February 1, 2015 | Publications

Online “Jams” as a Tool for Professional Development and Community Engagement

Authors: Sarah Jane Rehnborg, Ph.D.

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This paper describes a teaching project that involved graduate students in nonprofit studies at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in a community engagement “crowdsourcing” effort focused on the topic of short-term volunteering. Students were responsible for organizing a one-day online brainstorming session, called a “jam,” in which geographically dispersed participants contributed to a 12-hour online discussion related to the topic with input from experts in the field. Based on a model developed by IBM, jams are sponsored by a variety of organizations around the world to engage virtual communities in online conversations on topics as diverse as global security and video game design. Major goals of the project were to have students explore this topic in volunteerism in depth and to provide experience for future nonprofit professionals in the design and management of community engagement events. Potential applications for similar events are discussed in the context of extending professional development and networking options for nonprofit capacity building and collaboration.

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