This site has been moved to http://www.thesojo.net/blog/
Please update your bookmarks, you will be redirected momentarily.

 
Picture
Since we first started interacting on social media channels via the SoJo account back in March, we’ve slowly climbed the learning curve.

Now, we have completed a first draft version of SoJo’s online communication strategy. Click here to view our Strategy.

The strategy is an explicit account of how we interact, who we interact with and what types of conversations we aim to hold. There are a few important elements to our communications strategy. It is an evolving document. We have finalized this version of the plan with the understanding that we will review and revise it a various intervals in the future. Next, the first version concentrates on only two mediums of communication; namely, Twitter and Facebook. This is because have decided that it is more important to engage well on a narrow range of channels rather than risk spreading our efforts too think over too many mediums at this point. It is new. We are excited to learn and interact, but want to give ourselves the best opportunity for success.

Having a communications strategy is important in the early stages of any venture as it will help you internally comprehend and externally articulate your objectives, audience and intended messages. After all, if your messages are getting lost and are consistently misinterpreted, it will be a struggle to gain credibility and support for your project.

At this point, Trevor is still the only person Tweeting from the SoJo account; however in coming months, we aim to have others join the online communication efforts. On that note, if you aren’t already following, please follow @_SoJo_  and ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Send us a message. We’d love to communicate with you!

 
 
Picture
When talking about SoJo, 7 times out of 10 the first question I get asked is “What is your business model?” or “How are you funded?” Undoubtedly within that initial conversation I will get asked a question about SoJo’s legal status as well. Over the past 3 months, I have become disenchanted with our fixation on models, frameworks and labels. The value SoJo is delivering to the community we are serving is at the core of our existence and the focus of our actions. Albeit, a business model is important for any initiative and should be well thought out before a project launches – however is it not equally as important to be sure the product or service you are offering is actually going to drive value and is needed?

I was inspired by a quote from Quora’s co-founder: “Our focus as a company is on building a product, monetization will come later.” Quora is said to be valued at $300million. They did not have an immediate inflow of funding or revenue when they started and it appears as though they’ve focused their energies on creating an online platform that is effective and drives value to its users.

I get excited when people who are in the process of creating projects ask me questions about the site, share with me their challenges or provide suggestions of what they’d like to see on the site. I get equally excited when I’m asked critical questions about the development of our site, the type of information that will be on it and how we plan to reach out to everyone. Not so excited when I’m asked how the organization is structured.

I understand the fascination that comes with a project (such as SoJo) that doesn’t fit into traditional boxes; people are curious and sincerely want to know how we’re tackling difficult issues of monetization and legal structure. That being said, I also think it is easy to get wrapped up in all these issues and lose focus of the core of your product or service: what value are you providing to x [users, community, etc].

Although some individuals applaud our courage for endeavouring to build our prototype and the foundation of this organization with no financial resources, I am always amazed at the organizations that dismiss SoJo’s credibility and do not take us seriously because we don’t have money and have no immediate plan in place to secure funding. One thing we do have is confidence that the site will fill a much needed gap in the virtual world and that is enough to keep us motivated and excited.

 
 
Picture
When giving a speech, the message will only be as effective as the delivery of the presentation; SoJo finds itself in a similar situation. Although we will work towards building and aggregating comprehensive and relevant content – this information will only be useful if the reader is able to locate it and read it – thus the navigation and interactivity of this site is key for SoJo to meet its objectives.

Without a doubt SoJo’s greatest challenge is building the online platform. As evidenced by the hiccups of getting the landing page live, we are mindful that the technical side of SoJo is its weakest component.

We have an ambitious vision of what the site should be. At the same time however, it is important to keep our expectations grounded and acknowledge our current situation: no financial resources or in-house development capacities. Having no technical experience myself, it is daunting to lead a team under these conditions – but not impossible.

We are tasked to create a v1 Beta site that meets the most essential requirements and can be rolled out in July (as per projected timelines). The priority at this point is to get something that works up and running and continuously iterate and build from that foundation. Using that approach, the design team conducted multiple brainstorming sessions, starting with a wish-list of what an ‘optimal’ site could look like, and narrowed in on those options to create a short-list of the most essential requirements and key-functions of the site.

What started off as multiple sketches of high-level design concepts to encourage an inclusive creative thought-process – quickly morphed into detailed wireframes with focus on key elements that are implementable in our first version site.

Having team members in different cities definitely adds an extra layer of complexity. Thanks to video Skype and shared virtual folders, we’ve been able to include as many people and ideas as possible in this process.

Yesterday’s meeting got us a step closer to creating the actual site. We were able to clearly lay out the site hierarchy and determine the layouts of the 3 main page templates. [see concepts here] This is huge progress and I am optimistic that we are moving forward on the right path. Our team has very strong design capacity, so we plan to leverage those skills and fit them in an ‘off-the-shelf’ technical solution, so we can meet our stated timelines within our available resource requirements.

Now that a direction has been determined, many more updates will follow in the next few weeks leading up to the launch of our first site!

 
 
Picture
Written by Monique Elliot:
Earlier today, I once again learned the value of being part of a team. SoJo is a virtual team,  meaning most members communicate with each other mostly through Skype and email. So being able to visit the SoJo “office” in Toronto and meet Madeleine and Kanika in person for the first time really emphasized the difference in dynamics compared to my solo work environment in Ottawa!

I’ve been working on creating SoJo’s first multimedia video. The objective of this video is to introduce potential users to SoJo and encourage people to sign-up for our Beta test. Before today’s meeting, I came up with a rough storyboard of some potential concepts for the video. But once we started brainstorming more ideas as a team, it became obvious that this first video could be something even more inspirational…

For a good chunk of the morning, Kanika, Madeleine and myself shut ourselves in a boardroom that had whiteboards for walls and got down to brainstorming as soon as I arrived (after taking an overnight bus – talk about Energy!). Our ideas were flying up on those whiteboards so fast, it’s no wonder we needed more than one marker (and besides, a little colour keeps it fun!).























This picture may look like gibberish, but this is the inspiration behind a video that will be incredible!

We wanted to keep the video simple, and really showcase SoJo as the best online resource that will not only connect individuals passionate about starting projects for social change with each other, but also help inspire people to take action! The challenge is creating a 90 second video that will appeal to many different people at different stages of their journey.

PASSION, EXCITEMENT, and EMPOWERMENT are all emotions a person should feel on their journey to becoming a social entrepreneur. We will base the video on those emotions and arranged our story around them to show how SoJo can help maximize the joy of the process of turning an idea into action.

As a journalism student, I’m constantly immersed in all types of media, and it becomes very obvious very quickly that consuming media is so different from producing it… especially when you’re still learning about the tools!

While my expertise lies in writing, I have a growing interest in producing multimedia content. This will be my first attempt at creating a multimedia video using some software I’m unfamiliar with, so wish me luck!

 
 
Picture
Our first post as the newest members to the SoJo team!

Last week, the three of us eagerly anticipated our start at SoJo; all individually curious as to how the journey would begin. That’s when Kanika and Trevor introduced us to the opportunity to volunteer with Net Change Week - which turned out to be the perfect start for our journey!

Over the past two days, we participated in Net Change Week at MaRS. With attention-grabbing sessions such as ''Oops, you raised awareness but forgot to raise funds,'' ''#FAIL: Biggest Online Mistakes and How to Avoid Them,'' ''Google Analytics: Business Intelligence for Non-profits,'' this conference emphasized the potential of social media in generating interest and support for progressive social causes and charity/nonprofit organizations. Holding video interviews with representatives from various organizations around Canada and live-tweeting information sessions about implementing social media to gain awareness, visibility and fund raising, we witnessed social technology in some of its most advanced and innovative forms. These past few days have been a whirlwind of information, educating us about the exciting new forms of online communication while opening our horizons towards the innovations that are sure to follow. This was undoubtedly the best (free) training anyone could receive and we’re all more confident to assume our roles in making SoJo truly amazing!

Our time at Net Change Week also brought to light the massive reach of social media, with twitter as a rising star. Gone are the days when twitter was thought of as simply a site for senseless rambling of the celebrity kind. Instead, twitter has proven to be a platform for critical mass, through-provoking conversations, skill-sharing and a medium to amass social change. Social media are what you make of them - in a hash-tag-heavy and @-sign-filled 140 character package, of course!

What became apparent from attending the conference is how social media are powerful tools with great potential. Through the participants met and the connections made, Net Change Week reiterated the extent to which the breadth of social media surpasses the previously inescapable generational and geographical boundaries. Social media can yield remarkable results if you have the initiative, creativity and passion to make use of them to better push social issues. Be fearless about your social media ventures. We all make mistakes, we are all learning, and, as this is a new and upcoming form of communication technology, we are all forging the paths of social change through these ever-evolving networks of online media. Through social networking sites, information is being transformed, providing opportunities for relatable, personal, and collaborative stories that may help change the face of how we receive, convey and share information about social issues and how to tackle them.

You can follow quick-quips from sessions via twitter through the hashtags #ncwk and #mcc11, or follow us at @MadeleineGBlyth, @Monica_E_G, and @KaleHowe. Additionally, NetChangeWeek has uploaded all slides from session and presentations that can be found on their website.

Till our next adventure,

Madeleine, Monica and Kailee

 
 
This afternoon, the entire Design Team came together to create wireframes and begin the process of pulling abstract ideas of the site’s functions and transform them into tangible elements to be included online.

Before determining the functions of the site, it was important for us to back-up a step and remind everyone on the team of why SoJo exists and what we should be doing for the site’s users. We’ve been occupied in building the organization, finding our position online and building collaborations with other organizations, which are important, – but when it comes down to designing our site, the user’s interests need to be front and center.

With 6 team members in one room + one connected through video-Skype (the highest concentration of SoJo brain-power we’ve ever had), and a larger-than-life sized whiteboard: ideas were flowing around all over the place.
Picture
SoJo is here to help you implement your ideas and help you in your journey of creating projects for social change. As a user, you will come to SoJo, because you are looking for help/support in either:
(1) Starting your idea and getting the ball rolling; and/or
(2) Increasing the efficiency, outputs, and/or social outcomes of your social ventures

We will focus on the following areas, having your best interest in mind:
  • Create some order in all the chaos that may be going on in your head
  • Help you map your journey and facilitate the process of executing your ideas
  • Inspire you to believe that you are capable of implementing your ideas
  • Help you envisage what your success can look like
  • Be your virtual cheerleader, encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and conquer your fears throughout this journey
  • Help you find what you are looking for (tools, resources, information, advice)
  • Connect you to other networks/people that are of value to you in this journey
  • Build your trust and be a known as a credible source of information that will support you
These are still very high-level concepts and how they get manifested is still TBD. If we’re missing something, please let us know. Stay tuned as more developments will follow shortly.