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Mobilizing TIO – Outreach & Social Networking

By Paul Chaffee


Over the past year more than 120 writers have made contributions to The Interfaith Observer. Their essays are being sent out to 2,200 subscribers each month in the flash of an eye – no paper, no ink or postage, no waiting, but silently delivered to electronic mailboxes around the globe. Want to make movies? Searching for Sugar Man, a deeply satisfying intercultural film playing in theaters today, was shot on an iPhone and edited on a laptop!

These stunning, disruptive accomplishments, though, come with their own baggage. You have to learn how to use the new digital tools; its like learning a series of languages. The learning curve is steep, particularly for those of us who grew up before the digital revolution started 30 years ago. Once you become familiar with this new world, you begin to notice how the tools are redefining who we are and how we communicate. Old organizational models are not serving us well; strategies for financial support need to be reinvented; leadership styles that served a top-down, hierarchical, authoritarian world don’t work nearly so well in a digital world.

Those of us who started TIO have a passion to connect interfaith activists with each other, to network the organizations serving the cause, to grow the ‘movement,’ and to inspire collaborative efforts serving the planet and all people. New digital tools make all this possible – but some tough lessons come in their wake.

Sana Saeed presenting on a young adult panel at NAIN 2012.

Sana Saeed presenting on a young adult panel at NAIN 2012.

Several under-thirty TIO contributors have pointed out that a journal that sends out 30 interfaith stories each month may be a fine accomplishment. But the once-a-month delivery of a raft of articles does not encourage a lot of readership or take much advantage of the internet’s power, which seems to come in small bursts of attention. Most of us don’t have the time to read TIO for two or three hours at a time as we might have with a hard-copy journal 20 years ago. Over and over young people have pointed to the importance of using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, interreligious social networks, and more to get TIO out into the world, little bits at a time, that catch people’s attention and keeps the conversation going.

Finding ‘Interns’ at NAINConnect 2012

Nearly 20 percent of those who attended the North American Interfaith Network Connect in Atlanta last summer were under 30. More than 15 percent TIO’s contributors fall into the same category – people who grew up in a digital world. TIO interns were solicited in Atlanta to become part of a “Mobilize TIO” team. The task: to build bridges to the digital community and its millions of readers, particularly those who are drawn to spirituality, religion, and healthy interfaith culture.

Justin Wilbur, second from l., at the concluding celebration at NAIN in Atlanta.

Justin Wilbur, second from l., at the concluding celebration at NAIN in Atlanta.

Three interns have made commitments to work for TIO this year, and they are being treated as TIO staff members in outreach and social media. Justin Wilbur is a high-school senior with years of interfaith leadership experience, and he is the son of computer professionals. Justin is taking on the mantle of TIO’s Director of Social Media. He’ll work with his Mobilizing TIO colleagues, TIO’s webmaster, Anna Arphan, and editors to make this publication more attractive to and engaged with social media.

Ruthie Howard, standing next to Jonathan Oskins, NAIN intern, and Woody Troutman, NAIN trustee.

Ruthie Howard, standing next to Jonathan Oskins, NAIN intern, and Woody Troutman, NAIN trustee.

Ruthie Howard was an AmeriCorps volunteer for a year in Las Vegas at the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, re-upped for a second year, and then was hired by the Council as program manager. She has accepted the role of TIO’s Director of Outreach and will be working in a variety of ways to get more exposure for TIO, generate new subscriptions, and build a sense of community among all who are contributing.

Sana Saeed is on the national staff of the Interfaith Alliance in charge of young adult activities across the U.S. As an interfaith activist, she is a writer, organizer, facilitator, and networker. She will be writing a monthly column for TIO about exemplary interfaith resources. This is a fast changing arena with new offerings appearing everyday. Sana’s task as Director of Resource Reviews will be to profile some of the best resources available; in between monthly postings, she will post short pieces from the same content to TIO’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

This team comes with remarkable experience and qualifications, and they will be recruiting their peers to share the task of getting TIO into the world. They will drag ‘white haired’ seniors like myself into the 21st century, with our shared goal of providing interfaith connections, skill-sets, and reflections to people who are hungry for this content.

How can you help? Read more TIO articles and add your comments in the comment box under each article. Even better, if you are on Facebook - go to TIO’s Facebook page and get involved in the ongoing conversations. It’s an open source platform for interfaith dialogue, and the more each of us weighs in, the more others become interested. Thank you!


Sana Saeed

Being a young adult with five years of interfaith professional experience helped prepare me for joining the Mobilizing TIO team. I aim to bring a multigenerational perspective to a monthly column profiling new interfaith resources, resources frequently relating to TIO’s theme of the month. This month’s opening column examines resources from faith and interfaith communities responding to bullying in schools and neighborhoods. I’ll also be highlighting particularly valuable resources on TIO’s Facebook page. Come visit! A growing group of us are in dialogue and sharing resources. You can suggest resources for us to profile – write me at resources@theinterfaithobserver.org.

Justin Wilbur

For the past four years I’ve been involved in the interfaith movement through Youth LEAD (Leaders Engaging Across Differences) in Sharon, Massachusetts, where I’m finishing highschool. I hope to bring the experience of being a senior facilitator, project manager, and trainer, along with a slew of new tools and discoveries, to the task of building TIO’s subscription base. Our Mobilize TIO team is working to educate one another about how social media works the best. We’re looking to mirror effective strategies used by others in virtual communities to build a sustainable and effective social media presence for TIO. Most importantly, we plan to employ a multi-faceted approach that generates interest and engagement from interfaith interested people. They are the ones we need to meet and interact with. We also want to connect the many interfaith organizations doing work in North America and beyond along the lines of practicality, meaning, and spirituality. Write me at socialmedia@theinterfaithobserver.org.

Ruthie Howard

I am half Tongan, half White, and grew up with no religious background. I didn’t even think about religion or spirituality until my senior year of college, studying evolutionary psychology. On April 16, 2009, sitting on a California hillside overlooking the Pacific, I had my first spiritual experience, and my life switched focus. On that date interfaith work became my passion. I think about it every day, about the potential for bringing about lasting positive change. To be involved with a project that documents the interfaith movement is a dream come true. At TIO my plan is to develop a virtual community, a solid network of interfaith organizations and like-minded passionate individuals sharing resources and supporting one another in the work we share. You’ll be hearing from me as we work to grow our base and get to know each other. Write to me at outreach@theinterfaithobserver.org.