Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Being Great Connectors by Marci Mayer Eisen

Those of you who work with me know that I am most motivated by creating connections. Social group work sees the small group experience kind of like a mini society – a place to not only develop friendships, but to also learn leadership & decision making, acquire new skills, enhance self-esteem, and on a very basic, human level, help create a sense of meaning and belonging. These theories can apply to all types of groups from a kids’ summer camp cabin to a board of directors.

This past summer I attended the International Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups in Chicago. We talked about the potential, the power of the small group to change lives. At the conference we also heard from one of the top influencers of the Obama campaign and his take on the reemergence of group work values and skills. You simply can’t talk about large scale community change without exploring the power of the small group to impact that change.

I worry that we rarely teach our staff to be great connectors. Oh yes, we work hard to help people connect to our organizations, but do we do our best to help participants connect with each other?

Malcolm Gladwell in the book Tipping Point has an entire chapter on Connectors. He describes them as people who help others connect up with the world. Research confirms that it’s hard to feel connected to a community - or even an organization - without having your own small group or groups through which you are strongly engaged. And it’s sure much easier to get people to make commitments, including time and money, when they have multiple connections.

I even recently learned about research that training “sticks” better when those in attendance feel connected to each other. And we all realize that Partnerships and collaborations flow so much more easily when the relationships, communication, mutual support and trust are already in place.

The more that technology isolates us, the more we want basic human connections. Just think about Facebook and Linked-In and other sites.

We, the Jewish community professionals, can create connections for so many. No matter your professional role – every single one of here has the ability to be a Connector. Let us think about our opportunities - and our responsibility - to take the initiative to help each person who walks through our doors (or calls us or emails us or messages us) find those experiences and relationships that will directly lead to a feeling of belonging and deeper sense of what it really means to be part of a community.

Marci Mayer Eisen
Professional Excellence Project/JProstl

Monday, March 8, 2010

CoP Facilitator as Talent Scout

I was thinking of facilitation this week as I had occasion to listen to Rabbi Yaakov Jaffee of the Maimonides School in Brookline talk about this week's Torah portion.

Exodus, 25 verse 2: 2 'Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering.'

According to Rabbi Jaffee, Bezalel is described not only as the gifted artison of the Mishkan but also the kind of leader who recognized the individual gifts that each Israelite was moved by his heart to bring for the Mishkan and was able to foster the coming together of these diverse talents and gifts to create the magnificant and holy mishkan.

As a community of practice (CoP) facilitator I see part of my role as that of talent scout. My job, like Bezalel's, is to:

a) identify the gifts and talents of each member of my CoP -- their passion for technology, their ability to lead others, their writing skills, their ability to see and organize the details, their out of the box thinking, or their logical clarity.

b) help members recognize how their talents can make a significant contribution to the community -- pointing out the opportunities and needs of the community as they arise

c) motivate, coordinate and facilitate the collaborative efforts of many talented members toward collectively building the knowledge and practice of our community.

After assembling the talent in the community, my role (much like in corporate talent management) is to review the needs, talent and skills of the community and ask "what is missing?" What expertise do we need to have in our community in order to allow us to tackle the kinds of problems we need to in our field? And then to continue the search to bring in the appropriate talent, skills and knowledge to move our community forward.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Technology Adoption - a look under the hood

I want to thank Deborah Fishman of Present Tense Magzine for her recent article in eJewishphilanthropy sharing honestly, openly and clearly the technology adoption process experienced when the Present Tense Magazine staff adopted Googlewave. I am sure that many in the audience recognize this process — the benefits and new possibilities — along side the steep learning curve and the challenge of recreating our daily work habits.

We are likely to see and experience this exact same process again and again in the years to come. Lisa Colton of Darim Online mentioned in a recent Boston talk that experts estimate we are 10 years into the 50 year revolution emerging from the radical changes in technology.

How will we endure? Here are a few of my thoughts:
a) let's be realistic, its hard work getting a workforce up to speed on a new technology – make sure we calculate training, support and time into the plan before we get wowed by the next ‘technology superfix.’

b) let's build the capacity of our workforce for ongoing learning and support. Break down silos, form learning communities, support the informal conversations through which professionals become more competant on a daily basis

c)let's begin thinking about the role of a technology steward – someone whose job is not just to select a technology solution but to take into account the realistic learning needs of users and help those users master the technology so they can realize the potential gains the technology holds.

For more information on technology stewardship see the book Digital Habitats and accompanying blog or the Tech Stew blog by Caren Levine.

Naava Frank