Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Connecting Virtually During #Covid-19

This morning I spent about an hour in a webinar hosted by Valerie Leonard, founder of NonProfit Utopia, which seeks to support organizations in the non-profit sector.  At about the 35 minute mark of the webinar Valerie shared her screen with me and I presented some ideas that people might adopt over the next few weeks and months. Take a look at the whole recording, or just the last part.

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This webinar was focused on strategies non-profit organizations might use to struggle through the massive disruptions caused by Covid-19 and the recovery that will come at some point in the future. As I listened to the first part of the webinar and viewed Valerie's slides I wrote some notes on my notepad, which I later referred to in my segment. Here's what I wrote:

Where are you located?

First. Ask  yourself, "What is my geography"?  Create a map and put an X on it to show where you live, or where your nonprofit organization is located.  The boundary of this map could be as small as a few blocks, or as large as a Chicago Community Area, Alderman's Ward, a zip code, or section of the city.  You decide.

Then ask, "Who are peers, or other organizations, doing similar work to what I do, within this geography?"  If you are a non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor program, I already have created a map showing nearly 200 existing organizations.  Similar maps are being created by STEM networks, ARTS networks, and others.  Any can be used as a base map for your own individualized map.

Then ask, "Who are other  organizations in my geographic area who are resources to me?" Universities, hospitals, faith groups, businesses, consulting groups, etc. all could be shown on the map. They all share the same geography, thus should share a concern for the well-being of the people and organizations serving that region.

is there a conversation?
Next, ask, "How well am I connected to these other organizations? Are we connected on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Instagram? Are we following each other? Do we share email newsletters?"

Are we regularly sharing ideas about what works, what does not work, what are common challenges we each face? Are there ways to address these collectively, as a shared commitment, rather than trying to solve these through our singular, limited efforts?

During the next few weeks while you're home-bound would be a good time to collect this information and start reaching out to people in your geography.

Then ask, "Am I looking at a wider geography, too?" Who else in Chicago does what I do?  Do they have conversations about issues that I can join and learn from?  Are they sharing ideas that I could use to improve my own organization, or to deal better with this crisis?

Look beyond Chicago, nationally, even internationally.

Think of this as network building, starting locally, but reaching globally
The Covid-19 pandemic affects people throughout the world. Thus, there must be some who are innovating ways to help social organizations survive and even thrive during this crisis.  There must be many with ideas of how to stay connected to youth and adult clients and help them during the months when they are home-bound and isolated from each other.

There must be ways to reach out to technology companies, policy-makers and donors to make broadband internet access available in EVERY household in America, then the world.  So that everyone can be part of this conversation, not just those blessed with the technology and knowledge of how to use it.

Use my blog as a model
I finished my part of the webinar by saying every non-profit should have a website and blog where they are sharing their own ideas, and their own maps.  Any could use my blog as stimulation for their own thinking.

Furthermore, youth could be using the time they are home-bound to do this research and create blogs and/or videos where they share their own ideas.  I pointed to this Feb. 2014 article during the webinar.

I posted a Tweet yesterday pointing to the TutorMentorConnection.ning.com site that I've hosted since 2007, showing how interns working with me in Chicago did this type of research, then created graphics, videos, animations, blogs, etc. where they shared their own understanding.



All non-profits have same needs.
I have been modeling this thinking and encouraging others to duplicate it for the past 25 years.  By using a map we're saying "Every neighborhood needs world-class quality youth serving programs"  Without a map resources flow to a few places, making a few good programs available to just a small fraction of the youth who need them.

I suspect this is true in other sectors, too. 

Be like Dan.

Make your voice heard.
What I've just done over the past hour is share my thinking via a blog article. You may agree, disagree, or not even look at this. 

However, I think it's something that everyone could be doing to share their own ideas about how to make the world a better place.  Maybe the "talking heads" could learn from what some of us are saying. Instead of just being an invisible body in a crowd, make your ideas known to others.

Here's a page where I show social media sites where I'm active. I encourage you to join me there and share links to your own stories.

And, here's a page where you can use PayPal to send me a contribution to help fund my time collecting and sharing this information.

Thanks again to Valerie Leonard for hosting the webinar today and stimulating my own thinking.

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