Meaningful connections

Tech-powered networking: Let’s play the name game

In Short

In many virtual learning settings, powerful relationships often form in the unstructured spaces: thoughtful introductions, a chat box, breakout sessions and confidential rooms. As the name implies, the Name Game moves the “side chat” front and center, reimagining tired icebreakers and traditional networking.

If the past few years crystallized one truth, it’s that the strength and support of our communities and networks can carry us through unimaginable circumstances. Ideally, we each would have a wide and diverse network that offers useful information, valuable skills, differing perspectives, helpful guidance and new opportunities. When it comes to professional networks, connections can come from unexpected places. Thankfully, digital culture and community means we are never far from our next professional connection. 

The pandemic forced us to rethink how genuine relationships can develop. With new professional and personal limitations and feeling vulnerable, youth professionals especially found themselves in desperate need for collegiality and community. Recognizing that they were liberated from geographic constraints and no longer dependent on expensive conferences for networking, The Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative, quickly responded to the opportunity and need. We launched a virtual networking and learning platform called Expanding Your Reach, a national, accessible and inclusive online masterclass initiative. Each gathering drew nearly 100 professionals who formed new and lasting relationships in classes covering a range of topics, from emotional intelligence to mindfulness and breathing techniques, to developing an entrepreneurial mindset and more. At each session, you could feel a palpable sense of both urgency, and relief. 

We are now harnessing technology to supercharge connections like these with The Name Game.

“The Name Game,” developed on the platform Intros.AI, offers a tech-driven way to expand and deepen professional networks. We are building on a platform that matches users based on self-identified interests to create a modern way to network, build trust and find others in the Jewish community you can rely on. During a quiet beta test earlier this year, dozens of users signed up, demonstrating the demand for ongoing connection and youth professionals’ continued hunger to widen their circle. 

In many virtual learning settings, powerful relationships often form in the unstructured spaces: thoughtful introductions, a chat box, breakout sessions and confidential rooms. As the name implies, the Name Game moves the “side chat” front and center, reimagining tired icebreakers and traditional networking.

Our Jewish tradition tells us about belief in the power of individuals to make each other better. As the Talmud says, “iron sharpens iron…” In fact, as we worked closely with the Intros.AI team, co-founder David Kobrosky told us, “The Jewish community has always been my biggest supporter.”  He said, “My co-founder Robert Levy and I are ecstatic to see our product, which makes meaningful introductions between members of the same community, be used to deepen connections among those who work with Jewish teens. We can easily see bringing it to other networks or even teens themselves. Who knows, maybe the next product to change the world starts with an introduction between two Jewish teens – or pros – today!”

Scaling Human Connection

The Funder Collaborative is intensely focused on scale. We think deeply about it and teach ways to bring effective models to new audiences. When we merged into the Jewish Federations of North America last year, it was with a forward-looking commitment to leverage its national infrastructure to amplify and expand impact. 

But how do you scale meaningful connections? Technology was the missing piece.

The Name Game ushers in a new era of tech-fueled networking for the Jewish community. We’re empowering educators – often working alone or in siloes, and most without a wide professional network – to share wisdom and spark creative partnerships with others they might never otherwise meet. Users simply sign up for free and complete a profile with their personal and professional interests – information which leads to better and more relevant matches. We leveraged the platform to intentionally foster reciprocal relationships from the start. Professionals can identify the skills, wisdom and knowledge they can offer; they also list what they’re seeking in a match, such as a collaboration, new mentor or even just friendly conversation. Users determine for themselves how often they’d like to be matched and the priority of matching criteria, and set up their own Zoom conversations. Introduction emails are sent automatically and include brief bios, what each individual is seeking, and playful conversation starters.

Connections Increase Professional Confidence and Satisfaction

We have seen firsthand how powerful, collegial relationships can be built digitally. In the two years since Expanding Your Reach launched, we’ve helped more than 400 youth professionals benefit with:

  • support navigating uncertainty and challenges.
  • confidential spaces to explore professional moves.
  • dozens of unexpected partnerships and new collaborations.
  • scaling of effective programs to new organizations and communities.

Thoughtful networking is a bedrock of professional success. Our cross-community evaluations affirm how a supportive professional network can be tied to career longevity and satisfaction. This is especially true for early career professionals, who are twice as likely as older generations to look for a new job within a year if they do not feel professionally connected, a recent survey revealed. In an era of tremendous workplace volatility, we are betting the Name Game can contribute to a sense of fulfillment for professionals of all ages.

Additionally, and importantly, the Name Game supports our values of Jewish equity, inclusion and diversity (JEDI). Identifying colleagues from across the country with shared experiences can lead to the development of important affinity groups and supportive spaces. Professionals with diverse racial and gender identities and backgrounds, and/or part of interfaith families, can easily connect with one another based on match preferences. We are especially grateful for the partnership of Keshet, 18Doors and individual LGBTQIA and BIPOC Jewish professionals for their insights in shaping this effort.

Expanding Throughout the Jewish Community

While the initial launch of The Name Game is customized for youth professionals, we have an eye toward how it can be adapted for wider audiences. We can help any group tailor the product branding and matchmaking algorithms so other professional cohorts, alumni of fellowships and educational programs or immersive travel experiences can build their own community through digital introductions.

With the rise of Jewish co-working spaces, the return of conferences and even imaginative third spaces such as a new Jewish tavern for Torah study, we are eager to envision how these connections could evolve to in-person relationships. 

Sign up for the Name Game HERE

Interested in customizing the platform for your own community?  Email Rabbi Dena Shaffer at dena.shaffer@jewishfederations.org.

Sara Allen is executive director of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative and associate vice president, community & Jewish life at the Jewish Federations of North America. Rabbi Dena Shaffer is director of education and learning at the funder collaborative.