Why You Need to Embrace Relationship Based Engagement

Guest post from Rabbi Aaron Spiegel. This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving.

Synagogue 3000 just released a report entitled “Reform and Conservative Congregations: Different Strengths, Different Challenges.” The report could just as easily been entitled something like “Synagogues are Fading Into Obscurity,” but that would be a little too provocative. The data is clear; the institution best positioned to provide the full richness of Jewish life is becoming irrelevant for most American Jews. More disturbing is that our research shows some 70% of young Jewish adults, those between the ages of 23 and 39, have no connection to the established Jewish community (synagogues, Federation, JCC’s, etc.). While many in the Jewish world talk about Jewish continuity and protecting the future of American Judaism, most of the proposed solutions have had little effect. The good news is we’ve also learned that this majority of young Jews are very interested in Judaism, just not the way we’re offering it.

While most in the congregational world talk about outreach, Synagogue 3000 learned that this moniker has a negative connotation. Outreach says, albeit subtly, “I’m reaching out to you so you can come to me and have what I want to offer you.” The community, particularly those young, single Jews who are our potential future are saying, “no thanks.” Instead of outreach Synagogue 3000 changed the conversation to engagement. Learning from the church world and community organizing, Synagogue 3000 created Next Dor (dor is Hebrew for generation) – an engagement program. Participating synagogues agree to dedicate a staffer, most often a rabbi, whose primary job is to meet young Jews where they are – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. These engagement workers are charged with finding young Jews, be they in bars, coffee houses, local gyms, etc., and finding ways of engaging them in conversation to create relationships. Relationships create trust, which creates other relationships, which creates opportunity for real engaging conversations about life and what Judaism has to offer. One of the key points is that this engagement and these relationships are l’shma, for their own sake. Synagogue membership is not the goal – connecting Jews to Judaism is.

While the goal is engaging young Jews in Judaism, several of the Next Dor partner synagogues are discovering tangible benefits. Next Dor D.C., a project of Temple Micah was one of the first adopters. Rabbi Danny Zemel, a proponent of this engagement model before Next Dor existed, knew that Temple Micah needed to engage this unaffiliated and disaffected population. As a Next Dor pilot synagogue, Temple Micah hired Rabbi Esther Lederman as their engagement worker. A big part of Esther’s job is having one-on-one meetings with young Jews, usually in coffee shops. Now in its fourth year, Next Dor D.C. has gone from one-on-one meetings to regular Shabbat dinners at Esther’s home to annual free High Holy Day services for young adults, led by Esther and Michelle Citrin. The results – young Jewish adults are joining Temple Micah.

Some have dubbed this approach “relational Judaism” which seems something of an oxymoron. Judaism is at its essence (at least in my opinion) all about relationships. Unfortunately, congregations have focused on other things like supporting infrastructure, b’nai mitzvah training, and programming. More than the first two, the focus on programming is the irrelevance linchpin. Rather than engaging Jews in what’s important in their lives, synagogues program based on anecdotal information. When numbers fall the default synagogue response is to seek better programming rather than forming relationships with members, finding out what’s really important in their lives, and being responsive to their needs. Interestingly enough, while Synagogue 3000 envisioned the relational approach targeting young Jewish adults, the Next Dor communities are discovering it works with everyone.

Is your synagogue willing to form relationships with people who might not become members? Is your rabbi really willing to “be known” by synagogue members? What are your biggest obstacles to moving from a program-based community to relationship-based? Relationships, it’s all about the relationships!

Rabbi Aaron Spiegel is the CEO of Synagogue 3000. The report was the result of Synagogue 3000’s participation in FACT (Faith Communities Today), the largest and most comprehensive surveyor of faith communities in the United States.

 This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving that Darim Online is curating to advance the communal conversation about relationship focused Jewish communities.  Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting our research and this blog series.  Click here to see other related posts in the series.

The Best Advice Facebook Ever Gave Me

Originally posted on Clips and Phrases.

Well, not Facebook per se, but the fantastic, smart, and savvy folks on it. In short, I was preparing for a panel on social media marketing and put the following question out to my peeps:

"What's one thing you think is critical for (Jewish, nonprofit) social media marketers to know, do, or avoid?"

And here are the answers I got, divided into handy-dandy categories for your reading pleasure.

It’s Social Media, So…Be Social:

The conversation is happening with or without them. It's best to be a part of the conversation and get their ideas/analysis into the mix and be actively engaged. –Ellen Slaggert Neuchterlein

Keep it a two way street– post things, get info out, but welcome and then follow through with that which comes back. –Anita Saltzman Silvert

Use your greatest advantage – your natural networking abilities – to create a network of people who are talking about the organization rather than to be one person talking to many. – Debra Askanase

Another point is related to those above – that it's not a "push-out-the-message-via-PR" strategy, but one of bi- and multi-directional engagement. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and prepare to translate those pieces of feedback into action to improve the product/organization/reputation/service. –Esther Kustanowitz

It’ Ain’t All About the Benjamins, Baby (At Least Not Yet):

One thing to note is that the number one goal of social media for non-profits can't be fundraising, if people feel that all you are doing is asking for things they won't engage. As everyone said, this is a two way street, so social media should be used to get people more vested in a non-profit via meaningful communication. That way, when the non-profit asks for help, the person has a stronger connection to them because of the social media relationship they have developed. There is a slew of research that shows that social media helps brands be top of mind, for future engagement, not for immediate spending. –Rae Gross

Using social media is a two way street, the non-profit needs to give those following something (i.e. relevant information about whats happening in the community, educational, historical, fun, etc.) before they start trying to fundraise to those followers. Also, should create engagement and not just "push" things out to show they are posting. – Micha Siegel

Be You! Do Yo’ Thang!:

DO be likeable and approachable through your media and always align with your mission, vision and values. DON'T avoid the complaints-feedback and how you respond is part of becoming more likeable. –Elaine L. Suchow

Have personality! Make sure it's consistent with your brand identity not just the person with their fingertips on the keyboard. Though making sure they're REAL is also great, as long as it's consistent. Have fun! –Lisa Colton

Tell the story through the relationships and the experiences. People not product. Unless it's dark chocolate with sea salt. New personal favorite. –Shariee Calderone

Spell-check is Your Friend, and Other Practical Nuggets:

Know who you are talking to and what that person/audience cares about. –Rebecca Saidlower

I always see a lax attitude when it comes to grammar, punctuation and diction. The more professional they come off, the more respect they get from the public. –David Steinberg

Keep your personal and work accounts on different apps. –Leah Jones

Especially with Jewish audiences, I like to point out that although these communications tools are often seen as "technology" (and therefore SCARY!!), what the tools provide is an ability to expand our points of connection with individuals and build a stronger Jewish community. Usually when that's stated, it helps calm tech-anxiety. Also, if you talk about Facebook as facilitating Jewish geography, that usually gets a giggle and a nod as people begin to get it.  –Esther Kustanowitz

And, a Final Note on Courage:

Dare to say only what's worth saying. Work hard to figure out what the hell this might mean. –Ken Gordon

What resonates with you on this list? What would you add?

Four Rules for Maturing Your Field: The Bootcamp Model for Foundations, Associations and Umbrella Orgs

We’re already a month into 2013, and for many, those New Year’s resolutions are becoming a little less resolute every day.  It’s a curious phenomenon we all see each year in gyms, classes and homes. Individuals have the will to make BIG improvements, but without some guidance, clear goals and even a few incentives to get them over the first few big hurdles, successful outcomes are rare.

The same is true for entire communities that are organized around an issue and the umbrella organizations that support them.

Foundations, associations and other umbrella organizations want to provide value to their constituents and mature the fields in which they work.  Their affiliate organizations need to learn new skills, by doing so they lift up the entire community.  Umbrella organizations are challenged to figure out what kinds of programs – Course learning? One-on-one coaching? Gamification? – will work for them. Over the past few years, both See3 Communications and Darim Online have been working with these organizations to implement year-long “Boot Camps” which provide training, coaching and compelling incentives to help their grantees/affiliates fearlessly try new things to advance their work, and the fields in general. We’ve got some insights to share.

In our training, coaching and consulting work over the past years, we’ve learned four important lessons about making organizational change:

1.  Theory alone isn’t enough. When learning a new skill and even more importantly learning how to work in a new landscape (welcome to the ‘connected age’!), you just have to jump in and do it.  It’s like learning how to ride a bike (you have the feel how to balance) or learning a foreign language (your textbook grammar won’t make you fluent on the streets).

This analogy applies to countless new skills and technologies. Take, for instance, online video.

With a recognition that online video is a critical currency for modern communications, The AVI CHAI Foundation wanted to catalyze more schools to use video in their communications, alumni engagement and fundraising efforts. To help them do this well, the Video Academy had to tackle both the “why” and the “how” of online video.

“The Video Academy started by exposing the participants to the scale and importance of video. We then tackled storytelling theory and techniques, production skills, and the art and science of editing video. Importantly, our curriculum concludes with information about distribution, because the best video serves no purpose if no one sees it,” said See3 CEO Michael Hoffman.

In the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy (also funded by The AVI CHAI Foundation), 20 schools are tackling 3 important projects this year:  a social media experiment, a social fundraising experiment, and the development (or revision) of a social media policy.  By the end of the year these schools won’t just be a little more savvy with Facebook and Twitter, they will have accomplished three major initiatives to mature their social media use, their operations and their culture as well.

2. Coaching amplifies everything.  We can only learn so much at once.  It’s impossible to absorb and integrate 100% of what even the best teacher offers, but little adjustments over time can make a huge difference.   The key is to shape a path of improvement, and take one step at a time. 

Sometimes organizations need help shaping the path, and then are fairly self sufficient in moving down the path. In other cases, staff needs someone to hold their hand as they progress to teach, inform, support and guide.  A coach who can help critique each organizations’ work can help them improve exponentially, by maximizing the quality at each step. In a fast moving social media world, the rate at which each team gets up to speed is important, and this 1:1 approach can ignite important change.

In the Union for Reform Judaism Social Media Boot Camp, we offered a widely accessible webinar series to the organization’s hundreds of affiliates, and then offered 10 slots for more intensive, private coaching.  The organizations which applied and received these services were able to improve their processes and product, and now serve as a model for others to emulate.

3. Incentives raise the bar.  With so many opportunities competing for our attention, we have found that incentives help participants focus, strive for quality and take social media seriously.  In each Boot Camp, offers of additional coaching, cash prizes, or matching grants have helped participants take their work to the next level.

“In the Video Academy, we wanted to see the organizations use their newly learned skills by actually making videos. The best way to do that was to hold a video contest. The contest had two tracks — judges to measure quality, and people’s choice to measure participant’s ability to mobilize their social network,” said Hoffman.

Creating a fun, game-like space for participants to apply their newly learned skills made all the difference. The steps-to-win can vary of course, but the end run incentives are critical. We’ve seen that hold true for other programs too. 

In the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, The AVI CHAI Foundation is offering matching funds to help schools design and implement a social fundraising project.  More than the dollars that the school can earn, the matching funds create excitement around the project, and incentivize schools to take risks and try new things that otherwise would never make it to the top of the priority list.  Last year, the SAR Academy was so effective with their network strategy that they received over 1000 donations of $18 each through Facebook Causes. The Foundation matched $18,000 and they raised over $40,000 total.  It was so successful that a donor put up another matching gift if every alum donated to their annual campaign — even just $1.  It worked.

4.  Sharing with each other raises the field and creates capacity for ongoing learning long after the intensive experience has ended.  There is much to learn, and the participants in these Boot Camps are the ones on the ground making it happen, learning the tiny lessons that accumulate to real success.  Those receiving private coaching through the Boot Camp are developing models that others can learn from and emulate, and are encouraged to share their process, product and insights with the wider group through webinars, blog posts, Facebook groups and other channels.  Pulling the front of the bell curve forward shifts the middle of the curve too.

Each Boot Camp includes structures to promote knowledge sharing and conversation between and among the participants, and the field in general.  In the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, we host “Sharefest!” webinars throughout the year, where 2 or 3 schools share something that they’ve been working on.  Rarely are these home-run success stories. More often they are mid-stage efforts with many lessons learned, and webinar participants can “workshop” the issues with the presenter as well as learn from them. 

In the URJ Boot Camp Facebook group, staff, board and committee members ask questions of each other, provide feedback, share links to great resources, offer peer critiques and provide moral support.  The group becomes a very functional space, where content expertise is valued, but “boots on the ground” experience is just as important too. 

Getting Started

If you’re thinking about creating a program to build assets, skills and capacity among your affiliates, remember our key takeaways:

•    Your affiliates and grantees need to immerse themselves in the tech and processes.  Create a simple curriculum and provide a pathway for them to get their hands dirty and learn by doing.
•    Provide some coaching and you’ll amplify your results in a huge way.  Your affiliates have the will, but zero knowledge to start them on the road to mastering new skills. By making simple coaching available to them, you can speed up their learning and quality and help them to blast through those little things that are trifles for experts but big scary barriers to novice learners.
•    Incentivize what you’re asking them to do. Things like grants, cash, and even small symbolic prizes really drive participation and quality.  Participants keep their head in the game and make thoughtful progress with a goal in mind.  Provide them with a game, or fun program with that prize at the end and you’ll maximize your results.
•    Make sure they’re talking to each other and sharing their struggles as well as their triumphs.  When your program takes on this workshop aspect, your participating affiliates themselves become coaches and a support system to each other.  What’re more: you create a more vital, networked group of professionals learning new skills simultaneously.

The Social Media Boot Camp can be adapted for local communities (like this one for Jewish orgs in Northern New Jersey funded by a Berrie Innovation Grant), or across fields such as the Jewish Day School or URJ programs.  It's an efficient model to catalyze growth and maturity, and to build the field as we go.

Why You Need to Embrace Relationship Based Engagement

Guest post from Rabbi Aaron Spiegel. This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving.

Synagogue 3000 just released a report entitled “Reform and Conservative Congregations: Different Strengths, Different Challenges.” The report could just as easily been entitled something like “Synagogues are Fading Into Obscurity,” but that would be a little too provocative. The data is clear; the institution best positioned to provide the full richness of Jewish life is becoming irrelevant for most American Jews. More disturbing is that our research shows some 70% of young Jewish adults, those between the ages of 23 and 39, have no connection to the established Jewish community (synagogues, Federation, JCC’s, etc.). While many in the Jewish world talk about Jewish continuity and protecting the future of American Judaism, most of the proposed solutions have had little effect. The good news is we’ve also learned that this majority of young Jews are very interested in Judaism, just not the way we’re offering it.

While most in the congregational world talk about outreach, Synagogue 3000 learned that this moniker has a negative connotation. Outreach says, albeit subtly, “I’m reaching out to you so you can come to me and have what I want to offer you.” The community, particularly those young, single Jews who are our potential future are saying, “no thanks.” Instead of outreach Synagogue 3000 changed the conversation to engagement. Learning from the church world and community organizing, Synagogue 3000 created Next Dor (dor is Hebrew for generation) – an engagement program. Participating synagogues agree to dedicate a staffer, most often a rabbi, whose primary job is to meet young Jews where they are – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. These engagement workers are charged with finding young Jews, be they in bars, coffee houses, local gyms, etc., and finding ways of engaging them in conversation to create relationships. Relationships create trust, which creates other relationships, which creates opportunity for real engaging conversations about life and what Judaism has to offer. One of the key points is that this engagement and these relationships are l’shma, for their own sake. Synagogue membership is not the goal – connecting Jews to Judaism is.

While the goal is engaging young Jews in Judaism, several of the Next Dor partner synagogues are discovering tangible benefits. Next Dor D.C., a project of Temple Micah was one of the first adopters. Rabbi Danny Zemel, a proponent of this engagement model before Next Dor existed, knew that Temple Micah needed to engage this unaffiliated and disaffected population. As a Next Dor pilot synagogue, Temple Micah hired Rabbi Esther Lederman as their engagement worker. A big part of Esther’s job is having one-on-one meetings with young Jews, usually in coffee shops. Now in its fourth year, Next Dor D.C. has gone from one-on-one meetings to regular Shabbat dinners at Esther’s home to annual free High Holy Day services for young adults, led by Esther and Michelle Citrin. The results – young Jewish adults are joining Temple Micah.

Some have dubbed this approach “relational Judaism” which seems something of an oxymoron. Judaism is at its essence (at least in my opinion) all about relationships. Unfortunately, congregations have focused on other things like supporting infrastructure, b’nai mitzvah training, and programming. More than the first two, the focus on programming is the irrelevance linchpin. Rather than engaging Jews in what’s important in their lives, synagogues program based on anecdotal information. When numbers fall the default synagogue response is to seek better programming rather than forming relationships with members, finding out what’s really important in their lives, and being responsive to their needs. Interestingly enough, while Synagogue 3000 envisioned the relational approach targeting young Jewish adults, the Next Dor communities are discovering it works with everyone.

Is your synagogue willing to form relationships with people who might not become members? Is your rabbi really willing to “be known” by synagogue members? What are your biggest obstacles to moving from a program-based community to relationship-based? Relationships, it’s all about the relationships!

Rabbi Aaron Spiegel is the CEO of Synagogue 3000. The report was the result of Synagogue 3000’s participation in FACT (Faith Communities Today), the largest and most comprehensive surveyor of faith communities in the United States.

 This post is part of a series on networks and network weaving that Darim Online is curating to advance the communal conversation about relationship focused Jewish communities.  Thanks to UJA Federation of New York for supporting our research and this blog series.  Click here to see other related posts in the series.

Day School Video Academy Awards Announced

While the Grammys may have captured the CBS viewers, the Jewish Day School Video Academy Awards were filling the screens of many who were watching, voting and hoping to win the big bucks. The contest attracted 116 video entries, and 17,500 votes from the public. That’s right, over seventeen thousand votes.

Conceived by The AVI CHAI Foundation and produced by See3, The Jewish Day School Video Academy helped Jewish day schools improve their use of online video through training webinars, free one-on-one consultations, and this video contest with serious prize money. I watched many of these videos, and enjoyed seeing the creative approaches many took. They ran the gamut, from serious infomercials (I mean that in the best way, meaning marketing videos with rehearsed talking heads) to very creative student work, and down right silly fun.

It’s interesting to note what makes for an effective video. I encourage you to watch the following 6 winning entries and then reflect on what grabbed and kept your attention. What feeling do you actually walk away with? What’s your impression of the school? It’s also interesting to note that the 3 videos the panel of ‘expert’ judges chose were different than the people’s choice. Why do you think that is? What’s common to each grouping?

I can say that good lighting, great sound, reasonable length are absolute foundational elements of any decent video. And some playfulness never hurts. Rumor has it that they may offer another contest this spring, so study up and then pick up your camera! Take a tour of the winners:

Judges ratings:

1. Admissions Video (The Weber School Doris and Alex Weber Jewish Community High School)

2. Milwaukee Jewish Day School Trailer (Milwaukee Jewish Day School)
3. MJGDS 50th Anniversary Video Invitation (Martin J. Gottlieb Day School)
People’s Choice
1. If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words (Columbus Torah Academy)

2. A Gem in the Valley (Lander-Grinspoon Academy)
3. Put the P Back in PTSA (Greenfield Hebrew Academy)

Pro-Sumers: New Rules For The Jewish Future

This week I was at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Denver. Embedded in the event was The Jewish Futures Conference, which featured the work of several exceptional leaders in the Jewish community, as well as creative ideas submitted to the organizers, and teens sharing their ideas and projects. The following are my remarks, which opened the afternoon to set the context for presenters such as Chris Lehmann and Tiffany Shlain. Every GA registrant was given a copy of Elie Kaunfer’s book Empowered Judaism, and since I’m interested in you thoughts, and I have 3 copies of the book (I lend it out regularly, and bought copies for my own synagogue’s leadership), I’ll happily pass on the fresh copy I got this week to one person who shares your thoughts on being a pro-sumer, the Jewish future, or take-aways from the GA. Be a pro-sumer in the comments!
Jewish Futures: Lisa Colton

View more presentations from Darim Online

I’m here to tell you that the rules of the game have changed. I wish I had a nice, neat little book to hand you that would make everything clear, but it doesnt exist yet. I will, however, spend the next few minutes sharing what Id write on the back cover if it existed. At last years Futures Conference we began exploring some of the new rules like how content should be open, remixable, meaningful and relevant, and community building. Today, youll learn a few more. You probably have others which you can contribute with the microphone in your hand (the twitter hashtag is #Jewishfutures), or add in our online discussions after our event today. Youre a prosumer too. Together, were writing the future of the Jewish people.

Today, fundamental shifts in society, behavior and technology mean we must question some of the most basic assumptions that have driven our field, and our organizations, for the last several decades. Over the last 50 years weve actually seen an outsourcing of Jewish education to the professionals in institutions, and the focus on organizations that program the Jewish calendar to fulfill the demand of a consumerist Judaism culture. Looking back, we can see that this is actually an aberration from Jewish life throughout history, where outsourcing might have meant going to someone elses house for Shabbas dinner.

Today were talking about pro-sumers and our emerging pro-sumerist culture. A funny word, perhaps, but a very powerful concept that I think is actually great news for Jewish life and learning. Isnt this really what most Jewish educators dream of? That their students will grab the reigns and take an active role in learning, creating, and furthering their own (and their familys and their communitys) Jewish life? The rules of the game may feel foreign, and in fact may feel threatening to those of us who were raised, trained, and have developed our careers based on a different rule book. But as we challenge ourselves today, I want to acknowledge that these changes if we can understand them and adapt to work in alignment with them are good news.

Individual empowerment, the democratization of information, and the ease of collaboration are defining our current era. These three characteristics of todays culture have profound implications for how build and sustain organizations, how we use our professional expertise, and how we empower the people within our networks and communities to achieve our Jewish communal goals.

While this cultural revolution may be strongly influenced by advances in technology, but its not actually about technology its about what technology has made possible. Clay Shirky, in his wonderful book Here Comes Everybody, asserts that the age of social media means that organizations no longer have a monopoly on organizing. What he means is that individuals can now very easily and powerfully coordinate and collaborate with less infrastructure than was previously needed to accomplish those goals. The uprisings in the middle east and the Occupy Wall Street protests are just two obvious examples of this. But such bottom-up collaboration and organization also manifests in education and the Jewish community. Lets look at two examples.

First, the Khan Academy. If you dont know about it, its founder — who studied electrical engineering at MIT and got his MBA from Harvard — started tutoring some family members by creating short videos to explain topics they were struggling with at school. The Khan Academy now has over 2500 micro-lectures on topics such as math, history, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics and computer science. The impact of this discovery is that Khan has basically flipped classroom and homework time so students can watch the lectures or demonstrations at home, and then do the homework in class, sometimes collaboratively, with the teacher available for assistance anytime. Both Google and the Gates Foundation have made significant investments in the Kahn Academy, and its been featured in a TED talk earlier this year. The Khan Academy is democratizing education through its mission of providing a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere. If youre interested in learning more about the concept, check out the Twitter hashtag #JEDchat, where last Wednesday night a group of Jewish educators shared their efforts at flipping classrooms and discussed the potential impact for Jewish education. (More on that chat here).

Another example is the surge of Independent Minyanim that have sprung up in so many communities over the last several years. The Indie Minyanim really illustrate those three characteristics I mentioned a moment ago: Individual empowerment, the democratization of information, and the ease of collaboration. These individuals are willing to work hard and invest a lot of themselves to have the opportunity to be pro-Sumers. They do not want to be passive consumers or participants. I highly recommend reading Elie Kaunfers book, Empowered Judaism, which is included in every GA registrants bag. The book gives powerful insights into this generation and mindset, which are relevant far beyond minyanim.

While the popularity of Indie Minyanim is not limited to young people, it does point to the importance of recognizing the different characteristics of the generations. While Gen Xers were a hint of what was to come (entrepreneurship, for example, as a way to producing our own I fall into that category), the Millennials and the generations that come after will be even more different. Millienials seek meaning (in their jobs, and beyond), want to feel empowered and trusted, and are really good at collaboration. And they are willing to work for it. After you read Elies book, go study up on Millennials. It will make you a better parent, grandparent, teacher, employer and friend, and will clue you in on how to lead your organization and our community to be successful in The Jewish Future.

So, if it hasnt already been clear, the message here is that the times, they are a changing. In really fundamental ways, and quickly. And while the pace of change may be exhausting and relentless, Im here to tell you that for the rest of our careers, perhaps even the rest of our lives, this rate of change is going to be the name of the game. Youre gonna have to get use to it. Thankfully, weve got a lineup today thats here to help.

Now that we recognize things change, change often, and arent always predictable, we are learning to be more nimble. Perhaps Tech companies did this first, but many have also adopted the idea of the Permanent Beta. We used to spend lots of time, effort and often money perfecting something and then release it to the world. In a Permanent Beta you release the Beta version something well cooked but not set in stone, and then constantly refine it with your users. You listen, get feedback, adjust, listen some more, and continuously evolve. Whereas we used to be focused on the destination, we now embrace that its all about the journey.

I liken this to the idea of Naase Vnishmah a fascinating concept for our current age that Ive been thinking about a lot lately, inspired by my colleague Miriam Brosseau. This comes from the biblical verse where the Jews are standing at Mount Sinai express their acceptance of the Torah with the words “na’aseh v’nishma, which is roughly translated and understood First we will DO, and then we will UNDERSTAND. I think this phrase perfectly encapsulates a Jewish-Permenant-Beta mindset. I encourage you to think about how Naase vNishmah can be a guide for you to step into this new age, experiment, learn, and refine. Because we wont get to the future by thinking about it. We have to DO it.

It has been said about the late Steve Jobs that while he invented gadgets, his real impact was that he changed society. Pro-sumers similarly are moving Jewish learning and knowledge and empowerment into the communal space, not only limited only to the professionals and traditional methods of delivery that many of us are used to. Pro-sumerists are opening up new worlds that we cant yet even imagine. And as communal leaders we stand at a very important cross roads where we can see these new paths as a threat to what we know and have built, or as the key to achieving our shared goals in an era governed by a different rule book.

To help understand this crossroads, Ill leave you with an analogy which I hope will rattle around in your head for a while. Its inspired by Beth Kanter and Allison Fines work on Networked Nonprofits, from a book of the same name.

Beth and Allison talk about three stages of evolution of organizations, moving from a fortress to a focus on transactions, to greater transparency and the embrace of networks. The old model is like a fortress there are insiders and there are outsiders. There is a bold distinction between the producers (royalty) and consumers (commoners). They are divided, and the structures of society are designed to reinforce that division. In the Jewish community, we may find that our language, policies, program structures and behaviors make up these fortress walls. For some, Hebrew might be this barrier. For others, the concept of synagogue membership might be another fortress wall. Regardless of what you think about Hebrew fluency and Synagogue membership, the Fortress model does not work with pro-sumers. Period.

On the other end of the spectrum is a model more like a sea sponge that is sustained by its interactions with the organisms and environment around it. It survives, and thrives based on the flow of water in and out the pores and center tube of the sponge. Its open to the community, so to speak, in nearly every way, and lives in symbiosis with other organisms. This is the model where pro-sumers thrive. Where they can make a positive contribution, where the host organism wants and values their participation. Where information and intentions are transparent, where those who are interested in producing, can.

For example, while my synagogue has a very successful preschool program, a few mothers of infants wanted to gather, socialize, learn and build community before their kids were two and a half. They mentioned it to the synagogue leadership, who empowered them to go for it and are available to support and market and provide space to make it happen.

Because we count you all as very hip and thriving pro-sumers too, we invite you to add your voice to the conversation. I want to float a few questions for you to think about as we move through this event you can engage on Twitter (both talking and listening) using the #JewishFutures hashtag today and share your thoughts in a longer format on the Discussion Forums at JewishEdChange.net. Ive kicked off one discussion topic there, but feel free to start new ones. You are, of course, PRO-sumers!

Now remember, there’s a copy of Empowered Judaism up for grabs — share your thoughts, ideas and questions in the comments to have a chance at snagging it. Just as important as producing is listening — we really do want to hear what you have to say.

Applications Now Open! Darim Online Social Media Boot Camp for Educators

We are delighted to announce that applications for the new Darim Online Social Media Boot Camp for Educators (2011-2012) are open! Learn more… and apply!!

  • Are you a creative, curious, risk-taking educator in a Jewish educational setting?
  • Do you have a really great idea for using new media / educational technology that youve wanted to test out?
  • Do you want Darim to be your personal coach and mentor as you plan and launch your project?
  • Is your organization ready to think about what it means to achieve your mission in a digital age?
  • Are you interested in joining a community of like-minded educators for 9 months of intensive professional development and collaborative learning?

Darim Online is pleased to announce the launch of our Social Media Boot Camp for Educators. This program will support innovative Jewish educators in using social media effectively in their work, and assist their organizations in evolving models for success in the digital age.

The Social Media Boot Camp for Educators program is made possible through a generous grant by The Covenant Foundation.

About the Program

Darim is seeking to mentor up to 10 Jewish educational organizations, represented by 3-5 person teams, that are engaged in innovation and risk taking and which serve North American Jews. These teams will participate in a year long professional development and coaching experience to advance their work.

Program Structure

This Boot Camp cohort will run during the upcoming academic year, September 2011 – May 2012. Boot Camp teams are expected to commit 5-10 hours per month toward related professional development and project implementation (including webinars, coaching, and project development).

The program includes:

  • Participation in our series of monthly skill-building webinars which includes Darims overall Learning Network for Educators (teachers, directors of education, rabbis, lay leaders, and others interested in Jewish education);
  • Private coaching and consulting with Darim consultants to address strategic and tactical goals, and to help design, implement, and refine a technology-supported project. Teams from each organization will meet with a coach approximately twice a month over the academic year, with additional communications as needed;
  • Connection with other members of the Social Media Boot Camp, to learn from each others experience and projects through an online community and webinar-based sharing;
  • Membership to Darim Online and access to its other Learning Network events and resources.

About the Team Driven Model

This program seeks to support educators and their organizations in creating and implementing social media projects that achieve their mission, and serve to mature the organizations strategy and operations for success in the digital age. To achieve this goal, we believe that it is important for teams to participate in the program. Suggested team composition should include: an educator, senior staff, and lay leadership or other volunteer.

Teams will focus on a particular goal and project which may include innovations in: curricular design, professional development, parent-school engagement, or marketing and communications… just to suggest a few ideas. While the team will focus on one specific project, we expect that the experience of the Boot Camp will pay dividends in many areas of your work. We hope through this experience you will become active participants in shaping the future strategic direction of their organization.

Eligibility and Expectations

Eligibility

Applications are open to educators and their organizations, including but not limited to classroom teachers, education directors, rabbis, and cantors who work with North American Jews. We welcome applications from educators working within traditional institutions as well as those engaged in new models of Jewish education.

Expectations

We are dedicated to your success!

We therefore emphasize that regular participation in the Boot Camp is essential to gaining maximal value out of your experience and is important to the dynamic of the overall Boot Camp community.

Please be sure you and your team are willing to commit to this program. Below are our expectations for a successful experience. We recognize that we are working across multiple time zones and schedules and we are committed to being flexible and accessible within the programs parameters so that you can derive the most benefit from your participation possible.

  • Regular attendance at our series of skill-building webinars, which include education-focused sessions and general skill building sessions. Each member of your team is expected to attend at least 7 webinars over the course of the program, two of which can be downloaded and played instead of attending live;
  • Regular participation in team coaching sessions with a Darim coach (approximately twice a month);
  • Dedication of at least 3-8 hours per month to develop and launch your project;
  • Regular participation in the Boot Camps online community;
  • Presentation of your work in at least one Sharefest! Webinar;
  • Willingness to share and disseminate lessons learned;
  • Documentation of your experience in a format that can be shared with the community (e.g., a guest blog post on JewPoint0.org or a written case study).

Upon successful participation in this program per the terms above, each team will receive a budget of up to $250 to be used toward your project, subject to approval by Darim. Each team will be required to submit receipts for such purchases (e.g., securing a domain name, a private blog, a Flip video camera or other products or licenses).

Applications

Applications for the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators can be found here and are due Monday, May 2, 11:59pm ET. Those chosen to participate in the cohort will be announced in late May.

Apply here!

A copy of the application form is available here to preview. We recommend that you prepare your responses in advance and cut and paste the text into the application form, since you will be required to complete the application in one sitting (but give us a shout if you run into trouble).

Important Dates

The Boot Camp runs during the 2011-2012 academic year (September 2011 -May 2012).

Please note: Although the program officially kicks off Fall 2011, we recognize that some participants may wish to begin their planning earlier; we are open to providing coaching on a limited basis to participants over the summer.

March 14, 2011 Application open
May 2, 2011 Applications due by 11:59pm ET
Late May 2011 Announcement of Social Media Boot Camp for Educators cohort
June 2011 early coaching option for Boot Campers;
September 2011 Cohort Kick-Off, regular coaching schedule and webinars begin;
May 2012 Final Boot Camp for Educators Sharefest!: to present work to the community; cohort concludes.

Note About the Darim Online Learning Network for Educators

Applicants accepted into the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators will receive a free 1 year membership to Darim (June 2011 – May 2012). Membership includes participation in our series of Learning Network and Educator Learning Network webinars, access to online resources, and the participation in any related Jewish educator activities that are open to our general Darim community. Click here for additional information on Darim membership.

Applicants and others interested in learning more about concepts, tools, and strategies for integrating new media for Jewish learning are invited to become members of Darim Online. Current membership in the Darim Online Learning Network is not required for application to the program. Applicants who become members now and are then selected for the program will have their membership dues refunded. Darim offers membership categories for individuals and for organizations (the latter entitles staff and lay leaders of your organization to participate).

Questions? Please contact us at [email protected]

Thank you to The Covenant Foundation for a generous grant to make this program possible.

Getting ready but not quite there yet? Thanks to The Covenant Foundation, well be running another cohort in 2012-2013. Sign up here to be notified when those applications are available.

LAST CALL: Join the Schusterman Foundation and Darim Online at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference!

Weve said it before and well say it again: the Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online will be at NTENs annual Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D.C., March 17-19, and we think you should us join there.
While we wont repeat all of our Top 10 Reasons to Go to the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we do want to highlight the three exciting Jewish-themed gatherings weve got planned just for you.

1) The State of the Jewish Digital Nation. Thursday, March 17 8-11 am Washington Hilton

The Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online are hosting an affinity group meeting that will inspire, educate and assist you in your work. The agenda offers both an expansive and detailed update on the field, including:

  • A debrief of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund from Adam Simon of the Schusterman Family Foundation;
  • New Rules of the New Media Game from Lisa Colton of Darim Online;
  • Case studies from accomplished organizations inside and outside of the Jewish community; and
  • A fantastic problem-solving adventure led by NTEN rockstar and Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications at TechSoup Global, Rachel Weidinger.

We know its early in the morning, but well make you a deal: you can come in your pajamas and well provide breakfast.

2) Field trip to the Sixth and I Synagogue
Thursday, March 17 Early evening 600 I Street Northwest

In anticipation of Purima holiday on which we are actually commanded to be joyful and engage in revelrywe will take a field trip to the historic Sixth and I synagogue for a private viewing of JT Waldman’s illustrated Megillat Esther. Wine, beer and noshes will be provided. Learn more about Waldmans work and Sixth and I

Thanks to the Jewish Communal Service Association for hosting this event!

3) Shabbat Dinner
Friday, March 18 6:00-8:00 pm Location TBD

Join your friends and colleagues for Shabbat dinner to share, schmooze, reflect and relax. Dinner location is being finalized, but it will be within walking distance from the hotel and kosher-style options will be available. This will be the perfect preamble to the many NTC after parties that will kickoff in the hotel around 8:00 pm.

So there you have itthree awesome events designed with you in mind. There is no cost to attend any of them (except perhaps a cab or metro ride to Sixth and I), and they are open to Jewish professionals and lay leaders whether or not they are registered to attend the full NTC conference. We do, however, need you to let us know if and when you will be joining us so we can plan for space and food, and forward details to you. Please complete this quick form to let us know where we can expect you: http://bit.ly/Jewish11ntc

Feel free to forward this information to those who you know are coming to NTC, or who are in the D.C. area and may be interested in participating. If you do plan to attend the entire conference, you can also still take advantage of our discounted rate by following these steps:

  • If youre new to NTEN, youll have to set up a free and easy account. (Or login to your NTEN account.)
  • Go to 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference
  • Select Darim Online in the How did you hear? field when registering to receive the NTEN member rate.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. We look forward to seeing you in Washington, D.C., on March 17!

Warmly,

Your friends at the Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online

Your Invitation to Join the Jews at 11NTC!

Technology, marketing, communications, leadershipall vital ingredients to advancing your mission, all key topics to be discussed at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC).

CLSFF and Darim Online have worked with the event organizer, NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, to offer the members of our network a discount to attend this important gatheringthanks, NTEN!and we are extending an invitation to you to join us there for an intimate discussion about the role technology and new media has to play in advancing our Jewish organizations.

Need another reason why YOU should attend? Well give you three:

  • Its a rare opportunity to connect with, learn from and share knowledge with peers and experts in the nonprofit sector. A wide range of nonprofit professionalsexecutive directors, development professionals, marketing and communication folks, IT staff, program staff and othersfrom both very small and very large organizations will be present to connect with and collaborate on creating change.
  • A playground for the tech-friendly and curious Jewish professionals, the NTC will help you step outside of the silo of our community to learn from the rockstars of the nonprofit technology field, gain insights and skills you wouldnt find elsewhere, and enjoy ice cream bars at the mid-afternoon break and a cocktail with friends at the After-Party.
  • Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online will be hosting unique gatherings at the NTC just for the members of our networks: on the morning of Thursday, March 17, we will be facilitating an intimate learning-and-networking event, and on the evening of Friday, March 18, we will be hosting Shabbat dinner.

More details to follow on both events. Please click here to let us know if you are interested in attending and here for your chance to win a free pass to NTC!

In the meantime, to take advantage of our special rate, you will need to follow these steps:

  • If you’re new to NTEN, you’ll have to set up a free and easy account. (Or login to your NTEN account.)
  • Go to 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference
  • Select Darim Online in the “How did you hear?” field when registering to receive the NTEN member rate.

Please note: the member rate will increase along with the regular rate as we get closer to the event so register as soon as possible! If you do it by Dec. 7, you will get the lowest rate of $359! Have money left in your 2010 professional development budget? This may be just the way to spend it wisely!

To learn more, visit www.nten.org/ntc, and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. We hope to see you in Washington, D.C., in March for an invigorating gathering and schmooze sessions!

Opportunity: Tell Us How You Tech!

Have you or your organization used new media technology in an effective, creative way to activate your network? Tell us the details of your story, and be entered to win a free pass to the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference (“NTC”) from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online. NTC, an annual event organized by NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, will take place March 17-19 in Washington, D.C. It is a rare opportunity for the tech-friendly and curious Jewish professionals to connect with, learn from and share knowledge with peers and experts who are dedicating their talents to the nonprofit sector. A wide range of nonprofit professionals—executive directors, development professionals, marketing and communication folks, IT staff, program staff and others—from both very small and very large organizations will be present to discuss how technology, marketing, communications and leadership are essential to advancing your mission. Do not miss out on this amazing opportunity to step outside of the silo of our community to learn from the rockstars of the nonprofit technology field while also engaging in facilitated discussions and schmooze sessions with your fellow Jewish professionals. Better yet, you can earn the chance to do it for free simply by telling us how you are using technology! Leave a comment below! Deadline for submissions is December 15! Thank you to the Nonprofit Technology Network for donating this conference registration to the Jewish community!