Like many ALA Chapters, PSALA constantly looks for new ways to engage members. In the last few years, significant changes to delivery of legal services have resulted in more work and less time for members to attend chapter meetings and events. We’ve also been aware that younger members welcome connections in a variety of platforms. Our puzzle – how could we connect the broadest possible variety of members in a more creative and spontaneous way?
Then an idea ignited—one of our board members mentioned a new tool called Spark Collaboration (Spark), a way for organizations to connect people one-on-one to help build community and foster strong relationships. It is a little like speed dating for professional associations. And one of the best parts, it is entirely free to join!
The Spark team (www.sparkcollaboration.com) randomly matches members for real time social interactions. The Spark setup is quick and easy. Members receive an email providing them with the option to sign up for Spark. At a designated time each month, registered members are “matched” and introduced to each other by email. The members can then move forward and decide how and when to meet.
At the end of each month, participants receive an email asking if they met with their match and requesting feedback about the experience. Some comments we received include:
- Really enjoyed talking with Michael. He’s not working in Seattle- but responsible for starting a new satellite office here. ALA provides a great connection for that!
- Another fantastic and successful Meet up!
- This is a great program to connect with others doing similar work, learn from each other and connect in a manner that does not feel awkward. Thanks PSALA!
- It was great to meet with another member and hear someone else’s perspective. I now have one more contact I can call on if ever I need.
- Great to meet new people who work in the legal community.
- These meetings are nice. • I enjoy these meet-ups. They make it easy to meet people I might not otherwise see. • It was a pleasure meeting him!
- I have known Evelyn for years but really enjoyed the one on one time.
- Had a terrific lunch with Lindsey! • Frances has been out of town but we are scheduled for coffee soon!
In response to the question, “Did this meeting result in any of the following?”
- 77% said, “I am now more aware of what other colleagues are working on”
- 73% said, “It has been refreshing and inspiring”
- 44% said, “A collaboration with another colleague”
- 39% said, “It has helped me to generate new ideas” • 21% said, “Increased my understanding of the organization”
- “Spark is an innovative way to meet new chapter members and reconnect with colleagues I have not seen for a while. It’s very user friendly, just sign up and you are notified of your match. I especially like the follow up feature, so nothing slips through the cracks with our sometimes busy schedules. Thanks for bringing this new program to PSALA!” – Barbara Paige, CLM, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
- “I wanted to let you know that I’m very pleased with the Spark program. I was matched with Cara and we were able to schedule a lunch within a week. It was nice to hear the story of her career in legal. We both found that there were many things in common, and yet were able to share stories that gave a fuller understanding of how other firms work. The greatest take away is that we both agreed it will be nice to attend PSALA events and know more people. So often it is difficult to be the new person in the room, but the Spark program will build one on one relationships within our legal community. I am excited to continue with the program and feel it will be a great addition to the PSALA.” – Amy Hals, Seed IP
- “SPARK is an excellent networking tool for all levels of PSALA. Picture a “blind March.com.” SPARK pairs you with local chapter members once a month. Learn who they are beforehand through a link to their LinkedIn profile! Grab lunch, a quick coffee or a happy hour and get to know another chapter member. There are huge networking opportunities with SPARK – Erin E. Cline
- “Spark is such a fantastic program to meet members that you don’t already know or to spend some quality one on one time, with those you do. It’s a simple sign up, and then you just wait for your monthly match. Once connected, you find a mutually agreeable time to get together over coffee, lunch, or drinks. No agenda, you just spend some time discussion anything you would like. I have not had a meet up yet, that I didn’t find beneficial in so many aspects. It’s also so rewarding helping out your fellow members as you learn more about them, their roles, and their aspirations. Since many of us are in similar positions, having another colleague to bounce ideas off and compare notes can certainly take some of the daily stress off. I highly recommend Spark to everyone in the association no matter what your position or level of experience.” – Christopher George, Pacifica Law Group
- “The Spark program has been a great resource for me to expand my network within the legal community. Unlike with large group networking events where I sometimes feel overwhelmed and out of my element, the one-on-one meet ups are a great way not only to meet new people, but to build deeper relationships and have real and in-depth conversations with my colleagues.” – Suzanne Tran, McKay-Chadwell
- “This year I have participated in PSALA’s new Spark program for PSALA member meet- ups. Working remotely part time and having a busy schedule can keep me from some PSALA events. However, with the Spark program I am able to connect one-on-one with fellow members of PSALA at a mutually agreeable date and time. I have met several members this year and we have had lunch or coffee or cocktails, and I feel like I have made some great connections with members I may not have otherwise known. It is so interesting to learn about others in PSALA, what we have in common and what we can learn from one another, in a relaxed setting and during our own available time. Spark has really helped me to feel more a part of PSALA!” – Susan Williams, Davis Wright Tremaine
- “Spark has been great for connecting me to new members of PSALA and for reconnecting me with others I already know. With our busy lives it helps to have a prompt to get us to easily reach out to our colleagues to catch up on work, sharing challenges and new ideas. It is also great just to get to know each other better and connect on a more personal level. Spark has helped me to expand and strengthen my network.” – Frances Dujon-Reynolds, Washington State Bar Association
- “Spark is a great way to connect with other members one-on-one over coffee. SPARK gives me the chance to connect with people I might not meet otherwise. I sometimes have difficulty getting away from the office for formal meetings, but I’m usually able to find a half an hour in my schedule to meet with a PSALA colleague. Spark gives paired colleagues the freedom to find mutually agreeable times and destinations convenient to both of us.” – George Thomas, Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson