(This post is part of Blog Action Day, a global effort to bring awareness about the social good. For more information, please visit http://www.blogactionday.org)
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!