challenge at this point is to be able to gather a large group to attend the Connector meetings and also how are we going to grow our Team. We haven’t been able to get a high attendance to our meetings so far, although we have changed the date and place.

We are hoping that by creating more massive advertising, we can get more people involved. [Connector] Janine and I, during our second meeting, found some local magazines and were thinking that it will be nice if we could get a press release or comment published about our Team.

All in all, we understand this is just the beginning and it will get better as time passes by. I am an eternal optimist and am sure that things will only get better.


Do you have advice for the San Diego Team? Share it in the comments or message one of their Connectors. If you live in the San Diego area, sign up to join them!

If you live elsewhere, look for a Team near you. If you’re not a Connector yet, learn all about it and sign up here!


Tools & 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. 


Conference organizers take note! Conferences are great for networking and learning, but they can also be prime opportunities to give back to local communities.

Below, Cheryl Hanback, who helped organize the day of service for the The Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) Conference, shares her experience:

NTEN conference-goers give back.
(image courtesy NTEN)

Q: In all your years of helping to organize NTEN’s Nonprofit Tech Conference’s Day of Service, what’s something you’ve seen carry over from year to year?

A: Camaraderie between conference attendees that volunteered during the day of service—whether we worked in a soup kitchen or in small teams to help a nonprofit with a tech challenge they were facing. I wouldn’t have put a price on that, or guessed it would’ve happened. Conference attendees came back year after year and felt so bonded, because you’ve gone out and helped that day, and you did it together. People made real connections. You don’t just sit at a lunch table for five minutes before a speaker starts, or eat dinner next to someone. You make real, grounded relationships.


To learn more, read the Tool & Tactic here. Interested in becoming a Connector? Get started here!
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Working with others, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect, I want to help build a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.

In my role as a Connector, I commit to:

Please check the box to continue.
Please check the boxes to continue.