Can You Build Capacity by Taking on Another Project?

Above: Members of the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy are all smiles after a social media boot camp. 

Really effective use of social media is more social than media. It is a tool to build and activate a network around important causes. It helps humanize your work, amplify your activists, and support your evangelists. It helps tell your stories (and those of your beneficiaries). And to do so, it cuts across every arm of your organization — from programs to marketing, fundraising to volunteer management. It is the nervous system of your organization.

Many organizations are struggling to keep up. “We need more time,” or “we need a social media expert on staff” are common refrains. While those yearnings may be true needs, all organizations are in need of building internal capacity – time, skill and integration of social media across the organization to help that nervous system function at peak effectiveness. And that doesn’t happen with one social media maven alone.


"Project-based learning…is hands-on practice that helps you learn deeply while making forward progress." 



We work with many organizations to increase capacity and effectiveness, especially through their social media. While training, consulting and especially coaching are helpful, one key component of our Social Media Boot Camp curriculum that really pays dividends over time is project-based learning.

Project-based learning is a dynamic approach for exploring practical real-life problems and challenges (and opportunities!). Rather than simplifying an area for growth into tactical training, or conceptual strategy, project-based learning helps professionals understand the full context of the situation, and all of the systems involved in bringing the vision to life. It’s hands-on practice that helps you learn deeply while making forward progress.

One great example is the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, which was sponsored by AVI CHAI Foundation. In this year-long program, a cohort of schools worked to mature their social media use, and put their tools and online networks into action to achieve specific goals. In addition to training and coaching, the schools pursued project-based learning to put the theory into action.

One school worked on engaging alumni by launching a Facebook group. When the email blast didn’t bring them flocking in, the school pivoted their approach. They recruited involved alumni to upload photos and tag their friends, leveraging a social connection to make the action step more relevant and valuable. By designing a strategy, engaging supporters, developing content plans, and designing for engagement (not just likes or follows), and being nimble enough to adapt their plans as they learned, staff put their training into practice. They were able to measure real-world results and improved their practice over time. They learned by doing.

Another school wanted to help integrate new media skills into their curriculum, and were concurrently seeking to mature their social media content and engagement with parents. They realized the win-win opportunity of tapping those high schoolers interested in journalism (many of whom were involved in the school paper) to do video-based interviews and reporting around the school. In the process of learning, they were creating content for the school’s YouTube channel and other social media outlets, like the video below.



By choosing a project that advances the organization’s goals, project-based learning embeds the learning process within the work of the organization, rather than having professional development be a parallel process that takes time and energy away from the day-to-day responsibilities of one’s job. For organizations with limited resources, project-based learning is a smart investment that can build your organization’s capacity while moving you towards your goals.

Are you interested in bringing project-based learning to your organization? Or just want to learn more about the process? Contact our Chief Learning Officer Lisa Colton at [email protected].

Author: Lisa Colton
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