Jewish New Media Fund Injects Energy – and Cash

jnmiflogoFor years the Jewish community has lagged behind general society in creative and effective use of technology and new media. This observation (and personal frustration with it) was the genesis of Darim 10 years ago. There are many obstacles – skills, staffing, design, willingness to take risks, or to know where to take risks. And of course, money. In recent years a number of creative, and largely independent, social entrepreneurs in the Jewish community have taken matters into their own hands, building and launching interesting applications on a shoestring, sometimes at night while holding down a full time job to pay the bills. But in general, the organizations, their audiences, the designers and programmers, and the funders haven’t been speaking the same language. Some people are preaching open source and others and pressing CDroms. Where do we go from here? Three of the nation’s largest Jewish foundations – the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation – have announced the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund to help energize the community to focus on the need for new media innovations, and to help bring them to life. While a pool of $500,000 injects important dollars to jumpstart new and support developing projects, I think this fund — and the role of three prominent foundations — is a critically important statement to the community. This is not optional anymore. This is our present, and our future, and there is no time to waste. I know a lot of people with some very creative ideas, and this is a tremendous opportunity for us to recognize the talents that exist within the Jewish community, and to take advantage. The fund intends to support interactive, digital efforts that are creative and impactful, and which and engage with Jews and Judaism in ways that promote moremeaningful and vibrant Jewish life in the 21st century. The Fund will support individuals, 501c3 non-profit organizations, social enterprises, and for-profit businesses. Collaborative projects are welcomed and encouraged. All the details and the application form are here. Deadline is November 22, 2010. Funding decisions will be made in February, 2011.

Epic Change: an organization putting the power of storytelling and social media into the hands of the local communities they support

by Diana Norma Szokolyai, Associate Consultant, Knowledge Communities
[cross-posted from the Knowledge Communities blog]

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a webinar hosted by Darim Online on the strategic use of Facebook (FB) for non-profits. We were invited by Caren Levine, who is a part of our Kehilliyot Community of Practice. Darim Online specializes in internet strategies for Jewish organizations and their communities, and the webinar was part of the organizations Social Media Boot Camp. The host, technology maven Avi Kaplan (on twitter @meshugavi), provided valuable insights into using FBs tools. Besides laying out the great strategic use of FB groups, analytics, pages, and friend lists, Avi also talked about using FB for causes, something he knows a lot about from his deep work with the 3-year old nonprofit, Epic Change.

Intrigued by Epic Changes mission to amplify the voices and impact of grassroots change-makers and social entrepreneurs, we set up a web meeting with him the following week via WebEx . What we discovered was the organizations innovative use of technology and social media to create and spread change through the powerful combination of social media tools and age-old storytelling.

Epic Change has been focusing on a project in Arusha, Tanzaniathe support of the Shepherds Junior School. Co-founders of Epic Change, Sanjay Patel and Stacey Monk, an IT project manager and a management consultant respectively, created the nonprofit organization after a life-changing trip volunteering in Africa in 2007. The project supports the work of the schools founder, Mama Lucy Kamptoni, who they describe as a savvy and passionate local woman. Epic Change made initial loans to the school and then helped them find creative ways to pay back the loan, such as a school performance and selling hand-made crafts.

In addition, the organization has facilitated finding partners to raise money for the school, such as the May 2009 $10,000 grant from Ideablob, which funded the schools first technology lab. In October 2009, the fifth graders became the first #TwitterKids of Tanzania when they partnered with LacProject, part of a social media curriculum. The story of one of the local students whose life has been impacted can be found here. One particularly successful partnership was with Silicon Valley Tweet Up, where they raised over $2,000. You can read more about their success in getting this communitys story out there through blogging themselves, forming partnerships, and empowering the locals with the technology to give voice to their own perspective (and tweet their thanks) by visiting Epic Change’s news page.

We at Knowledge Communities were honored to talk with Epic Change and learn about their extraordinary work. This organization is a leading example in building community around an important cause and using the tools of storytelling and social media to raise funds to support grassroots change-makers that are in need of resources in order to continue their work. We are also thankful to our Kehilliyot Community of Practice and the sharing and generosity that members show towards one another, thereby allowing us all to gain more insight into good work and how it is getting done around the globe.

Jewish Education 3.0: A Revolution in the Making

je3 logo

Kudos to the Lippman Kanfer Institute at JESNA for launching their JE3 project, Technology and Jewish Education: A Revolution in the Making! [Full disclosure: your friends over here at Darim were involved in its development]

The project revolves around the question: “What does it means to ‘do’ Jewish education in a 21st century digital world?” The JE3 site features a core narrative that explores various aspects of the integration of technology-facilitated: visions of Jewish learning, the transformation of learning and teaching, examples from the field, concerns and challenges. Along with this context-setting narrative, the site provides a platform for articles from leading Jewish educators.

Want to get in on the conversation? Read, reflect, respond… submit materials, add comments to articles, tweet using the hashtag #jed21…. C’mon over….!

Hey Northern New Jersey, It’s Your Lucky Day

We won the grant, but you’re the real winners. Darim’s running a Social Media Boot Camp in your backyard, and it’s time to apply. Thanks to generous funding from a Berrie Innovation Grant, Darim will be offering a year-long intensive social media training, consulting and coaching experience to 20 lucky Jewish organizations in northern New Jersey.

Social media isn’t just about new widgets and gadgets like Twitter and Facebook. It’s about a rapidly evolving culture, and a fundamental shift in communications, community building and decision making. To succeed in the 21st century, you need to know what this is all about, and how you can align your work in this new era.

The Social Media Boot Camp will kick off with a full day intensive on December 10th, and then provide a webinar series in 2010, as well as private coaching and consulting as your organization designs and implements a social media project. We encourage you to form a team of 3-5 people (staff and lay leadership/volunteers are welcome), and think about what your goals are. We’ll help you determine what social media tools and approaches best fit your needs, and teach you how to use them.

Applications are now available online! Answer a few questions, list your team members, and throw your hat into the ring. It’s thousands of dollars worth of consulting and training, and you’re only responsible for chipping in $500 – the Berrie Innovation Grant pays for all other expenses.

Learn more about the program and sign up here.

Darim Online Receives Berrie Innovation Grant

Darim is thrilled and honored to announce that we’ve been selected to receive a Berrie Innovation Grant to conduct a Social Media Boot Camp in northern New Jersey in the coming year. The program will introduce participants to social media tools and their implications, examining organizational goals, processes and staffing needs, and larger shifts in culture, communications and business models given the paradigm shift taking place.

The program represents a new area of focus for Darim, taking the lessons learned from The Darim Online Learning Network, and applying it to a longer term and deeper experience for organizations ready to think deeply and take action. Darim is now accepting inquiries from Jewish organizations in northern New Jersey, and shortly will be announcing guidelines, details and posting an online application. Participating organizations will take part in live events, attend skill building webinars, and receive private coaching and consulting as they develop and implement projects throughout the year.

The Berrie Innovation Grants, which were announced in the New Jersey Jewish Standard this past week, were awarded to organizations which are creating innovative programs that help transform the Jewish community. Last fall, the Russell Berrie Foundation entrusted the group of 43 members of the Berrie Fellows Network (the Fellows Network, part of the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program coordinated by UJA Federation of New Jersey, is an intensive education and leadership program, funded by the Russell Berrie Foundation that combines leadership and Jewish learning). With $100,000 for the purpose of supporting innovation in northern New Jerseys Jewish community. The guidelines the Fellows came up with were straightforward — recipients had to demonstrate out of the box thinking for programs that would be both innovative and transformative; and they needed to have a positive impact on the Jewish community. After a 6 month process reviewing over 100 applications, the Network has chosen four organizations to receive the grants: Darim Online, The Curriculum Initiative, Mechon Hadar, and The Jewish Outreach Institute.

Angelica Berrie, President of the Russell Berrie Foundation, commented that, The Russell Berrie Fellows were selected as leaders with the potential to meet the needs of our community in the 21st Century. We wanted to spur the Fellows to re-imagine what our community can be, and gave them the financial resources to make change happen. With the BIG process the Fellows have shown a commitment to innovation and to inclusiveness, we are eager to see their continuing involvement as champions of the programs they have selected.

According to Laura Freeman, BIG Project co-chair with David Rosenblatt, each organization represents innovative programming in a different area of Jewish life in northern New Jersey. Added Rosenblatt, Each met our criteria and most importantly was reviewed for their ability to execute and build sustainable programs.

Darim is excited to launch our Social Media Boot Camp pilots in northern New Jersey, funded by this “BIG” grant, and on Long Island, funded by UJA Federation of New York, and look forward to expanding the program into other communities in the near future. If you have questions about bringing a Boot Camp to your community, please contact us. Do you represent a Jewish organization in northern New Jersey? Learn more about our “BIG” Boot Camp here.

The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape

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?

Your Turn To Brag. Come On, Really.

Reform Judaism magazine is planning an upcoming article on how Reform congregations are integrating cutting-edge technology in the service of community. We know if you’re reading this blog, and you’re a staff member, lay leader or active member of a congregation you’ve likely got something good going on. Tell us about it! NOW! Leave a comment (see “comments” link above) or email us at [email protected] and tell us your story, including links. We’ll pass along stories to the folks at the URJ, and/or you can copy them on your email at [email protected]

We have found that many congregations think what they’re doing isn’t so special — until they start to tell others about it, and eyes light up. It doesn’t even have to be fancy techie stuff. When Temple Israel Center really started sharing their web stats (a report to the board to show value, a report to staff to show their writing is really being read, and a report to members to illustrate how many people find the web site content valuable), it changed the conversation about the use of the web site in their congregation. And once they shared the practice with others via the Darim Online Learning Network, many other congregations adopted the valuable practice.

Are you doing anything with social networking? Online video or podcasting? Distance learning for adult education? Blogging? Have you restructured your e-newsletter recently? What products or services have you found most helpful? What’s been key to moving your work forward (adding staff, recruting volunteers, getting a budget, etc.)?

Consider it my Hanukkah present. Take 3 minutes and tell me your story.