The RailsBridge board is excited to announce our organizational initiatives for 2016 and 2017! Broadly, we want to reach more communities that are under-represented in technology, create stronger communities in areas that currently have workshops, and sponsor workshops in more geographic areas.
The goals came from a lot of discussion. The Board of Directors drafted the first version in late 2015 and worked with the Advisory Board to refine them. Reaching our goals will take the effort of many RailsBridge chapters and leaders around the world, and we’re excited to have so many talented volunteers. (If we happen to reach all these goals in the next 6 months, we’ll set new ones!)
For each of the goals, we want to share the specific goal, why it’s important to us, and ways that you can help us succeed.
Initiative One: Reach New Populations
RailsBridge has historically focused on running workshops for women, and though we’ve partnered with other communities over the years, this year we’re officially expanding our outreach to other under-represented populations in tech, including people of color, LGBTQ folks, non-native-English speakers in the United States, and low-income groups.
The board will work with eight of our existing chapters to partner with local organizations and hold a workshop for an under-represented group other than women.
Working with women was a natural place for RailsBridge to start; our two founders were women trying to get more women into the San Francisco Ruby community. But our ambitions have always been bigger. We want to make the Ruby community as a whole more welcoming to diverse people.
Some chapters have already been working with other groups — for example, RailsBridge Savannah has focused on low income populations from the beginning, and RailsBridge San Francisco has put on workshops partnering with groups like Black Founders and the Latino Startup Alliance.
Working with a new population requires understanding where they’re coming from, and also finding representative instructors. So it’s important for us to partner with organizations that already have strong community ties. For this initiative, we’ll seek those partners and work with the chapters that have experience with this kind of outreach, and ultimately create a guide that other chapters can follow.
How You Can Help
If you know of an organization that might be a good partner for presenting a RailsBridge workshop, please get in touch! Although our goal is to help existing chapters expand their outreach, if you want to help organize a workshop in a new place, please let us help you! The RailsBridge board plans on doing fundraising in conjunction with Bridge Foundry to be able to financially support these workshops. Email email@example.com to learn more!
Initiative Two: Build and Support Communities
RailsBridge has historically held 2-day workshops that provide technical instruction in software development. Over time, we’ve discovered that their biggest impact has been the tight-knit, inclusive community the workshops foster rather than in the immediate technical instruction.
We want to support more community building, and where it doesn’t happen currently, we want to help organizers move from putting on occasional, isolated workshops to creating regularly-occurring events that help people learn together.
The board will support five of our existing chapters in running their second or third workshop, while working to reduce organizer workload and lower potential burnout.
So many of our attendees tell us that the best thing about a RailsBridge workshop is the feeling of belonging they get, surrounded by people like them who are near their skill level and are also figuring out if software development is something they want to do.
The relationships that form at RailsBridge workshops can be powerful and long-lasting, and are cemented by ongoing contact at other events. We want to help more RailsBridge chapters develop this sort of ongoing community.
At the same time, we recognize that organizing an event is a lot of work, so an important part of this initiative is making it easier to run events and recruit volunteers. Rachel Ober of RailsBridge NYC gave a great talk at Open Source & Feelings about her experience as a RailsBridge chapter leader.
The RailsBridge Chapter Committee is currently developing a toolkit to help chapters make the leap from one-time event organizers to their second or third workshop. We hope to help chapters with things like volunteer recruitment, fundraising, and internal communication so that they can be successful.
How You Can Help
If you’ve had a workshop (or a few!) in your area but haven’t been able to have more, please get in touch! We’ll work with you to facilitate community and learning without burning out.
We could also use your help in improving our chapter toolkit, whether you’ve organized one workshop or twelve. For early access, or to tell us that you’d love to help with the chapter toolkit, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Initiative Three: Expand to New Areas
RailsBridge’s organic growth has been tremendous, and in 2016, for the first time, we will target particular metro areas for new RailsBridge workshops.
We will provide financial and logistical support for workshops in fifteen new areas. We’re still working with partners to determine which specific areas will have the biggest impact.
In 2015, we expanded nine new cities organically; fifteen cities is a stretch goal for us, and we want to do it without taking significant resources away from our first two initiatives.
We have the ability to support new cities in a variety of ways, including connecting people in the area who want to help, working with institutional partners in the area, helping with outreach to students, or helping with money. The kind of support RailsBridge provides to each new city will depend on what organizers need.
How You Can Help
Organize a workshop in a city that hasn’t had one! We’ll make sure you have the mentorship and support you need. It will be a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding.
You can also connect us with companies and organizations in cities that could host or sponsor a workshop in a new area. Email email@example.com to start the conversation!
2016 and Beyond
Thanks to everyone who helped shape our 2016 goals. We’re incredibly excited about the direction of the organization. This year is our most promising yet because of the hard work of the hundreds of volunteers that are continually organizing, teaching, and giving input about what could be even better.
Achieving everything we want to in the coming years will require time, energy, and financial resources. We would love your individual support via PayPal, or if your company or organization wants to become a sponsor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at a workshop!