Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Organizations’

 

From Network Judaism to Platform Judaism

Posted on: October 8th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

 

In 2000, I wrote a paper called Network Judaism, later published in 2001. MySpace was launched in August 2003 and Facebook in February 2004. While not long ago at all, it’s hard to recall that social media platforms didn’t exist. But if you were tracking possible significant trends carefully, you could anticipate the potential emergence of the networked organization. What no one was able to grasp was how social media sites would be enable societal changes of major magnitude.

 

Today, here are a few stats on some popular social media platforms:

Facebook-1.15 billion registered users

Flickr -87 million users, 8 billion photos

Pandora – 200 million registered users

Twitter – 500 million registered

Word Press – 66 million blogs

Angie’s list – 2 million users

Yelp – 12 million users per day

YouTube-500 million visits per day

 

The numbers tell a story of how rapidly socially media sites have been adopted and how embedded they are in our lives. Yet, synagogues, federations and other historic organizations have not shifted their structures to enable themselves to become platforms for people to connect socially, spiritually, philanthropically and educationally.

 

As we are now in the networked era, Jewish organizations need to shift their paradigms to a platform model. Otherwise, the great the work that many are doing around making Judaism more relevant, inspirational, meaning-saturated and beautiful will be inhibited or fail. Unlike many Jewish start up organizations that have blossomed over the last ten years, established Jewish organizations need Platform Judaism, or more accurately, platform Jewish structures.

 

What is an organizational platform (and I can highlight only a few dimensions in this space)? A platform is an enabling space for people to interact and act upon issues. An organization that becomes a platform enables individuals to self direct their Jewish choices and express their Jewish values within the organization’s mission. That is a radical shift from organizational leaders directing people how, when, where, why and with whom to be Jewish- in other words, the dominant paradigm of more established Jewish organizations and synagogues!

 

Becoming a platform is also a mindset. It means embracing the desire of individuals to co-create their experiences, opt in and opt out of Jewish life, do new things and old things in new ways-of course, within the organization’s mission. This mindset operates within the building, outside of the building, on the website, and anywhere else. It also requires a much more creative and intentional use of technologies to tell individual stories and organizational stories and a redefinition of professional and volunteer leaders’ roles, new governance models and even new professional and volunteer positions.

 

Most critically, restructuring as a platform requires a relentless focus on a compelling mission and purpose. When organizations can clearly define their purpose, they have the opportunity to help individuals activate their latent hunger for community, experientially educate them about the difference between a discrete cause and an enduring commitment and provide opportunities for deeper relationships that transcend Facebook-type “connections.”

 

Talking about organizational structure isn’t sexy. But the payoff for paying attention to it is potentially huge, enabling:

 

In part, I wrote my book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, to stimulate thinking around the urgency for organizations to move to a platform model. Within about two weeks, UJA-Federation of New York’s Synergy Department and the Alban Institute will be releasing a study and action guide to help synagogues and organizations practically apply the concepts of Platform Judaism, one of the central concept in Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, to their real world settings. Then, several weeks later, the Alban Institute will be publishing a companion volume to Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, with a deeper discussion of some of the core concepts of the book and even more practical resources. If you’ve registered for ongoing information, you’ll learn how you can access these new resources-one of which will be downloadable for free. If you haven’t, you can sign up here.

 

And in October, I’ll be presenting and facilitating number of sessions in Baltimore at United Synagogue’s Centennial; in Westchester, Manhattan and Long Island through UJA-Federation of New York; and the Rockland County Federation’s Rockland Jewish (Synagogue) Initiative. You can click here for more details on these presentations and if they’re in your area and open to the public, I hope that you’ll participate. Looking forward to working together with you!

 

Crossed posted on eJewishphilanthropy in a modified form.

 

 

Paradigm Shift For Jewish Involvement

Posted on: September 9th, 2012 by Hayim Herring

 

In the old days, that is, until about a decade ago, when people wanted to do contribute good to society they looked for a non-profit organization whose work appealed to them. They volunteered for a project or committee, and veteran volunteers mentored them about how the work was done. If they were passably good at their volunteer service, they would move up the ranks, possibly even becoming president. They might repeat this pattern over the course of a lifetime, serve several organizations and, in turn, “teach the ropes” to new volunteers.

 

In this model of involvement, there was a right way and a wrong way to get things done and one year’s program often served as the next year’s template. This pattern of involvement created predictability for organizations but, over time, unresponsiveness in addressing new community problems. (more…)

Collaboration: Myths and Realities

Posted on: March 31st, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”
Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?
In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.
Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.
I’ve learned that donors and staff often understood understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.
Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.
I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?
Thanks,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”

Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?

In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.

Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.

I’ve learned that donors and staff often understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.

Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.

I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?

Thanks,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Making Better Use of Jewish Real Estate: Inspired by the Past

Posted on: March 25th, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
I’m in Jerusalem at the moment and, while doing some touring in the Old City, I visited the site of the 4 Sefardic synagogues (see the bottom of the map). In this relatively small space, there are 4 ancient synagogues in one structure. Several of them are still functional, too. As I wasn’t there during prayer services, I can’t tell you how much interaction each of the different communities have with one another. But this ancient space inspired me to think about how we might use Jewish physical spaces more creatively, especially in these tight economic times.
The conventional wisdom is that the Jewish community has more real estate than it needs. In some geographical regions, especially in areas which have declining or mobile Jewish populations, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. Buildings are costly to maintain and are a drag on synagogue and organizational budgets. Despite this reality, people often feel strong attachments to physical space, because they are bound up with memories of the passage of time and milestone events. For others, it’s about flexing their bricks and mortar machismo, as in the “my building is better than your building” attitude. Still, others have difficulty disentangling how you can have a thriving community without a building.
The good news is that like this ancient space of the 4 Sefardic synagogues, I’m hearing more stories of organizations sharing space: synagogues of different denominations moving into one space, multiple organizations sharing one building, and a mix of Jewish and secular organizations sharing space.
The next step, which a few of these organizations are taking, is examining together how to create new possibilities of programming, administration and human and capital resource development. This is a welcome phenomenon and offers non-profits ways to think about financial savings and better service at the same time.
In the next week, I’ll be writing about the issue of collaborations, mergers and other strategies for achieving these goals. (If you want to read about this topic now, you can go to a story covered in eJewishphilanthropy.) So here’s a question that I can use your help with: what examples of creatively sharing space do you know of? Where in your community do you see potential for doing so?
Thanks for growing this area of knowledge and to my Jewish readers, I wish you a meaningful Passover holiday (chag sameach).
Rabbi Hayim Herring

I’m in Jerusalem at the moment and, while doing some touring in the Old City, I visited the site of the 4 Sefardic synagogues (see the bottom of the map). In this relatively small space, there are 4 ancient synagogues in one structure. Several of them are still functional, too. As I wasn’t there during prayer services, I can’t tell you how much interaction each of the different communities have with one another. But this ancient space inspired me to think about how we might use Jewish physical spaces more creatively, especially in these tight economic times.

The conventional wisdom is that the Jewish community has more real estate than it needs. In some geographical regions, especially in areas which have declining or mobile Jewish populations, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. Buildings are costly to maintain and are a drag on synagogue and organizational budgets. Despite this reality, people often feel strong attachments to physical space, because they are bound up with memories of the passage of time and milestone events. For others, it’s about flexing their bricks and mortar machismo, as in the “my building is better than your building” attitude. Still, others have difficulty disentangling how you can have a thriving community without a building.

The good news is that like this ancient space of the 4 Sefardic synagogues, I’m hearing more stories of organizations sharing space: synagogues of different denominations moving into one space, multiple organizations sharing one building, and a mix of Jewish and secular organizations sharing space.

The next step, which a few of these organizations are taking, is examining together how to create new possibilities of programming, administration and human and capital resource development. This is a welcome phenomenon and offers nonprofits ways to think about financial savings and better service at the same time.

In the next week, I’ll be writing about the issue of collaborations, mergers and other strategies for achieving these goals. (If you want to read about this topic now, you can go to a story covered in eJewishphilanthropy.com.) So here’s a question that I can use your help with: what examples of creatively sharing space do you know of? Where in your community do you see potential for doing so?

Thanks for growing this area of knowledge and to my Jewish readers, I wish you a meaningful Passover holiday (chag sameach).

Rabbi Hayim Herring