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2012-03-30 10.44.32I’ve just signed up for www.tenthousandcoffees.com. I’ve known about it for a while and like many, had a certain opinion until I met the founder Dave Wilkin. He’s an earnest entrepreneur who, in this world that is oversaturated with social network platforms, has momentum on one whose mandate is rather simple, creating opportunities over a cup a coffee.

Shaping What’s Next, One Conversation at a Time.  The Ten Thousand Coffees movement exists to bridge the gap and create an equal playing field for everyone by embracing the newest technology and the power of conversation.

I am looking at platforms for mentoring. Ways to bring people together, to self-manage the matching and support conversations that can be one-off or ongoing: students with recent grads; recent grads with those who found a good job; those who want to transition with those who have; and entrepreneurs with each other. I am looking at ways to connect lots of people, something that is less structured than traditional mentoring programs, more like “unmentoring”, borrowing from the concept of an “unconference.”

un·con·fer·ence
a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured program of events. (Google)

LinkedIn is a leader but lacks representation in certain industries and doesn’t talk to passion. Graduway is a platform that many schools are rolling out for their alumni but while my alma matter is huge, there are interesting people elsewhere as well.

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Cindy, someone wants to meet you for coffee!‏

So after meeting Dave, I thought wanted to know more about his platform. I filled in the forms, was automatically categorized as an expert and the next day I had my first request for a coffee date. A young woman, a graduate from my university, and we had a common focus on nonprofit organizations. An interesting topic was put forward.

I mentor a lot of people. They come to me from my volunteer activities. Some are referred by people who know me or have benefited from my advice. And sometimes there are chance encounters as I wander around the globe. But never have I felt so exposed as when that request for coffee came in. If you Google me, my blogs and profiles are online. I don’t hide. But putting my profile on a social platform that is expressly to empower people, strangers, to engage in meaningful conversations seems a lot like online dating. This is not a passive profile but an open door for a coffee meet up.

I have replied. We’ll see what happens. I am fairly busy so if the requests become too much I can switch to group meet ups online or in person, or I can make my profile invisible for a while.

Go for a coffee date

For those of you that want some input, have a question, or are challenged by your situation, sign up and take a look at the many experts that are already on the platform. I was truly impressed at who is available to you.

If you think you have something to offer, think of www.tenthousandcoffees.com as a knowledge-based volunteer portal. Put yourself out there and be surprised and delighted when someone approaches you for an unmentoring session.

 

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My network is getting a good workout these days and we are all a little better for it. One of the benefits of getting older is that a) your friends end up in interesting roles and gather lots of experience and networks of their own and b) over the years you can collect a rather large and interesting mix of contacts. By the time someone asks “do you know someone that does …”, chances are, you have someone in your network directly or just one referral away.

I’m not here to state the obvious but instead to posture that the value of a Boomer’s network is probably larger that they will ever need and that the true value is in sharing it.

I do a lot of mentoring or coaching or chatting with folks that are looking for pathfinders. They are looking for their first job, their first meaningful job, a new career or a volunteer opportunity. Generally they are looking for validation and direction, and this is where my network comes in.

I started something called Dates with Destiny

It’s where I provide someone with a starter set of introductions and encourage them to follow up, creating 60 Days of Dates with Destiny to explore industries, roles, organizations and opportunities. The dates are given in sets of 4 or 6 contacts representing a wide range of experience or perspectives.

Those contacts are open to introductions and generously share their time and knowledge. In fact many of my contacts are grateful for the opportunity to share and some asked outright when I was going to match them for a date.

One recipient said that the first date spurred her to reexamine her own network and set up additional dates beyond my first set.

So my point is – Boomers have great value in their networks, much of which is untapped. If you are a Boomer, do share your network with those who are worth investing in. For those of you who need help or direction, don’t be afraid to ask for a Date with Destiny.

I get a lot of email from Convenant House, a non-profit in Toronto focused on helping street kids. Their timing hits home as their campaigns are perfectly timed with every holiday opportunity.

But this time, they’ve teamed up with ad agency TAXI to perfectly capture the power of Facebook with an ask to “Donate your Status.”

Please help us reach our goal of one status for every street kid.

At first glance at the email’s subject line I didn’t get it but one click in and a bounce over to Convenant’s Facebook page and I realized the brilliance. They’ve got an assortment of status lines that are consistent and hard hitting as all Convenant’s messages are. Make one of these your Facebook status to share the message. And then of course, there’s the text “youth” to donate $5 to the cause buying 2 meals for one of these kids.

Kudos to the cause and their agency for a brilliant use of a small but powerful feature of one of today’s biggest social media platforms.

TED devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading

TED – it’s a powerful concept and may know if you’ve been informed or enlightened by one the great talks available on their website www.ted.com. TED addresses all types of topics, gathering experts to share ideas and inspire conversation.

So when I learned that the topic of the UN Millennium Development Goals and “The Future We Make” I was doubly delighted to see it come to my city in the form of TEDx and TEDxChange.

A small gathering will take place September 20, 2010 mainly for the community within the Centre for Social Innovation.

TEDxChange is a special live webcast at the Centre for Social Innovation presented by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Focused on the theme “The Future We Make,” the webcast will be hosted by TED curator Chris Anderson. Hosted in Toronto at the Centre for Social Innovation, CSI will also host several live speakers both before and after the webcast. For more information on the webcast, visit http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/446

The bigger gathering is on September 30, 2010.

TEDxToronto (TEDxTO) was established by an enthusiastic group of volunteers based in Toronto who are passionate about TED and generating “Ideas Worth Spreading”. This year’s theme is “A Call to Action”. After all, an idea without any action behind it merely stays as an idea. This theme is a challenge to both speakers and attendees to transform their ideas into tangible action that will make a positive difference in their communities. See http://www.tedxtoronto.com/event/.

TEDx everywhere

Beyond September there are many events affiliated with TED all year long and in communities all over the world. So if you want to go beyond the passive, get engaged in a TEDx event in your neighbourhood and rise to the “Call to Action.”

Big discovery day yesterday as people gave me many links that illustrated the power of social networks within the context of social service and giving back.

I’ve only scratched the surface and so I’m sure there are many out there and many more to come. I’d bet there will be some aggregators or consolidation among these sites as the best technologies surface. Still this social service field is filled with millions of organizations each with their own focus or spin, many overlapping and yet all coexisting with a united push to do good. The problem is the individual volunteer who must filter through this mass to find the one or few organizations they wish to support. That’s another post.

In the mean time take a look at how Aviva (the insurance company) is using the power of the people to spend their CSR funds at http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/. Look at  to see http://getinvolved.ca/, “The social network for the socially conscious” and http://www.dailychallenge.org/, “the social network for do-gooders.” Interesting that these last 2 are sponsored by media, specifically TV and radio.

Big discovery day yesterday as folks shared lots of links for sites that combined the power of social networks with the needs of social causes.

I’m sure there are lots of sites out there and that I’ve only scratched the surface. Over time as the best technology comes to the surface and aggregators attempt to make social portals, some will dominate. But in this field of social activism there are millions of organizations out there, each with their own focus and spin, many overlapping and yet working together to make the world a better place.

The issue in all this chaos is that of the individual volunteer looking to find the one or few organizations whose cause and approach aligns with their own sensibilities. But that’s the topic of another post.

In the mean time, take a look at Aviva (the insurance company) and their approach to leveraging communities in order to support local causes and allocate their CSR funds at http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/. And see the marriage of social networking and social engagement at   http://getinvolved.ca/, “the social network for the socially conscious” and http://www.dailychallenge.org, “the social network for do-gooders.” It’s interesting to note that both of these are sponsored by media, specifically TV and radio.

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