The New York Times Bits Blog is reporting this morning that Google will be adding social network posts from Google to its search results. Google takes its search algorithm very seriously, and any changes to the way search is analyzed or displayed has the potential to significantly influence the way that we all — really, a significant portion of the world’s population – access, identify and consume information. Today’s shift, which adds posts, photos, profiles and conversations from Google that are public or were shared privately with the person searching, is valuable for users because it brings "your world" (as Google refers to it) into search, aggregating all of the information you might be interested in seeking. It’s valuable to Google as further boosts the centrality of Google relative to other social networks (which for now are not included), and positions your search engine as the singular window into all aspects of your world. If I’m planning a trip to Paris I might find in my search hotels, reviews, discounts, maps, historical info, and now tips from friends who have been there, or even become aware that someone I know will be there at the same time. But more than the search engine as the window into the world, these changes position me as the center of the universe, with information orbiting me. Helpful, perhaps. But what are the implications? But the flip side of all of this is the narrowing of our worlds. Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble describes how because of the search algorithm (the ‘filter’), we don’t even know what is being hidden from us. What we’ve done and sought in the past strongly influence what we are exposed to in the future "leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas". Now that’s not so radically different from the way we lived prior to the internet. If I live in a particular neighborhood or my kids go to a particular school, I’m more likely to be friends with those people and remain in that orbit. But other recent research shows that young people today, while fairly technically savvy, have not been taught skills to evaluate the information they find. "Google’s a trusted web site," says one British student in a BBC segment. She used the first result Google returned and didn’t really think about it any further. While teaching a course at the high school Genesis program at Brandeis University a few years ago, I challenged my students to do a research project with limited access to resources: Only books, internet minus Wikipedia and the top 5 Google search results, or anything. As you can imagine, the results were vastly different. The students who were limited in their online search had a much deeper understanding of the material because they were exposed to many more sources and forced to evaluate and synthesize the information. The bottom line here is the difference between information and knowledge. We often confuse the two. Google’s shifts may change the way we access information, but it is our responsibility to create our own knowledge. And it is the responsibility of educators and parents to recognize that this process of knowledge creation and meaning making is different today than it has been in the past. We must teach these skills, and illustrate to students the implications of Google’s decisions, lazy searching and the conclusions we draw. Happy searching and socializing. And don’t forget to get outside of your own orbit from time to time. More on Google’s recent change: Mashable: Google Merges Search and Google Into Social Media Juggernaut Huffington Post: Google ‘Search Plus Your World’ Brings Google Into Search Results New York Times’ Bits Blog: Google’s Social Move Attracts Critics New York Times’ Bits Blog: Google Adds Posts From Its Social Network to Search Results
Do you ever feel like you are flailing when it comes to your social media strategy? Or that you do not have any coordination at all? Look at the dragonfly. In order for it to accelerate rapidly and change directions immediately, all four wings must move in congruence.
As Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith in their book The Dragonfly Effect explain four metaphorical “wings” – focus, grab attention, engage, take action – must work together to ensure social media success. Utilizing these wings can provide Jewish institutions a foundation for not just maintaining an online presence, but truly galvanizing a constituency to actively engage in Judaism and the community.
1. Focus – prior to entering the social media arena, zero in on simple and realistic goals. As opposed to top down planning, it is vital to build personal relationships, be authentic and listen intently to the communal needs. At Temple Israel in Memphis, we organized heterogeneous focus groups to hear individual thoughts concerning the temple. Based on their insights, a vision was constructed by lay leaders, stating our congregation’s role to connect Jews more deeply to Torah, spiritual fulfillment, community, and tikkun olam. Using this as the foundation, our temple’s Facebook page, alongside my Rabbi Adam Facebook and Twitter accounts, ultimately connect to our community more deeply and, subsequently, help to drive our attendance, donations, long-term membership, and new member opportunities. While some might disregard this planning stage, successful social media approaches realize the importance of slowing down before speeding up.
2. Grab Attention – getting noticed by our audience is vital to social media success. In an online world dominated with choices, we need to move away from the predictability. Too many organizations explain events or communicate information in the exact same way as was done fifty years before – title the event, share the details, expect a crowd. In the online world, this is not acceptable. Sparking the curiosity of our constituents must be done through innovative and audience centered videos and pictures that personally connect with and elicit an emotional response from our constituency. Think of the Maccabeats, Yeshiva University’s all-male a cappella group, whose fun, entertaining and unexpected song “Candlelight” became an instant Youtube sensation and now has almost 6 million views. While by no means the same number of hits, this video from Temple Israel exceeded expectations, generated excitement, and started many conversations about the event.
3. Engage – emotionally invest the community in the organization. One of the best lines of the book is that “to engage, it’s necessary to view yourself (and your effort) as a brand.” In order to do this, we need to tell our stories, which help to define and to build our constituency’s collective memories thus connecting them more deeply to the mission of and take action for the institution. Answering questions such as what inspires the community, what makes an institutional experience meaningful, and why Jews would want to connect with us gears the online conversation to the community and makes it personal. In promoting Temple Israel’s Sukkot and Simchat Torah experiences, we redefined them for the community where music became the center. We ran a fun promotional spot and an online giveaway for autographed CD’s of the artists via Facebook and Twitter. By rethinking the marketing, we have helped our community become more engaged and excited about the experience and the artists.
4. Take action – get the community to act upon your cause by giving their time, money or both. The most important take away here is to ask for time before money. Too many Jewish institutions consistently ask for money via membership, programs, events, dinners, etc. and never truly get people vested in the experience. In order to reverse this trend, it is imperative to actively seek and encourage volunteer participation. Even though individuals are involved with so many activities, we have to rethink how we invite people to volunteer. Instead of asking them to join time intensive committees, encourage them to work on smaller and tangible projects that value their individual talents, skills and interests. When a group then becomes invested in the organization, social media then becomes a tool for reaching a greater audience and receiving much needed feedback. As one experiments with social media to motivate the community, make it fun and, as our communications director, Isti Bardos, always states, make sure to respond to every message or post for that personal touch helps the audience feel they are actually having a dialogue rather than a monologue. The Dragonfly Effect provides the tools to captivate an online audience, and then inspire them to actively participate in social change. The examples and illustrations can help Jewish institutions more fully realize the potential of social media. By experimenting, having fun and continuing to evaluate results, these four wings can provide Jewish institutions a way to further engage Jews as our world proceeds to advance technologically. How are you addressing these four wings, and more importantly, how are you getting them to work in congruence with one another?
Rabbi Adam Grossman is the Associated Rabbi of Temple Israel of Memphis. Rabbi Grossman earned his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2008, a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from The Ohio State University and a Master of Education Administration with a Specialization in Jewish Education from Xavier University. He is an active user of social media, and contributes to Temple Israel’s effective use of online social tools for engagement and building community.
in collaboration with guest blogger Rick Recht The ultimate form of ‘cool’ in the Jewish world is when your non-Jewish friends also think it, whatever IT is, is cool. Well, cool just happened – twice. [If you’ve seen the videos, feel free to skip below them to the bottom of this post. Unless, of course, you can’t help yourself but watch them again.] On December 4, the CNN.com top headline picture was a snapshot from a viral video by the Maccabeats, male a capella group from Yeshiva University. The video Candlelight, a parody of teen heart-throb, Taio Cruz’s top 10 hit, Dynamite, and Mike Tompkin’s a cappella version of it. The Hanukkah version has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, earning the Maccabeats appearances on The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN.com and The Washington Post, among others. Candlelight includes lyrics about the Hanukkah story and traditions such as latkes and dreidel spinning. The video humorously depicts the Maccabeats reenacting aspects of the ancient Hanukkah story in makeshift gladiator costumes occasionally flash-forwarding to present day Yeshiva college buddies flipping latkes, studying Torah, and singing on camera, Brady Bunch-style. Simultaneously, another new Hanukkah video, by reggae rapper, super star, Matisyahu, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Matisyahu’s song, Miracle, is a contemporary interpretation of Hanukkah, where in a dream sequence Matisyahu meets Antiochus, the King of the Greeks, and the father of Judah Maccabee (the hero of the Hanukkah story), also named (get this!) Matisyahu. At Shabbat services last week, I mentioned the viral videos and then many laughed and nodded in recognition of the achievement by OUR Maccabeats and Matisyahu. We’ve got communal pride because this caliber of media rarely emanates from the Jewish world, and when it does, Jews take notice. These videos have the perfect combination of ingredients — including high-quality talent and cinematography, great humor, a clear connection with popular culture, and a powerful story line that is authentic Jewish history. These guys took it to the next level by unashamedly expressing their Jewish pride by using fun costumes, humor, and symbolism to tell the Hanukkah story. We’re not just talking about playing dreidel, we’re talking about the pressure to assimilate, and the temptation of … well, "chocolate stuff". (Don’t know what I mean? Watch "Miracle"!) While they are surely educational, the approach isn’t shoving historical facts down your throat. I asked my 23 year old office manager, Seth, why he thought the videos were cool and he didn’t skip a beat in responding, “First off, they’re hilarious. They are a great example of the talent that comes from our Jewish community. Now that these videos are viral, not only within the Jewish community but everywhere, it gives us pride to be Jewish because Jews AND non-Jews are watching and loving these videos. Hanukkah has lost a lot of its religious meaning and understanding for many of us (young people) and these videos give us a different way to look at the holiday and put a modern spin on it. They highlight the Jewish people and bring attention, in a very good way, to our Jewish community.” For Seth and many other young Jews, these videos exceed their apparent entertainment value and become more meaningful because they have a clear educational purpose. They don’t just hover around the contemporary iconic Hanukkah symbols such as dreidles and Hanukkah menorahs. They tell the REAL historical story of Hanukkah. They serve as relevant and meaningful sources of Jewish education for this holiday that has lost much of its meaning having become a contemporary American Hallmark holiday. They employ the ultimate tools for reaching and impacting young lives – music and video – and then stream the content on YouTube, the most powerful platform for video sharing. It’s also a powerful place for expression, identity building, and discussion. A few comments on the videos are posted here – they are fascinating to browse to gain insight into youth (and not-so-youth) culture today of both Jews and non-Jews. Timing is everything, and the chance of being exposed to anything by or about Jews is dramatically increased during the Hanukkah season. It is no coincidence that these 2 videos hit their rocket-like trajectory on the 3rd and 4th days of Hanukkah. Familiarity breeds popularity. In the case of the Maccabeats, their song Candlelight was a parody of one of the most popular songs in the country. Almost every kid in the country had already memorized Dynamite by Taio Cruz and only had to learn the new Hanukkah lyrics in the Maccabeats’ parody. So let us rejoice for the blessing of these two incredible viral videos that have infused our Jewish lives with such excitement and pride during this holiday season. And let us contemplate a time when individuals in our Jewish community can achieve national recognition in between holidays, using the power of music, video, and genuine high-quality talent to not only entertain, but educate both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences about our Jewish rituals, values, and history. Rick Recht is the top touring artist in Jewish music, the Executive Director of Jewish Rock Radio, Executive Director of Songleader Boot Camp, and the JNF National Music Spokesman.
It is no surprise that we’re increasing inundated with data. The amount of information collected and recorded is unprecendented. The question is: what will we do with it, and what value does it have. In for-profit business, the data about online purchases, demographics, or reasons for calls to a customer service line help a company be more effective, efficient, and ultimately profitable.
As I’ve worked with many Jewish organizations, I’ve learned that few are tracking data in useful ways, and even fewer are using this data to improve their programs, communication or allocation of resources. Data collection and analysis goes far beyond what funders may ask for in grant reporting, and productive data usage requires first and foremost that you’re asking the right questions.
In this TED video, David McCandless shows the power of data visualization. While the raw data may be overwhelming and not particularly useful, visualizing data may bring important patterns and relationships to light, and laying data sets on top of one another (frequency and geography, for example) can uncover important stories that otherwise would have been invisible. This “knowledge compression”, as he calls it, makes data useful. For those of us not yet collecting much data at all, these new ways of looking at the data may inspire us to start!
David says the word in the street is that “data is the new oil,” meaning it’s ubiquitous resource that can be used for different purposes. He adapts this to “data is the new soil”. And data visualization is flowers blooming from this fertile foundation. Check out the video from TED for more, including a few laughs:
By Deborah Fishman
An all-volunteer magazine put together by a geographically diverse, online community of young adults 22-40, PresenTense Magazine has always been a collaborative enterprise. As such, weve made ample use of many Google products, storing and sharing articles in Docs, communicating in Chat, and organizing and tracking article progress in Sites. Yet the lack of integration has made using all these tools in concert a challenge, and we are always interested in exploring better ways to perform these tasks.
For our tenth issue, PresenTense Magazine launched the Digital Issue the first-ever print magazine to be published entirely in Google’s new tool for collaboration, Google Wave. The platform allowed us to pioneer new horizons for journalism by seeking to address a key challenge for journalists today: how to collaborate in a digital age.
Google Wave enticed us with the ability to collaborate on all aspects of the magazine production in a single package, as well as offering several new and exciting features. For instance, playback allows users to review the sequence of changes and easily restore a document to a previous version. Two modes of engaging with waves edit and reply give greater flexibility in editing documents and leaving comments for writers. Since edits and replies are updated in real time, authors and editors can interact naturally, as if in an in-person conversation. Wave also includes the ability to add images, maps, videos, and other gadgets right in the collaboration space.
It was especially fitting that we set out to explore Google Wave for our Digital Issue, focused on the Digital Age and how it is affecting young Jewish community- and identity-building today. Google Wave allowed us to take advantage of the very digital trends and technologies we were discussing, to produce content to act as the starting place for a larger conversation. We found that, while rough around the edges as a pre-Beta product, Google Wave has some real potential for online collaboration.
Ready to embark on a whole new world of Wave discovery, we soon realized that our first hurdle was getting on Wave to begin with. A collaboration tool only works when your co-collaborators also have access. Each issue of PresenTense Magazine is the product of over 70 young Jews writers, editors, advisory committee members, and art team members who work together through the creative process, from the initial brainstorming phase through the final production. Wave invites are a scarce commodity, and for 70 contributors, you need an allocation strategy. Googles arbitrary approval process further baffled our editorial team.
Even with an approved Wave account, not all writers were as eager to ride the Wave as we had hoped. The great flexibility offered by the Wave platform belies the fact that Wave is to many unintuitive. It took significant effort for many writers and editors to learn such Wave basics as how to reply to a message, causing a great deal of frustration. Even those who persevered encountered a fair share of frustrations from frequent crashes, missing features, and various other unexplained occurrences. For those accustomed to working over e-mail and chat, the lack of integration with GMail meant many participants did not notice changes until days later.
Along the way we also came across some collaboration-enhancing perks. When posting in real-time, one author and a commenter discovered they were able to have a brief exchange of ideas inside the Wave and then delete all but what they wanted to preserve for others to see. Another pair of authors were able to “meet” each other and converse when they bumped into each other on their articles section contents page.
PresenTense Magazine is generally published as a glossy, in-print magazine. One of our defining features has been our full-color photographs and artwork, skillfully laid out alongside articles and other content. Wave does offer the ability to drag-and-drop images into an article, and you can even view them as a slideshow or one at a time as full-screen images. However, inside a blip the images appear as either small icons or full-size images taking up most of the page, and it’s not possible to wrap the surrounding text around them. The unsatisfying formatting was further complicated by Googles mysterious rules governing whether and how blips are indented, depending on where exactly one clicks and whether one selects edit or reply.
PresenTense Magazine is the foundation for a vibrant community. Over the past five years, our ten in-print issues have acted as a community organizing tool, bringing together hundreds of young Jews around the world with ideas and enthusiasm about the future of Jewish innovation. However, there are challenges inherent in grassroots work with young Jews spanning time zones around the world. The geographic distances involved provide the tremendous benefit of enabling us to incorporate different perspectives and start conversations that may never occur otherwise. But it can be difficult to find appropriate online collaboration tools that have all the functionality we need. We found a lot to like on Google Wave, and we look forward to future improvements to the medium.
Deborah Fishman is the Network Animator for the PresenTense Group, engaging and empowering the PresenTense community to explore issues facing the Jewish People. As the volunteer managing editor of PresenTense Magazine, Deborah has managed hundreds of volunteer writers, editors, and visionaries.
Lisa Colton, Founder and President of Darim Online, was a member of the advisory team for Presentense Magazine’s Digital issue.
In the coming days and weeks we’ll be sharing 10 things you should have on your radar screen for 2010. If you’re already on top of them – mazel tov. Share with us what you’re doing in the comments. If not, time to get hip to the new decade. Don’t put it off. This isn’t the future, it’s the present, so pay attention.
To kick us off, mobile mobile mobile. Everybody’s got a phone in their pocket, and increasingly it’s a pretty intelligent one. The iPhone, Blackberry, Android and others are taking over the market, and shaking up the status quo. Assume that people are looking for and engaging with you while on the go, not just while sitting at their desk.
Some things to know:
- Compose your emails for easy reading on a mobile device. Send a test and check it out on a Blackberry and iPhone. Some Blackberry users are reporting a lack of patience with graphic emails because it takes too much time to wade through. “Give me the bullet points and important information straight up and in brief” seems to be the attitude.
- Start learning about fundraising via mobile. I just made my first donation by text message to a radio show I love, This American Life, when I saw a tweet. $5 went on my AT&T bill. So easy! Check out http://www.mobilegiving.org/ to see how they do it. Sophist Productions has been hosting events (a UJA Young Leadership cocktail party, for example) where people “text to pledge” their donation, and pledges are projected on the wall. Yes, it is a new world. And it works. Read more here on text-to-give programs.
- Redesigning or tuning up your website? Make sure you’ve got a mobile friendly version. Check out a Google tool here to see what your web site can look like on a mobile browser. Beth Kanter iPhone-ized her blog with an easy $200 IPhone app tool. Learn about it here.
- Twitter was conceived of, and largely used as a mobile tool. Thus, don’t neglect this community when you are putting together a mobile strategy.
Want to learn more?
http://mobileactive.org/ is a great org with useful resources and a discussion list on how nonprofits are using mobile in their work.
http://www.mobilecommons.com/ offers services for marketing, advocacy and fundraising via mobile (and thanks to Mobile Commons for donating their services for our Boot Camps)
http://www.mobilecitizen.org/ has excellent resources for mobile use in education and nonprofits.
Great resources from Wild Apricot: Is Your Nonprofit Website Mobile-Friendly?
Examples of cool, mission-centric mobile uses from nonprofits, on Beth Kanter’s Blog
For some, social media is a bit scary because it empowers the public to voice their thoughts. While hopefully in the vast majority of circumstances this means engaging in more meaningful conversations, learning about new supports, and amplifying your message through valuable networks, it also means that critics can make their rants public. This is scary, and threatening. Partially because of the potential content of those rants, and largely because it represents a loss of control.
I often remind those concerned that control is largely an illusion — those rants and conversations happen in the parking lot, the dinner table, via email and on Facebook. The companies that have done a great job of turning around their brands (Comcast, Dell) have done so not be trying to shut down the conversation or ignoring it, but by listening, acknowledging, and learning from it. (For stories about what they’ve done, read Twitterville.)
Chris Brogan, a widely known and well respects new media marketing specialist, writes a very prolific (and insightful) blog and weekly e-newsletter. This week he talks about critics, and offers some advice :
If you are fortunate enough to have critics, you’re doing something right … I want to share with you how I deal with critics, and what you might learn from the gifts they give you.
Thank them. No matter what a critic says, say “Thanks for your thoughts,” or a variation. They have taken the time to offer their opinions, however invalid or unhelpful, with you. Say thanks. It’s the only good response to a criticism.
Don’t defend yourself. The person giving you the opinion probably doesn’t care what you have to say about it. They just wanted to share their take. You can reply and reflect back what they’ve said, but try not to defend. It only comes off as making you look defensive and it just goes nowhere fast.
Decide for yourself, in private, if you agree. You don’t have to take every critic’s opinion, but listen to whether there’s any grain of truth in what they say. I learn when my critics are my friends, but I learn LOTS when they are people who don’t much like me. Sometimes, I’m able to adapt their mean words into something of great value to myself.
Don’t just throw it out, is my point. Criticism can be helpful, even non-constructive criticism, if you are willing to hear a bit of it and throw away the junk. Thing is, don’t necessarily run around seeking it, either. It can build up like toxin in our veins, and if we’re only hearing a stream of icky things, that doesn’t help us at all.
… It took me a long while to believe in myself enough to not believe in critics. There’s a great bit from an interview (and I forget who the subject was), where she said something about really loving her positive reviews, but then her agent said, if you believe all the positive reviews, you have to believe all the negative critics. That’s stuck with me.
Personally, I’ve found most of the criticism we receive on the JewPoint0.org blog is really helpful — it teaches me where I can improve, adds value to the conversation, and often helps me identify knowledgeable folks who are invested in our mission.
How do you think about critics and criticism, whether it be on or offline? How do you use it as a productive feedback loop? How to you respond to critics? What have you learned?
How can you use social media to get people to walk in the door? It’s a great question that I’m often asked. It’s big question, with many responses, but I’ll tackle one thing here: Understand your user. Who is the audience that you’re trying to reach, and why AREN’T they walking in the door yet? Once you understand what stands between them and you, you can develop a social media strategy to help. A few examples:
1) The Puget Sound Blood Center launched a social media campaign to engage new donors in their blood drives. As reported in the Seattle PI, they are now holding Tweet Up Blood Drives which are promoted entirely through social media.
The online campaign launched earlier this summer, and already the blood center has about 400 fans on Facebook and 1,200 followers on Twitter. And the blood center has a YouTube site for its online generation donators.
Many new donors walked in the door after learning about the campaign, or hearing from their own friends on Twitter or Facebook about critically low levels of Type O. Furthermore, the social media savvy donors are passing on the word, and energizing the campaign, retweeting (even if they don’t donate themselves!) and sharing their experience, even by making a video of giving blood and posting it on YouTube. From the PI again:
“They take the initiative because we’ve given them the tools,” Young said about the blood center’s online followers. “You don’t find a better group of people. To be a blood donor, you have to be a fairly altruistic person in the first place.”
From 5 to 33 percent of donors at blood drives over the last three months said they scheduled their appointments because of social media, and DeButts said he expects that number to skyrocket as school starts up and students organize drives through Facebook.
What makes this so successful? Perhaps donating blood is not as commonly talked about in this demographic, and by putting it online they are energizing the conversation, which leads to more education about both the need and the process, which results in lower (psychological) barriers, and more people walk in the door. Maybe they didn’t know it only takes a few minutes, and it’s near their office. Why do you think a third of their recent donors were inspired through social media?
2) The Obama Presidential Campaign relied heavily on volunteers to make calls and go door to door through neighborhoods. Why did so many first-time volunteers pitch in? Partially because of the candidate, but largely because the campaign lowered barriers to participation. Many prospective volunteers were nervous about walking into an office, weary of trying to represent details of policies they didn’t know. Many local offices made short, casual videos to help people understand what the culture of the office was like, and the sorts of tasks volunteers could do. Check out this one:
Avid users of social media are not looking to hide behind their computer screens. In fact we’re eager to connect with fascinating people and valuable organizations in our local communities. We seek value, social capital, and meaning. As you consider your social media strategy, think about who you are trying to reach, and how you can add value and meaning to their lives. You might be surprised what comes back to you.
How have you been inspired through social media to show up in person? What have you done in your work to connect, lower barriers, and energize people? We’d love to hear your story.
Peggy Orenstein, in her New York Times Magazine article this past weekend, considers the impact of opening up her family via Skyping with her parents 1500 miles away. She writes:
Now, I like my parents. A lot. I really do. Thats why I make the 1,500-mile trip to visit them three or four times a year. I did not, however, spend the bulk of my adult life perfecting the fine art of establishing boundaries only to have them toppled by the click of a mouse. If I wanted them to have unfettered access to my life, I wouldnt have put the keep out sign on my room at age 10. I would have lived at home through college. I would have bought the house next door to them in Minneapolis and made them an extra set of keys…
To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. [too much information] and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love.
Every new technology, from the telephone decades ago, to streaming video cams these days, and everything in between, beg many questions about how much information we want to share, where we will draw our boundaries, why, and how.
In this month’s Journal S’hma, I offer some thoughts on how these tools can enrich and starve our Jewish homes, and how we can draw on Jewish concepts of community, home, family and values to guide our intentional decision making about how, when and why we will use (or not use) particular technologies. Because ultimately, it’s not about the technology, it’s about relationships.
In their recently published op-ed in JTA titled “Invest in Innovation”, Felicia Herman and Dana Raucher disagree that at a time of economic downturn we should follow the “calls for greater consolidation and a return to the more centralized infrastructure of yesteryear.” These two brilliant women (Felicia Herman is the executive director of the Natan Fund, and Dana Raucher is the executive director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation) are not looking backwards for solutions, but looking forward. They write:
We believe that the young, and often small, nonprofits that have emerged in the past decade, and the very de-centralization they reflect, are here to stay. We believe that this interconnected network of smaller, niche-based organizations reflects the organizational transformation now under way in American culture: a revolution in the way that people connect, organize and affiliate, brought about by technological advancements that have dramatically shaped our ways of looking at the world. That revolution already has utterly transformed so much of our lives — the way we shop, network, share information, learn and teach. We dont believe theres any going back.
I completely agree with their observations. In addition to encouraging you to read the new report, The Innovation Ecosystem, that they developed with JumpStart, I want to reinforce their de-centralized vision, and encouage us to questions our assumptions and the status quo of how we go about doing our business. The top down models that have worked in the past are no longer the only solution. Self-motivated, creative and empowered individuals and groups now have the ability to self-organize, creating the programs and organizations that embody the bottom-up culture that is so attractive.
Investments in innovative organizations are important, because we do need to evolve our Jewish community to continue to be relevant to its participants. Furthermore, we need to invest in helping more traditional organizations also make this shift to realign themselves with a rapidly changing paradigm. The “revolution” which Felicia and Dana refer to is in fact a tectonic shift, largely empowered by social media, that we cannot ignore. So where to begin? While the strategic questions may feel overwhelming and insurrmountable, dipping our toes in the water to begin to understand the evolving culture and the potential of the technology tools is a fruitful (and dare I say FUN) place to start.
Often I hear staff say “but where are we going to find the time to do this social media stuff? I don’t have even 10 minutes a day to spare.” While that may be true, we are spending a tremendous amount of time and energy (and dollars) in our “business as usual” routine, the products of which may or may not be the most efficient and effective way to achieve our goals and mission.
Take for example the synagogue newsletter. This 12 or 24 page monthly publication takes thousands of dollars per year in paper, labels and stamps, plus who know how many hours to write, edit, layout, photocopy, stamp and send 500, 1000, or 1500 copies each month. Can you tell me how many people read it cover to cover? What’s the most popular column? How many throw it in the recycling without even a glance? Even those who do read it cover to cover — what’s the impact on their participation, education, engagement, identity or support?
Now, can we borrow just 10 minutes a day from the team of people who put countless hours into that newsletter? I’ll help you measure the return on your 10 minutes. My guess is you’ll find it worthwhile.
There is no looking back. So we might as well start looking forward. How do you spend your 10 minutes of social media per day? What are the outcomes?