Archive for the ‘Organizing’ Category

I went to a radical grassroots organizing conference & lived to tell the tale (Part II: Google+)

Day 1: Sessions at #roots12google_plus_logo

Session 1: Google+ & YouTube for Organizing
Session 2: Don’t Touch the Pink Controller!: Telling Our Gender Stories for Social Change
Session 3: Want to be a new media director?: How to set up a New Media Program
Session 4: Art of the SCHMOOZE
Session 5: Infographics are FUN! -Not Scary

Before Andy Roos+, our google presenter, begun his presentation I went right up to him and told him how much I was looking forward to being reenergized to use google+.

Similar to many people I know, I’ve had my interest piqued when I heard of google’s foray into the social networking arena, but hadn’t yet taken the time to really look into its use.  As we know, if your friends aren’t using it, neither are you.  Yet when attending Boston PodCamp6 this fall I was able to attend a session lead by Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan/ChrisBrogan+), one of the leading authors writing about Google+ and it’s benefits.  Chris’ enthusiasm for the medium was incredibly contagious.  He told us we should all be using Google+ because:

  1. It instantly made anything we were sharing searchable (especially important for businesses)
  2. It allowed us to share information with groups of people who the item was most relevant (i.e. random childhood memories only share with your family ‘circle’)
  3. It allows for the friend-friend recommendations we all can appreciate.  If you do a google search, you will immediately see better/more relevant results if your friends are +1-ing content.
  4. It integrates with all of google’s other tools.  If you already live part of your life on google, you will find it even easier to utilize all of the other tools, such as video ‘hang outs’ with people in your Google+ circles.

Chris talked about the need for everyone to be on Google+ so emphatically that I was CONVINCED to needed to go home and get on board (read more about Chris’ view at his blog).   However, as with many things we learn at conferences, I put it on the back burner and hadn’t spent the time I had wanted to get familiar with the platform.  Enter Andy Roos.

I told Andy that I had listened to Chris Brogan’s presentation, loved Google’s products as a whole, present on using Google in the workplace at least a couple times a year, and in general couldn’t wait to hear about how using google products can further help with my work.  I think I might have overwhelmed him a bit with my excitement.

Andy shared some pearls of wisdom, which I think can be relevant to the work we do as Student Affairs Professionals:

  • Video content is king (or queen)
    Videos are hot on YouTube, hot on Facebook, and in general one of the most popular forms of communication on the web.  They need to be short and fun to get lots of views, but clearly people find this format for receiving information (or just wasting time) enjoyable.  Consider a video about activities happening in your area for the week like Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) has done.  Have your students shoot video interviewing other students, or taking tours of their favorite places on campus.  If you have a blog for your department, you might as well take advantage of the interactive format and post videos, both of your own students, or to content you think they would enjoy.  Video content drives people to your blog.
  • You can integrate Google+ into your work in a meaningful way; especially through Google hangouts
    An example Andy shared was how newscaster Sarah Hill uses Google+ hangouts live in her newscasts.  She invites average citizens to be involved in conversations on the air through the medium, and now has over 620,000 followers because of the revolutionary way that she is engaging with her audience.  How can we engage with our students using this medium?  How Could we use it to connect with Student Leaders over the summer?  How can we use it to be more efficient (and more personal) in our professional organization work?  We’d be crazy to not look into using this helpful new technology.  Read more about Sarah Hill’s “social genius”
  • Clear and simple visuals are VERY important to getting points across. 
    Whether it is on your webpage, your presentations, or your Office’s Google+ page, inforgraphics and pictures matter.  Andy offered Obama’s Google+ page as an example of a good way to feed information to followers in a more interesting way.
  • In 180 days, Google has made 212 product improvements on Google+
    We all know that Google is constantly rolling out products and improvements.  While it might feel uncomfortable to be ‘ahead of the curve’ when it comes to a new product, imagine how wonderful it will feel when you are more familiar with it than everyone else because you started working with Google+ in it’s younger days.
  • YouTube is the 3rd largest site on the Internet
    Reinforcing the point that video content is BIG.  Whether or not your video turns ‘viral’ or becomes someone makes an ever-popular meme out of it, you are more likely to get your students to watch a video than read a long article.  Case in point – wouldn’t you rather me show you these tips in a video than read this blog?
  • Make people stay interested in your YouTube videos
    Andy offered an interesting tip I hadn’t heard before.  If you are worried about folks tuning out after the first minute you could try adding captions to the pictures in your video (like pop up video style).  It gets people to pay closer attention so they don’t miss something.
  • Google Video Tools for Nonprofits
    Andy said that not everyone knows about Your institution, or organization can use these tools to make branded pages, avoid ads, and have access to many more tools.
  • Get Interactive with Google Moderator
    Andy also suggested checking out Google Moderator (  With this YouTube tool you can crowdsource comments or questions.  The way it works is that someone gets to suggest a question and then the rest of the audience can “vote up” the question in the queue if they like it.  Imagine setting up a video message (or Google Hangout) with your Dean of Students and let the parents or students bring up questions and vote for which questions for her to answer.  Check out this VIDEO about how to use Google+ live video conferencing.
  • You are more likely to remember an ad on YouTube than an ad on TV
    YouTube is a “lean in media.”  This might be less relevant for student affairs professionals if you aren’t making ads, but I find the point very interesting.  When a commercial is on TV you are more likely to walk away, go to the bathroom, get snacks, etc.  However, no one clicks on an ad via the web and walks away.  If someone is looking at your ad they are literally “leaning in” toward the computer and much more engaged with receiving the information.  While we might not be making traditional ads ourselves, we certainly could be using videos to inform our students of things we want them to know (such as closing information, bed bunking, programming on campus, leadership position openings).  No matter who you are, you want your audience to “lean in” to your message.

Forty five minutes of Google has reminded me just how much I love Google’s products as a whole.  I’m excited to re-embrace this technology and see how many places I can use it in my work. How are you using google+ or YouTube in you work?  Post below!


I went to a radical grassroots organizing conference & lived to tell the tale (Part I)


To be 100% honest, when I signed up to volunteer and attend RootsCamp (#roots12) in Washington DC I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  I knew it was run by the New Organizing Institute (NOI) and would be bringing together community organizers and creating opportunities for cross-issue discussions and idea sharing.  Because there is no pre-set agenda, and no schedule posted from last year (that I could find) I didn’t know the breath of topics they would cover.  However, when a community organizer friend of mine suggested I join him at the conference he did mention that there would be plenty of techy sessions, and that is enough to get to me to go to ANY conference.

Volunteering at the conference served three purposes for me:

1. Allowing me to go (it was sold out!)
2. Giving me a purpose when I knew I would feel a little out of place
3. Getting a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective of the conference.  If I learned nothing else, I wanted to see how UNconference was run.

roots12 volunteers

At our volunteer orientation I got my first taste of the diversity of our attendees. Environmentalists, political campaigners, occupy supporters, new media managers, international activists, cultural group community builders and many more.  The likelihood of one person repeating the same activity or organization as the next was as likely as…

As an aside – Cool new icebreaker is asking for folks to say 3 examples of “what kind of people are you?”

I am geeky/tech loving people
I am LGBTQ activist people
I am Panera loving people

UNConference Organizing: Dos                                       

From an organizational perspective, I had already learned from the NOI team that if you are going to pull off something this huge, you should do a couple things:

  1. Have one of your interns/office students call every volunteer twice.  Call once to confirm a volunteer is on board and that they are receiving your information email information (I wasn’t, it was going to my SPAM folder) and the second time the day before the event to remind them of the volunteer info session.
  2. Bring everyone in the night before for an orientation.  The morning of the conference sounds like a good idea in theory, but there is always running around to do, and our orientation the night before was much more relaxed.
  3. Break everyone into subgroups for more direction.  I really liked that we started out as a big group and then after introductions, a tour, and a general overview, broke into subgroups.  This let us get to know our smaller teams better and be assigned specific tasks.
  4. Organize a thank you for the volunteers before the event begins.  By having one of their sponsors take care of free drinks at a local bar the night before the conference, it made us feel special before the work begin.  It gave us an additional reason for coming the night before, and it allowed us to get to know each other better.  In knowing each other, I think we have a better system for supporting the conference attendees, and we felt more a part of the team.
  5. Set up gender-neutral bathrooms and make sure everyone knows where they are.  Besides “Where is x room?” the number one question you are likely to get is “Where is the bathroom?”  I think it is great when volunteers have not only been told where the bathrooms are, but also shown.  After all, you only remember 20% of what you are told (more on that later).  In this case, the conference was on 3 floors, and one of the floors had two gender-neutral bathrooms.  While I think that may have worked out okay, I would suggest having them on the middle floor of a conference when you set them up, or as could have been the case in a conference like this, switch it up, and have only one separate-gendered bathroom and have all of the others in the building gender-neutral.  I recognize that not every organizer has the ability to set this up, especially if they are sharing space with others, but when you can, the more gender-neutral bathrooms, the better!

UNConference Organizing: Don’ts

I do not want to nitpick the conference staff too much, but for the purposes of this blog, I figured it would be helpful to note my insights so you can think about these things when planning your own UNconference.

  1. Have the building staff uninformed. When we arrived we headed downstairs because the guard thought that was where we were suppose to go, despite the direction being different in the email.  There was no NOI staff in either of the two places so the volunteers organized themselves to figure out where we were suppose to be, and then told the building staff what we figured out so others would not be lost.  Clear signage is key, even pre-conference.
  2. Have the staff team come in late or disjointed.  We started our icebreaker with only the volunteers, and then the NOI staff slowly started trickling in.  We didn’t really know if they were late volunteers or staff and I think it would have been nice to know whom our go-to people would be the following two days if we had questions.
  3. Assume we know what’s going on.  In general I wouldn’t suggest asking a question such as “Does everyone know what rootscamp is?”  This is similar to asking the question “Does everyone know what Transgender means?” in a session.  No one is going to want to raise their hand and be the only one who admits that they don’t know.  Just tell us what you want us to know, or if you really want to gauge your audience, do a “thumbmomoter” or “five-fingered check in.”
  4. Not be on the same page as your volunteer coordinator.  As I mentioned before, I was super impressed with the fact that I had been called TWICE before the conference even started.  On the second call, we talked about which shifts I would want to work, how that might conflict with going to sessions, switched shifts around, and confirmed my volunteer assignment.  I felt well cared for and well communicated with.  However, after the general volunteer intro, we were asked, “Who wants to work on logistics?  Who wants to work on AV?”  This was SUPER confusing since I thought we all already had our assignments. Tip: Once you have everyone assigned, have those assignments out for people to review on paper as they check in & that way you know if you need to re-adjust personnel times or teams.

As a geeky side note, people probably should’t refer to the volunteers as “red shirts,” since we might equate that to mean disposable/about to be eaten or shot by an unknown alien species. ;)

I have way too much to say to limit it to one post, so this will be a “to be continued” reflection.  I hope that these insights help folks think of planning a UNConference of their own one day.  And if you do, call me up, I’d love to be a volunteer :)

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