Growing Bigger on the Inside Through Community "Field Trips"

GordonDym's picture

TARDIS at Chicago's Pumping Station One

As a fan of the British TV series Doctor Who,  I am very familiar with the idea of going out and doing good. When looking to reinvent the Chicago Netsquared/Net2Chi group, it would have been easy to focus on retaining the same presentation and networking....but we decided to do things differently.

So in that spirit, the group decided to take a page from the show and tap into the power of "field trips". After all, it's hard to know what community needs are without actually engaging the community. Social media engagement only goes so far, and putting on events can only accomplish so much - moving the community from being static to moving outside their comfort zone provides ample opportunity to advocate for our cause and spread the word.

Thankfully, members of Net2Chi are also members of other organizations, who were running events that share our focus on driving tech and the social good. Groups like HandsOn Chicago (which provides consultation and training for non-profits) and the Illinois Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise provide information and events that focus on shared interests (and given increased member interest in social ventures, there is a great untapped resource). So encouraging members to attend and making these events more widely known....helps us establish (or reestablish) our presence and advocate for our efforts in driving digital excellence.

But some readers may be thinking You're not really doing any community organizing work....but that's not quite the case. Tapping into Net2Chi's existing network allows us to create "temporary co-organizers", providing a way for us to stay active while laying plans for future events. Allowing for temporary co-organizers (even if "organizing" means forwarding an e-mail or tweet on an event) allows us the ability to nurture potential organizers....kind of the way the Doctor takes on "companions" to assist him, allowing them to grow into more responsible, mature roles.

(OK, I may be stretching it, but the metaphor fits)

Driving social change through check is a hard job - for every person willing to do the work, many others pay lip service or proclaim their own nobility. However, driving social change is rarely done behind a desk or a keyboard - it involves stepping out of the narrow confines of our experience and building relationships without expectation of reward.

There's at least one pop culture artifact that proves this true.