Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Week to Relive and Remember

Dear PresenTense Community,

This week to come — and the night before us — is one of the most ancient virtual reality technologies to survive. This ancient tech, the Seder Pesah, is a highly calibrated vehicle with a simple yet complex aim at heart: enabling every individual of the Mixed Multitudes that is the People of Am Israel to relive a common narrative as if it were her own, and, through it, to reaffirm her sense of place and purpose. Too often those who would program for our generation seek the easy and the aesthetic. The seder, which almost all of our peers and peers’ peers will attend tonight, is neither. It is complex, it bears levels of meaning, and to do it right – for one to leave it feeling a sense of accomplishment – one must go deep and slog through hours of active participation. The seder is an amplifier: the more you give to it, the more you get out of it.

Over the past years we’ve been trying to incorporate that ancient programming wisdom into our programs in the present, most notably with the fellowships were able to run now around the world. But our understanding of the seder’s secret has just begun, and we have many more days to walk through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land: a world where the collective potential of our People is realized through the engaged action of all of our members. If we link arms and march, we’ll make it through the wilderness, and if we open our ways and teach our methods, we will find our Joshuas to lead us to the next stage of our quest. May you have a glorious virtual reality experience this Pesah eve.

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A Week to Relive and Remember

Dear PresenTense Community,

This week to come — and the night before us — is one of the most ancient virtual reality technologies to survive. This ancient tech, the Seder Pesah, is a highly calibrated vehicle with a simple yet complex aim at heart: enabling every individual of the Mixed Multitudes that is the People of Am Israel to relive a common narrative as if it were her own, and, through it, to reaffirm her sense of place and purpose. Too often those who would program for our generation seek the easy and the aesthetic. The seder, which almost all of our peers and peers’ peers will attend tonight, is neither. It is complex, it bears levels of meaning, and to do it right – for one to leave it feeling a sense of accomplishment – one must go deep and slog through hours of active participation. The seder is an amplifier: the more you give to it, the more you get out of it.

Over the past years we’ve been trying to incorporate that ancient programming wisdom into our programs in the present, most notably with the fellowships were able to run now around the world. But our understanding of the seder’s secret has just begun, and we have many more days to walk through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land: a world where the collective potential of our People is realized through the engaged action of all of our members. If we link arms and march, we’ll make it through the wilderness, and if we open our ways and teach our methods, we will find our Joshuas to lead us to the next stage of our quest. May you have a glorious virtual reality experience this Pesah eve.

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Million Minutes Campaign – a Beginning

One of the great challenges of social ventures in general, and PresenTense is no exception, surrounds measuring the impact of an organization's actions. Over time, we at PresenTense mainly focused on the measurement of our most concrete outputs – the social ventures launched by our Community Entrepreneur Partnership program (the fellowships). In other words, we measured how many of the ventures we've launched are still going (64%), received follow on funding (48%) and how many of the community entrepreneurs who participated in the program are now working in the field of their interest (as in, continued the work they came to our program to do, even if they're no longer doing their venture — 84%).

But the problem with all of these metrics are that they focus on the ventures and the impact of the program on the community entrepreneur fellows, without paying attention to the impact PresenTense has had on the volunteers who make those ventures (and the programs we run) possible: the Steering Committee members in each city that identify the entrepreneurs, the coaches who provide support, the mentors who work with the fellows, the Subject Matter Experts who provide answers to their questions…not to mention all of the many volunteers who contribute their thoughts, visions and work to programs we run that are not the CEPs – i.e. the magazine, fedheads, and so on.

So we've done some thinking, and we think we're on to a new metrics: minutes. That is, how many minutes are the volunteers around the world devoting to making PresenTense's programs and activities possible.

Let's unpack that for a second: PresenTense's mission is to create the programs and services which will enable the Jewish People to realize its collective potential in the world. That means, our mission is to activate members of the Jewish People to act as citizens of the Jewish People to further the Jewish community and the world.

Well, since it is very hard for us currently to measure the impact of this action in quantifiable terms (especially in the short run), we searched for statistical instruments to reflect this "activation," and then it came to us: every minute a member of the Jewish People gives actively to further a program reflects positive movement towards collective actualization.

Or, to use Jewish communal jargon, every minute a person engages in active work for the Jewish People (as opposed to passively viewing a concert or attending an event), that person becomes affiliated with the destiny of the Jewish People.

Best of all, this is a metric every organization that seeks to engage Jews could use: how many minutes are their volunteers investing, unpaid, to serve others as part of their programs or services?

So we have set upon calculating the number of minutes our volunteers invest in our programs, setting ourselves the goal of raising one million minutes in one year. Our idea is to start by calculating how many minutes people have invested already – and then make up the rest by appealing to our larger community of "passive" participants (readers of our magazine, website, etc) to donate their minutes to the cause.

It'll take a few weeks until we build out our system (connecting it to Salesforce so we can real-time track) – but until then, here is a preview of how we're currently estimating the minutes we're raising:

Community Entrepreneur Partnerships (CEP): Each CEP (the year-long fellowship programs we run in six cities around the world) include:
1. Steering Committee members, who give on average two hours a month for the first six months of the program (from August until the end of January) to build strategy, lead admissions, etc.
2. Coaches who give on average one hour a month for the five months of the fellowship program itself (January through the end of May)

3. Mentors who gives on average one hour a month during the fellowship program itself
4. Subject Matter Experts who give two hours during the fellowship program
5. Case Study Teachers who gives two hours during the fellowship program

6. Fellows who invest 4 hours a week during the fellowship program to develop a venture for the Jewish People

Magazines: Each magazine (three a year) is put together by volunteers which include:
1. Topic Steering Committee members who give approximately two hours per month
2. Writers who give approximately three hours per month
3. Editors who give approximately two hour a month
4. Peer Editors who give approximately two hours per article (approximately 28 articles an issue)
5. Copy Editors who give approximately two hours per article
6. Artists who give approximately two hours per submission

…and so on. We'll work on this a bit more, and will let you know what we come to.

If you've volunteered for PresenTense, and you think these hours are too little or too much, please tell us in the comments section. And if you have a better way to calculate these – please do tell. One of these days we hope to finally have a metric that can be compared across projects and organizations – so the Jewish People will be able to decide where to invest based on the return on their previous investment. Wouldn't that be amazing?

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@nycfellowship moves to #implementation phase with Operations and Finance

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One of the key features of the PresenTense fellowship curriculum is that it breaks down into three phases: Divergence, Convergence and Emergence – or in Tim Brown’s categories, Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation. The idea behind this comes from the rapid-prototyping approach of IDEO: our entrepreneurs first explore the larger picture around their ventures in inspiration, then zoom in on a business model through ideation, and finally build out their insights during implementation. This week our five fellowships around the world are entering into the last stage, Implementation. Here in the picture, two of our NYC fellows — Josh Nelson and Rabbi Owen Gottlieb — are building their workplan using our favorite tool, post-its.

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