JCC Association’s entry into mobile technology was a great success at the 2012 JCCs of North America Biennial in New Orleans, indicating that Jewish Community Center leaders are eager to join the mobile revolution. Created by Guidebook, the special Biennial app enabled delegates and staff to construct individualized schedules, share photos, review sessions, and respond to daily survey questions. The app, which worked on iPhone, Android, and other Web-enabled devices, was downloaded almost five hundred times, and the same number of responses came in to the questions of the day.
“People loved it,” said Chris Strom, JCC Association’s director of new media and social networking. “Mobile technology is definitely something JCCs are eager to investigate because they know that their members are using it all day long.”
Throughout the four days of the convention, the more than six hundred delegates from 95 JCCs and hundreds more staff and vendors could be seen checking their smart phones to see where their next sessions were located or if times had changed. “We were able to update times easily by sending notifications to everyone who downloaded the app,” Strom said.
The JCCs of North America Biennial, held in a different community every two years, is the largest gathering of JCC volunteer leaders, and provides them with a full schedule of keynote speeches, smaller group sessions, theme tracks, special sessions where JCCs of similar size can share experiences, and many networking opportunities. Awards are presented to exceptional lay and professional leaders during the meeting. The Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders Institute meets immediately before the Biennial, and then participants join the larger group. At the 2012 Biennial, there were also separate tracks for the Merrin Teen Fellows, JCC Association Graduate Scholars, and participants in the Jewish Educational Leadership Institute. JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, a division of JCC Association, held its meeting simultaneously with the Biennial, and military chaplains led some workshops for the first time. The World Confederation of JCCs also sent delegates to the Biennial from nine different countries around the world.
The New Orleans location of the 2012 Biennial presented an opportunity to help a community still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina six years ago. Four busloads of Biennial attendees spent one afternoon building new homes for residents in the Ninth Ward through Beacon of Hope and the St. Bernard’s Project.
Alan Blank and Jeff Lewis from Guidebook participated in a panel on social media and mobile technology and told the group that simplicity and functionality was key to success with mobile devices. Many organizations try to cram their whole website onto a smart phone and that rarely works. Think about what people are likely to be looking for on their smart phones, they advised, and give them what they want.