Connecting People & Projects: The GLC Explores Net2 Link in San Francisco

Marc Manashil's picture

I’m excited to publish the first in a series of posts about the NetSquared Global Leadership Council (GLC) program that concluded last Thursday in San Francisco. Alicja Peszkowska has already provided some great highlights of the experience. In this post, I’d like to share details from one of our most engaging sessions, which focused on the new NetSquared platform and Net2 Link, a program being launched with SAP to connect high skilled volunteers with NetSquared Local groups and constituents. 

The session began with a presentation by our Senior Manager of Product Development, Laney Strange, who discussed key components of the new NetSquared platform, which will replace the existing NetSquared.org upon its launch in July. Laney provided background about the limitations of our current site and the need for a new platform that will enable direct connections between people and tech for good projects worldwide. GLC members were then invited to provide substantive feedback on the desired features and functionality of the new platform. Here's a rough mockup of what we're envisioning for the homepage:

Laney also introduced the concept of resource modules, which are introductory trainings that NetSquared organizers can use to inspire discussion and catalyze action in the local context. Laney led GLC members through an exercise in which they identified topics that would have the greatest resonance with their local constituents. 

The platform session was followed by presentations by SAP’s CSR Director, Steve Williams, and CDI Senior Director, Billy Bicket, who introduced Net2 Link -- a new program designed to facilitate connections among GLC members, partners like SAP, and NetSquared Local organizers and participants. 

Steve Williams set up the discussion by framing the current state of CSR at SAP as being “traditionally philanthropic.” Although there is a well established tradition of volunteerism at SAP, the overwhelming number of those involved make contributions outside their areas of technical expertise. As one might expect, most employees perform a technical function as part of their daily responsibilities and are therefore less eager to do so outside work hours. And even if SAP can be successful in identifying these high-skilled volunteers, there remains the challenge of finding NGOs and structuring engagements in ways that will be maximally beneficial to the organization and volunteer.

Therein lies the opportunity for connection with NetSquared Local groups, which provide a place for social benefit actors to learn how technology can accelerate their work while attracting technologists and business professionals actively seeking ways to contribute their skills. The combination of such connections being made in-person and online via the new NetSquared platform could help advance the high-skilled volunteerism needs of companies like SAP in a big way. Here's a mockup that shows how we hope to facilitate these connections:

After discussing these ideas in hypothetical terms, we ended on a personal note and with a glimpse into what collaboration with companies like SAP might look like. GLC member, Eli van der Giessen, described his experience in working with Steve Williams in the context of his NetSquared Local group in Vancouver. Both Eli and Steve admitted that their experience was far from an ideal use-case -- outside commitments got in the way of what both would have ideally wanted to accomplish. But the presentation catalyzed reflection about the potential of SAP volunteers engaging with NetSquared Local groups and the potential high-skilled volunteer opportunities that could emerge.

From my perspective as Community Evangelist, the events of the SAP morning sessions left me feeling hopeful. All of the GLC members gave their thumbs up to the benefits that our new platform could provide, and most are eager to be involved in developing the new site and our resource modules. As best I could tell, they left the session intrigued, excited, appropriately skeptical when necessary, but also ready to help us take NetSquared and Net2 Link to the next step.

The Global Leadership Council SF program was a powerful and at times a difficult experience for me as the Community Evangelist who is charged with helping to grow and sustain NetSquared Local communities worldwide. In upcoming posts, I’d like to share some of my personal reflections from the GLC SF experience, including the successes, fails and lessons learned. I look forward to sharing these thoughts in the weeks to come and would like to invite members of the Net2 team, GLC members and our constituents around the world to get involved in the discussion. In the meantime, let me know what you think here and @MarcManashil.