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I first saw the alert on my phone, then a colleague of mine shared a news article in our Emergency Response group in Yammer, the Microsoft enterprise social network platform our organization uses for internal and external communication and collaboration. There had been a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. We did not know yet how many people had been injured or killed, who was responsible, or what the ramifications of the shooting would be, but we already knew this would be a serious event.

The shooting in Pittsburgh proved to be the deadliest anti-Semitic event in American history, and Yammer enabled our Jewish organization to respond with agility, impact and speed.

We have a Yammer network for staff of our organization. In that private space, we have an Emergency Response group, accessible to everyone on our staff, specifically so we can all stay connected when we need to respond to natural disasters and emergency situations. On this Shabbat, a day of rest when our staff generally tries to stay away from email and other forms of work related digital communication, our Emergency Response group was busy with posts about the events unfolding in Pittsburgh.

We quickly connected with dozens of people throughout our organization. We quickly recognized the need to be of a unified voice as we prepared to respond to the shooting that had just happened a few hours earlier. We quickly recognized the challenges connected with a major education event scheduled for the next day. We realized that although it was Shabbat, we had to talk. Quickly.

Dozens of us soon found ourselves on a series of video meetings, reeling together from the news that was making its way out of Pittsburgh, and trying to collect ourselves in a way that would enable us to lead our organization and its members through the difficult days ahead.

As we had different meetings through the day, we used the Emergency Response group in our Yammer staff network to share information and resources. One of the first things we decided to do as a result of the conversations in Yammer was to connect with members in our external Yammer network called The Tent, where almost 12,000 lay and professional leaders in our organization share information and expertise with each other. We created a public group, accessible to everyone in our external network, called Prayers for Pittsburgh. We envisioned this as a space where our organization could share information with members how we were responding to the tragedy, but more importantly, we wanted this to be a place where our members could share their questions, feelings and prayers with one another. People were eager to talk, people needed to connect.

In only the first week after creating the Prayers for Pittsburgh group, 150 messages had been posted, and those messages were read almost 6,000 times.

We also saw our members express concern about how to keep their own synagogues safe, and similar concerns and ideas were shared in our Safety and Security group, which had been created long before the events in Pittsburgh. Last week alone, we saw activity in that group increase by over 500%, and there was an over 1,100% increase in the number of read messages.

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Sample messages from our Prayers for Pittsburgh group in The Tent

Because of our community network space, people were able to find the information and resources they needed to keep their synagogues safe. They found a conversation taking place. They found an active community. They found a tangible reminder that they are not alone in their experience, expertise or concern.

Our organization found connection too. Through the conversation happening in The Tent, we gained valuable insight as to what was on the minds of our members in real time.

“What will it take to get to the point when all people of faith in the United States feels safe attending their place of worship? “

“Do you use security guards at your Friday night Services?”

“Does anyone have an Emergency Action Pan in place that they would be willing to share?”

As a direct result of these questions and conversations, we were able to offer webinars, curated content and expertise that connected directly to the questions being asked in The Tent. Yammer connected our members to each other. Yammer connected our organization to our members. Yammer connected our members to us.

Enterprise Social Network platforms like Yammer take conversations out of the privacy cavern of email for everyone to see and respond to. Yammer was able to help us guide our members through tragedy to a greater sense community, more meaningful conversation and a resources and expertise.

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