I ran across a post by Kem Meyer today that had some excellent questions any Tech Team needs to ask before implementing a new program or piece of software:
* How will this decision affect the people involved?
* Are we complicating the problem?
* Are we falling victim to geek and gadget lust or empowering people to release the best out of them?
* What at risk if we don’t do this?
* What will have to change if we do?
* Is it worth the return on investment?
She continues, “When we ask the right people the right questions, we are able to not only see a picture of today’s reality, but are also able to prepare for course changes and growth without breaking or starting from scratch.”
I have seen TheCommon.org’s potential played out in communities across the country; it’s adaptable, scalable, and easily woven into the fabric of a community’s culture and DNA. But I also know that there are some communities where…well…other development is needed first, and they would have benefitted tremendously from asking these questions beforehand. We’ve said it before: TheCommon.org will not make your people magically want to help each other. It’s software that is designed to make the interaction easier, faster, and more inclusive, and to do so in a safe environment. You need to evaluate your culture to make sure you have members who own your organization’s vision, and that that vision provides a purpose for their involvement. Make sure you’re solving the right problem.
Kem concludes, “Wrapped up in all of this is the ability to communicate tech benefits (or liabilities) from different perspectives. That’s the key to translating ideas and objectives into functional specifications and designs. The result? People to say “thank you!” instead of “why do I have to do this?”” Just a little thought beforehand makes a huge difference in how a new project is implemented and received.
Visit Kem’s new blog for an uncluttered look at all things communication.
From the vantage point of our Twitter feed, we see an incredible array of needs being met in communities around the country.
Some needs are easy to meet. “I need someone to help me hang a mirror in my living room.” 15 minutes and you’re done.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of timing. “I need a ride to the pharmacy at 2pm on Thursday”. Still pretty easy.
Then there’s the obscure: “I need a kid’s english riding saddle to be used for therapy horseback riding sessions.” That one was met in a few hours.
And then there are the bigger ones, even ongoing needs that surprise you. Here’s one from a Grand Rapids agency, ICCF, that helps provide affordable housing, programs to strengthen families, and makes an incredible impact in the community:
How about you? Do you have a favorite “need” you’ve seen or been a part of?
Our friends at First UMC in Grand Rapids, Michigan rolled out TheCommon.org to their church community this past weekend. They have a beautiful historic building in downtown GR, and even better, a tradition of helping in the community that goes back to their founding by pioneers in 1835.
For many years, First UMC has been using a once-a-year survey called “First Hands” to assess the talents of its members, and would then use the list to coordinate all service activity for the remainder of the year. After living through that administrative headache for long enough, the team decided to simplify things with TheCommon.org. They sent me the script for the skit they used to share the concept with the rest of the church, and I think it’s an amusing resource for others going through the same.
Darlene is the narrator. Laure is on stage with a computer, a phone, and piles of papers.
Darlene: Let’s take an inside look at the way we match the needs of our congregation with those who have the ability to help.
Laure: “Hello Mildred… You need a ride to the doctor tomorrow…. What time? Where? OK… I’ll see what I can do and call you back later today. Have a lovely day. Good-bye.”
"OK – I know I have a list on the First Hands database that will tell me who is willing to drive people to the doctor. Hmm – this list is from 2009 – kind of old. That person has moved, hmm this person’s health isn’t very good now, they are in Florida for the winter – Ok that leaves me with 3 people to email. I’ll just type out the request and see if they are available…"
Darlene: 45 minutes later…
Laure: “I’ll just check my email to see about that ride for Mildred. Rats – one person will be out of town and the other person can’t get away from work on such short notice. Haven’t heard from the 3rd person – I’ll try to call.” (dials phone). “Please answer the phone; please answer the phone, please, please. Oh HI! This is Laure from the church. Yes it is a lovely day today. Yes, I did enjoy Gary’s sermon last week. My grandchildren are fine – thanks for asking. Uh huh, Uh huh…. I’m calling to see if you could give Mildred a ride to the doctor tomorrow. Oh I’m sorry to hear that. Yes – well I hope you feel better real soon. Sure I’d be happy to ask Marj to call you. Let me just write that down … ok. Bye.”
Sigh. Dials phone again. “Hi Mildred. I’ll be happy to give you a ride tomorrow. Yes. I’ll pick you up about 10. See you then. Bye.”
Darlene: “First Hands was a great idea. We know that the church needs many volunteers. We know that people want to help others. Once a year we attempted to match people’s gifts and abilities with the needs of the church. First Hands was wonderful tool but we have discovered something: the needs of the church and abilities of our volunteers did not remain static. Our First Hands database became obsolete quite quickly…”
The part of that where she says, “the needs of the church and abilities of our volunteers did not remain static.” Does that relate to your situation?
If you’d like to see how the skit ends, drop us a line and we’ll connect you with the team at First UMC. We’re here to help!
Ok, a moment of honesty: when I get the chance, I like watching reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. There was one on the other night where Ray was guilted into going back to church with his family—a pain he was willing to endure because it meant so much to his father. His dad is one of the ushers and is standing in the back with his buddies waiting for the signal to start passing the plates. Upon seeing the “stand up, sit down” in the sanctuary, Ray tells his dad he’d like to be an usher as well.
His dad responds, “Are you kidding? Do you have any idea how long the waiting list is for this? I waited 20 years to get this gig!” Yes, Ray’s motive for wanting to help was to avoid having to sit in a pew, however, I watch that and think how his dad could benefit from not ushering once in a while. We all need to step out of our comfort zone on occasion and see what else is out there, otherwise we’ll get stuck in a rut and our potential impact in our community will be vastly underrealized.
Ron Edmonson wrote in his blog a few days ago about “3 Values of Teamwork”, and talked about how setting up for a Sunday morning requires 200 volunteers that are coordinated through teams, rather than having it all done by one person. The three values highlight this decentralized, load-sharing, crowd-engaging strategy for accomplishing a task.
My point here is that there is extreme benefit in developing ownership by including someone in the community—by inviting them or giving them the opportunity to join the team. I think we do this pretty well, providing a place for people to belong to a movement within their community.
That’s because TheCommon.org is all about decentralizing the process by decreasing the distance between ability and need. By opening the opportunities up to everyone, you get rid of the tendency to trace back to the same “super-volunteers” because the process of finding new people is too difficult. And since each individual manages their own involvement, they’re able to find places to plug in on their schedule and based on their own abilities. It’s an easy way to be a part of a team, and let others join in as well.
How does your community encourage teamwork?
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