Six months ago, things were looking shaky for the Chicago group - declining attendance, comments about being unaware of our mission, a strategic planning meeting that went awry, and a snide comment that "the community doesn't want Net Tuesday" left me - as organizer - with a very shaky sense of confidence. So I did the one thing that many organizers might not think to do:
I took a break. Suspended the group.
And that's when the real work started.
Mostly, it involved reaching out to old partners and participants - figuring out what exactly our values were, and what ways could we drive the intersection of tech and social good in Chicago in 2013, crowded as it is with "non-profit social media consultants" (and yes, I am one) and various resources. It also meant revisiting our original activities, focusing on digital excellence in underserved communities and developing the idea of "open stewardship" - that we are inviting and welcoming to any and all who wish to participate.
But it also meant taking responsibility for - and shedding - some of our most recent behaviors. Clarifying what we are not (in this case, "just another non-profit social media networking group") and focusing on what value we bring to a landscape crowded with people with an interest in social good, especially non-profits In short, much of what was created....was already in place. It needed to be dusted off, reexamined, and represented.
In short, we needed to become a way to "crowdsource tech-minded social change". We needed - and have rededicated - ourselves to being open to anyone with an interest, whether they're non-profits, community groups, or social entrepreneurs. We needed to dedicate ourselves to underserved communities and agencies in all 77 of Chicago's neighborhoods. It also meant communicating and taking advantage of Netsquared's resources, and realizing that we had moved beyond the plain meeting-and-a-presentation format, and that we needed to begin using tech tools more intelligently, becoming a "Kickstarter for social change" in Chicago.
Please allow me to present "Chicago Net Tuesday 2.0" or "Net2Chi". Yes, it's our hashtag on Twitter. It may seem simple, but in short, given this - although one small community doesn't see a need, the greater community needs that neutral space for like-minded people to meet and develop relationships. In short, Net2Chi can serve as a way for everyone to come together, to make sure that all voices are heard, and more importantly, that Chicago move beyond consultants, conferences, and networking events.
It won't be easy, or swift, but we have the groundwork. And we invite everyone who's interested to attend.