Bluebonnet is a very special community of people. With a network of over 500 fellows, associates, and staff, there is no shortage of bright and talented individuals. Bluebonnet is distinct in that way; it’s not often that you find so much skill and promise condensed in a network of people living thousands of miles apart. One of my responsibilities as an intern was to help foster and grow that existing community within Bluebonnet. Upon starting, I quickly noticed that despite being a remote organization, Bluebonnet’s roots in civic duty and volunteer service had produced a network of smart and enthusiastic do-ers, making my job quite easy.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding ways to build community online has become essential for any organization. However, especially for a remote company like Bluebonnet, developing solid programming around people was and will continue to be particularly vital. This pandemic has forced us all to better understand the ways in which we interact as humans and how we can be creative in replicating that online.
Through a number of new programming initiatives, I’ve been able to grow and strengthen the Bluebonnet community. Using the people power and mission-driven work style prominent within the organization, I have built along, rather than on top of the Bluebonnet’s existing pathways to complete this task. In addition to social media and the weekly standup meetings, I used two main channels to enhance the internal Bluebonnet experience: Bluebonding and Webinars.
Bluebonding: My work as a “growth strategy intern” covered a lot of ground. At a "blooming" start-up like Bluebonnet, there are loose roles — everybody does a little bit of everything. While I did formalize internal strengthening during my time at Bluebonnet, there always existed a sort of openness within the organization that created a launch pad for the Bluebonding program.
What is Bluebonding? Bluebonding is a new initiative to promote internal connection within Bluebonnet. The program consists of weekly multimedia club meetings and panel discussions that have allowed fellows across the country to meet each other and converse about important data-related issues. Topics have included racial bias in data, socially-focused data companies run by black women, quantitative and qualitative data collection, and more!
Webinars: On top of connecting the community, I also felt it important to capitalize on the talent that exists inside the Bluebonnet network. Many Bluebonnet fellows have skills and experiences that can be shared to empower and inform our entire network. From grad students studying computer science at MIT to software engineers in Silicon Valley, the experiences of fellows at Bluebonnet are an irreplaceable resource I chose to utilize.
Over my time as an intern, I hosted panels covering a number of topics, including how to build a career in political tech, recommendations for new fellows and handling the final months of a campaign. Guests have included current fellows, former fellows, and Bluebonnet associates with relevant information or expertise.
I am no stranger to community-building. I do it for others because of its clear benefits—better work quality, solidarity, personal development—but also because I recognize it as a personal need. I thrive within strong communities, and helping build Bluebonnet’s has given me a fresher perspective on my skill set and ideal work environment.
The people I was able to meet along the way, both inside and outside of Bluebonnet’s network have been one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire experience. I can’t reiterate enough how special the Bluebonnet community truly is. The COVID-19 pandemic is testing us as all human beings, and it often feels as though, now that we have moved online, our moments together may not ever be the same. Perhaps they won’t, but Bluebonnet has helped me understand that that may not be a bad thing — while it may take some extra work, it is still more than possible to build and foster a warm and connected community online.
About the Author:
Engu is a Seattle local and current sophomore at Stanford University Studying Management Science & Engineering. She is a member of the Stanford Social Entrepreneurship Students’ Association, DV8 dance team, and Black Student Union as well as a current Millennium Fellow at the United Nations. Engu has interests in project management, consulting, racial equity, and political tech.