Thursday, June 9, 2011

No Lights. No Maps: Working Without Clues

"[working in human service] is like driving a car at night... You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
-E.L Doctorrow

There are manifestos and manuals everywhere on how to change the world. By the looks of things no matter where you are in the country, people are doing more reading+talking than anything else... When I first started my job as "community manager" I skimmed and devoured blogs, books, and webinars on how to be a social media consultant(the new buzz job) and building community. Some of it was nice, some of it was cheesy. Some of it downright sleazy: (pay $3,000 and your first child's left toe to access the secrets of Twitter and Facebook).

As a social worker working for a tech company(remotely) it was easy to feel like a fish out of water.The fear gremlins were out in full force, "this isn't your major... you don't know how to write should be feeding the can you not watch the clock all day" and the list goes on and on. All of that is true, but I trust the chaos.

Erine(founder,programmer) and I were talking yesterday about online transparency. The ideal that to be anyone on the internet you must provide unique ideals and not just vomit retweets and recycle other people's stuff. Yet, the net also has this desire to see vulnerable and personal writing. That is what makes blogs famous and who doesn't want to be famous?

Team Bertha isn't sure how we want this blog to function besides about technology and human service, and we aren't sure how to be a human-centered business... but I think the goal is to not only trust the process, but trust each other. We want our writing to reflect our values, our team, and serve to expand Aunt Bertha's ideas. As Erine and I talked, it was gratifying to know that he was willing to take off the bullet-proof vest of just having a good ideal and putting something out and see what happens without knowing all the answers.

Courage is contagious. Our conversation sparked this blog.

There is something powerful in working with people that support your mistakes.

The process is personal, but the progress seems to be in our shared action. The belief that "no matter what" we press onward towards a goal that may appear blurry at times, may appear impossible, but worth all the risk. That is what the research shows without reading the books .

My advice on changing the world(even if you don't need it):
Be Open: Don't look for people who are just like you. Look for people that complement you. My wife always says, "If you always agreed with me, I might as well be married to myself."People who are the best fit, don't always look and sound like your typical partner or supporter.

How have you balanced taking risks(experimenting) and doing research(reading books)?

Mozart is the community manager at Aunt Bertha.He went to social work school here, here, and a little bit here. He is a father, husband, and writer interested in workplace culture and innovation. You can e-mail him here.


  1. Hi Mozart,

    I've been reading some of your posts and I'm in awe of your openness and honesty...

    What you and Aunt Bertha are trying to do is truly beautiful...and I see by the few stories that you have shared, that you were in essence trying to help people access these services of shelter and food beforehand and experiencing just how difficult and time-consuming a process this was, as a professional, much less the client in need.

    Because there is such a need for this service, I think it is only a matter of time before Aunt Bertha becomes a hit as you roll it out among all the states :)

  2. Thank you, Dorlee! Your kindness is overwhelming. One blog. One program. One social worker at a time.