In mid-October, OFN will launch an exciting new service: an online community and training academy where the opportunity finance industry can network, collaborate, and learn.
This new platform will be your one-stop-shop for connecting with colleagues across the industry and searching for resources. Many of the resources on the platform will be generated by you, the users, sharing information and collaborating. The platform will also feature a collection of OFN-produced training resources aimed at building the capacity of CDFIs and the industry.
CDFI Connect sat down with Seth Julyan, OFN Senior Vice President, Membership, and Emily Tunney, Senior Associate Knowledge Sharing, who are spearheading the development of the online community to learn more about what to expect!
How did we decide to identify this online community as a solution to a need within the industry:
(Seth) We’ve heard from Members, Allies, and even non-Members that one of the great things about OFN is our ability as a convener – to be able to connect and facilitate conversations. We fill this role in person already, but we didn’t have a tool to allow our network to get together beyond events. So we had a gap to fill, which would allow our network to share information.
We have had a few offerings to collaborate as cohorts through various programs, such as the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Collaborative and the Wells Fargo DCC Knowledge Network, but we have not had a place for the entire network beyond CDB-L– which is not conducive to searching for resources. Last year we conducted a survey of the Membership and from the feedback we found that the top two “needs” were an online collaborative space, and online training.
This community will be a dynamic space to exchange knowledge and ideas, engage in professional networking, and also have greater access to content produced by OFN.
(Emily) We do regular trainings and develop resources that are not easily accessible to the network. We hear from a number of people who cannot afford the Conference and want to access our programming, this is a much more cost-efficient way to get training and resources to people.
The community is currently in Beta, tell us how this process works:
(Seth) So the beta process will take two to three weeks. At OFN Conference we hope to get more beta users. The official launch will be in October. This timeline is based on the experience of Higher Logic. We hope to tie the official launch with the Conference content that has typically been available on the Conference re-cap page.
(Emily) We reached out to users who already engage on the platforms we have offered. There is a CFO community that have collaborated for a number of years, there is an emerging Women in CDFI Network that is eager to create their space on the community, and we also invited anyone who has opted into the Member Portal. We gathered a first round of beta testers, but we are adding anyone who would like to help us in this process as we work out any issues before the official launch.
What can you preview about the community for us, and how will different users engage?
(Emily) We will start with an open forum, which is just one community for all users to be a part of. It’s a space for Members as well as non-Members. We are working out the process for creating special interest communities. These communities may form based on the conversations from the open forum. Ideally the community will evolve organically.
(Seth) We hope to have several public communities around themes or topics, but there will also be several invite-only communities that will emerge based on need.
(Emily) When we launch the community will be pre-populated with several trainings and resources, and as beta users begin to engage with the site we may carry over some of those discussions that you can search or weigh in on.
(Seth) The OFN Member view will be different than non-Members, and they will have access to resources, like updating a Member Profile, that non-Members will not have. There will also be different profile groups, security groups, and access points as more sub-groups and communities form. But everyone will login from OFN.org.
(Emily) Also, the only fees associated with the online community will be related to the trainings. Anyone in the network can join.
What are you calling it?
(Seth) You can actually vote on the name now.
The platform will not launch for several more weeks, but there are a few more ways to get involved now: