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August 07 2012


Reflections on the 100 Day Challenge

We’ve now come to the close of the NetSquared 100 Day Challenge (April 18 -- July 31, 2012) and I’d like to share some reflections about the experience.

The Challenge had its roots in the Global Leadership Council (GLC) meetings held here in San Francisco last Spring, which resulted in a series of six commitments designed to translate what the NetSquared team heard from GLC members into concrete actions.

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May 01 2012


The 100 Day Challenge, Day 10: NetSquared Vision

In her post last week, Laney Strange introduced the NetSquared 100 Day Challenge -- a set of six commitments we’ve made to our Global Leadership Council (GLC) and the NetSquared community that will move our work forward in a big way. Today on day 10, I’m pleased to report significant progress on Challenge #1: NetSquared Vision.

The NetSquared Vision: Clarity and Purpose

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April 25 2012


6 ways, 100 days

100 days from today, it will be August 3, 2012 -- a late summer Friday. The Summer Olympics will be well underway, TechSoup Global will be celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the NetSquared team will be wrapping up (6) projects we’ve committed to, posed to us as challenges by the Net2 Global Leadership Council.
During the GLC’s recent convening in San Francisco, we asked the GLC to challenge us -- what should the Net2 team commit to over the next 100 days? It was the perfect way to wrap-up 10+ days of working sessions, meetings, and ‘12NTC. After talking and planning, we turned up the heat -- what are we actually going to do?
Here were the criteria: Challenges had to be reportable, measureable, and achievable within 100 days. We went around the circle, including GLC members and NetSquared team members (we have to challenge ourselves, too) and committed to (6) challenges over the next (100) days.


Challenge Accepted

Here are the six 100-day challenges


  1. The Net2 Vision: Clarity and Purpose. What is NetSquared, you ask? We ask that too sometimes. For this challenge, we’ll build a clear and compelling vision statement GLC members and Net2 Local organizers and community members can use to focus and grow their local initiatives.
  2. Bubble Up: Make it easy to share local stories. Stories of impact are out there, just waiting to emerge from their Local group participants and communities, a key prioritized feature of the in-development Net2 Platform.
  3. Beyond the GLC: More Connections, Stronger Network. Provide space for the 40 other Net2 Local organizers to get to know one another, share tips, strategies, and tactics focused on strengthening the organizer network.
  4. Improve engagement, resource sharing and support among Net2 Local user-group. Ultimately, Net2 Local participants are the end-users served by GLC members, Net2 Local organizers, and the CDI team. This challenge is concerned with increasing engagement among these users and local communities.
  5. Inside the Firewall: More Open Dialogue. There is a need for increased openness within the CDI team to ensure we are operating with transparency and clarity to best serve the GLC and Net2 communities. Lots of different ways to go about this; we’re thinking about a regular “amnesty hour” within the team (and Alicja wants to publish them).
  6. Plan of Action: Net2 Locals. We’ll package the knowledge and resources of the GLC to strengthen the entire Net2 Local network around the world.


Keep Us Honest

If you’re reading this, we’re accountable to you. Want to track what we’re doing and keep us honest? There are a couple of ways to help us keep ourselves honest over the next 100 days:

  • Follow along here on the blog -- we’re going to post 10 times in 100 days to make sure we’re regularly updating you about what we’re doing and what we have left.
  • Check out the lists. We’re building lists on Trello -- a new tool we’ll be trying out for this endeavor, suggested by GLC member Steven Flower -- for each of the (6) challenges, and we’ll keep them up-to-date too. Check out the list of lists, open to the public and awaiting your eyes and ears (though still pretty bare, for now. Figuring out stuff as we go, as always).

We’ll be figuring this stuff out as we go, but we’re committed to meeting every one of these challenges. Let us know any questions, comments, or feedback -- hit up #100net2.



April 13 2012


Net2Platform through the GLC

When the GLC came to town, I had a specific purpose and deliberate angle to work. Simple and direct. They are users, and I’m a product manager. The transaction is clear and age-old: Tell me what you want, I’ll try to make it happen. Sure, I joined the group for some other sessions and some bike riding, but my full intention was to squeeze out all the input and feedback I could get.  But this community, as it has before, once again surprised me. They are (almost) as committed to the NetSquared platform as I am.

It is a unique thing to work in a place, for a community of users, who want you to succeed. I knew enough about these guys to expect honest, constructive feedback. I didn’t expect, and was blown away by, their interest in and devotion to building a good platform.

What You Expect: Schadenfreude

What I’m more used to is the reactions we always see when something new happens in the tech world. Take Instagram. When Facebook announced on Monday that it was purchasing Instagram for a billion dollars, social media predictably exploded with doomsayers and malcontents.  From “Dear Facebook, please don’t ruin instagram” to an avalanche of snarky tweets, some Instagram loyalists and Facebook detractors were clearly resigned to -- even gleeful about --  the prospect that the site will fail in new hands.


Anyone who lives in the web world expected this. You see these reactions on the social web pretty anytime a big change happens -- and you see it through a fun-house mirror when you're the one who made the change happen. Before coming to TechSoup and joining the NetSquared team, I was working in Silicon Valley on Amazon.com’s search group. I was senior software engineer on the team that built query completion (you know, you start typing a search and it finishes your thought for you -- like magic), and I remember the reactions when we first rolled it out. It was annoying, intrusive, inaccurate; how could we possibly know what you wanted to search for? What were you wacky Amazon engineers thinking?



You get used to it.
Then, of course, people starting using it and they came to love it. An inflection happened sometime after the first few months, a true indication that the feature was doing well -- if we had turned off query completion, users would have been even more annoyed than when we turned it on.

What You Get: Better Together

And this is what I learned from the face-to-face time with GLC. NetSquared folks not only have great ideas and constructive feedback, they want the new NetSquared platform to be good. They want it to be awesome. Their contributions for copy/content, themes, and design were just as useful as I was hoping for, but the real lesson for me is that this is a real community, in every sense of the word. We’re all in it together.
We’re rolling out the new platform in July. Keep an eye here on the blog, or follow @laneystrange on Twitter to keep up and weigh-in. Stay tuned -- we make for a good team.


March 29 2012


Global Leadership Council Get Together

Starting today, the NetSquared Global Leadership Council will be meeting in various San Francisco venues to discuss the opportunities and limitations that can help grow the NetSquared program. So many ideas to share, so many issues to discuss, so many questions to ask -- luckily, more than little time. Today in the morning we started up with the basics.

Where Does NetSquared Come From?

NetSquared was developed in 2005 back when TechSoup Global was still known as Compumentor. TechSoup, a donation program at a time, and NetSquared were both Compumentor’s big projects. Since then donations have become a flag program of Compumentor, to the point when the organization changed its name to TechSoup to reflect that. NetSquared has grown from a just an idea to “square initiatives through interactions”, as Billy said today, to an international program that has now spread to over 20 countries all over the world.

Why Do It?

Ultimately, as Eduardo Bejar (Ecuador) put it, we have no excuse but to help those in need, and we want to do it together with people who share our interests and values. Even though we all come from very different places (literally and metaphorically), this is what we all share.

We do have additional reasons though. Getting back at Margaret Thatcher (in Steven Flower’s case) -- fixing the things that had gone wrong could be one of them. A passion for spreading the knowledge and educating people we usually don’t interact with could be another. We might also have been born as doers, and ended up being community organizers because of our temperament rather than a passion for tech or social change in general. And who knows, maybe one day a reward will come unexpectedly. A world will become a better place, and as a plus someone will feature us and our work in a poem (read the poem inspired by the NetTuesday Toronto: “MEETING SUCCESS” by David Clayson Brydges ).

How To Grow Big And Stay Clever?

“The bigger the organization gets, and the higher you climb within its structure, the dumber you get. Because, basically, there is little oxygen up there” -- this metaphor coined by one of the Council members, Assem Thakur (Singapore), can well summarize what we are trying to figure out. How to use the power and the network of TechSoup Global to drive hyperlocal initiatives and then scale them? How to make sure that the wisdom and the potential of the community is what shapes our strategy and informs our work? We hope to find more answers in the days to follow. Stay tuned.



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