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Contacts and Partnerships February 11, 2009

Posted by aufderhr in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,

It always amazes me how much time sending a few emails can take.  This reality has become more and more apparent to me this year.  Now that I have reached my junior year of college and have “worked up the (organizational) ranks” in many of the clubs and groups I have been involved in, I suddenly find myself responsible for organizing what I once took for granted.  I have found the same to be true as we attempt to organize a few activities for Carleton students.  In fact it is harder because those we are trying to contact are not on “Carleton time,” where students check their email multiple times daily and usually respond to emails within a few hours.  Those we are trying to contact have their own busy schedules and preoccupations as I have discovered that are not structured around a Carleton schedule.

For example, on the recommendation of Adrienne Falcon, the Carleton Coordinator of Civic Engagement, I emailed a woman in Grasstops, an organization that I mentioned in my last post.  Though they had been coordinating lobbying and community organizing around the Minnesota Youth Advancement Act (MYAA) since 2006, responsibility for MYAA coordination had been transferred to another organization.  The woman I contacted emailed me this information, but wanted to try to organize a phone conversation sometime in the next week.  This required a few back and forth emails about what times would work, and then a bit of phone tag, and then finally (about a week and a half later) she was able to reach me.  She explained a bit more about the reason that the MYAA coordination had been transferred and gave me another possible contact person.  I emailed this other person and likely, if I get a response, the email/phone tag will begin again.

My Grasstops contact highlighted another factor that has likely made corresponding with contacts more difficult: the economy.  Many of these smaller non-profits are experiencing severe budget cuts.  Funding was one of the reasons the MYAA coordination was transferred from Grasstops to the MN Coalition for the Homeless.  I mentioned to my Grasstops contact that though I tried to contact a man she had referred me to at the MN Coalition of the Homeless he had never gotten back to me.  She was not surprised.  Apparently in the last few days he had been forced into a supervising position that he was not prepared for and has been extremely busy.  She implied that these organizations were in the process of undergoing some major organizational shift.  If this is the case it does not surprise me that we have had trouble finding contacts.

As well impressing upon me the crisis that many non-profits are likely now in, this conversation further impressed upon me the interconnectedness of those involved in the organizational aspects of social networks.  Though the groups themselves may be factionalized, the organizers of these groups all seem to know each other.

One downside to the approach we decided to take in our activism project is that we are a bit reliant upon the help of other organizations.  We plan to get a speaker from a local community organization, organize some legislative activism, and hopefully organize a volunteer day.  The first and last in particular really rely upon the cooperation of other organizations, though if we succeed at organizing these events, I believe this cooperation will in the end be for the better.  These are kinds of events that we would have extreme difficulty doing on our own.  However, having to cooperate with other groups that have there own time commitments and worries does really complicate the process.




1. DG - February 15, 2009

Yes, the turnaround time for people out in the wider world varies tremendously, though I find people in the non-profit sector are still better than most. My all-time record in this regard (setting up interviews and meetings for research purposes) was 4 years. I had sent out an email to a person in a particular political organization in Northern Ireland, got an email back after about 6 months apologizing for the delay and promising to be in touch “soon” to set up a time to talk. Meanwhile, the project ended, I returned to the US, wrote and submitted the dissertation, got a job, and then returned to Belfast in connection with a completely different research project. While I was there, I ran into this contact who, upon hearing my name, immediately made the connection to that email four years ago and offered to give me an interview “in the next several weeks.” I never did get that interview…

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