How can community foundations and local NGOs maintain their programs and move online?

(This is a wiki, feel free to add to it. See the Edit button at the end of the post.)

 

The lovely @alex_stef invited me and @manu_babele to offer experience and advice as non profits are wondering how to cope with the corona crisis.

About 20 of us community workers met in an online call to try to figure our how organisations which are very much in the territory deal with the challenge of moving their activities online - most of them Romania based. Introduction by the host focused on 3 questions and challenges today like never before:

  • How do we play the pandemic network game? -> we need to collaborate more and better (Andreea, program director from Community Foundation Galati).
  • How do we generate cashflow for our beneficiaries?
  • How do we generate active communities beyond our usual bubble?

We had community coordinators, volunteers, experts, and network experts in the room:

  • Ruxandra: local coordinator of a community program for STEM education, Fondul Științescu.
  • Marius: board president of the Galați Community Foundation ‘If we would have set up this call/event live, we wouldn’t have had so many people’ :slight_smile:
  • Alexandru: expert on migration
  • Cristina: grants manager at the Bucharest Community Foundation
  • Alexandra: participation consultant and community facilitator asking how can orgs working with local communities can offer support in light of the deep shifts happening
  • Manu: worked on a lot of projects for social innovation and especially incubation
  • Mihai: coordinator of a capacity building program equipping libraries with books in 12 countries
  • Alin: founder of CoderDojo in Pitesti (south Romania)
  • … and others

Manu is a social innovator and like me, used to the online, but has been disappointed with the messiness of the Internet and wanted something more structured. Takeaway: in their social business incubation program, Manu and his team test for minimum viable online interactions, so that the time and community management is more efficiently used relative to the offline!

 

Some of the burning topics we talked about:

1. How can foundations with ongoing programs build or increase their online presence and reach to not lose momentum?

I read this as a need to stay relevant, in the way of not losing contact with the populations they serve through their very existance. Some projects - like technical innovation among high schoolers, can be repurposed with an online component because youth will be quick adopters. But others, like Marathons, cannot happen online.

We kept getting this question of: ‘What are some recipes for moving activities online? For having a useful presence there?’
Unfortunately this is not cookie cutter. It needs strategic considerations, and for the how: we would need to spend a couple of days together to integrate some ideas into their way of working. Sorry, but it’s not as easy!

A great list of civic/social initiatives in Romania working to help relieve the corona crisis:

2. Emergency responses: How do you keep your community alive and cashflow support to those who need the resources?

We talked a lot about the need to repurpose resources and redirect requests to those organisations already equipped to do crisis relief! My own advice was to even drop projects, if the cost is too high to get them through the noise in today’s communications, which are anyway mostly focused on corona. These efforts might clog the channels, more than do good.

 

Next steps for this group:

  • a few hours of people to look into each other’s issues + resources
  • new calls focused on a specific question
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Great input to the online discussion, Noemi; chapeau! :cowboy_hat_face: for the summary (plus you`ve been uber-fast with all of it).

It seems to me that the topics in the meet-up got polarised between the invitation for a larger mind frame and the need to zoom in on a particular problem. A few examples of the stated ”zoom in” problems:

  • How do we re-create a small community around an educational topic (like Stiintescu or CoderDojo) in an online environment?
  • How can we do fundraising in an online environment?
  • How do we form interdisciplinary communities of experts who think together about a given problem?
  • How do we recruit and engage the right people?

Ideally, we will continue the meetings by answering both plans:

  1. The wide zoom out and strategic thinking needs
  2. and the zoom in, hands-on problem-solving requests.

I would like to learn from what you do here at EdgeRyders (cool pioneers of online communities : ).
It would be great to harvest some of the models and resources you have here to answer our challenges.

I think we have an unprecedented opportunity and need to change. I am glad that you are here. And it feels like am here to stay : ).

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Right now with Edgeryders we are in a similar situation like you - we have ongoing projects that have their missions, but faced with the crisis we are doing our best to shift the conversations around the things that we humans care about these days - a simple routine I could recommend is the weekly open calls to all those interested in some efforts:

Example:

Each Monday we are onboarding those people who want to find something community like to do during this lockdown: Weekly Covid2019 Community Response Call

Each Tuesday we are hosting themed calls on Loss of work in the times of corona - the themes will change every month or so: What to do when losing work during Covid19? Community calls each Tuesday noon

Anyone can join the calls, but community managers send more targeted invites or reach out to those who probably woudl benefit a lot or could offer expertise to also join. There is also some guidance during the calls - what we want to do, why sharing is good, what happens next etc. But it’s a group habit that can increase the collaboration overall, it doesn’t mean everyone will or should collaborate, you see?

This is simple to organise, but it takes time to keep in touch with people and connect what is being said - that’s why integrating online calls with some form of online discussion to continue the conversation tends to work, if enough attention is put into it.

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And these topics would actually be good ones to get specific conversations happening in calls - so that everyone joining the call comes prepared to contribute to answering these questions.

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Thank you for the insights during the call and for this super helpful wiki, @noemi! If any Romanian speaker happens to click by, here’s another notes doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-j-s5I22fZSL2AgX5n721SB1pxoy4h_2nxUj29TUnWA/edit

I’d add to the list of burning questions that of starting local online communities from afresh, as may be the case of younger orgs that don’t yet have programs in place so more flexibility as to shape them (the programs, the communities) already more fit for online / remote collaboration.

It was a question raised by the Banatul Montan Community Foundation, who may have the opportunity to virtually enlarge the local community with people from the diaspora that could contribute remotely to their local efforts.

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Well ideally yes, communities would have their online space - perhaps @simona.fit & @Val.Muresan & @Ionel could share with you a few thoughts from starting one in Timisoara: https://team2121.ro/

Meanwhile, if you find use for edgeryders as a place to coordinate a bit, feel free to use it.

Bine ati venit/ Welcome to all the new people! @RuxandraNitu @mircea @AlinDinca @anna.chirniciuc & others ! Let me know if I can help you find your way.

P.S. English or any other language is good on this platform… so no worries.

Hi Noemi,

I just read this thread but had not been aware of this project/conversation before. I recently joined the Edgeryders platform and I have found it a bit confusing to navigate.

I was wondering if you could possibly explain to me what this project is about and how one could get involved? I am a Romanian native studying a social science graduate program abroad, so I hope that my skills could be of help.

Many thanks,

Anna

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Oops, I saw in influx of our conationals joining so thought you might be coming from this crowd.

The bigger projects Edgeryders has (funded or strategic ‘company units’) are all visible from our homepage. Inside each there are conversations, like this that you are seeing. I posted it under Wellbeing, a project about citizen wellbeing in several European countries, broadly speaking. This thread comes after a call we had with fellow Romanians, and we are building some momentum by staying connected. Since edgeryders.eu is an open network, we’re happy to host it here if the people involved dont have a forum (yet).

For newcomers like you, what’s important is to somehow get attached to the issues you care about, after which you get notifications from that section of the website:
1/ Campfire is a general purpose forum where you can say hi and post an intro about who you are :slight_smile:
2/ Some other specific conversations you might be interested from across the forum, feel free to join:

And many others, but hard to say what would interest you as of now :slight_smile:

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Hey,

Glad to hear from you. Building engagement through online platforms is probably the hardest thing if you can’t draw enough attention with relevant topics in order to build sufficient critical mass and attract people to interact and exchange ideas/thoughts/stories.

We have launched team2121.ro a year ago but we left it dormant because we have been drawn in other off-line projects and we had littled time for it.

However, recently we have seen the value in being able to share online content relevant to our communities. We have easily configured a "coronavirus" thread on team2121.ro and managed to be useful to the community with several topics.

One example is this topic that has been shared and read by thousands of Romanians within 24 hours.

The online platform becomes more relevant day by day and we have a team that is looking into capturing and sharing useful information for our community in these critical moments.

Hope this was useful to you too.

Val

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Thank you so much, @noemi, @alex_stef, @Andreea! It was a perfect conversation starter for me! I really needed it in order to have more courage regarding the online world.
To be honest, these days are full of new topics for me.
I’ll share some of them, with the aim to inspire other readers.

  • after a webinar facilitated by ARC, I started reading about ABCD and fell in love with http://abcdinstitute.org/ and thinking about community engagement with focus on resources (instead of needs) An inspiring case.

  • I enrolled in The Science of Well-Being free course on Coursera, looking for methods and activities to help me cope with anxiety, fear or stress. Also exploring character strengths and research related to them.

  • I explore this platform, of course. Did not manage to find my spot in it yet, but I do like it a lot.

When it comes to actively doing things, I found a lot of joy in encouraging other Stiintescu coordinators join an online meeting. We tried Hangouts and did not work as smoothly as our Zoom with you. But it was really nice to get in touch and find out about each other like this. We promoted it as a support group and talked mostly about work :sweat_smile:, but it was a good start I think.
Also, I found the courage to ask our local project coordinators (Stiintescu in Brasov) if they would enjoy an online meeting and 2 of them are on board. I plan to connect them with others in the country and…we shall see.

Thank you again for everything and… keep in touch. :star_struck:

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Hei Ruxandra, happy you find the online realm interesting… and trust me, everyone is getting lost these days in so many sources of info and interesting activities you can do online.

This sounds very interesting, I’m having a look now - I’m just always afraid to signup for things due to failure to complete them. Out of 6 online courses I started, I finished one, I almost finished another, and I abandoned the others half way. Yikes. Not a valid reason not to try of course, it’s just my OCD :-))

If you will need a zoom room to test properly with your team at Stiintescu, with Edgeryders we have a paid subscription and are offering it to those in the community who want to use it. Let me know!

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I do know the feeling of starting and not getting to the end :smile:
My tactic is to …enjoy it till it lasts…without further pressure on myself, mostly because nobody else depends on it.

Regarding Zoom, it would be great! I plan one session on Tuesday, at 6pm. Thank you so much!

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OK, I think the Tuesday slot is free, let me know when it’s confirmed and I will set it up for you and send you the instructions for hosting/ joining.

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