One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for September 2013

BREAKING BAD & Non-Profit “Gatekeeping”

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Breaking Bad LogoOne of the big winners at last night’s Emmys was AMC’s Breaking Bad, whose premise focuses around the idea that the most innocuous people may hide a malevolent streak. In the non-profit/social good world, such people abound (especially when it comes to tech or social media) – they often appear to be innocent, but their behavior often betrays their more basic ambitions.

They’re “gatekeepers”. They attempt to build their own Walter White-esque empire based on their social networks. And they’re doing more harm than good.

It starts off innocently enough – a casual chat at a networking meeting, or a how-do-you-do at a training, but as you become involved with these gatekeepers, several key inconsistencies arise:

  • They make give themselves vague professional titles like “social media guru”, “search optimization maven”, “open source facilitator” or “connector-in-chief”….but you never get a sense of what they actually do for a living;
  • They’re more interested in building alliances than making connections, often declining efforts to network with a wider array of individuals to focus more on “big ticket” opportunities;
  • They need to be the focus of attention – not only do they need to be the star, but any “competition” is automatically dismissed, preferably privately in whispered tones;
  • Whenever someone attempts to focus on an issue, organization, or premise in an objective, logical manner, the gatekeeper immediately dismisses them as being “too negative”, or as a “hater”, rather than focusing on making something work; and
  • They tend to focus more on their inner circle, and make claim to know their “community” as if it is a monolothic, never-evolving group.

Much like Walter White, the non-profit “gatekeeper” is concerned with their own CNow - CBOTperceived power and “empire”. In the non-profit/social good field, this can be exceptionally hazardous as many organizations struggle to receive services, and “gatekeepers” only serve to make the field unfriendly to those wishing to engage and build collaborations. It can be frustrating, counterproductive, and ultimately, leads into nothing more than conflict and confusion. Given the trends towards greater professional accountability in non-profits, and a move towards non-centralized networks, the gatekeeper’s unwillingness to share their knowledge – to hoard it and avoid fully engaging the entire community – only serves to drain mission-driven organizations of time, talent, and ultimately, goodwill.

But what’s the alternative, you may ask? Consider the idea of becoming an ambassadorUnlike a gatekeeper, the ambassador serves as less of an overseer and more as a direct peer. Ambassadors assist in navigating the field, sharing their resources freely because they understand that building collaboration means seeing people as ends and not means. In the non-profit field, taking a more humanistic and person-centered approach is a natural, and serving as honorary ambassadors assists in fostering trust, acceptance, and ultimately, a willingness to work with others. Unlike gatekeepers, ambassadors believe that the free exchange of ideas – and critical examination of ideas – ultimately serves everyone, because only then are connections truly established, placing the hard-earned realism of ambassadors over the snarky “haters gonna hate” attitude of gatekeepers.

And all this from a cable show – just imagine….

Your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments below, or please contact me personally via Linked In or e-mail.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

September 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Next Intro: Professional Networking Made Simple

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Next IntroOne of the challenges that many non-profits, social entrepreneurs  and other social change agents face is professional networking. More specifically, the number of high-priced networking events that unknowingly exclude these professionals, and the number of “gatekeepers” who focus on contacts as customers rather than as key components of their professional network. Thanks to an e-mail from a previous post, I am glad to write about a relatively new service that shows significant promise.

Next Intro is a relatively new site which promises to be a combination of Linked In and Rather than just identify key individuals for networking purposes, the site also provides basic information (address and phone number) for local places to network over coffee, lunch, or other activity. It’s a much different approach from most sites, focusing on interpersonal networking and one-on-one conversations than larger, more social networking. (Obviously, large networking sessions have their place, but with some groups emphasizing quantity of attendees versus quality of networking, and with many groups adopting a “no job seeker” attitude, this may be a valid, relatively risk-free option). Since there is no cost to join, I thought I would take the plunge and try out the site.

Initial thoughts: not bad, and plenty of room to grow. More specifically:

  • Ease of Sign-Up/Profile Creation – Initial prompt was for an e-mail and password; thankfully, potential members can also use either Facebook or Linked In for an initial login. After using the latter, was prompted to select my professional field as well as interests (which seemed a bit lacking, but as someone with a variety of interests, I may be a special case).
  • Quality of Display/Usability – Most of the site is relatively easy-to-read, and the display places everything (potential contacts, places to meet, and other data) all in one page. No need to scroll down to catch more informatiaron, but some areas might require you to magnify to catch all of the details
  • Contacts – Granted, this is where the site is lacking; however, it is understandable that there are not a lot of potential networking contacts or places because the site is still in its infancy. (And in all fairness, I have yet to reach out to any of my potential contacts). Yet I am impressed with the fact that even for a recently created site, NextIntro is providing consistent results week after week.

Networking is always a challenge, but thankfully, NextIntro is a good first step into focusing on interpersonal (rather than group) networking. It’s worth checking out – at the very least, it’s a good channel for developing a variety of contacts. In addition, you can always research your potential contacts on Linked In before meeting them. It’s a simple service, but for people unable to afford high-priced networking groups – and/or more interested in sharpening their focus – NextIntro is worth your time and attention.

But if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below. In addition, you are more than welcome to reach out to me privately via Linked In (just mention Chicago Now or One Cause at a Time in your note) or via private e-mail. And thanks very much for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm