Day two of the conference and my first day of workshops!
Ever the eager beaver, I was ready; I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. After a day of mixers and games and socials (complete with slideshows and singing and a science fair!), I was ready to get what I came for: the tools, skills, and knowledge to make my organization more effective at doing what we’re aiming to do – end homelessness.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Three workshops into the afternoon, I learned how to optimize my website to help people find content faster, I learned how other organizations were using social media; I learned that we could test our landing pages to see what elements make them the most effective, and I learned how important it was for all organizational departments to contribute to making the website more user- and search-friendly.
And I learned a lot about the people here too. Over lunch, I was lucky enough to meet Ed Doolittle of AID Atlanta and Pam Gaston of Health Mothers, Health Babies Coalition of Georgia – both here with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, a collaborative partner for this year’s NTEN Conference. Ed and I swapped stories about how difficult it can be to find housing for people with chronic, high-maintenance illnesses like HIV and AIDS – and how difficult it can be for people to successfully manage chronic illnesses like HIV and AIDS without stable housing. Similarly, it’s difficult for mothers to raise healthy, happy children without safe, permanent housing and access to health care – which is harder and harder to come by for people of fewer and fewer means.
I also got to meet Jessica Dally of Community Voice Mail National – a really interesting organization that provides voice mail services to people experiencing homelessness. I had honestly never considered how important voice mail service might be to people without permanent shelter or regular access to a telephone, but 20 minutes into the conversation and I was thinking about voice mail in a whole new way!
Some colleagues and partners have observed that the homeless assistance community can seem a little behind in utilizing existing technology to advance our common goals (in fact, the moderator in my social media benchmarks session noted that international, environmental, and animal rights groups were at the top of the pack in using social media – homeless assistance services didn’t even show up on his list!). And admittedly, it’s a thought that’s crossed my mind more than once. But being here at the conference, meeting these great people and hearing about their work, it’s amazing to see how many issues and ideas and projects could intersect with our own. I heard myself saying over and over again today: “Here’s my card. I’m sure we can find a way to work together.”
[Pause for the cheesy moment.]
Which, of course, is one of the points this conference is trying to make. That point being that we are one community of like-minded, mission-driven, well-intentioned do-gooders, with the potential to collaborate and support each other and work together using all the neat tools that technology as to offer.
[Pause for cheesy moment 2].
At the moment, I’m settling into bed to sleep off the lingering buzz of the day and prepare for the third – and last! – day of he conference tomorrow. I’m hoping – no, I’m sure! – that it’ll be more of the same: learning, mingling, listening…it’s possible there’ll be more singing.
But I’ll let you know either way.
Good night, all,