One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for June 2014

Chicago Net Tuesday & The Broadband Vision

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broadband_347Broadband access is a very hot topic in Chicago, with efforts to make access available to all. From efforts to expand free access on the north side (concurrent with similar efforts on the south side) to news that the Chicago Public Library has received funding to allow patrons to “check out” hotspots, there’s never been a time when the vision of digital excellence – access and literacy in digital tools for all of Chicago’s neighborhoods – has never seemed brighter.

In that spirit, Chicago Net Tuesday is putting on an event this Thursday, June 26th, at the Overflow Coffee Bar (located on 15th and State in Chicago – please RSVP via Eventbrite) that you cannot miss. (Full Disclosure: I am a former organizer for the group).

This Thursday, Chicago Net Tuesday – along with the Chicago Digital Access Alliance, Connect Woodlawn Inc., the Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership L3C, Southside Broadband Expansion Collaborative NFP, Partnership For A Connected Illinois and other groups – are holding a conversation about broadband expansion in Chicago and its potential for making strong impacts on Chicago and its diverse neighborhoods. Calling their approach “The Broadband Vision(™)”, the event will feature thought leaders from a variety of sectors, including business, government, social, and nonprofits. Focusing on the potential impact of broadband on Chicago, topics to be discussed that evening will include: net2chi

  • The Power Of Broadband
  • The Broadband Driven Economy
  • Neighborhood WiFi In The Broadband Age
  • How Connected Neighborhoods Drive Economic Expansion
  • How Broadband Expansion Can Make Chicago #1
  • Broadband In Metro Chicago WiFi Neighborhoods, FiberOptic Suburbs
  • Why Startups Need To Choose Broadband Connected Neighborhoods
  • Everyday Gigabit Speed Connectivity Fantasy Or The Future?
  • Broadband And High Bandwidth Data Management
  • An Action Agenda For The Broadband Vision In Chicago

But why hold the conversation at all? With increasing use of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, iPads) to access online tools, businesses moving towards cloud-based computing, and job development moving towards the establishment and use of social/professional networks, digital literacy is quickly becoming a must-have trait. With high interest in issues around Net Neutrality, this is becoming paramount for everyone – digital access is no longer an add-on, but is a critical tool in community development….and anyone with an interest in improving Chicago’s neighborhoods is welcome to attend.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below. In addition, you are always welcome to visit and join us on Facebook, and contact me directly via this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

June 24, 2014 at 11:15 am

Chicago Startup Weekend (And Other Events)

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Startup Weekend LogoWith nonprofits taking more of a “lean startup” approach to doing business  many organizations are focusing on engaging tech-minded individuals….especially underrepresented populations. Thanks to Nicole Yeary of Ms. Tech, we have information about a Chicago Startup Weekend – which you may find of interest and which is happening this very weekend…

Thanks to Ms. Tech, we learned that Startup Weekend (who partnered with the Google for Entrepreneurs #40Forward Initiative) selected Chicago to hold a “Women’s Edition” of ChicagoStartup Weekend this coming Friday through Sunday (June 20th through 22nd) at Starter School. Startup Weekend is a Seattle-based non-profit that organizes 54 hour events that help educate, support, and empower people to become entrepreneurs. (And with many becoming social entrepreneurs and crafting mission-based businesses, having such an event is crucial for developing networks and resources). Chicago was fortunate enough to be one of ten cities in the United States (and one of fifteen cities throughout the globe) to hold an event, and they’re looking to get the greater community more involved with Startup Weekend.
A few words about Ms. Tech – Ms. Tech is a Chicago-based organizations that is helping women start and scale their businesses through training, resources, mentors and valuable connections. Starting as an eight-person group that shared information and resources via Facebook, it has grown to over 1,000 members who are determined to see a higher number of female founded startups capture funding, gain press coverage, and develop role models for future generations of women in tech. After learning about Chicago Startup Weekend Chicago Geek Breakfast, not only did was this a great idea to highlight on the blog…but there’s also an offer for those who want to attend. Although there is a cost to the event, you can use the code ‘geekvip’ for a small discount. It may sound out-of-reach for many people, but this is a great opportunity for women involved in startup culture – especially female social entrepreneurs and nonprofit executives – to gain a greater awareness of how to grow their business, and more importantly, make a greater impact.

Every so often, we highlight several networking events that may be of interest to nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and other people working towards tech and social change in the Chicago area. Some upcoming events you might want to consider include:

  • Tomorrow – June 19th, the Illinois Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise is holding their June meeting. People with an interest in social entrepreneurship are welcome to attend, and there is no cost. For more details, please visit and RSVP via Eventbrite
  • On June 26, NetSquared Chicago, the Chicago Digital Access Alliance, Connect Woodlawn Inc., the Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership L3C, Southside Broadband
    Expansion Collaborative NFP, Partnership For A Connected Illinois are holding a conversation about broadband expansion in Chicago and its potential for transforming the city and neighborhoods. More information and registration information can be found at this page.
  • Social Media Club Chicago is holding a panel discussion on social storytelling at Next Marketing on June 26th. There is a cost to the event, and more information can be found here.
  • On June 29th, the New Organizing Institute is holding RootsCamp, a one day “unconference” with a participant-driven agenda, open to new organizers, experts, movement leaders, students, and data nerds. (They’re looking for both presenters and participants. Attendance is free (and lunch/snacks are included), but they’re asking that people please register for the event, and you can do so via this site
  • On June 30th, many local social media community managers, marketers, and other professionals will be celebrating Social Media Day. There will be a special networking event that evening, and you can find more details via Eventbrite
  • Looking for a casual networking event happening month to month? I’m happy to be involved with the Chicago Geek Breakfast, a monthly breakfast networking meeting focusing on “geek” interests. We usually meet on the second Thursday of the month, and would love to have you – please head to (insert link here) and RSVP.

Know of any other events of interest? Have other resources that you would like to share? Please let us know in the comments below. You can also contact us via Facebook and my personal contact information can be found on this blog’s About page. Please also be sure to check out both posts as part of Chicago Now’s Q & A With A Blogger initiative this past week.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

June 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Q & A With A Chicago Now Blogger: Extreme Parenting

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Chicago NowOne of the great advantages of being part of the Chicago Now blogging network
is the opportunity to interact with a diverse range of unique individuals. So when the opportunity came to participate in today’s “Q & A With a Blogger Day”, I eagerly volunteered….and when I received the name of the person who I was supposed to interview, I was a bit perplexed….her nom de blog is marycontrary, and she writes Chicago Now’s Extreme Parenting blog.

So how do I related this to tech and social change? I thought to myself. How can I sneak nonprofits into the mix without seeming….well, obnoxious?. But then I flashed back to a conversation I had with many who work for nonprofits. There is a slightly common reluctance on some agencies to engage in social media – more specifically, blogging – because of concerns about lacking authenticity. Balancing a sense of a nonprofit mission’s “voice” without sounding too formal or corporate – or even revealing too much about personality – can be a challenge in many agencies. As marycontrary and I talked over the phone, it became clear that there were many lessons nonprofits, social ventures, and other social change agents could learn when engaging potential advocates online.

(Note – I’m actually going to be paraphrasing from our conversation, since I want to respect her privacy. She writes about a variety of things, and you’re always welcome to click on the link above and check out her blog. There are some great, short pieces that are worth your attention).

C Now - Bloggingmary began her Chicago Now blog (and blogging in general) back in January as a way of improving her writing skills. Her children range in age from being old enough for a driver’s licence to being old enough to ride a bike. She writes about her own experiences, focusing on the extremely personal while simultaneously balancing a hint of anonymity. So I kicked off the interview with that question – how can individuals (and organizations) handle that balance of being authentic without losing sight of the bigger picture.

marycontrary’s response was that she writes with an eye towards discretion and respect for others. By nature, she is a painfully shy and private person, and she continually works towards a balance. Maintaining an emotionally honest recounting of her experience, while simultaneously respecting the privacy and rights of others in her life, has proven to be a challenge – especially for someone who considers herself soft-spoken and polite in real life. But it’s maintaining the emotional honesty of her experience – yet also considering how her words might affect others – is a key lesson for nonprofits looking to engage their audiences via blogging or social media.
Hey Moms - Find Online Resources

We also touched base very briefly on social media engagement, since marycontrary is looking to use social media as a way of building her online audience. Admittedly, I have a bit more experience as I engage via various channels both professionally and personally. Knowing that there are many people reading what’s being written, and risking a potential reaction, can cause potential anxiety. So the challenge is balancing an authentic voice (reminding people you are a human being) while being truthful and honest (maintaining a “mission” for the blog) while making sure that potential negative reactions can be handled.

And obviously, our conversation turned to that very subject: what happens when someone responds to you in anger, or disagrees with what you’ve written? This actually happened to the both of us – for me, it was a sustained attack via Twitter (mostly false accusations of spamming) but for marycontrary, it was a series of angry comments which were taken down in response to a particular post. Handling difficult situations that arise is key – very few people are ever quite ready for strong reactions, and every blogger struggles with that eternal question of “What if people don’t like what I’ve written?”
CNow - Skyline

In both our cases, we were able to handle it through either pulling the offending comments or reporting offensive Tweets. (Ironically, the Twitter users who were reporting me as a spammer were…..obvious spam accounts, and in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service). For nonprofits and other formal social change organizations have a variety of options, ranging from crafting a formal social media policy to creating a public relations “escalation plan” for such a contingency. For many independent bloggers, it’s taking a standpoint that we create from a place of courage – that we share our experiences without worrying about repercussions, but that we are mindful that we are respectful towards others. (Or in other words, writing about things as being personal without being personal about it).

Our talk was brief, but I am grateful to marycontrary for her time – sometimes, it is easy to fall into a mental silo, and believe that any blogging efforts are done in a vacuum. It’s easy to forget that part of why anyone engages online – whether writing blog posts or tweeting – is that it’s finding that community of supporters, advocates, and other like-minded people.

We should really do this again. Seriously, Chicago Now, let’s make this an annual event. I received a great deal of insight, and at the very least….it’s one less post to worry about.  But what are your thoughts? If you have opinions or insights, please feel free to leave a comment below. In addition, you are always welcome to visit and join us on Facebook, as well as  contact me directly via this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

June 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Confessing Nonprofit Social Media Strategy

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The most current “hot topic” in the realm of social media is an article entitled Confessions of a Social Media Strategist. Although it may not be readily apparent, this article contains some great insights – and lessons – for those working in nonprofit social media strategy, as well as other professionals working for  social ventures and other social change agencies.

One of the strongest comments about social media engagement – and the one that’s receiving the most attendtion – is this particular paragraph:

The underlying issue is that social departments place too much value on engagement. Those “likes,” “comments,” “shares,” “re-tweets” and “pins” are the metrics that social content creators use to 1) judge success and 2) dictate what future content looks like. Here’s the catch. The people who are engaging with that content are predominantly worthless. Seriously. That’s not to say that all users on social are worthless. But the ones who mindlessly “like” a brand’s Facebook post because an overt call-to-action told them to are. And wouldn’t you know it, those are the users who are dictating a brand’s social content strategy. This is why the last five years have brought an influx of mindless social creative like “SHARE this post!” and “RT if you love Brand X.” They get engagements, and engagements supposedly equal success. And the vicious cycle keeps on turning

For non-profits/social ventures/other social change entities, this has been the primary focus – building “awareness” of your brand (read: cause) is paramount over engagement. For many Chicago-area nonprofits/social ventures/other social change agents, this has been a primary focus – to build awareness, often because they have minimal marketing budgets (or perhaps because that’s what many social media consultants – myself included – have been advising them). But the disadvantage to this approach (as the article states), is that it ignores one of the most critical – and valuable – resources that social media provides….and that is networking and connecting with potential advocates.

Relationship building is paramount in both individual and organizational networking, and expanding reach is critical – not just to maintain current relationships, but allowing nonprofits, social ventures, and other mission-driven organizations to engage a broader audience base….
C Now Social Media 01
….but it means being smarter with creating unique content and sharing with a core group of key influencers. Social ventures and social entrepeneurs may have a perceived advantage in the former (most startup business activities may be experimental in nature), and nonprofits may have a perceived advantage in the latter. (Many nonprofits have strong word of mouth). But the solution isn’t to focus solely on “engagement”, but to look at the overall impact on an organization’s business goals)

(Yes, I said business goals. This applies to you, too, Chicago-area nonprofits)

It means deciding what the overall return on investment (ROI) is for social media, and integrating social media outreach into an overarching marketing and communications plan.. It also means determining both current and potential audiences, and moving towards encouraging them to action that moves beyond “liking”, “sharing” or “commenting”. It also means shaping social media outreach
towards a more “authentic” stance, focusing less on messages that repeated well-worn memes….and focusing on establishing a voice and being authentic while maintaining a mission-driven perspective.

(As far as how nonprofits and social ventures can do this…..we’ll be covering that in a few weeks’ time. Consider that a teaser for the blog)

But driving social change in Chicago is more than just using a handful of social media channels – it also means building an audience of advocates. I have to confess that the Digiday article has me reconsidering how I’ve approached social media in the past….and how I can better use these tools for myself and for clientele. At the very least, it should foster some further conversation….which you’re always welcome to share via the comments below. You are also very welcome to visit and join us on our Facebook page , and if you want to contact me privately, my contact information is located on the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!