Today we are rebooting a popular NetSquared site feature from the past...
NetSquared Spotlights are a series of interviews focused on the work of our amazing NetSquared Local Organizers around the world. Our local organizers are volunteers dedicated to helping create local opportunities for learning, sharing and using technology to make a difference. Each spotlight we will ask questions that profile our Net2 organizers' approach to community organizing so that others can learn from their experience.
I’m an instigator & connector who is passionate about working with people to design technology projects that support real-world social change.
Why did you become a NetSquared Local organizer? (What inspired you to organize local NetSquared events in your community?)
Burlington has plenty of tech meetups, but when I first moved here two years ago, there were no meetups on tech for change & social innovation, and none that specifically targeted nonprofits and social innovators. Having lived and breathed a lot of this in Silicon Valley, I saw a real need, not only to build the capacity of nonprofits in Burlington, but also simply to connect the tech and nonprofit communities. I started Burlington NetSquared a couple of months after I moved here, without knowing many people. It’s been a wonderful way to connect with a wide range of folks doing interesting work in the community, and also to give back as a community member.
Do you have co-organizers? What are their roles? How did you find them?
Not in a formal capacity, though I’d love one! I am working closely with Rob Fish of the Vermont Digital Economy Project to organize a series of Social Media Surgeries for nonprofits across the state, which has been great.
What’s your local social-web-tech scene like?
Very small and tight-knit! Burlington’s entire population is only about 30,000, so you can imagine the subset that’s involved in social-web-tech. It’s an incredibly friendly and supportive community all revolving around our beloved hashtag, #BTV.
What do your local participants really want to know? What are the most popular topics?
The most popular topic so far was a panel I organized about food & tech. Farming and local food production are important parts of Vermont’s identity, and there are a number of interesting startups that are supporting the local food economy.
Beyond that, Social Media Surgeries have been really popular with nonprofits and volunteer surgeons alike. Nonprofits get a lot of value from getting personalized assistance from a member of the tech community, and the tech community gets to give back in a meaningful way that can truly make a difference to a lot of the tiny nonprofits we have here in Vermont.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
Doing it alone!
Tell us about the best NetSquared Local event. What did you learn from that experience?
The event that blew my mind was the “Digital Health Revolution” panel I organized with the UVM School of Medicine last year. It was amazing to see the number of innovative projects happening in the health space here in Vermont. From the UVM researchers mining Twitter to gauge the healthiness of communities to a tiny organization harnessing the power of video to train frontline medical workers in developing countries to a young woman who uses data visualization to help chart complex individual medical conditions…. It was definitely our most diverse event in terms of content and panelist perspectives.
What’s the coolest thing that’s happened at one of your events?
Sparking a connection between a Champlain College professor and a small nonprofit, which led the professor to engage one of his classes in a semester-long pro bono project to transform the organization’s branding and communications strategy.
How do you measure the success of your events? (What do you consider a successful event? what does success look like?)
I consider any event successful if people show up and engage. A little controversy and passionate debate never hurts, either.
How do you envision your NetSquared Local events evolving over time?
I started out doing a lot of panel discussions to give social innovators and nonprofits a venue to share innovative ways in which they are using technology to achieve their goals. And these events have been valuable for sparking new connections between different groups of people, which is something that’s sorely needed in Vermont. But I think the most valuable thing I can be doing with NetSquared is focusing on the nonprofit community and helping them learn the fundamentals of how technology can support their work.
How do you spend your time when you’re not organizing NetSquared Local events? (Do you have any side projects, other groups, other things you are working on that you want spotlighted?)
I have a small consulting practice, ThirdSpace Consulting, where I work with all kinds of clients on tech for change projects. I’m a strategist who loves seeing how big ideas can be made into reality, and I excel in problem-solving, seeing the big picture, and then making things actionable. I’m also a mom to two small boys (which is what takes up most of my time, honestly), a sometimes-photographer and curiosity seeker.
Thanks to Amanda for letting us interview her for this NetSquared Spotlight! We hope you will follow along with future posts in this series.