A year is a long time! Let’s see if I can remember what happened during TechSoup’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. I think we did some awesome stuff… am I right? Read on for my hazy recollections. :-)
There were two defining themes for NetSquared last year: deeper integration into the TechSoup family and an emphasis on our core principle of local. But first, what is NetSquared?
We’re glad you asked. NetSquared is TechSoup’s volunteer-driven network of nonprofit tech meetups and salons. Our organizers hold monthly offline events for anyone interested in the connection of technology and social impact. NetSquared groups offer an opportunity to convene locally to network, learn from one another and apply technology for real world impact. Our Organizers are amazing! Give them a kiss for me!
Integration Into the TechSoup Family
Sounds kinda buzz-wordy, doesn’t it? But it’s important!
NetSquared has always been part of TechSoup, but we’ve often stood aloof like a sullen teenage. This is the year that NetSquared decided to re-connect with the family, because standing alone is boring and minimizes our impact.
What does the re-connection look like? Our twice-monthly roundups of upcoming events are now published on the TechSoup blog and community events calendar. NetSquared is also participating in TechSoup’s global educational campaigns. During Social Media September Net2 organizers supplemented TechSoup’s webinars and blog posts with 14 local workshops and nine Social Media Surgeries. These collaborative campaigns are a huge win-win. TechSoup’s massive reach helps Net2 organizers reach bigger audiences for their events and NetSquared’s grassroots members bring TechSoup’s knowledge into communities that otherwise aren’t currently working with TechSoup.
NetSquared doubled down on our local focus by recruiting Regionals Ambassadors who are offering mentorship and support to new and prospective Net2 organizers. Our current crop of Ambassadors are based in Cameroon, the UK, New Zealand, and Guatemala City. These volunteers have been very successful in expanding the amount of support we can offer our organizers. Each month the Ambassadors make several direct connections with organizers in their region and are offering personal support to organizers who are looking for new topics, co-organizers or need to puzzle through a challenge.
TechSoup invested in the Regional Ambassadors by bringing them to NTEN’s 14NTC conference for a multi-day leadership training. This gave the Ambassadors a chance to build skills, relationships with each other and support the other Net2 organizers attending the conference. We then invited the Ambassadors to replicate the experience in their home regions by holding mini-gatherings of NetSquared organizers. These events in Cambridge, the Gold Coast and Guatemala City were extremely successful in energizing organizers who attended and relaunching inactive groups. We intend to expand the project in 2015.
We invited NetSquared organizers to apply for small grants so that they could hold unconferences. These NetSquared Camps are a great way to build up a strong local #nptechcommunity of practice.
Net2Camps have been our signature project for the last two years, but based on the success of the Regional Ambassador gatherings we will move away from funding unconferences. The new focus is on getting Net2 organizers face-to-face as part of the Regional Ambassador project. We will now leverage existing events as the venues for our gatherings and shift more of our resources to travel and tuition bursaries.
This year we surveyed all the key community participants, including the Net2 organizers and our event attendees. The surveys help us set a baseline for next year’s questions, allowing TechSoup to see how you think we’re doing year-over-year.
The Organizer survey showed that 75% respondents were satisfied or very satisfied. We’re hopeful that when we re-run the survey in September 2014 that number will increase!
For the first time ever we also surveyed event attendees in the USA and Canada. We that found that our members are very happy with the quality of events and attend because they want to network with their peers and understand the latest technology trends.
Documenting Best Practices
The NetSquared community documents their best practices in the Organizers’s Handbook, a collaborative wiki. This collects together battle-tested event formats, workflows and templates for use by new groups. Highlights from the last year include: