In May 2010 I decided I wanted to involve myself more into the broader French and French speaking community of Puget Sound in Washington State. I reached out to a nonprofit called l’Union des Français de l’Etranger (UFE), to see how I could help and to my surprise I discovered that nothing was really happening locally; even more surprisingly they ended up asking me whether I would be interested in launching the local chapter myself. It was quite more than what I was bargaining for but after r reaching out a handful of equally motivated French people, we officially launch the UFE Seattle chapter in February 2011.
From the onset it was clear that our little team had to find a way to be as productive as possible. All our board members were already busy with full time jobs, studies, children, or a combination! We also knew that to scale we needed to find an infrastructure that could not only be started quickly but also that would be free as we had limited funding.. I spent the few first weeks looking around to see what kind of online tools were available to help us get started and grow. We knew that we wanted to be present on the social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and have a blog, a website, and a newsletter.
Setting up our presence on web was fairly simple. We utilized social networking sites, a Wordpress blog ,a newsletter, email, and a simple website. That was the easy part.
The hard part was finding a way to securely and easily communicate and collaborate with the board members including keeping track of emails, sharing photos, and documents such as our non-profit charter, promotional materials and graphic assets. We also wanted to create an online repository of local French services such as French speaking doctors and businesses (especially bakeries!) that would be easier to maintain than a webpage given how much we expected the volume of information to grow over time. So how could we do all of this and be able to share information with our members in the same scalable way? How could we separate which information we would share with the broad public, and which would be held for members only?
After discovering the latest Windows Live tools I finally found a way to achieve all of this, easily, for free and in a way that will scale for the future by combining several tools:
- Windows Live Group to create groups for our board and for our members
- Hotmail, to be our email address
- SkyDrive to store board, members or public information
- Office online to share and edit information
- Windows Live Writer-to easily update our WordPress blog to blog and use the subscription function to have a newsletter generated for us.
How did we implement this?
I dug this post in how it showed how you can bring a number of Microsoft and other services together to do stuff that in the past has required some kind of infrastructure in the past. We live in amazing times...