A Landing Strip for New Ideas: Atlanta Pilots Prototype Boot Camp

By Jodi Mansbach

Ten months ago, when the Atlanta launched its community-wide Jewish transformation initiative known as The Front Porch, we set April 20, 2018 aside for something we were calling “Prototype Boot Camp.” It seemed far off, even a little dreamy, but the day finally arrived and amazing things happened as 126 people collaborated in teams, to debate, tinker, rough out and refine innovative ideas and platforms that will move Jewish Atlanta forward.

Let me tell you, the day was a WOW.

Boot Camp was timed to coincide with the phase of our Front Porch process where we immediately start trying things and actualizing new ways to make our community stronger. We invited the entire Jewish community and promoted the event widely through social media, advertising and influencer networks. Many Boot Campers were among the 180 people who have participated in our ongoing Front Porch work, and some were professionals at our Jewish organizations. But lots of curious, young community folks also jumped into the creative fray. Ultimately, we hosted 35 teams who brought their energy and ideas to two half-day intensives.

Prototyping, as facilitated by our magnificent consulting team from Insyte Partners, moves briskly. In the morning session, twenty-two different teams worked within a framework designed to take the seed of an idea and quickly create an early model or prototype. Literally by lunchtime, they were ready to pitch their prototype to the entire group and decide whether to move ahead, and if so, how. They will continue to convene and receive mentoring to take their ideas forward.

The breadth of the prototypes was stunning. From a new model for synagogue membership, to a Jewish path to recovery from addiction using music and meditation. From an “app” to teach kids about philanthropy, to a concept for Jewish NPU’s (neighborhood planning units) called NPJew. From community “concierge” services to intergenerational, neighborhood-based community Shabbat dinners, the creativity was off the charts! (See a partial list of prototypes moving forward here.)

Our community conversations were deliberate, passionate, and often long – and I’ll admit as someone who likes to make things happen quickly, there were times when it was hard for me to fully immerse in the depth of the community dialogue. Yet I know that for the future of our community, this was a crucial step of the process and one that will remain a part of our fabric as we move forward together.

I’m in my element now and I’m delighted to see the community responding and ready to get creative with us and see the craft mini-versions of big, bold ideas come forward. We know that some prototypes will move forward, some will not. We’ll learn from our failures as well as from our successes, and we’ll have those indicators quickly. The “let’s go” person in me loves that.

However, I also know in my bones that this work is all about the long term and our community’s future. So, I’m grabbing on to the long tail, where the return on investment is a thriving, welcoming Jewish Atlanta with a culture of collaboration and connection. That takes time, but Atlanta is on its way.

Jodi Mansbach is Chief Impact Officer Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.