Torah to Twitter and Back at #CCAR12

david tweet ccar I’ve recently found that Twitter has been enhancing my experiences at conferences and conventions. I joined the social networking site when I was at the URJ Biennial in 2009, as so many people seemed to be tweeting there. As I got ready for the CCAR Convention it wasn’t just about finalizing travel arrangements and packing clothes, it was also about identifying the hashtag (#CCAR12) and downloading the convention app. And in the weeks preceding the convention Rabbis started tweeting about what they were looking forward to, they asked questions about what to bring and they shared travel arrangements. It is therefore hardly surprising that from the very beginning of the convention technology and social media have been playing a central part.paul tweet ccar A number of people were walking around the convention halls with QR codes stuck to their lapels (this was going to be one of the innovations being pushed at the CCAR). When scanned, these QR codes provided links to webpages, videos and information about the convention. And of course, from the very first session, Rabbis were tweeting about the convention. Services also took full advantage of technology as people were encouraged to lay down the siddur and pick up the iPad. With the CCAR’s iT’filah app, the congregation was divided with people following the prayers on the screen and on the page. Sari tweet ccarAnd in some services you didn’t need an iPad, you didn’t even need a book, as the prayers were broadcast onto screens at the front of the room for everyone to follow. Visual t’filah meant that hands were free, heads were looking up, and our bodies were opened up to join together in prayer. And again Rabbis were tweeting. And in sessions, they demonstrated good practice; a few copies of Rabbi Arthur Green’s handout were distributed, but on the screens a link was given for people to download the handout, along with a QR code for the handout, and during the session, all Jewish texts were displayed on the two large screens on either side of the podium. And of course, Rabbis were tweeting.

Eric tweet ccar

For me it was great to simply meet the people I know from Twitter, live and in person (I just had to learn names in place of handles). Many of these social media Rabbis were also a part of The Tech Bar, where colleagues could come for advice and conversations about how to use the technology. When reflecting on the technology used at the CCAR convention, I am convinced that thousands of trees were saved as a result of this focus. I have several ideas I’ve seen here which I will be taking back with me; for one I’ll be adding QR codes to my business cards (thank you @rabbiadam). And the tweeting added so much to my convention experience. In sessions a conversation could take place in the background, with key quotes phyllis tweet ccarshared with colleagues on Twitter. And during the breakout sessions, I followed the session I was in, but I could also get a taste and flavor of the sessions I could not attend. I would love to hear what other people took away from the CCAR convention (whether they were there or following on twitter). But I am left with one final question: what happens to a hashtag (#CCAR12) when the convention is over? Danny Burkeman is a Rabbi at The Community Synagogue (www.commsyn.org) in Port Washington.

geoffrey tweet ccar

He has been playing with computers since he first got an Amstrad 128K (an old English computer). Technology has been an important part of his rabbinate, and today he blogs (www.rabbidanny.com), tweets (@rabbi_danny), is on Facebook (R Danny Burkeman) and is now podcasting on iTunes (Two Minutes of Torah). To learn more about QR codes, you’re welcome to replay Darim’s webinar with guest QR expert, founder of The QR Project, and HUC Rabbinical student David Gerber. Click here to play the webinar. Rabbis use the new i'Tefilah iPad appCCAR used QR codes to help provide additional information.

The Medium and the Message, Pt. 1

Any Sex and the City fans out there? Me – guilty as charged. Skip down to the paragraph that begins with in talking to if youd prefer to avoid the fabulousness thats about to ensue…

The following clip does an especially great job of illustrating a point Ive been thinking about a lot lately. (Be forewarned there is some naughty language sprinkled here and there.)

Carrie, the shows witty protagonist, has just been broken up with by a depressingly lovable fellow writer, Berger. But shes not so much upset about the break-up as she is bewildered at the medium through which the break-up message was conveyed: that most ubiquitous of office supplies, the Post-It. Its clear to the stylish gaggle of ladies who lunch that the message and its delivery do not line up.

In talking to both individuals and groups about social media, many colleagues and I tend to stress that its just a tool. At the same time, we all know full well that social media is much more than that.

Heres an analogy; lets talk about food. Here in the U.S., eating is primarily done with forks and knives. Those are our tools and we dont think too much about it. But what happens when those tools are traded out for a row of six different forks, or a pair of chopsticks, or a communal piece of flat bread? The cultural implications of the tools with which we eat are suddenly brought to the forefront.

place setting
Image credit: Paul Goyette

Change the tool, and (to some extent) you change the culture. Or, similarly, to quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message.

To touch briefly back on the aforementioned saga, Carrie later goes on a rant about how a break-up should ideally be handled. She stresses that the message of ending a relationship should be delivered in a way that honors what the two people had together. Essentially, the message and the medium should match.

Im confident everyone reading this post has had moments like this – moments in which weve questioned what is appropriate to share (or find out) via Facebook, or over email, or in a text. The screenshot below illustrates a very mild example.

reallyfb2

And its not only due to issues of public vs. private in these spaces, but something deeper. Theres something about posting certain messages on Twitter, for instance, that feels like the digital equivalent of breaking up on a Post-It. But these media are all developing so quickly, becoming so deeply ingrained into our lives and even onto our physical selves, thats its often unclear how to draw these boundaries. Or whether it is a fools errand to try to do so.*

How can an organization keep up and be successful in this environment? Ill give you my thoughts on this in a follow-up post. But now, Id love to hear yours. Have you ever had a Post-It moment? What are your impressions of the relationship between the medium and the message? What are the implications for Jewish organizations in the connected age?

*To further complicate the matter, social media is not some monolithic beast. The term refers to a field, a loose configuration of platforms and spaces that allow for certain kinds of interaction. Each space has developed a culture of its own. There are behavioral and conversational norms that are perfectly acceptable in one space that would seem quite odd in another. For instance, sharing pictures of your breakfast has become fairly acceptable on Facebook; doing so in LinkedIn may not go over so well. (But now Ive gone off about food again…)

Lisa Colton Named a Top #JewishInfluencer

jewishinflThe National Jewish Outreach Program tonight announced the recipients of the first “Jewish Treats: Jewish Influencer Awards” during the organization’s 18th annual dinner. I am completely honored to be named among them, and am humbled by the excellent company on the list (more on that below). The announcement was listed as part of Social Media Week (SMW12) which kicked off earlier in the day. Finalists were selected by an expert panel of judges and evaluated based on creative and strategic use of social media to positively impact the Jewish community. “We launched @JewishTweets in March 2008 and from the outset, embraced it for the way it allows us to connect with people everywhere. It has allowed us not only to be heard, but to listen and be inspired by others every day,” said Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder and director of the National Jewish Outreach Program. “In particular, we wanted to take time to recognize some of those who are leveraging the power of social media to raise Jewish social consciousness and shine a positive light on Jewish life." I appreciate that this list includes so many different types of people — entrepreneurs, community organizers, educators, consultants, institutional folk and very non-institutional folk. Just goes to show you that there’s no right or wrong way to tweet – just be yourself, help others, add value, and have fun. And as Allison Fine says, "social media a contact sport, not a spectator sport." So get in the game. Rabbi Yonah Bookstein @RabbiYonah Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is the executive rabbi for JConnectLA, which hosts events to help young Jews “connect to something bigger”. A popular blogger, Bookstein’s writings regularly appear in The Huffington Post, Jewlicious and LA’s JewishJournal.com. He also maintains the Facebook presence for both JConnectLA and the Jewlicious Festival, a popular youth event. Lisa Colton: @LisaColton and @DarimOnline Lisa Colton is the founder of Darim Online, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Jewish organizations and leaders effectively leverage social media to achieve their goals, including community building, education, communication and fundraising. In the past year, Colton has presented at conferences throughout the United States, and has hosted social media webinars online. William Daroff: @Daroff William Daroff is the vice president for public policy and director of the Washington Office for the Jewish Federations of North America. To the Jewish online community he is @Daroff, a prolific Tweeter who offers great insights into happenings in the American Jewish community. In 2011, Daroff co-chaired the social media committee for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Global Coalition for Israel. Chaviva Galatz: @TheChaviva Galatz is a popular blogger, Tweeter and social media personality. She created and co-chaired the only Jewish-themed panel at the 2011 SxSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX, entitled Jewish Synergy: Social Media and the New Community. She was named to The New York Jewish Week’s prestigious “36 Under 36” list where she was credited for “Connecting with Jews, one Tweet at a time”. Allison Josephs: @JewInTheCity Josephs is the woman behind “Jew in the City,” a popular website and video blog that helps promote a positive perception of Orthodox Judaism to non-observant Jews and non-Jews alike. In the past year, she has been invited to speak at numerous events and was interviewed by NPR for her work. Esther Kustanowitz: @EstherK Known to the online community as EstherK, Kustanowitz is a respected blogger, Tweeter and nonprofit consultant. Esther has traveled the globe presenting at various conferences on topics like Jewish communal engagement, social media and innovation. She was recently named a "Jewish Engagement Superstar" by Jewcy. The Maccabeats: @Maccabeats The Maccabeats, the male acapella group from Yeshiva University, has captivated American Jews with its hugely viral music videos promoting Jewish holidays. Their video for the song “Candlelight” has more than 7 million views alone. In 2011, the group was invited to perform for President Barack Obama at the official White House Chanukah party. The Maccabeats recently helped raise more than $88,000 for Gift of Life through their Miracle Match campaign. Rabbi Jason Miller: @RabbiJason Miller is a popular blogger on a wide variety of Jewish topics including technology, pop culture, politics and Jewish law. He is published regularly in the New York Jewish Week, The Huffington Post and the Detroit Jewish News. Rabbi Miller’s video response to former presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry’s “Strong” commercial has nearly 220,000 views on YouTube and was written about in dozens of national and international publications. Dave Weinberg: @Weinberg81 A Jewish innovator who uses social media to rally people for causes he supports, Weinberg runs Causil, which offers nonprofit consulting, conferences such as the Future of Jewish Nonprofit Summit, aimed at educating the Jewish community on social media. Dave also was invited to lead the Social Media Boot Camp at the AJOP Convention earlier this year. Rabbi Josh Yuter: @JYuter Rabbi Josh Yuter is not only a pulpit rabbi. He’s a popular blogger, tweeter, and podcaster (his Jewish-themed podcasts were downloaded more than 20,000 times last year.) After he launched an impressive Facebook page and Twitterfeed for his synagogue, he was chosen by the Rabbinical Council of America to teach other rabbis about social media and “Using the Web to Teach Torah” at its 2011 Annual Convention.

What Parents Always Wanted to Know

Over the past five years, we have had much success with our open houses and tours. The ratio of applicants that have attended our open houses and tours has been high and our focus groups have indicated that we are successful in this area. However, when we started to think about ways in which we could show off the 21st century learning skills that are emphasized in the classroom, we realized that open house could be a significant opportunity for this. In understanding the importance of balancing traditional skills with 21st century skills, we upheld the conventional format of our open house by showcasing our choir, hearing an 8th grader deliver the Dvar Torah, and having our administration share information that they consider important for prospective parents to know about our school community. In recognizing that telling our parents what we thought they wanted to hear may not be the most satisfying approach to open house, we started to consider alternate ways in which we could educate our parents about our school and integrate 21st century skills. After brainstorming and sharing our insight, we decided to flip the open house experience. As a result, the prospective parents became the content directors, which made for a rewarding open house experience.

Upon arriving to the school, signing into our lobby, and being greeted, each parent was given an ipad. Parents were told that the ipads would be used as part of the questioning process but in the meantime, to please explore the wonderful educational apps available to the students while waiting for the open house to begin. Once we were ready to start, the parents were asked to click on the Twitter app on each of their ipads. In order to facilitate the navigation of locating the Twitter app, we made sure that the Twitter app was anchored at the bottom of the ipads so that it would show up on each screen. Prior to the open house, we created a Twitter account for each ipad with Twitter usernames like Davis Academy Guest 1. Once the parent clicked on the Twitter app, they would see that they were already logged in with their unique username and could see a message welcoming them to the open house.

Twitter FeedOnce everyone was settled in with their ipad, I proceeded to explain that we really wanted to hear what the parents wanted to know. Our hopes were that parents would feel comfortable tweeting their questions in an anonymous format throughout the open house. This would serve several purposes: 1) while parents were in classrooms hearing from teachers and students, learning about the curriculum and seeing the classrooms, they could instantly tweet their questions that would be addressed later 2) parents would feel uninhibited in seeking answers to their questions and 3) it would demonstrate the ways in which we are incorporating technology into our instruction and encouraging students to share their voice.

Tag CloudAs the tweets were being received, I tagged them with descriptors enabling me to generate a Twitter cloud. An example of this is the question that was tweeted that said, How do you meet the needs of diverse learners?. This question was tagged as differentiation. After being in the classrooms, the parents returned to the media center where I displayed the Twitter cloud on a large screen. The remainder of the open house consisted of the administration, the teachers, and current Davis parents addressing questions that were raised via Twitter.

Although we have had positive feedback regarding our open houses in the past, using technology in this way generated a new level of enthusiasm and excitement. Providing the technology as a tool to encourage open communication while still allowing parents to get a strong sense of all that is offered at The Davis Academy, created an environment rich in collaboration and an environment that ensured that all questions could be addressed. We are pleased with the outcome and will continue to explore innovative tools that will enrich our open house experiences.

Drew Frank is the Lower School Principal at The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy in Atlanta Georgia, where he previously served in multiple teaching and administrative roles in both the lower and middle school. Drew is a proud member of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) cohort 5, and he has incorporated many of the constructivist and collaborative learning activities (spiritual check-ins, fishbowls, case studies, and consultancies) in to these and other school and faculty programs. You can follow Drew on Twitter @ugafrank.

Pull Up a Hashtag and Chat Awhile!

#jedchat is coming – and you are it! The first #jedchat synchronous twitter chat for Jewish educators will be held Wednesday, October 26 at 9pmET. What is #jedchat? In short, it’s professional learning and networking at your fingertips, brought to you by the collaborative team of Akevy Greenblatt (@Akevy613), Dov Emerson (@dovemerson), and Rabbi Meir Wexler (@RabbiWex) via Twitter. #jedchat is modeled after the successful #edchat collaborative discussions that have taken place on Twitter since 2009. Edchat brings together educators and those interested in education from around the world every Tuesday at 12pmET and 7pmET. Many Jewish educators are active participants in Edchat and the network that has developed around the synchronous conversations. Inspired by Edchat, #jedchat was created to foster connections and support professional learning for Jewish educators by Jewish educators. Akevy Greenblatt explains:

"We wanted to give Judaic teachers from all backgrounds an open and safe forum to share ideas and learn from each other."

So put on your thinking kippot and join the inaugural conversation which will center on: What do you want to gain from jedchat? How can we develop a Judaic pln (professional learning network). Join in the Learning :

  • Get ready to participate – got a twitter account? Follow the conversation here. Better yet, add your voice to the conversation by tweeting your ideas. Remember to include #jedchat in your tweet. And don’t forget to save #jedchat under your "Searches" for easy reference. You can also use a filtering tool to better follow the stream of tweets like Tweetdeck (see the #Edchat tutorial here).
  • Don’t have a twitter account yet? Set one up – it’ll only take a few minutes. The hardest part will probably be figuring out your Twitter name! Here’s a how-to from Twitter.
  • Set your clock for the real time #jedchat on Wednesdays at 9pm ET (you can figure out your local time for the first chat by clicking on the link).
  • No need to set your clock. Participants are using the #jedchat tag to extend the conversation and share resources and ideas at any time, as applicable. Think of it as a perpetual global cocktail party.
  • Join the jedchat wiki and connect – add your name and twitter name to the participants section, share your ideas for upcoming topics!
  • Take a gander at PEJE’s tutorial for tips and techniques for becoming a Twitter power user: You Can Speak the Language of Twitter
  • Check out Shelly Terrell’s (@ShellTerrell) tips for participating in a twitter chat based on her experiences with #edchat
  • Want more Jewish education goodness? Follow#jed21 and join the conversations!

Most importantly, have fun learning and connecting! #jedchat is all about the people who make the conversation! Will we see you there? What topics would you like to engage with on #jedchat? Take the #jedchat hashtag out for a spin and tweet out your ideas! Special thanks to Akevy Greenblatt (@Akevy613), Dov Emerson (@dovemerson), and Rabbi Meir Wexler (@RabbiWex)! photo credit: misspixels on flickr [cross-posted from jlearn2.0]

We Will Do, And (Then) We Will Understand

Beth Kanter and Allison Fine accurately quip in “The Networked Nonprofit” that “social media is a contact sport.” You can’t expect to succeed without getting your hands dirty. As it happens, that’s just how the young nation of Israel agrees to learn the Torah – standing at Sinai, overwhelmed by the presence of the Divine, they collectively intone “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7 – what an appropriately enumerated verse). Loosely translated, “we will do, and (then) we will hear/understand.” Or, even more loosely translated, “first we will give this a try, then we’ll have some idea what it’s all about.” Israel agrees that the Torah is not an intellectual exercise, it is a lived experience.

“Na’aseh v’nishma” is your social media call to action. Knowing conceptually that it would be useful to connect with other people free of the constraints of time and space is an important step. But it can’t compare to, for instance, engaging your network on Facebook to help find the modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma.”* Sensing that social media increases the likelihood of serendipity doesn’t hold a candle to finding your next job through Twitter. Believing that social media is a key part of your communications strategy is very different from putting that belief into action. But what about those who need to feel the ROI (or rather, ROE – return on engagement) before diving in? What about the “lo n’aaseh” (“we will not do”) folks? On the one hand, there are those who will take on this challenge only because they “have to.” A friend recently told me about a colleague in her office who, upon taking the job, was cajoled into creating a Facebook account for the first time. The position involved working heavily with teens, and the person he was replacing realized as he was ending his tenure that he had missed out on opportunities for engagement by avoiding social media – “Facebook” was the advice he passed on to his successor. The new colleague is seeing early signs of success, meeting the teens in their own space, in their own language. Another friend had a similar experience:

alisonfbquote On the other hand, there are those for whom working in social media may never feel like the right fit. It may move too frenetically, require too many technical proficiencies, feel too exposing or time consuming, or any number of things. At the same time, social media is becoming part of the vernacular of our culture. Even the most reluctant of us may have to reexamine our practice in light of new ways of working. This is a familiar story to some:

Ultimately, you can’t really “get” social media without saying “na’aseh v’nishma” and engaging it as a contact sport. Facing reluctance is tough – there are always reasons not to do anything! So if you’re working on a co-worker, easing them into working with and through social technologies, it would be useful to have the following things in mind:

  1. Have a plan and a goal. Pick one thing, something that requires little effort, but can reap big rewards. Choose an internal project to work on in a Facebook group instead of over email, or tweet out questions during conference calls to solicit input from your organization’s followers and fans instead of (or as part of) a newsletter. Talk about both how things change, and what that means for your work.
  2. Blend online and on-land experiences. Reference Facebook in phone calls, share a great question from an email conversation on LinkedIn, bring digital spaces into your in-person conversations. These online spaces are not something “other,” they are powerful connective tools that can weave worlds – and people – together.
  3. Once you get started, remember that these things take time. Look for the bright spots, the places where your colleague is having success (or learning to redefine success). Focus on those, and encourage growth from there.

With social media, as with so many things, the understanding is in the doing. Admittedly, this is no easy task. Success in social media does take an investment of time, energy, thought…much like any meaningful human relationship. But this is how we learn. We do, and we do again. And then we understand. What was your “na’aseh v’nishma” moment? When did the “doing” make all the difference? (Share your voice in the comments and one lucky commenter, chosen at random, will receive a free copy of the book “Switch”.)

*The modern equivalent of “na’aseh v’nishma” could arguably be found in cognitive psychology: “effort justification.” It’s a fancy way of saying that when we work at something, when we dig in and invest ourselves, we understand it better and appreciate it more. Hat tip to Jay Schreiber and Rabbi Josh Yuter for helping me out on that one.

The Value of a Social Media Policy

Consider the following tale: Gloria works for a large and respected nonprofit organization. She tweets occasionally for the organization, but also has a personal account. One day, in an innocent slip of the fingers, she tweets about drinking at a party from her work account instead of her personal one. Not registering the error, she finishes her day as usual. June’s colleague suddenly starts fielding messages from the organization’s constituents about the, ahem, unexpected tweet. How should he react? Or perhaps this little story will capture your fancy: Tom recently Googled his organization and found that there were several blogs discussing a project his team was implementing. He was pleasantly surprised to find such an enthusiastic group advocating on behalf of his organization, but the blog was hosting by an organization with explicit political leanings, and Tom’s organization is specifically non-partisan. Should Tom take advantage of building the organization’s network and strengthening relationships with individuals who could contribute a lot to their work, or should he steer clear of anything that could be interpreted as political? How should Tom respond? Both June’s colleague and Tom could really use somewhere to turn for guidance. The way many organizations are facing these and other questions is by developing a social media policy (we recently blogged about the excellent policy developed by the Avi Chai Foundation here: “Avi Chai Foundation Gets Social”). A social media policy is essentially a document that helps define how different groups associated with an organization should conduct themselves online. It is a valuable and powerful tool. A social media policy helps outline both expectations and possibilities for social media interactions. It acts as a go-to document for any questions or conflicts that may arise. A social media policy can provide a sense of security, knowing your team is approaching social media from the same set of assumptions. It can also, somewhat counter-intuitively, foster a sense of freedom in the use of social media – you can jump into the game with more confidence when you know the rules. Perhaps even more valuable than the document itself is the process of developing a social media policy. It encourages a big conversation, an honest discussion of the values and character of your organization and how they should be reflected online. As Beth Kanter explains on her blog, “…if you want the policy to truly work, you need a process, especially if your organization is still grappling with fears and concerns.” The process can present an amazing opportunity for listening, sharing, and reflection among the people who make your good work possible. Darim is here to help you have this conversation and implement your own social media policy. That way, Gloria’s accidental tweet (a true story which you can find out more about here) and Tom’s political blog posts won’t seem so daunting – with the right approach, they can become opportunities for learning and increased connection with the people who care most about what you do. To dig deeper into this topic and start the conversation, Darim is offering a webinar on social media policies (and because it’s our tenth anniversary, you’re welcome to join us for free). Here is all the information: Social Media Staffing and Policies Tuesday, May 17, 1-2pm Register here: http://bit.ly/lZTGph And we want to hear from you! Does your organization have a social media policy? If so, what did you learn, or how did you grow through the process of creating your guidelines or policy?

What’s that [email protected] ?

No, I’m not trying to swear in the headline of this post, though the three symbols in a row might have led you to question my professional judgment. More and more, I’m seeing people drop a period before the @ when starting a tweet with a username, such as “@estherk I wish I could be at #tribefest”. You might, as I did, wonder why some tweets appear like this “[email protected] reports on #tribefest”. (By the way, I’m making up these tweets as examples).

One Forty to the rescue! Laura Fitton (@pistachio) runs this smart “Social Business Software Hub”, which recently blogged 5 Common Twitter Mistakes and How to Fix Them. It’s worth reading. I’ll share the fifth one with you here, since it’s a juicy factoid I’m betting many people are curious about:

@ vs. [email protected] The way that Twitter is constructed, only people that also follow whoever you are @replying can see that @reply. Sometimes, people will start a Tweet with @ when its not intended to be an @reply, though. For instance, @CNNs coverage of the Egyptian riots. If you Tweeted that, only your followers that follow @CNN will see that Tweet in their timeline.

HOW TO FIX: Want everyone to see those Tweets? Use the [email protected] trick: stick a period in front of the @ sign and itll send the Tweet into the main Twitter stream for all to enjoy.

See? Simple and brilliant explanation. Now go check out their blog for many more.

[email protected]’all, see you on Twitter!

Passover Tweets – er, Treats – er, Tweets

tweet-the-exodus[cross-posted from jlearn2.0] What’s new for Pesach this year?

Here are a few fun morsels to leaven liven up the holiday!

Not to be forgotten, of course, is last season’s fave, Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah. Alas, the link seems to be itself departed – anyone have a current one?

Any other faves out there? Share yours!

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.