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ARTICLE Building Portals for Digital Natives: An Interview with Andres Spokoiny

Andres Spokoiny, President and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, has a few thoughts about the concept of Portals in the 21stCentury. “Here’s the thing,” he begins. “When we plan programs for millenials—or “digital natives” as he refers to them–and not only for young people, but for everyone today, who are influenced by the values of the millennial generation—we need to account for the deep change that’s occurred in the human consciousness.”

That deep change, he continues, is that we no longer subscribe to an ideology, or choose to be lifelong members of an organization in the way that we once did. “Today,” Spokoiny continues, “people build their own identity, rather than having it handed to them, ready-made, by a synagogue, church or political party.”

Spokoiny goes on to describe a metaphor about baby strollers, which further explains this important idea. “When I was growing up,” he says, “babies were in strollers facing the mother. Today, we see babies facing outwards, which is an interesting metaphor. In the past, we interacted with the world through the mediation of somebody—a parent, a religious leader, a school or a synagogue or federation. But that is not the case anymore. Now, for the most part—people build their own paths and identities with bits and pieces.”

Spokoiny explains that with this collapse of communal structures that were based on total belonging and identification, there comes a need for a new mode of engagement. New portals that are based not on group-think, but rather, rooted in a new sense of collectivity that allows each individual to create his or her own journey.

And his ideas are backed by data. Spokoiny offers a statistic: Only 14% of donors today cite a sense of obligation for their giving. “If you build your community based on the idea that people will be blindly loyal, you’re going to be in trouble.” Rather, our job is to open as many points of entry to Jewish life, as possible, he says.

“Portals are much more effective,” he urges, “when they are related to events in peoples’ lifecycles, and when they touch upon needs that people have in their lives. And the more portals we open, the more we can capture those digital natives and others who are not prepared to belong to any one “thing” in a life-long way.”

“We’re really dealing with ‘Human 2.0,’” he says. “People today are hyper-connected and hyper-empowered. Once we recognize this difference and plan for it, we can begin to build more effective points of entry for everyone.”

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