Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Building a Community for Expats

I have been here over a year now and feel I am part of a group of expats. The Hub of Sparkle group let me in and we have had great times.

But we feel it is time to extend outwards and build a community that gives back to expats and Koreans.

The way I feel about it is that we all have really great ideas, but that our ideas need to be heard by more people than just us. So I am going to post the very rough notes from the first meeting.

Please provide feedback.

An informational one
A community building one
A public relations one.

Further, we all seemed to agree that this should be a non-political, non-advocacy group, for reasons I will list in a moment.

First a discussion of the missions:

The informational mission – We would like to become a useful portal for newbies and lifers to find information about Korea, teaching in Korea, and Korean resources. This would likely be primarily web-based and would include the kinds of things that Chris is already doing on his website (e.g. his posts about how to use the lockers in the subway stations).

It would also include a “where to go, what to do section.” These are the sections that drive readers to expat magazines, and we felt that not only would this do the same for our project, but would also be the most useful single thing for us as individual members.

The site would also include a blog-aggregation function, as well as a facebook aggregation function. The site would be a front-end not only to on-site information, but to the wealth of information that exists out there on the web.

Experts – we would identify our own special areas of expertise (Joe’s foodieism, Charles’ books/literature thing) and these would be reflected on the website.

The community building mission - This is simply to ensure that we all see and get to know each other. For the time being we see this as the creation of the electronic site, but more important the creation of opportunities to meat face-to-face. We tentatively agreed to initially meet twice a month, and then when the project is more underway, to reduce this to one meeting per month.

The public relations mission – this is multiple.

1) Building awareness of the project through existing sites such as Dave’s ESL cafĂ©, recruiter websites,

2) Organizing positive interactions between the expat and the Korean communities. Rob, for instance, offered to spearhead an effort to increase the number of single-mothers in Korea. OK, maybe not. ;-)

3) Building a relationship with the English-speaking press in Korea (and down the line the Korean press) to ensure that expatriate views get out. Also, this might help our members (e.g. James Turnbull becomes the “go-to” guy for expat commentary on gender issues in Korea)

After Rob winded himself with a 20-minute oration on the advantages of anarcho-syndicalist management models, we had a discussion of organizational structure and how it relates to mission. I think we all agreed that this will be a non-advocacy group, in the sense that we will not be lobbying the government, forming unions, or anything explicitly political. Our feeling was that his approach would also help save us the trouble of having to create a super-detailed organizational chart with specific assigned duties.

We discussed, in general terms, where to place our websites and without getting into too-much detail, I think we are down to either Hub of Sparkle or a Joomla site we just called “The Joe Project,” which is under development.
And if you are still with me here are my ideas for the project:
Everything sounds great.

My idea is that I think it would be great if we started canvassing and
surveying expats who aren't really in touch with our main websites. I
think we should come up with a way to shoot out a survey to other
expats out there so that we can start getting a sense for what
services people really want. Also we can get an idea for how many
hours they would be willing to participate.

My other idea is when we start building a central website to house all
of our ideas that we do it in a way that reflects www.yelp.com.

At this site you can review restaurants and businesses and get
feedback. IT includes a map and address. This way someone in a
particular part of Korea can go into their area and check and see what
is good to eat, where they can go to the dentist.

The website also caters to events and groups. Someone could start an
event and ask people to join, kind of like in facebook but open to the
public. Also there is a forum for people to discuss issues.

I use to use this site when I lived in San Francisco and it was very
popular. There were certain groups that got together regularly. IT was
also a good way of knowing what businesses are popular or not.

I think we should do something like this where it is live and amiable.
So that any expat can know of this one site that includes everything
and can help them "today" and not with a review that was written 3
years ago. Let's face it a neighborhood changes stores quickly.

I would also like to add about our goal. I think one of our goals
should be to perform our duties in a way that will allow current
expats to consider staying here a long time. I feel if we offer
services to new expats to help them ease into the community and life
in Korea that they will be more likely to stay longer than a year.

As for giving back into the Korean community I feel it shouldn't be
about language exchange but cultural exchange, which is obvious. Again
I think this should require us surveying Koreans as well. We could get
help writing a survey in Korean and canvas the streets and see what
people want.

Some questions:
How can we help senior Koreans be more comfortable with Foreigners?
Is it possible that we can use the skills we graduated in college with
to extend it to Koreans?
How will our group expand beyond the Zenkimchi, HubofSparkle, Roboseyo
crowd? (When I talk to local teachers they don't know about you guys.)
Not to sound feminist but.... Is it possible to reach out to women
expats and their possible needs...? Maybe unnessasary anyways.

thanks! Sorry for any spelling or grammar mistakes.

That's it for now.

1 comment:

  1. "When I talk to local teachers they don't know about you guys."

    That's entirely true and not only limited to blogs. Many teachers/expats don't even bother to read papers or news, let alone Korean history (my favorite) and politics. But it's really not their fault. People get into a niche, show up on time to work and that's about it. That's why we, the bloggers/writers/long-term expats have the responsibilty to present the Korea we know TO EVERYONE.

    I like the idea of yelp.com, but I'm worried that I'd be another Daves where everyone vents their self-inflicted grievences.

    Did you check out Joe's new site? I like it so far.

    I think canvassing is a superb idea and reaching out to the female community is crucial as well.

    As far as canvassing, I think that all of us could come up with an informal survey and simply canvass our neighborhoods. Then at the next meeting, we'd have some tangible info to work on that element of "the project".


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