One of the best things about sharing space with The Working Group
is the access we get to all their cool events. Since moving to their new space in November The Working Group has extended its doors to the developer community using its space to host events and a sense of community among developers working on all platforms.
Last Wednesday, Samsung Developers brought its “Office Hours” series to Toronto. Office Hours is a new program and is part of Samsung’s developer outreach program. The program launched 7 months ago with the objective of supporting local developer communities. The strategy is simple: be approachable, equip developers with the tools they need, and once they are ready figure out how they can work with Samsung.
This is the third one in the series and the first one in Canada - the first two events were hosted in San Francisco in December and November. The next will be in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress.
In addition to ‘Office Hours’ Samsung has a comprehensive developer-focused website
and hosts a device-loaner program available for developers. Developers interested in borrowing a device can contact Samsung representatives on Twitter @samsungdevus.
The speakers at this workshop presented varied from being very tactical and technical to a little broader and creative.
The session started with Kelum Peiris, a developer at the Working Group who provided developers with an alternative approach to android app development. His method offered an approach that enables developers to extend the capability of their apps without impacting core functions.
Kelum was followed by Peter Nitsch, a Director at Teehan+Lax Labs who presented tools to enhance rapid prototyping which included ‘shut up and hack’ to resolve ideation issues and ‘fail fast, fail often as a technique to build up your technical capability set.
The final presentation was by Paul Saxman, a Google Maps Developer Advocate from Mountain View sharing the latest version of the Google Maps Android API. This was a valuable presentation for any android developers that use the map functionality in their apps. In this new iteration developers can now access maps that can tilt and rotate and even show interior floor plans (this feature will not be available for all buildings).
This was a valuable, informative workshop for android developers and a great mechanism for developer support extended by Samsung. And of course, a great opportunity for the Framework team to meet and interact with the faces and brains behind the Toronto tech scene!
For anyone interested here are some details about The Working Group's next event: Details
- Microsoft Windows 8 Workshop
- Thursday, February 28th 6:00pm at 425 Adelaide St. West, #300
- Bring your laptops for a Windows 8 developer installfest with Microsoft Canada reps
- Case Study: Building the Globe & Mail Windows 8 app with TWG Senior Developer Derek Watson
- Follow updates on Twitter at @theworkinggroup
- Book your tickets
Parliament Hill from Rideau Street bridge
This week, Anil and I were in Ottawa to present at Cannexus 2013 National Career Development Conference in Ottawa. We both led sessions that focused on how changes in technology are revolutionizing the workplace and the skills needed to thrive in a digital economy.
Anil presented on "The Workplace in the Digital Era: Trends and Implications". You can access this presentation here
This Cannexus Connections Networking Luncheon was a great opportunity for Anil to talk about how we are adapting and improving our operations and embracing change. Attendees walked away with several suggestions for further reading, including some of our favourite books (Now You See It
by Cathy N. Davidsen and Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit
), leading industry journals, magazines (Harvard Business Review, Fast Company) and research bodies (Stanford Social Innovation Review, McKinsey Global Institute).
Later in the afternoon, I gave a talk on our pilot project, HR in the Cloud, where we found ways to use cloud tools to make our hiring process more transparent, efficient, and collaborative. You can see my presentation here
. This session included some interactive elements that demonstrated how easy it was to collect and store data from applicants, and to review it with a team in real time. In addition, I shared my analysis of our applicant pool and the process overall. All of this research is available on our website: HR Talent Analysis
We have some changes to the Framework staff team. We are thrilled to welcome Kate Browning, our new Events and Communications Intern. You can read from other welcome blog posts that Stephanie McAllister and Paul Gagnon have recently joined the team, adding to a dynamic group of characters. With all the new additions and exciting work, it is with a bittersweet feeling that I’m writing this post about my departure from Framework.
I am moving on to an exciting new opportunity, but wanted to write a few lines about my time on the team. I joined Framework in 2009 as the Civic Footprint Online Organizer. My role was to build and maintain Timeraiser and Civic Footprint’s social media assets. Today, we have more than 5,000 fans & followers across Facebook
. The Timeraiser has seen incredible growth; now in 12 Canadian cities with a truly national scale.
My favourite memories of the team come from our annual staff retreats. We use these retreats as a way to recharge from a busy Timeraiser season and plan for the future. At one cottage retreat, I spent an entire beautiful sunny day indoors with Anil building what is now the very full it.timeraiser.ca
. But it is this tandem bike adventure
that I will keep with me on all future staff retreats, and really, it’s just something I’ll be watching when I need a pick me up.
I am truly appreciative for all the opportunities the Framework team gave to me, personally and professionally. It was not an easy decision to leave Framework. We have accomplished a lot together and I’m thankful for an excellent work life and so many genuine relationships built across the country. Who knew I’d be travelling not just around Ontario but from San Francisco, to Austin Tx; Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, and Montreal to name a few. The team is what makes scale possible. Anil has been great to work alongside of, one who has never been afraid to assign me a geeky nickname (that thankfully, not all staff are aware of). Aine can be counted on for a great YouTube video and insightful blog post, and Noorin is my presenter and tech partner in crime. Jen’s bar yoga is unparalleled. Paul, Stephanie and Kate have very exciting things ahead of them.
I will be watching the Framework team grow in 2013. As Timeraiser celebrates its 10th anniversary, stay tuned for bigger and better stories of success. And look for me at the Toronto Timeraiser - because for the first time I have an opportunity to bid on some beautiful artwork!
To an amazing 2013 for all,
| || |
This past Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment on IDEO founder David Kelley. This global design firm, with famous clients including Steve Jobs, pioneered the use of “design thinking” to make products more responsive and intuitive for users. By beginning from a position of empathy for the user, design thinkers better define obstacles and needs, prototype, test, and retest. This process is not linear‒like a traditional design, prototype, and production process‒but iterative.
Design thinking, however, is not simply a methodology for commercial product design. IDEO is currently working to improve access to safe drinking water in India, and build sustainable educational programs in Peru. As Kelley points out in the interview: “The big thing about design thinking is it allows people to build on the ideas of others.” At the IDEO offices, collaborative working styles are not only encouraged, but are a matter of course. The firm is even creative in its hiring practices, having anthropologists and musicians working alongside computer programmers and engineers. This mixture of backgrounds and perspectives is key to the design thinking model. This diversity is also reflected in the cohort of Kelley’s Hasso Plattner Institute for Design at Stanford University (the d.school), where 500 masters students from all disciplines learn about “design thinking as a tool for innovation”.
While watching this segment, it became clear that Kelley’s focus on empathy as the starting point to approaching any design problem resonates for those of us in the non profit sector. IDEO itself is branching off into humanitarian efforts, suggesting that the connection between design thinking and the sector is a logical progression. In my capacity as Action Research Coordinator, I am always interested in making the ways we work here at Framework, and in the sector more generally, more collaborative, transparent, and efficient. But how do we make innovation and re-evaluation a priority in a sector that often has limited resources? Can the empathy that inspires innovative thinkers like Kelley also be the starting point when testing and recommending new tools and processes to the non profit community? If empathy is a catalyst for innovation, than the non profit sector has a unique capacity.
Amanda Munday at BoxWorks 12
I spent last week in San Francisco. Being in the valley always brings with it a bit of a spark for me, working alongside the software providers who have produced the tools that shifted the way our team works every day. It’s fun. What’s even more fun? Getting to present Framework’s use of the cloud with those very providers.
I was asked to present the 5 Ways Box Moves Business Forward
at BoxWorks12 - which took place at the Westin St. Francis Oct 7th - 9th 2012. The conference has grown from a 1 day event last year to 2.5 this time around (plus Weezer was the closing party band). This year’s event saw 1400 attendees and a schedule jam-packed with many headlining speakers. I heard from Adam Lashinsky who gave an entertaining talk on some of Apple’s working philosophies and keen insight on how they’ve built success. I tweeted
Apple's standout approach that: “It makes good sense to say No more often that you say Yes". As we continue to explore the sharing culture of our organization, while scaling the Timeraiser to 12 cities, this philosophy rings true for me.
I was curious about D.A Wallach
, Jared Leto
and Josh Kline
’s thoughts on how to engage artists who aren’t yet invested in cloud technology, and loved the advice to seek and promote the beauty in the tools not just its application wins.
I am taking a great deal of insight home with me from the Wonder Women panel, and maybe no more important than the assertion that doing well and producing enviable work does not need to take a gendered approach in the IT space, but that finding good mentors and kicking-butt at every task remains the most important thing you can do to move your career forward. Sage advice from Karen Appleton, Dawn G. Lapore, and Ellen Levy.
Of course, I can’t summarize BoxWorks without mentioning the new feature releases and entertaining keynote from Aaron
. With the typical “Woah! Wee! They did WHAT?” responses overheard around me, I can simply say that some of the releases coming soon from Box are beyond exciting for enterprise collaboration. Box’s HTML 5 Embed
means we can redefine the static Intranet model. Did you know 50% of Box’s traffic is mobile? Wild. Their OneCloud model
and mobile document edit with automatic sync back to web is innovative not just on the SaaS front, but as a kick-ass mobile feature for any app.
It was a very successful conference on all fronts. My session was received well
, and I’m thrilled to have presented alongside Josh and Allan. I had to add an end-of-conference tour of the new Box office to my schedule, mostly so I could try out the slide. The Box Team really has nailed their customer support approach. The team is friendly, responsive, interested in feedback and always up for a joke. I am looking forward to BoxWorks13, and of course, to welcoming the Box team back to Toronto for their Box World Tour (hint hint).
by: Stephanie McAllisterLast Thursday, I attended the Ontario Nonprofit Network’s annual conference hosted at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. This year’s theme was “Policy to Practice”, and encompassed a wide range of workshop topics from “Funding Reform on the Ground” to “Policy 101: I’m Busy! Why Should I Care?”. The challenge of reconciling government policies and guidelines with the reality of day-to-day operations was at the core of all of these discussions. Noorin and I have already blogged about the second day of this conference, where these panels were followed up with working sessions (see below).
The morning kicked off with a message from The Honourable Charles Sousa, MPP, Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who cited the impact of non-profits on Ontario’s economy. He pointed out that non-profit workers constitute 15% of the workforce, and that the industry is responsible for 50 billion dollars in revenue. He was followed by the co-Chair of the ONN, Tonja Surman, who emphasized that non-profit workers and organizations are “solutions innovators on the ground” and “stewards of community.” These welcome speeches were followed by plenary speakers who introduced the topics for the afternoon workshops.
My first workshop was “Shared Platforms: A Way to Build & Re-engage Community” hosted by Janet Fitzsimmons and Anne Gloger, both affiliated with Neighbourhood Trust, a shared platform of Tides Canada located in the Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park area. They offered anecdotal evidence in favour of Shared Platforms, especially for smaller, resident-led projects. By using the shared platform for administrative concerns, they can focus on their “core mission” and “leave the admin to the experts.” These women and their affiliated groups do wonderful work. I would highly recommend you visit their website at www.thestorefront.org.
The final workshop of my day was “Governmental Relations: Working in the Current Context” led by Michelle Gauthier of Imagine Canada. This talk was the highlight of my conference, focusing on how the non-profit community is currently being perceived by members of the public and how we are being defined by our legislators. In response, she offered a list of “Ten Key Ways to Engage with Government”, under the assumption that the best way forward is to unite as a community and as a sector. These “key ways” included setting out an agenda and speaking “with one voice in order to reclaim and reframe our narrative” both for the public and for legislators, as well as a call for more transparency. One move that Imagine is taking in this direction is securing a Chief Economist for the sector (the job hunt is on now).
The ONN conference was attended by a diverse group of passionate nonprofit workers and volunteers. It was a great experience to see people from a variety of organizations come together to share their strategies to better serve our communities.
By: Steph and NoorinToday we attended the ONN (Ontario Nonprofit Network) Working Sessions, which is part of ONN annual conference. T
he purpose of this day was "to support sector leaders to make a difference.". The day included seven working groups that covered a range of topics from Human Capital Renewal Strategy
to Policy Engagement, Advocacy, and Charitable Law
We attended the Shared Platforms Community of Practice session hosted by the Ana Skinner and Violetta Ilkiw from the Laidlaw Foundation and Jillian Witt from Tides Canada.
The discussion centered around the role of Shared Platforms in the non-profit environment. Shared Platforms is an emerging structure that offsets infrastructure costs associated with managing non-profit associations. While shared platforms have existed informally within the sector this model has had an increased amount of attention from funders interested in supporting these groups.
The working session was attended by non-profit professionals from a range of organizations including Sketch, For Youth Initiatives, ONN and Toronto Social Planning. Participants brought their own experiences with creating and maintaining shared platforms, while others provided insight into how their unique operations would be affected or would benefit from participating in this model. It is hard to have a conversation about Shared Platforms without acknowledging the efforts of Jillian Witt whose contributions have pushed this model forward.
The discussion centered on two key questions: What challenges do shared platforms face and what are the wicked questions that are faced by the sector? The room divided into two groups and addressed these questions as a collective.
Challenges faced by Shared Platforms:
- Intake process: Currently there is little documentation around the best way to set up a successful shared platform. A challenge faced by organizations in shared platforms is finding a way to vet organizations that they work with.
- Succession Planning: If organizations that join shared platforms are not asked to define their timelines or overall objectives, the shared platform is at risk of losing knowledge if leaders choose to leave.
- Documentation: How do we ensure that shared platforms and their associated groups are able to communicate their goals and responsibilities effectively to one another, their key stakeholders, and the public at large. Properly documenting these relationships will ensure smoother operations and transparency.
Our second challenge was to brainstorm "wicked questions" that would arise for organizations considering becoming a shared platforms or groups interested in becoming part of a shared platform. This was a moment for us to play "worst case scenario" as well as to anticipate concerns that may be raised by those who are opposed to or who are skeptical about the effectiveness of this model.
The session ended with a call to action to push the initiative forward. The conversation about Shared Platforms has been happening for two years now and it seems that there has been a renewed commitment in formalizing the community of practice that has sustained it.
- Shared Platforms 101
- Better define and communicate what shared platforms entail.
- Making Shared Platform part of the Constellation Governance Model of the Ontario Nonprofit Network.
- Secure research funding to provide evidence-based support for this trend.
Overall, the working session was met with enthusiasm and the participants were motivated and energized by the conversation. There was much optimism about the possibilities offered by this creative governance model.
By Stephanie McAllister
Back in August, I was asked by the Framework team to assess their database operations and propose some new strategies. The organization is going through an impressive expansion--Timeraiser is now in 12 cities across the country!—and their database needs to catch up with them. I thought I would give all of you a sneak peek of my plans.
Databases tell stories, and it is amazing what you can learn about day-to-day operations. I considered this my crash course in Framework. One of the first things you realize about an organization like Framework is that you need to think creatively in order to make a database work for them. Often people see a database as simply a place to store information: the digital equivalent of a filing cabinet. This would work just fine if your company and its industry were also simple and predictable. In the case of Framework, their programs and initiatives are varied, interconnected and growing, requiring me to propose a more fluid model. How do we make it flexible and lightweight enough to adapt to change?
The plan starts with the database software or application. Framework uses Salesforce.com, a SaaS option that allows a great deal of customization, done either in house or by companies specializing in Salesforce. This cloud computing application is ideal for our organization, where one of the goals is to re-imagine ways of operating in a digital age.
Here is where Salesforce was when Framework first built the database. You were given a vanilla database and offered the option to recreate it in your own image—a revolutionary idea when many organizations used the industry-standard software and forced their data to conform. What has changed between then and now is how we can go about this customization. It just so happens that this development in Salesforce coincides beautifully with Framework’s existing, tech-savvy approach.
Enter AppExchange. Users can install third-party applications that will help them create a database environment perfectly suited to their own unique needs as well as those of their industry. According to the website, 44% of their apps are free, with many more discounted for non-profits (!!!). More apps are being added to the site on a regular basis.
Essentially, these apps allow you to either import or export data to accomplish particular tasks. This can help to eliminate the need to manually input or retrieve records. Here at Framework, we have been using other cloud-based or online applications to accomplish tasks outside of the database and then moving the information to Salesforce. For example, we have used MailChimp for email campaigns and Eventbrite to help organize tickets sales for Timeraisers. With AppExchange, many of these applications can be seamlessly integrated, saving precious hours of data input drudgery.
And so, the plan:
1. Pare down our existing customizations.
2. Research the best apps for our needs.
3. Eliminate as much redundant and manual data input as possible.
4. Produce a database that is streamlined and reflective of best practices.
By reconfiguring the database in these ways, it will survive changes to Framework’s goals and everyday operations. The database will also be able to adapt to changes in technology. When better apps emerge, we can adopt them without having to re-imagine our core database. When there is an obstacle, we will just say “There’s an app for that!”
I’ll keep you all blog-posted on my progress.
By: Noorin Ladhani (reposted from www.platformation.ca
One of the outcomes of our staff retreat was adding in regularly scheduled Tech Days where the forces of Platformation and Timeraiser combine to tackle our ever-growing Tech Wishlist. The list details every cool tech related feature, tool, and integration that have made us really excited over the last few months but have not had a chance to implement. So basically a giant, nerdy to do list that Amanda Grainger-Munday and I look forward to working on once a month.
Today was our first official Tech Day since the retreat. We were joined today by our awesome database volunteer, Stephanie McAllister
who is assessing the way we use our Salesforce today and making recommendations on how we can better manage our data.
We had three areas of focus today:
Framework Blog - Taste like Spam
- Framework Blog - taste like spam
- Pinterest - its business time
- Timeraiser Welcome Cards
Over the last month or so we have noticed an uptake in the number of spam comments that are showing up on the Framework blog. Although we are monitoring comments as they come in we have now exceeded the 10 spam comment a day mark and quickly moved its way up on our Tech To Do list. We implemented Weebly's blog comment captcha feature in hopes that this will help us eliminate spam. If this doesn't work the spam issue will go back on our list. Pinterest - Business Time
Since Framework has access to so much great art through its Timeraiser program we realized that starting a Pinterest account was an obvious choice. Stephanie helped launched our Pinterest page
this month and we spent some today trying to figure out the way to manage multiple admins on the page. Unlike Facebook that grants users multiple administrators Pinterest doesn't seem to have a comparable option so the only thing we could do was change Pinterest ownership to a shared email account. We also spent time today adding 'Follow Us' buttons across the Timeraiser website. Timeraiser Welcome Cards
One challenge that has been on the Timeraiser to do list for the last six months is finding a faster way to connect volunteers to the organizations they are interested in volunteering with after the Timeraiser is complete.
For those of you who have never attended a Timeraiser it works like this:
Each attendee receives a Welcome Card with their name on it and a list of all the non-profit agencies in the room. As they interact with agency reps they check off the names of the organizations on their welcome cards they are interested in volunteering with and hand it back to Timeraiser volunteers before they leave. Team Timeraiser updates this information on Salesforce after the event and sends a report to each agency with the names and contact information of interested volunteers.
While tracking the names of the organizations that each attendee is interested in volunteering with at a contact record level is a nice to have it certainly is not a need to have
and revising this process can completely change the way we process this data.
- Input data the night of the event. Instead of Team Timeraiser inputting data the day after the event we will have our awesome registration volunteers input all the data the night of the event
- Input on Excel not into Salesforce. This solution works for many reasons: this information doesn't need to go into Salesforce at all and we don't have to worry about wifi access (not all the venues have internet access and although we can usually just tether and provide internet access this is one step we don't even need to think about using excel).
The Excel document will be pre-populated with attendee contact details exported from Eventbrite and volunteers can use the 'find' feature to find each attendee and check off the organizations they are interested in working with. Our solution though simplistic meets our needs in terms and although does not seem very 'high-tech' helps us achieve our objective in a faster manner. We will be piloting this method at the next three Timeraisers and re-evaluating at at our next Tech Day.
All-in-all a pretty awesome Tech Day - we look forward to many more!!!
It’s getting serious. We are thrilled to announce that we are moving-in with the development powerhouses at The Working Group
. Our new office space is at 425 Adelaide Street, a newly renovated property owned by Allied Properties REIT. Similar to many spaces like it, the design of the building focuses on enabling creativity, interaction and fun.
The Working Group is one of Canada’s leading software development shops. They are active in the Start-Up Canada
and TedX Toronto
communities. Some staff volunteer with Ladies Learning Code
. The Working Group often plans showcase events, inviting other development shops to join and share their work. On occasion the team moves their desks out of the way to jam - they’re a very talented bunch. When they are wired in, they talk about jqueries, HTML5, APIs and SDKs. When they are chilling, they talk wine and beer tastings.
Our team is focused on Timeraisers, and is actively discussing what the next generation of civic engagement software looks like. We’re technology testing and moving all core data to an open space. For the past several years, we have been intensely working to develop modern non-profit competencies in the digital era. Competencies that focus on collaboration AND transparency AND efficiency for mission success. We know that if we get the small things right, big breakthroughs can happen for our core programs.
It’s time for Framework to reach the next level and scale our work, and the new shared office space is going to help us get there. The Working Group is building applications of the future, and we are doing the same to build non-profit management in the digital era. And we both love a good celebration, so we’ll be hosting a social in early December to formally open the space. We look forward to seeing you at our next jam session.
Oh... and we're a pretty fun bunch. Video evidence below: