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Written by Zainab

I had written about getting user feedback a few posts back, and wrote that we were conducting a survey to get your thoughts on how you SoJo.*

One of the things we're most interested is in learning who you, the user, are. Where are you at in your stage of the journey? Which social media channels do you use? What causes interest you? Speaking of causes, here's what those of you who have responded have said so far about what social and environmental challenges interest you most.
To be honest though, we have very few responses so far. Jesse and I were discussing this, when AJ was still away, and were pondering what we could do to increase response rates. As Jesse put it frankly, we have to make it easier for people to respond; clicking an external link is, in fact, an extra step. So in the meantime, we have put the survey on our site too, as you can see below:
The cool thing about it being on our site is that:
a) the forms will stay confidential with us; and
b) if you're logged in with a profile when you do it (you can see at the top that I am!), I can follow up with you on a comment or with a suggestion for a place to start.

Don't feel like filling out a survey? Then do the following instead:

What would we like feedback on? Here's some of what we're looking to find out:
  • Where you're at in your journey
  • The causes you're interested in
  • The social media channels you use
  • How did you find SoJo
  • How you'd rate our design, our information, and our organization on the site
  • What you look at when you're on SoJo

What's in it for you?

The more you tell us, the better we can serve you. We'd love to follow up your feedback with further questions, to make sure we're helping you take your ideas into action. So email or message us ... or better yet, take the survey - and make SoJo work for you.

*I use SoJo here as a verb, similar to how one would Google something.
 
 
Written by Zainab

As you'll find in tomorrow's newsletter*, we're doing a survey to get user feedback. We decided we needed that feedback because we really need to hear from our existing users.

We often meet potential and new users at conferences, speaking engagements, and similar events; though we also meet them in our personal lives when we talk about what we do at SoJo. Sometimes we meet them through email when they contact us about the site and they want to reach out to us. Yet it’s our existing users who really keep us going – especially as we watch them grow from that first point of contact and interest.

Though there are many avenues of user research we could have used, a survey seemed like the best choice. We wanted to make it quick, easy, and relatively painless for you to tell us a little about yourself and about how you use SoJo. If you want to talk to us a bit more, we'd love to chat with you over the phone or in person if you'd like to just some of the faces behind SoJo.

See, it's easy to forget that we started off being our own users. As many of our contributors would attest, you have to scratch your own itch when you start. However, we can’t continue to assume our users’ needs are the same as ours, especially since these needs will inevitably change for both. That’s why we want to hear from you to ensure we're staying on top of our game. We won't otherwise know if we’re actually as effective as we think we are, particularly as we start moving from talking to our audiences to engaging our users as a community.

So talk to us! Click here for the survey and tell us about yourself, about what you do with SoJo, and how we can improve. If you'd like to have us follow up with a phone call or a meeting, even better. We're listening.

*If you haven’t gotten our newsletter before, there’s still time – scroll down to the bottom of our homepage and sign up right now!  
 
 
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Exactly two years ago today, September 20, 2010, I wrote SocialJournal.net's first blog post. At the time, SoJo did not even exist. I was still dabbling with the idea of converting my Master's thesis into an e-book and had no idea what form SocialJournal.net would manifest itself into. Two years later, SocialJournal.net remains a blog; however it has taken on a voice of its own and inspired the creation of many exciting products geared towards helping people take their ideas for social change into action. I would compare the first 365 days of SocialJournal.net as dipping your toes in the shallow-end of the swimming pool. Only eight months after the inaugural blog post did I decide to pursue SoJo full time. The building blocks came in place in the first year: SoJo got its name, defined its brand identify, got more clarity on its purpose, released a private beta and most importantly I realized that SoJo has a long journey ahead. What initially started as a part-time venture spiralled into a vision larger than I can grasp.

In hindsight, the past 366 days of SoJo is comparable to jumping into the deep end of the pool. Where focus was a great challenge in SoJo's first year, this past year was marked by execution. I learned how to set a direction, quickly realign our focus, set goals and accomplish the tasks at hand. Despite this new focus, I was still very open to seizing new opportunities; but also struggled with prioritization.

Without a technical team in place, I had the tenacity to endeavour to launch SoJo's first public site at the SociaLIGHT conference, in front of 1000 people. Given the resources we had at the time, it was a huge risk. Leading up to the launch, it was 3 weeks of hustle, staying calm in very stressful situations and a great deal of nerves. Alas the hard work paid off, and not only did SoJo have a successful launch -- we effectively send out a message to our community: To opt for courage over fear. The first step to action is putting yourself out there, and SoJo led by example. Later on in the year, SoJo published its Manifesto, a set of guiding principles and core values which would ultimately influence every decision made.

SoJo finally got a home! Although it took a couple of months to feel fully welcome in Ryerson's Digital Media Zone, I am now proud to tell everyone about our home and extremely grateful for being incubated in this incredible environment. The support received from this community over the last few months has been phenomenal.

Through various speaking engagements, I started becoming excited about the possibilities of SoJo emerging as a thought leader in social innovation, effectively using technology as a vehicle for social change, and more generally on taking ideas into action.

With the press coverage and increased credibility came more attention. As the founder of SoJo, I was now being approached by many folks for advice and help. Although humbling to know that people respect your opinions, I learned and continue to learn how to push back and place and increased value on my time.

I recognized the need to work smarter, not harder. In efforts to get myself better organized and not get bogged down by my inbox, I challenged myself to email-free Saturdays -- and have since disabled all notifications on my phone. More than ever do I acknowledge the importance of not being connected to my work 24/7.

I felt like a small fish in a big pond when taking SoJo's first international trip to the UK. That trip inspired a strategic move a few months later to launch SoJo out of Beta. Moving forward, SoJo needs to move out of the sandbox and into the real world. Yes people are more critical and have endless expectations, but taking SoJo out of Beta has given myself and the team confidence to share SoJo and highlight all of its strengths; namely our endorsement from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, reaching over 15,000 individuals during its beta test phase and creating the most comprehensive collection of informational resources and tools geared to helping early-stage social innovators take their ideas into action.

Yes, we have a site to be proud of, but this latest product launch's greatest accomplishment was without a doubt the success of bringing together SoJo's team. We held our first team meeting only 3 weeks before the launch. 366 days ago I clearly stated that SoJo's greatest challenge ahead is its people; on boarding and managing the right people to the team. Human resources will remain an ongoing challenge, however it is no longer our greatest challenge.

SoJo has been incredibly lucky with its people this year. Our co-designer experiment was extremely successful. Technical talent joined at the right time. Linus came in time to see our public Beta to a successful launch, Jesse joined in time to see SoJo's post-beta launch, and Rebecca joined as our first female developer. Despite being lucky with technical talent, my 8-month long search for a CTO came up dry. After countless hours into the process and utter exhaustion, I have shifted my energy away from this full-time search. We have since opted to crowd-source SoJo's CTO. An idea that is experimental; as brilliant as it is risky. Necessity forces you to be creative, and I'm hopeful this will be a great interim solution. We recruited more senior talent to help in communications, outreach and partnerships.

SoJo broadened out its mandate. We moved from serving youth to serving first-timers, and from projects to social innovations. SoJo also created its own legal structure: the hybrid social venture. Two moves which will serve as an integral foundation moving forward. Disappointments were inevitable, and with time became better at dealing with disappointments.   

A breakthrough moment emerged when I came up with a viable idea for a business model. After nearly 2 years of people asking me: "how will SoJo make money" what a relief to finally have some answers. May I remind you that our focus up until now has been proving the value of SoJo, and not monetizing it. As such, SoJo is a living breathing example of what can be accomplished with very little money.

A theme that emerged throughout the year is the importance of listening to your body and taking care of yourself, and the value of taking a break.  The past 12 months have been a record for the amount of times I got sick. In the new year, I vowed to be living proof that it is possible to achieve success without driving yourself into the ground. Although I no longer romanticize struggle, considering I suffered from a near burnout only a couple of weeks ago, it is clear that I still have a long way to go...

Moving forward our greatest challenge will be managing growth. Graduating from an entirely bootstrapped early-stage startup to a growing startup that needs to accelerate its pace of development and acquire newer resources to get started. Although I'm intimidated by what lies ahead -- when looking back at the past year, past behaviour has shown that miracles are possible and that SoJo has consistently been able to overcome adversity. Bring it on!


 
 
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Over the month of July, everyone on the team was asked to reflect and make note of their key accomplishments, strengths, challenges and missed goals. Although SoJo continues to have a very young team, most have been onboard long enough to assess their performance and contributions. Often when you're in the daily grind, it is easy to forget about all that was achieved. Taking a step back to reflect allowed everyone on the team to do so, and take pride in their growth. Likewise, it is often easy to forget about challenges after they've past and continuously  repeat behaviours without awareness of the need to make corrections.

Zainab (the editorial coordinator who has direct contact with all of the editors) and I have started to turn these notes shared by our colleagues into individual development plans. In addition to sharing my thoughts on each team member's strengths and challenges, a section on Core Competencies was added. Through the use of specific examples, this section highlights a series of competencies, making specific reference to what was done well, and where improvements can be made. Each competency was backed by several examples, ensuring feedback was grounded in reality, and also aided the individual receiving the feedback to relate and better understand where actions could have been done differently.

The third and final section is a personal development plan. I am personally committed to developing and growing every member of SoJo's team, and ensuring that SoJo is positive learning experience, beyond the direct contributions everyone makes to our mandate. Everyone's development plan consists on average of 2 mutually agreed upon tangible goals. By writing out the developmental plan, it holds SoJo (myself or Zainab) and the individual team member to ensuring it happens.

Often we are not aware of the changes that we need to make. A manager or a peer is best positioned to provide an alternative perspective, as they can make the unconscious conscience or validate an assumption that previously existed. This inaugural round of development plans is adding some much needed structure and order to SoJo, and we're learning tons. Up until now, SoJo has had a very flat, friendly and collegial culture. To get over the fear of giving [critical] feedback to a colleague who is more like a friend, it is important to be reminded of the goal. In our case, we all share a goal of making SoJo the best it can be. As such feedback needs to be constructive, where the intention of personal growth is clear.

Making these plans are an investment, as it takes a lot of mental energy and time (2-3 hours for each individual). People are SoJo's greatest asset, and I see this investment necessary to show our team that we care, which in-turn will make SoJo the best it can be.

Likewise, once everyone's development plans have been completed, I will be inviting the team to share their feedback on my performance and leadership. This 360 review will provide a complete and thorough evaluation of everyone in the organization, ensuring we can all develop and grow together.