The Front Porch

The Front Porch: Unlocking the (Incredible) Potential of Jewish Atlanta is a bold next step for Federation to explore in the most foundational way — and potentially reimagine — how it interacts with and supports Atlanta’s Jewish community. Beginning in August, and continuing through the spring of 2018, we will bring all corners of the Jewish community onto the Front Porch to help map our future. Our meetings will be organized into several platform teams. The teams will include historic community partners, Jewish thought leaders, donors, board members, and other professionals, but we are also inviting people who might think of themselves on the fringes of the Jewish world — people of all ages, demographics and political points of view. We will engage in deep dialogue, immersions in places that inspire and provoke (the edges of Jewish Atlanta and other organizations that provide insight to our most challenging questions), and reflection time, concluding with a series of prototypes—experiments that move us swiftly to action.

Chronicles of the Front Porch

There are so many conversations taking place on The Front Porch. Scroll down to get a glimpse into some of the latest happenings.

The Front Porch visits Israel! Watch what we learned and how we continue to grow.

April 2018

Monday, April 23

Last Friday’s Prototype Boot Camp was a day that just might go down in Atlanta Jewish history. As the next stage of the Front Porch initiative, more than 100 passionate people, each with ideas for community innovation and change, came together to learn how to turn rough ideas into actual small-scale prototypes. The energy was palpable. In the morning session, twenty-two different teams collaborated and tinkered to rough out and refine their visions. By lunchtime, they were ready to pitch their prototype to the entire group and decide how to move ahead. The breadth of the prototypes were, well, stunning! From a new model for synagogue membership, to a Jewish mental health and substance abuse outreach program; from an app to teach kids about philanthropy, to a concept for Jewish NPU’s (neighborhood planning units) called NPJew, the creativity was off the charts. Read on and learn about how our homegrown prototypes might transform Jewish life in Atlanta.

The prototype phase of The Front Porch is a leap of faith. It requires us to move quickly from words to action, crafting mini-versions of something even bigger and bolder, all in step with the Front Porch Common Agenda. Some will move forward. Some will not. Here are some snapshots of some of our 29 prototype teams:

  • Atlanta Jews for Justice
    Intent: to organize the Jewish community around campaigns of justice, remove the silos of denominations/institutions and make change to make ATL more just!
  • AgeWell Navigator
    Intent: to enable older adults and their families in our community to age well by focusing on independence, quality of life (physical and mental) and social connection through a coordinated, accessible, and sustainable continuum of supports provided by a collaboration between JHLC, JF&CS, MJCCA, and Federation.
  • Baby-Moon Israel
    Intent:  to provide life-long connections to Israel that address infertility and create new family building opportunities.
  • Collaboration Kitchen
    Intent: To create a mentor/advisor network that will help people to give back and be part of directing innovation in the community.
  • Creating Endowed Professional Positions
    Intent: to enable and empowering Jewish professional staff by investing in them, fundraising to “endow” their positions, building their capacity, attracting and retaining the best talent.
  • Hebrew HS for the Next Generation
    Intent: to facilitate a flexible, accessible approach to reaching High School students and amplify their Jewish identity.
  • JHelp
    Intent:  to help people find and connect to Jewish resources — “Try before you buy,” based on a successful Detroit community model.
  • Jewish Word/Idea of the Day
    Intent: to educate and inspire through Jewish Wisdom on the model of Milim Yomi: The Daily Word.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions in the Innovation Pipeline
    Intent: to ensure the long-term sustainability and succession planning for newer organizations or initiatives. This could include potential mergers with or spin offs from existing organizations.
  • NPJew
    Intent:  to connect people locally and to advance Jewish interests. A Jewish take on Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) system to create neighborhood councils with local expertise on the needs of our community.
  • Pushke 2.0
    Intent: to empower kids to make lifelong philanthropic practices and give families tools to donate in an instant.
  • Shabbatlanta & Civic Dinners
    Intent: to unlock Shabbat by providing accessible Shabbat resources. To create platforms for small, low-barrier intergenerational Shabbat dinners on a neighborhood basis.

April 2018

Monday, April 9

Calling all innovators, dreamers and social entrepreneurs: The Front Porch is hosting Prototype Boot Camp (April 20, 8:00 am-12:00 pm; 1 pm-5 pm) two intensive half-day workshops to activate and accelerate new ideas for Jewish Atlanta. Prototyping explores our community’s future by testing ideas that align with our biggest goals, then puts them into action on a small scale. Think of it as a “landing strip” for an idea. At Boot Camp, we’ll help groups move their ideas forward, and plan their launch and roll out. If you have a great prototype idea, get a team together and bring it to Boot Camp! Nearly 40 teams have registered.

At Boot Camp we’ll design and test game-changing ideas that align with The Front Porch’s biggest goals. Then we’ll help teams launch them quickly, on a small scale. For example:

  • We’re looking to create new kinds of Jewish Places and innovate to bring resources and services where people live and work– online networks, neighborhood hubs, pop-up programming, micro-communities and more.
  • We’re interested in inspiring transformative Jewish Journeys for everyone, no matter where they are. Got a creative way to bring Jewish wisdom to new couples? Parents experiencing their first temper tantrum? Someone newly divorced? A teen under peer pressure?
  • We want to create Radically Welcoming Jewish Spaces where no one feels like an outsider.
  • Bring us ideas moving towards a Global Jewish Peoplehood. Make Atlanta a place for open and respectful dialogue about Israel and prototypes for expanded learning or partnerships between Atlanta and Jews around the world.
  • Rise Up to Strengthen Ourselves and Our World! How can we create oases of wellness for ourselves in Jewish Atlanta? How can we join forces to heal the heartaches of Atlanta and the world as Jews committed to tikkun olam?

March 2018

Monday, March 12

Twenty+ Exciting Prototypes Emerge from Innovation Platform
We had a terrific two days with the Innovation Platform last week, resulting in over 20 exciting prototypes and great insight about leverage points for innovation. This followed the very important work of the Jewish Atlanta Ecosystem platform the week before laying out a vision, framework for action and key elements of strategy for Jewish Atlanta going forward. The group zeroed in on what the Jewish community needs most, and determined how innovation can deliver meaningful change. Specifically, they asked, how can we stimulate authentic collaborations that will benefit the entire community; how can we distribute resources more broadly across the community?

A prototype is a tangible expression of an idea. The purpose of prototyping is to allow the Front Porch to explore our future by testing ideas that align with our biggest community goals, then putting them into action on a small scale. Another way to think about it is that a prototype is like a “landing strip” for an idea. Some prototypes will take off, others will fizzle, but our goal is to learn by experimenting. The Front Porch Prototype Boot Camp, a session in which teams will work together to map out potential ideas, and plan their launch and roll out, will take place on April 20th, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at Federation. If you have a great prototype idea, bring it to Bootcamp!  Other questions about the prototype process? Contact Ligi George.


March 2018

Monday, March 5

The Front Porch Learning Journey in Israel, or #TFPinIsrael, was a groundbreaking experience that deeply affected the lives of 70 Atlanta community leaders. Federation CEO, Eric Robbins’ reflections on the Israel trip were published in national media. Read what the trip’s insights can mean for Jewish Atlanta in eJewish Philanthropy.

February 2018

Thursday, February 22

Important Milestones Reached on The Front Porch
The Front Porch continues to move boldly forward, and the last two weeks have taken us to an exciting new phase. We still have a few more Learning Journeys scheduled outside the Jewish community, and Immersions inside the Jewish community, through the month of February. But most significantly, a first draft of A Common Agenda for The Front Porch, a multi-layered blueprint for community change, has now been reviewed by many Front Porch participants. In the coming weeks, all platforms will take a deep dive into the document and strengthen it with specific recommendations. Prototype Bootcamp is coming on April 20 — this will be a dynamic day-long workshop that will take some of our best ideas forward to action and implementation. Watch Fed5 for more details.

  • The Israel Community Learning Journey has returned from its remarkable working trip (see their trip highlights here). With a goal to deepen relationships and prioritize the needs of the entire community, they’ve written a Partnership B’rit (covenant) that expresses a passionate commitment to work collaboratively, to assume the very best of each other, and to model respectful dialogue when issues divide us. They’re also crafting a bold statement about Israel that articulates a modern, dynamic and reciprocal relationship.
  • The Jewish Ecosystem group has wrapped up two consecutive days of meetings and concluded its work. They’ve rewritten their vision statement and zeroed-in on possible tactics for change.  They’ve also made strong recommendations to the other groups, expressing their priorities.

February 2018

Monday, February 12

The Front Porch, our community wide process to mobilize Jewish Atlanta around a common agenda and collaborative ecosystem, has arrived at a pivotal moment. We’re getting ready to move from observation and reflection to action, and it’s an exciting place to be. Nearly 70 community leaders have just returned from a spectacular week-long working trip to Israel (more on this in a special edition of FederationFive later this week) They’re bursting with inspiration and insights on how we can forge a more mature new relationship with the modern state. The next few weeks are packed with important meetings that will support change across our community.

Through the end of February, we’re still engaged in Learning Journeys and Immersions, but we’re also beginning to put the puzzle pieces together. This week, the Jewish Ecosystem platform team is convening for two days to concretize and prioritize their recommendations. The Jewish Innovation platform has a similar two-day retreat in early March. The Regenerating Federation platform team has begun laying the groundwork to position Federation to support the Jewish Atlanta ecosystem we all want and need. Change is coming in the form of bold prototypes that will impact the entire community. See our posts from Israel.

January 2018

D’Var Torah, Yitro
Monday, January 29

The story of Yitro, Jethro, is a story of expansion and inclusion.  In particular, several themes are expressed in this parashah.  Two are of particular relevance as the Atlanta Jewish community seeks what paradigm shifts will be beneficial to the community.

In order of their appearance in this Torah portion, we look at the impact of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, and at the gathering of the people at Sinai.

Regarding Jethro, he takes a long look at how Moses interacts with the Hebrew people.  It is similar to the process that the Federation is taking with its Front Porch initiative.  Jethro sees how Moses is providing advice and judicial decision-making on behalf of all of the people.  But Jethro realizes that Moses is wearing himself out trying to do all of the judicial decision-making himself.  Moses has no help in this effort.  Jethro tells Moses that he, Moses, cannot continue to do this job all by himself – he will wear himself out and not be able to provide everything that the people need.

A paradigm shift is about to occur in the way that disputes will be handled.  Jethro suggests an innovation of selecting able people to be judges – placing judges over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand.  The great matters would still be brought to Moses, but the smaller matters, which always are greater in number and frequency, would be handled by the judges. Then Moses would be able to endure and not wear himself out.

If you look closely at just the selection of judges in this parshah, what you see is a pathway for collaboration.  No one person can do everything.  It does take a village to properly and effectively govern a people – or a nation or group of nations.  Collaboration is the way in which our community can find answers, solve problems, and address issues.  The Front Porch initiative is looking for collaboration throughout the community.

The Yitro parashah later includes the story of the approach of the people to Mt. Sinai.  Here the whole people is included in the beginning of the Revelation.  It is what some commentators have called “radical inclusion.”  One of the exceptional aspects of the Revelation at Sinai is that it is a communal event.

Prior to this point, any encounter with God has been with one or two people.  Think of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses.  In addition, private revelation is the most common revelation in other religions and, up until the point of approaching Sinai, in the life of humankind.  The inclusion of a whole people in the context of revelation is a radical idea.

Whatever the condition of members of the whole people – young/old, male or female, able or disabled, born to the people or converted – everyone is included.  God wants to create a covenant with the whole people.

Again, this is a lesson in collaboration.  The whole people is approached to create a covenant – God proposes that the people shall be a holy nation.  The people in turn say, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.”

The Front Porch endeavor seeks the collaboration of the entire community.  The Federation and its partners and collaborators are seeking how to make a better, more inclusive, more cohesive community.  May we be successful in our efforts to create a better community for all of Atlanta’s Jews, and in turn all of Atlanta’s residents.

January 2018

The Front Porch continues to explore organizational disruption and innovation with a fresh crop of Learning Journeys and Jewish organizational immersions. We’re having lively discussions online about everything from what we can learn from the wild success of the Instant Pot, to the impact new expressions of Jewish spirituality are having on the broader community. Read about our immersions explorations on The Front Porch landing page, and see some of the upcoming places where we’ll be looking for inspiration and clues about change in January and February: 

Learning Journeys: 

  • Atlanta Hawks – Explore organizational transformation and the Hawks extreme customer focus. 
  • Jim Joseph Foundation – How a major funder of Jewish education of youth, teens and young adults looks at sustainable innovation. 
  • National Christian Foundation – Learn how Alpharetta-based NCF mobilizes resources. 
  • UJA Federation of New York – Zoom call to talk about the allocations process. 
  • Be’chol Lashon – Zoom call with an organization that celebrates Jewish racial and ethnic diversity, worldwide. 
  • Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit – Zoom call to learn how this federation works with the City of Detroit to fund innovation. 
  • Community Foundation for Great Atlanta – Exploring collaboration with potential partners outside the Jewish community. 
  • Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco – Zoom call to learn how they integrate their Foundation and their annual campaign. 
  • Boston CJP (Federation) – Zoom call to learn how another large urban federation talks about their allocations process. 
  • WABE – Learn about transformation at Atlanta’s public radio station. 
  • Atlanta History Center – AHC has expanded programming and raised significant capital. How did their strategic plan, and the acquisition of Cyclorama, play a part in transformation?  
  • Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles – Zoom call to widen the conversation about innovation, fundraising, and outreach with our colleagues in Los Angeles. 

January 2018

Upcoming Immersions in our Jewish Ecosystem:

Jewish Family & Career Services – A behind the scenes look at program and service delivery from Atlanta’s premiere social services agency. 

  • Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta – A chance to look deeper inside the MJCCA to see what where innovation is happening. 
  • Jewish Home Life Communities – Service delivery to Atlanta’s aging populations and their families. 

Front Porch Community Listening Forums: What We Heard
We’re learning so much from you! The Front Porch convened and completed 20 “listening forums” across Atlanta to hear the voices and understand the needs of our Atlanta Jewish ecosystem. They included several neighborhood listening forums, as well as several oriented around targeted populations of Jewish Atlanta. The forums affirmed many of the results of the 2016 #IAmJewishATL Community study and have given us robust new insights. Here are some of the emergent themes, areas of potential interest, and “aha’s” gleaned from these conversations.

  1. Address Insider/Outsider Experiences Through Inclusion. One of the most recurrent themes related to being either an “outsider” or an “insider” and wanting Jewish Atlanta to feel like “home” for all. “Outsider-ness” had many dimensions in the forums. Some walls are self-imposed and some are institutional barriers.”
  2. Open the Big Tent. There’s a desire to have the mindset of a “big tent” so people of all groups and ways of identifying, expressing or living their Judaism can find a place. We are one community, let’s make room for everyone and meet people where they are. Can we make Jewish things more accessible.
  3. Collaborate, Coordinate & Innovate. Overwhelmingly, people expressed the need for organizations (existing and new) and their leaders to collaborate to leverage resources and minimize redundancy. This theme was repeated in almost every listening forum. There is also a critical need for innovation within existing organizations (intrapraneurship) and a desire for collaboration among new and legacy partners.
  4. Shift the View from Institutions to Neighborhoods. Among the engaged and potentially engaged, two of the biggest barriers are money and mobility. Mobility is a big issue because of the geography of widely dispersed neighborhoods, the variable presence of Jewish institutions within neighborhoods and transportation challenges for some populations like seniors. Can we create transportation hubs — pick up points in neighborhoods, apply “sharing economy” thinking to communal space?
  5. Align Neighborhood-Based Services with Age and Lifestage. We heard a call to view Jewish Atlanta from a population perspective, like an epidemiologist. Different ages have different needs and capacities.
  6. Money and Philanthropy. The topic of money, philanthropy and Federation’s fundraising role came up in some of the forums. Some recurring themes; Engagement must precede fundraising. Make meaning first, then money will follow. Create a case for communal giving. Jewish education is foundational and needs to be financially attainable. Scholarship funds for students in need are essential.
  7. Harness the Power of Technology and Analytics. Platforms, platforms, platforms! Technology can support people finding each other and communities that resonate with who they are and what they need. People with similar interests, backgrounds etc. who otherwise would have a difficult time finding each other can have easy access to connection.
  8. Seed New Intentional Communities. Feelings of connectedness form when people live near or among one another. Energy is building around creative uses of real estate. The message from the boomer group was: Investigate and be leaders for new models of co-housing for adults as they age. Some specific ideas to instigate intentional communities, like the “new American kibbutz,” Moishe House for Boomers,” Co-housing for mixed age populations, and more.
  9. Spread Jewish Knowledge. People express a crisis of education/knowledge about how to live as a Jew, contributing to feelings of inadequacy as a Jew. There is a call to view Judaism not only through the lens of faith, but also as it applies to everyday life, such as a Jewish concept for healthy marriage, parenting, aging, budgeting.
  10. Share Resources and Information
    People feel there are many Jewish resources across Atlanta but they are not sure how to access them or obtain information. There’s a need for better collaboration, coordination, and communication. Jewish Atlanta should be easy to navigate.

December 2017

Re-generating Federation

Here’s what’s new on The Front Porch: Platform 3, called Re-generating Federation, has convened for the first time to get briefed on early clues from The Front Porch and to understand the scope of its work. Only when we are clear on what is wanted and needed for the next chapter of Jewish Atlanta can we answer the core questions of Platform 3: What is the best use of Federation in supporting the Jewish Atlanta we want and need? What is Federation’s value proposition? How should Federation position itself in the “ecosystem?” What key shifts of mind and relationships are needed? How might Federation carry out its core functions — convening, planning, fundraising, grant making, incubating — in alignment with our community vision?

This group, which is intentionally smaller than the others, will grapple with the some of our thorniest questions. We explored many scenarios to address some of clues emerging from The Front Porch. There are many ways to be Jewish. How do we create platforms for groups to self-organize around shared interests or identity? Atlanta is a city of neighborhoods. How do we take a “real estate approach” to planning? The ways people want to give is changing. How do we tap the rise in interest in impact investing, giving circles, crowdfunding? Some of the most interesting innovations happen at the national level—Honeymoon Israel, PJ Library, One Table, Birthright, etc.? How can Atlanta position itself to be the best local partner, and get the benefit of these potentially transformative programs so our kids get the benefit of transformative experiences like camp, day school and trips to Israel AND come home to experiences that carry that positive energy forward? Keep up-to-date here in our blog, and feel free to reach out to Jodi Mansbach, Chief Impact Officer, with your questions and comments.


Listening Mode

The Front Porch participants spent many hours from October through early December in sensing and listening mode. Right now we’re at the halfway point of this phase. We’ve hosted 18 Listening Forums. We’ve been on six Immersions — explorations of best practices within our own Jewish ecosystem. We’ve conducted eight Learning Journeys — explorations of innovation outside the Jewish world. Last week, for two consecutive nights, Front Porchers shared their learning at Storytelling Night. They reported on what they heard people say, what they saw in the field, and how it felt to discover important truths by deep listening. It was a night of emotional testimonies. We heard stories about places where our community falls short, along with “aha” moments of emerging innovation.

Here’s where we’ve gone so far on our Jewish Immersions

Chabad Intown – gaining insight into Chabad’s outreach and resource development techniques
ConeXX – understanding how Israeli innovation is gaining traction in the Diaspora
Impact Investing – the new trend towards institutional investment opportunities that reflect Jewish values
Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles – a look inside another Federation that has sharpened its messaging, revamped its fundraising strategy and improved the bottom line
Jewish Fertility Foundation of Atlanta – insights from the first year of a new Atlanta startup
One Table Atlanta – a wildly successful new platform that enables young adults to craft their own Shabbat dinner experience
Temple Sinai Center for Learning & Engagement – decentralizing religious school, engaging parents, and making learning a lifelong endeavor

Here’s where we’ve gone so far on our Learning Journeys

Passion City Church – observing how an evangelical mega-church uses small groups, and vibrant worship to build a faithful community
Rabbi Justus Baird – an exploration of how to build trust, be brave, and conduct difficult conversations
Rubicon Global –  how the “Uber” of waste management uses customer service and economies of scale to disrupt an industry and promote sustainable solutions
Sephora – to learn about multi-channel online engagement communities
Rabbi Mike Uram – learning from his experience of creating a new, parallel outreach organization at University of Pennsylvania Hillel  that engaged hundreds of new Jewish students
Woodruff Arts Center – learning how Atlanta’s premier arts campus raises funds and sustains three diverse arts institutions –  The High Museum, The Alliance Theatre, and The Atlanta Symphony


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