Last weekend, Meetup.com was brought to a standstill due to a variety of attacks on its service. (Slate has a great article outlining exactly what happened). For many groups, Meetup provides valuable assistance and resources for organizers of events. In the past few weeks, two new Meetups - focusing on tech and social good - have been created, and are well worth your time and involvement.
On February 28th, the Chicago Broadband Communities Meetup group held its inaugural meeting at Harold Washington Library. Focusing on the impact of broadband internet access for all citizens, this first meeting included presentations by Partnership for a Connected Illinois/Broadband Illinois and the Center for Digital Inclusion (out of Champaign). Although an initial kickoff meeting, the group hoped to get input on how to mobilize around increasing broadband usage, with an emphasis meeting the needs of "broadband deserts", providing home access for all, and using broadband as a tool for community economic development.
In short, broadband access is a key component of digital excellence - with several initiatives working toward providing access to underserved communities, having citizens willing to meet, share information, and (most importantly) advocate and act will provide the group energy and motion. Tentative plans are for an April 1st event, and people can receive updates simply by joining their Meetup group.
Another group (of special interest to those working in the non-profit field) is the Chicago Non-Profit Marketing & Communications Professionals group. Their kickoff happened in February with a casual tea/social. Although relatively informal, the group did manage to have a lively discussion about the challenges in working in the non-profit field. (Several of my fellow Meetup attendees shared challenges of both freelance and full-time work with non-profits). Although there is no immediate follow-up scheduled, this is a group that is definitely worth following.
Although Meetup is a great resource for meeting organization, it has seen its share of controversy and challenges, from its handling of this recent service outage to closing its public discussion forums to making changes to its platform without informing its users. In a field where competitors like Eventbrite are gaining a critical edge, Meetup is at least working to rectify some problems - offering organizers a rebate for lost service will be a financial setback for the service. (Full Disclosure: I run two non-professional groups on Meetup.com). After the public forums closed, the public non-affiliated Discuss Meetup site was created to allow both organizers and members to ask questions and share information about the service.
Chicago has a great variety of events, and Meetup is not the only source....but at the very least, it provides a simple entry point for diving into the world of social good.
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