My days are consumed with encouraging community and collegiality in the Yammer enterprise social networks I manage for the Union for Reform Judaism. I feel successful when our users connect with each other, when they solve difficult problems with each other, and when they find resources that will help them strengthen their work and their congregation.
I love my work, but sometimes I feel like a party host who just wants to relax and talk to his friends. Like a traffic cop who wants to put down his baton and whistle and drive down the road, just like everyone else.
So what do I do when I want to find a place for collegiality, resources and community myself? Thankfully, Microsoft provides a variety of online spaces for managers of Yammer networks and other Office 365 products to practice what they preach. We connect with one another. We solve difficult problems together. We create community of our own as we all work hard to create community for others.
Not too long ago, I noticed another Yammer network manager in our online community, Christine, who works for the Jesuits. Christine lives and works in the Milwaukee area, I live and work in the Chicago area. We realized the depth of our professional similarities and differences, and realized we had to find a time to meet. We found a location relatively convenient for each of us and met for lunch.
As soon as we sat down, it quickly became clear we were never going have time to talk about everything we had to talk about during the hour or so we allotted ourselves for this lunch meeting. Religious information, organization history and culture, engagement best practices, areas of similarities and differences…the list went on and on.
Although we both work for religious organizations, our organizations are vastly different (even beyond the obvious indicators). With almost 900 member congregations, the Union for Reform Judaism represents the largest Jewish Movement in North America. We engage clergy (rabbis and cantors) and lay (temple board members and other volunteers) and professional (temple paid staff) leaders in our external Yammer network.
The Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, is the largest order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church, involved in educational, pastoral and spiritual ministries around the world. Their busiest Yammer network is a home network for clergy (priests and brothers) and lay-staff (non-clergy staff members) of the Jesuit organization, and they have an external Yammer network that operates in Spanish that is used with lay collaborators to support the rights of migrants, displaced peoples, and refugees in Central America, Mexico and North America.
We both experience challenges getting our users fully engaged in our Yammer network. People are either hesitant to use a new platform for collaboration, or they just feel too invested and too comfortable using platforms they have used for years, like email.
We both experience the reward of seeing people embrace the technology as part of the mission of our organization. Once a person has realized how a platform like Yammer can actually save them time, and help them to do their work more effectively with broader impact, they become more active and more collaborative. Interestingly enough, collaboration is an important value to both the Jesuits and the Union for Reform Judaism.
The URJ vision statement states that we “build community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life.”
On the Jesuits website, a similar vision is shared. The Jesuits “seek to ‘find God in all things.’ We dedicate ourselves to the ‘greater glory of God’ and the good of all humanity. And we do so gratefully in collaboration with others who share our values, including laypersons. They have become part of the ‘we,’ the extended Jesuit family.”
Both organizations recognize the need to create community, not just between churches, offices, congregations and organizations, but also between clergy and lay leadership, between staff and members. Collaboration makes us stronger. Collaboration makes us better.
So…a Jesuit and a Jew walked into a Yammer network. And the more Christine and I talked, the more we focused on the similarities between the Jesuits and the Jews rather than the differences. We recognized the need to keep in touch, the need to keep learning from each other. We recognized the need to keep collaborating.