Collaboration fuels ecosystems, but it can be difficult to maintain. Partners come together for meetings, for events, and for working groups, but the space between these gatherings can often feel like a lull in connections. As an AmeriCorps VISTA working with the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance (TRSA), I created a project designed to combat these lulls. In the process, I developed an online portal for partners to share events, resources, and needs.
The idea formed during a meeting with our Advisory Council (AC), our group of partners throughout the area. One of our team members suggested we create a “resource wall” where partners could write down items that they could share on green cards and their needs on red cards. We watched as groups traded cards and discovered opportunities that they never knew existed.
In the process, the groups who felt as though they were constantly needing resources discovered that they could be valuable assets to the ecosystem. Those who needed curriculum had an abundance of space. Those who did not have sufficient transportation had experience in leading professional development. In the course of a half hour, we saw the beginnings of a mindset shift, where partners began to not only think of ways that the ecosystem could benefit them but also ways in which they could benefit the ecosystem. We knew that we needed to continue this momentum.
As I result, I developed an online portal with three main functions: networking, sharing events, and sharing resources. Through a member directory, AC members can browse profiles and discover peers based on their industry. Another section of the portal allows members to submit events to the TRSA website so that anybody in the region can discover their opportunities. Finally, we developed a virtual resource exchange, where members can submit their needs or their available resources. These are then populated on the website, where partners can filter by type and by need.
By creating a resource for partners I was able to work towards my mission as a VISTA to “build capacity” for my organization. However, there is so much more to VISTA work than checking that box. These past two years have allowed me to combine my love of communication with my passion for fighting poverty. I’ve been able to learn new skills, strengthen my expertise, and rest in the knowledge that the work that I’m doing matters. Projects like this portal have enabled me to listen and respond to my community while developing resources that strengthen our ecosystem.