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

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