One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for the ‘Net Tuesday/Netsquared’ Category

Red Alert: 48 Crucial Hours for Net Neutrality

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With a potential Congressional vote to end Net Neutrality, it is imperative that people contact their Representatives to urge them to vote against the FCC’s recommendations. (And you can learn more via

But why should we support Net Neutrality? You may be thinking…and here are some good reasons:

Still unsure? Here’s a recent conversation about issues surrounding Net Neutrality:

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out via Facebook or e-mail.



Upcoming Nonprofit Events In Chicago

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For many nonprofit and other social change organizations, March means the kickoff to many great nonprofit events in Chicago. Here’s a short list highlighting some key events that you might want to consider, as well as some opportunities to get involved.

  •  Netsquared Chicago  is kicking off Digital Storytelling Month holding a two-part session on digital storytelling on April 6th and April 20th. (Note: I am a former Netsquared Chicago organizer). Both sessions will be held at Harold Washington Library at 6:00 pm on both dates, and will feature an expert panel. Netsquared Chicago is also seeking help in organizing future events. If you are interested in attending, please sign up for the April 6th session and/or the April 20th session via Meetup.comboys-and-girls-clubs-logo
  • On April, 8, Boys and Girls Club of America and CA Technologies are partnering to host a Tech Girls Rock workshop at Union League Boys & Girls Clubs – Club One, located at 2157 W. 19th Street. Local IT professionals will work with tween and teen girls, focusing on a variety of fun workshops which cover computer coding and STEM training.
  • Open Books is raising funds for scholarships to Publishers Academy, a month-long writing camp in the summer that supports young authors as they create unique novels from conception to publication. For more information (including how to support the effort), please visit their Public Good donation site.
  • Are you a nonprofit freelancer? Consider checking out Freelancers Union Chicago, a group focused on making work – and life – a little easier for those who are freelancers and solopreneurs. On April 6th, check out their session focusing on How To Give Your Business a Growth Spurt. For more information and to RSVP, please head to
  • Cook County Commisioner  Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is sponsoring an ordinance to create a Cook County Commission on Social Innovation. If you’re interested in showing your support, this ordinance will be considered by the Cook County Board’s Business and Economic Development Committee in Room 567 of the Cook County building located at 118 N. Clark Street. The committee will be meeting on Tuesday, April 12 at 8:30 am to consider the ordinance, and you are welcome to come and show your support.
  • Finally, Chicago Geek Breakfast has resumed – please consider joining us for a morning of conversation, relationship-building, and….breakfast. Sessions are held at Wow Bao at 225 N. Michigan Avenue, and the next breakfast will be Thursday, April 14th at 7:30 pm. For more details, visit

There are many great social change-oriented, community,  and other nonprofit events in Chicago…and we would like to hear about them! Please let us know via our Facebook page or below in the comments. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Meet Your Neighbor: ChariPick

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(Special thanks to Stephen Lee of Charipick for sharing his time and insights, and special thanks to Derek Serafin of Motion PR for the introduction)

Matching nonprofit supporters and potential donors/volunteers can be a challenge for any organization. For smaller and medium-sized nonprofits, it can be especially challenging given the size of the organization, challenges in allocating resources and staff, andother concerns. However, a Chicago-area startup named Charipick has risen to meet that challenge…and is the focus this month’sMeet Your Neighbor.

Charipick was started with great intentions: Stephen Lee wanted to focus on “giving back” to the community. With his professional background in hedge fund management, M & A strategic planning, and business development, Stephen wanted to find an appropriate nonprofit – preferably a smaller organization – that would allow him to make an impact by sharing his skills and talents. However, the search for an appropriate nonprofit was a great challenge which needed simplification. Engaging with nonprofit boards was also a challenge – although most recommendations came through word-of-mouth, the process was still needlessly complicated. But Stephen realized what was needed most: a discovery and donation tool that would lead users to curated and trusted non-profits. With their target market increasingly engaging via mobile devices, Stephen and Charipick rose to the challenge.

Charipick (a Chicago-area startup) provides a mobile app for both Android and iOS that allows users to engage in a habit of giving. Users are presented with three different nonprofits in a variety of areas, and have to select one profit for a donation. (Users are asked to donate $1 per day per nonprofit, and every single dollar is incremental for nonprofits). All of the charities featured on Charipick are selected and curated based on three key criteria:

  • Relevance – Charities (with IRS 501c3 status) are selected due to relevance and interest to Charipick’s target audience (25 – 35 year olds);
  • Size – Most charities featured in the app have a budget of less than $10 million (and that will decrease over time);
  • Financial Stability – Charipick selections have demonstrated some financial stability and transparency, and meet very stringent criteria.11009169_1578860249044455_4398678107613974202_n

One of the more interesting aspects about the app is that much of the way it was designed was based on research into human behavior. It turns out that, according to science, giving is much more pleasurable than receiving, sparking similar neural responses and feelings that mimic those around food and sex. Even with a minimal donation of $1/day, users are introduced to the idea that giving can be beneficial, and that feeling is continually reinforced. In fact, Charipick’s app also allows for greater personal engagement around nonprofits – users can research nonprofits of interest, learning more about their cases. If a Charipick user finds a nonprofit where they would like to volunteer, all they need to do is press a button and provide information – an e-mail is sent to the nonprofit, providing greater volunteer engagement and allowing nonprofits to build their resources with minimal effort.

In short, Charipick is providing a way for users to “graduate” from the app, moving into greater support of a nonprofit….but that’s not the only outcome Charipick seeks. As a startup, Charipick has actively built outcomes and impact into the way it interacts with nonprofits. For smaller to midsize nonprofits, registration is a relatively simple 15 second application. If the organization is relevant for Charipick users, it moves onto phase 2, focusing on thinking through how to quantify their impact, from “what does a dollar donation do?” to an overall perception of their mission. Even when individuals donate, Charipick has been proactive in providing documentation – users are provided a month-end e-mail report for tax purposes. Charipick has simplified the process for both nonprofit and supporter alike.

(For those concerned about financial control, Charipick has also built in some safeguards. Although they facilitate the donation process, Charipick transactions are handled through a third party credit card processor which transfers money directly to nonprofits. Charipick is also not a crowdfunding tool – while most crowdfunding tools encourage users to market the crowdfunding project, Charipick flips it around and markets itself as a way for users to find nonprofits.).

Chicago’s startup scene – and social entrepreneurship scene – can take pride in Charipick, which is a well-needed mobile app that connects supporters and nonprofits. Find out more about them via their web site, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Have any recommendations for great organizations to highlight? Any thoughts or comments?  Please leave them below or join us in conversation via Facebook. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Upcoming Events in Chicago

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C Now - Networking 02 Summer usually means a dramatic leap in getting out and about around Chicago, and social change/social good advocates are no exception. So here’s a list of upcoming events in Chicago that you may wish to attend:

There are plenty of activities for the socially-minded in Chicago – if you have suggestions, please leave them below. You’re also welcome to join the conversation on Facebook. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Written by gordondym

June 10, 2015 at 11:20 am

Chicago Networking Events For the Social Good

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CNow - CBOTChicago is a city where various networking events focused on technology and social benefit efforts thrive and flourish. Although several Meetup groups were featured last week, there are other groups that provide great informational and networking opportunities. (And unlike other networking groups, focus more on delivering value than driving a high number of attendees). This week, we’re going to feature three upcoming efforts (two happening next week) that deserve your attention and participation.

So without further adieu,

  • Providing free training for non-profits and other social benefit organizations, HandsOn Tech Chicago is sponsoring several upcoming seminars focused on using specific tools. Upcoming sessions include a webinar on crowdfunding, a seminar on using MailChimp to develop e-mail campaigns, and a session on search engine optimization. For more details and RSVP information, please visit this site.
  • Next Wednesday will be the regular meeting of the Illinois Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise from 4:00 – 6:00 pm in C-500 at 160 N. LaSalle. (Full Disclosure:I currently volunteer on the Task Force’s Outreach Committee). Focusing on community based food and agriculture-oriented efforts, this will be a very informative meeting, and space is limited. Please RSVP via Eventbrite if you are interested.
  • Finally, the relaunched Chicago Net Tuesday/Net2Chi is holding a session on The Nature of Measuring Impact in Fundraising on April 22nd. As one of the longest running groups, Net2Chi tends to focus more on digital excellence and access issues throughout all of Chicago’s communities. (Many similar groups take a narrower focus). This is definitely one event I can strongly recommend (having organized the group in the past), and encourage anyone who is interested in social impact consider attending. You can RSVP via Meetup, but I would also encourage anyone interested to secure their space via Eventbrite.

Networking, in the purest sense, focuses more on building and establishing mutually beneficial relationships and less on collecting business cards or driving excessive attendance numbers. All of this week’s events are worth considering if only to provide you with some great alternatives and resources. If you cannot make any of these, please consider forwarding this post via social media to other like-minded individuals….and prove that Chicago is as much a city of Big Hearts as it is Big Shoulders.

Any groups you can recommend? Please feel free to leave them below in the comments. You are also welcome to reach out to me privately with questions or concerns – contact information is available via the blog’s About page. And as always, thanks for reading!

Leaving Net2Chi

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net2chi - horizontalI hope you’ll forgive the late nature of this week’s post, but I have been busy doing something that….well, I’ve been reluctant to do, but need to do nonetheless. As many of you know, I’ve been co-organizer of Net Tuesday Chicago or “Net2Chi” for the past six years – sole organizer for the past year and a half. At the end of January, I’ll be stepping down from that role.

Much of it has been due to increasing professional and personal commitments – after all, if I want to make time for work or a personal life, it means that I have to make some sacrifices. (As the man said, I can have anything I want, I just can’t have everything I want). But I have to say that moving on from a group that’s
been part of my life for the past six years – that’s shared my mission of driving tech
excellence in the social good field – has encouraged a range of mixed emotions in me….and which I hope the next generation of leadership can face head-on.

I won’t deny that we’ve had our successes – we’ve been able to drive the idea of digital excellence throughout the Chicago area. When I look at the variety of local like-minded organizations – from Free Geek Chicago to Pumping Station One – it makes me glad  that I was part of the crowd providing the solution. (Not taking credit – just feeCNow - Skylineling fortunate to be a witness). When I hear of plans to establish broadband on the southeast side (which has met with some potential challenges) or gain work through Smart Communities funding, I know that my involvement with Net2Chi (or “the Chicago branch of Netsquared“) has been very fortunate. The fact that a state task force focusing on driving socially-minded entrepreneurships is in existence simply provides that driving social good isn’t just a trend, but is slowly, but surely, becoming a movement.

But I’ve also seen in the tech/social good sphere behaviors and attitudes which are…well, problematic. Several individuals are often self-serving, focusing on being “wonderful” rather than doing “wonderful” things. (You’ll often see them making comments about  other efforts that brings to mind a very NSFW Clash lyric about nuns and churches). You will often hear them talk about how “building awareness” is a great idea….without focusing on what to do with that awareness, or mobilizing towards a common goal. They can show you their press clippings, but not their achievements. In fact, there is an increasing belief that because they are part of the non-profit/social entrepreneurship/place-your-social-benefit-category-here scene, they don’t need to follow normal rules….because they’re doing something special for the community.

(Examples: a colleague from a marketing agency offered a non-profit a half day’s work by members of his firm, and the non-profit responded that they needed three days worth of work. Another colleague had asked me for guidance, since a non-profit “connector” informed him that he “didn’t get” non-profits. One organizer of a tech/social good organization turned down another’s offer of a presentation because ‘our members don’t want that’, despite attendees’ providing positive feedback. That meeting was later canceled, with the announcement that a year’s worth of meetings had been scheduled.)

CNow - CBOTIn short, a few people have asserted their “guru” nature by claiming to be “community-minded”, focusing on “collaboration” and “connection”. However, their behavior seems more like “competition”, using buzzwords to sound professional but focusing less on building consensus than sowing dissent. With a variety of organizations focusing on tech and the social good, it becomes imperative to focus less on competition than collaboration – that everyone has a place at the table, and that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit – when we collaborate, the greater Chicago community benefits

For now, I’m looking forward to moving out of a leadership position – so far, I have two people who have expressed interest. If asked, I will share my guidance and insights, but sometimes leaving a leadership position doesn’t mean giving up, or believing a cause to be lost.

It only means now, some of the real work can begin….

Know of any other organizations that are working to help communities bridge the tech gap? Or assist communities in becoming more tech-savvy? Please feel free to mention them in the comments below.

In the meantime, please feel free to like us on Facebook, or contact me privately either via private e-mail or via Linked In. And as always, thanks for reading!

Networking Events for Social Good in Chicago

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C Now - Networking 02
Chicago contains a variety of networking opportunities – mostly “big ticket” events that focus more on socializing than building professional networks and businesses. However, next week will bring three events which focus exclusively on businesses and social good….and are well worth checking out.

On Tuesday, July 23rd, there will be a networking session focusing on benefit or “B” Corporations, providing information and networking opportunities for those interested in social ventures. Since many businesses are increasingly adopting this particular model (which focuses more on “stakeholders” than “stockholders”), learning about how and why businesses are making this decision can be useful in developing awareness and activism in driving the social good. In order to learn more and RSVP, please check out their Eventbrite listing at

On Thursday, July 25th, the Illinois Task Force on Social Entrepreneurship, Enterprise, and Innovation will hold its monthly meeting at John Marshall Law School. (Note: I volunteer for their outreach committee). Seats are limited for this event, so please check out details and RSVP by heading to If you are unable to RSVP and/or cannot make it that evening, you can easily follow along – the Task Force will be livetweeting the meeting using the #725mtg hashtag.

Also on July 25th, Net2Chi (the local branch of the global Netsquared initiative) will be holding a post-meeting social. For those who are interested, you can easily RSVP via Meetup. (Even if you can’t make the Task Force meeting, you can still join afterwards for networking and discussion)

Planning to network can be challenging, especially with a wide variety of events. Here are three suggested events for your consideration. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. You are also more than welcome to reach out to me privately via Linked In and e-mail. As always, thanks for reading!

Net2Chi & NTEN – Know the Difference!

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As the organizer for Net2Chi (aka “Chicago Net Tuesday” or
“Chicago Netsquared”), I often hear about other organizations that are doing similar work….and the conversation always turns to the obvious question:

“Why don’t you work with NTEN?”

This is a very ironic question, because both organizations are branches of a larger non-profit….and both branches are doing some incredible work in Chicago, driving initiatives towards integrating tech and web solutions into driving social benefit. So in an effort to help those who may not be aware of the subtle differences between the two, here is a brief explanation (and hopefully, motivation to check out either organization)

  • NTEN is a membership-based organization (a full-on 501c3 in its own right) focused specifically on non-profits, with a specific focus on education and training. Members of NTEN focus primarily on activities that help a specific subset of social change agents (non-profits) develop and maintain the necessary technical skills to foster their activities and further their mission.
  • Netsquared is the community development offshoot of Tech Soup (which is also a 501c3 focused on building non-profit technological capacity), and is a volunteer-run organization which fosters collaborations between like-minded organizations and individuals, focusing on community development and engagement around technology and software and taking a more “open source” approach to organizing.

Regardless of whether you’re into basic engagement around tech and social good, or you want to immerse yourself, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in Chicago….but both Net2Chi and NTEN are great organizations for taking those immediate first steps, and both have a strong Chicago presence. Please visit their sites for more information.

Questions? Comments? Please feel free to leave them below, or contact me either via Linked In or my web site’s contact page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Meet Your Neighbor: Chicago Digital Access Alliance

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Admittedly, the past week has been busy for me, between continuing a job search and taking care of some family issues. But thankfully, I was able to reengage with an organization that I have worked with via Net Tuesday (or our relatively new title, Net2Chi)….and which I’m proud to introduce (or reintroduce) via this blog.

The Chicago Digital Access Alliance has been working to drive digital excellence in the city of Chicago for the past six years. In accordance with their principles, they have been working to make sure critically underserved communities receive access (both in terms of broadband and software) to technology. For the Alliance, such work is necessary for overall community development.  From their perspective,

Achieving Digital Excellence requires ongoing community participation, recognized expertise in the field of digital literacy and an integrated strategy grounded in the needs and aspirations of the people. Digital Excellence will not be attained as a digital afterthought of the Vendors to the Wireless network.

Thankfully, the Alliance has had two achievements in the past few months – achievements which, although small, will allow them to make a much greater impact upon the greater community.

One is acquiring a new office on Cottage Grove, near the Green Line stop. Literally steps from the El, the new CDAA office – the group’s first “permanent” home – will serve as an incubator for digital businesses, a refurbishing center for older computers, and a training/meeting center for organizations. Pierre Clark, who leads the alliance, is working with other leadership in redeveloping the Woodlawn neighborhood, and the CDAA’s new office will allow for the neighborhood to have their own digital center.

But the other major development is the establishment of the Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership. Created in the shadow of the Chicago Broadband Challenge, the Partnership is spearheading efforts to not just bring digital excellence and digital literacy to Woodlawn, but to transform it into a leading-edge community, establishing it as a “community of choice” (to quote the partnership) in the 21st century.

Chicago has a healthy, thriving population of consultants and experts who are willing to help non-profits become more tech-savvy. But driving the social good is more than just a class or a conference – it consists of more ground-level hands-on work that lacks immediate payoff, but has more longer lasting impacts. The fruits of the Chicago Digital Access Alliance’s efforts are only now being seen….and the best is yet to come, making them one neighbor definitely worth knowing.

Please feel free to comment below, or to contact me privately via LinkedIn or e-mail. And as always, thanks for reading!

Blog Action Day: The Power of We

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(This post is part of Blog Action Day, a global effort to bring awareness about the social good. For more information, please visit

The Power of We.

A simple phrase, but one which has very obvious implications.

It’s especially true here in Chicago, where we are developing an incredibly diverse tech scene, with non-profit social media consultants vying for business; social entrepreneurs realizing that benefiting the social good has positive results on their bottom line; volunteer organizations mobilizing the professional community to make an impact; and grassroots coalitions struggling to find allies.

And the challenge facing our city is an excessive focus on “me” rather than
the power of we.

It’s a challenge that I find of great interest as the main (and currently, sole organizer) of Net2Chi (or Net Tuesday), an initiative out of Tech Soup looking to build collaborations focused on bringing tech resources to underserved agencies and communities. (As my Linked In profile suggests, I have a really strong background in community mobilization). City government has made digital excellence and access to technology a priority, and for six years, Net2Chi has been active in driving working collaborations. However, the challenge is daunting, especially with many non-profits, community groups,
and other organizations feeling isolated or – worse yet – that somehow they are uniquely gifted and/or charged with driving change.

But the work doesn’t just extend to one particular agency – it extends to those communities all over the city. Areas like West Lawn (my neighborhood) where efforts are being made to drive areas near Midway Airport into a major business corridor. Places like TRC Senior Village in Bronzeville, location of a new Community Technology Center (CTC), helping grandparents and their grandchildren learn to connect online. So many of these efforts are being made….and too many people are doing it alone. Collaboration gives us power, since the blending of a multitude of  skills and tasks can lead to greater results and accomplishments in a shorter period of time.

In the light of a well-deserved winter break, Net2Chi is reestablishing its partnership with the Chicago Digital Access Alliance (CDAA), and rededicating itself to digital excellence in our communities. Both our groups have successfully collaborated in the past, and with DexCon (a digital excellence conference) happening on November 10th, it seems like there’s less a renaissance, and more a renewal – a commitment to the idea that access to technology and digital literacy aren’t just “good things to have”, but are fundamental rights of every Chicago resident, advocating the idea that a more digitally literate populace better solidifies Chicago’s growing reputation as a hub of  technological innovation.

Collaboration is never easy – it means losing some of our uniqueness (or as many in the tech scene would say, “our awesomeness” and moving forward with familiar – and unlikely – allies. It means that there is no such thing as “too corporate” or “too radical” or even “not awesome” – every person involved is part of a greater community. We give up the perceived authority of being the sole gatekeepers,  and that we willingly acquiesce our perceived “power” in the hopes of accomplishing a greater good.

In short, it means adopting the idea that “we” is “me” turned upside down…and that great things result when we become more inclusive and willing to work with others. When we adopt an open, community-based philosophy independent of  agendas, we accomplish greater things and have a longer-lasting impact upon the community.

The time is ripe. It can be done. I’m glad that two organizations are reaffirming their commitment to make Chicago an innovative place for tech and the social good. But it will take time, and work, and a commitment to taking an active role in driving change.

Plenty of organizations do various tasks – from building apps to creating special events. But that’s not enough – if we want a better Chicago, we need to turn “me” into “we”. Two organizations have already started….let’s see what the future can bring.

If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below – otherwise, you are more than welcome to contact me via Linked In (Just mention “Chicago Now” in your note) or via my web site’s contact page.

As always, thanks for reading!