IdeaEncore: A MarketPlace for (Service-Learning) Resources

Posted by: on Jul 8, 2011 | Leave a comment

One of the goals of RepairLabs is to serve as a resource collection for our audience of nonprofit professionals and educators. This has forced me to go deeper into the world of knowledge management systems. That said, I’m excited by a new-ish service that aims to make resource sharing easier than ever before.

Before explaining the IdeaEncore Network, let’s review the concept of knowledge management as it applies to Jewish Service Learning and other niches in the Jewish nonprofit world. We know that the staff designing service-learning programs are creating curricula, both for the front line staff, and for the participants of their programs. Many organizations would like to incorporate service-learning into existing service and educational programs. But where should they go to browse through full fledged program ideas?

The first step is for each organization to have a system for collecting and tagging documents (or videos, graphics, software, etc.) for internal use. Anything that exists and deemed useful needs to be discoverable by others in the same organization. Most of us are familiar with a fantastic tool that does this: the Wiki. Unlike Google, a wiki is only concerned with the specific information you chose to add, not with ‘all information that might exist.’  There are other, more sophisticated tools as well, such as the one used by BJPA to make it easy to browse through their archive of research.

The second step is to ask – what fraction of an organization’s resources would be useful to others? What kinds of systems can help us discover each other’s content? This has given rise to sites like TeachersPayTeachers where lesson plans are bought and sold every day. If a teacher is looking for a lesson plan on a particular topic, they can find lots of them to choose from. And not just choose; sites like TeachersPayTeachers are reviewing content producers, commenting on particular resources, and highlighting the best ways of connecting knowledge producers to knowledge consumers.

Moving away from large and deep fields like the school system, the IdeaEncore Network aggregates smaller niche fields where folks have a harder time finding specialized resources. This page links to 350 resources related to technology, though you can drill down to even more specialized topics. This page, for example, contains ten resources for developing a Request for Proposals (RFP). As a nonprofit tech consultant I can attest that some of these could dramatically improve many a vendor selection process!

While IdeaEncore Network hasn’t been around that long, it already has a lot of content. Over time, resources will be reviewed and vetted by users. Nonprofits can create their own sections, an area with pre-selected content only available for sale.

Is this relevant for Jewish service learning? Leaving aside the question of whether or not IdeaEncore should someday have a JSL or ‘Jewish Nonprofit Resources’ section, this conversation brings us closer to describing what is missing today for improved collaboration and field building:

  1. An audience that sees itself as part of a field.
  2. A place where resources can be listed, described and reviewed, even if the full download isn’t freely available.
  3. A pipeline within every JSL organization that moves new resources into sector-wide knowledge management system.

RepairLabs is working on all three components. But we can’t do it without input from the community. Do you think this will help you and your organization? What would you search for if this system was up and running? Would you recommend IdeaEncore Network for Jewish nonprofit resource sharing?