If one truth has emerged in recent years, it is that the strength and support of our communities and networks can carry us through unimaginable circumstances. Ideally, we would all have a broad and diverse network that offers useful information, valuable skills, different perspectives, helpful guidance, and new opportunities. When it comes to professional networking, connections can come from unexpected places. Thankfully, digital culture and community means we’re never far from our next professional connection.
The pandemic has forced us to rethink how real relationships can happen. Faced with new professional and personal limitations and a sense of vulnerability, youth professionals in particular were in dire need of collegiality and community. Realizing that they were freed from geographic constraints and no longer dependent on expensive networking conferences, The Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative responded quickly to the opportunity and need. We have launched a virtual networking and learning platform called Expanding Your Reach, a national, accessible and inclusive online masterclass initiative. Each gathering attracted nearly 100 professionals who forged new and lasting relationships in classes covering a range of topics from emotional intelligence to mindfulness and breathing techniques to developing an entrepreneurial mindset and more. There was a sense of both urgency and relief at each session.
We are now harnessing technology to charge connections like this The name game.
“The Name Game”, developed on the Intros.AI platform, offers a technology-driven opportunity to expand and deepen professional networks. We’re building on a platform that brings users together based on self-identified interests to create a modern way to connect, build trust, and find others in the Jewish community you can count on. During a silent beta test earlier this year, dozens of users signed up, demonstrating the demand for continued connection and the ongoing hunger of youth professionals to expand their circle.
In many virtual learning environments, strong relationships often form in the unstructured spaces: thoughtful introductions, a chat box, breakout sessions, and confidential spaces. As the name suggests, the name game shifts “side chat” front and center, reinventing tired icebreakers and traditional networking.
Our Jewish tradition tells us about the belief in the power of individuals to make one another better. As the Talmud says, “Iron sharpens iron…” In fact, as we worked closely with the Intros.AI team, co-founder David Kobrosky told us, “The Jewish community has always been my biggest supporter.” He said, “My co-founder Robert Levy and I are thrilled to see our product, which provides meaningful introductions between members of the same community, being used to deepen connections between those who work with Jewish teenagers. We can easily see it being taken to other networks or even to teenagers themselves. Who knows, maybe the next product that will change the world will start today with a performance between two Jewish teenagers – or professionals!
Scale human connection
The Funder Collaborative is intensely focused on scaling. We think deeply and teach ways to bring effective models to new audiences. When we partnered with the Jewish Federations of North America last year, it was with a forward-looking commitment to using their national infrastructure to amplify and expand impact.
But how do you scale meaningful connections? The technology was the missing piece.
The name game heralds a new era of technology-driven networking for the Jewish community. We empower educators—often working alone or in silos, and most without a broad professional network—to share knowledge and form creative partnerships with others they might otherwise never meet. Users simply sign up for free and complete a profile with their personal and professional interests – information that leads to better and more relevant matches. We used the platform to consciously promote mutual relationships right from the start. Professionals can identify the skills, wisdom and knowledge they can offer; They also list what they are looking for in a match, such as: B. a collaboration, a new mentor or just a friendly chat. Users choose how often they want to be matched, prioritize matching criteria, and set up their own Zoom conversations. Introductory emails are sent automatically and contain brief bios of what each individual is looking for and playful conversation starters.
Connections increase professional confidence and satisfaction
We’ve seen firsthand the power of collegial relationships can be built digitally. In the two years since Expanding Your Reach launched, we have helped more than 400 youth professionals benefit from:
- Support in overcoming uncertainties and challenges.
- confidential spaces to explore professional steps.
- Dozens of unexpected partnerships and new collaborations.
- Extending effective programs to new organizations and communities.
Well thought-out networking is a basis for professional success. Our cross-community assessments validate how a supportive professional network can be linked to longevity and job satisfaction. This is especially true for young professionals, who are twice as likely as older generations to look for a new job within a year when they don’t feel professionally connected, a recent survey found. We bet that at a time of tremendous workplace volatility, the name game can contribute to a sense of fulfillment for professionals of all ages.
Additionally, the name game supports our values of Jewish Justice, Inclusion, and Diversity (JEDI). Identifying peers from across the country with shared experiences can lead to the development of important affinity groups and supportive spaces. Professionals with different racial and gender identities and backgrounds and/or part of interfaith families can easily connect with each other based on match preferences. We are especially grateful for the partnership of Keshet, 18Doors, and individual LGBTQIA and BIPOC Jewish professionals for their insights in shaping this effort.
Expansion throughout the Jewish community
While The Name Game’s initial launch is customized for young pros, we’re keeping an eye on how it can be adapted for a wider audience. We can help any group customize product branding and matchmaking algorithms so that other professional groups, alumni of scholarship and educational programs, or immersive travel experiences can build their own community through digital introductions.
With the advent of Jewish co-working spaces, the return of conferences, and even imaginative third spaces like a new Jewish tavern for Torah study, we’re excited to envision how these connections might evolve into personal relationships.
Register HERE for the name game.
Interested in customizing the platform for your own community? Email Rabbi Dena Shaffer at email@example.com.
Sara Allen is Executive Director of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative and Associate Vice President, Community & Jewish Life at the Jewish Federations of North America. Rabbi Dena Shaffer is Director of Education and Learning at the Advancement Association.