Michael Slaby

Head of Mission at Timshel. Former CTO for Obama's '08 & '12 campaigns

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON June 24, 2016

Discussion

Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
Hi everyone! I'm Michael Slaby the head of Mission at Timshel (www.timshel.com) and former Head of Technology for the Obama campaigns. Would love to talk about civic and social-impact tech challenges, innovating in government, how data can be leveraged to solve big human challenges, and what politics can teach about the power of digital engagement. I'm also looking for innovators solving some of humanity's greatest challenges as guests for our podcast Elevate Purpose (http://bit.ly/ProductHuntLIVE). Comment here if you're interested and we'll chat. Thank you, everyone, for the questions and conversation -- we continue the conversation @slaby on the Twitter.
Gilad Salmon@gilupstream · Software Developer, NationBuilder
Hi Michael, curious you've seen digital strategies used in political campaigns that don't translate well to social impact NGOs.
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@gilupstream Good question. I think broadly most things we do in politcs can be generalized but the time pressure of election day and the narrow data framework make a lot of the tactics particualrly the frequency of engagement unique. Additionally, because we work from and with a voter file, we have a ore specific understanding of our target communities than most social-imapct orgs have.
Gilad Salmon@gilupstream · Software Developer, NationBuilder
@slaby Yeah, it seems like campaigns have a few significant advantages to social impact orgs when it comes to things like engagement and fundraising. You mentioned the voter file...that's huge. I also think having a real deadline (there will be a vote and someone will win) helps move money and incentivizes action.
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@gilupstream the power of the deadline to create focus but also to drive tactics is super significant.
Ravi Prakash@ravi_prakash2
Hi Michael. What do you think are some of the biggest tech challenges that nonprofits today face?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@ravi_prakash2 there are many -- and a lot of them center around being able to take advantage of opportunities presented by new platforms, new networks -- it's challenging to be ambitious and keep it all together. The single biggest challenge for most orgs I've spent time with is the difficulties around impact analytics. How do we measure our success in the context of the problem we're solving and not just the efforts of our inputs and outputs.
Literacy KC@literacykc · Marketing Coordinator, Literacy KC
@slaby @ravi_prakash2 Absolutely agree. Measuring our success is something that can be difficult when dealing with issues with adult literacy, where progress takes lots of time and may not be clear right away
Hillary Boucher@hillaryboucher · Director of Networks, TheCR
Hi Michael, What are the gaps technology vendors are missing in terms of building tools that make it easy to manage goal oriented online communities and networks?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@hillaryboucher the big gap here is that for most orgs the tools for engagement and the tools for analytics are separate and not integrated so we often have to guess about the relationship between activity and impact or do that work by hand. Too often our engagement tools aren't really aware of our broader mission goals and are too narrowly focused on the transactions and conversions that we're hoping to drive and miss the larger picture of the relationships we're building.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What were your greatest challenges whilst working as Head of Technology for the Obama campaigns?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@ems_hodge the toughest part of a campaign is the lack of time. You are defined as much by what you don't do as what you do do because of the incredible cost of wasting time. We were in a constant sprint for two year each time to bring as many people as possible into the process, to reduce the barriers to entry and participation, to get as many americans as possible into the democratic process. That means that every day we don't get something done is a voter left out. But that also means that everyday we figure out something new and every time we make an experience that much easier is another voter in.
Annicka Campbell-Dollaghan@annicka_campbell_dollaghan
What are your thoughts on the perception that the social impact (or philanthropic) sector is in need of innovation? An example for reference: https://www.entrepreneur.com/art...
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@annicka_campbell_dollaghan i think every sector needs or can leverage innovation, and we've been too slow brining really world-class technology into this space. That said, we have to maintain our humility and honor the work that's been done of years and decades by the people working in this space -- the siliconvalley-itis of "step aside; we've got this" isn't the kind of thinking that is going to get innovation down to the ground level of most of these challenges and make the space more efficient and effective.
Pablo Quiroga@pabloiquiroga · CEO, Fuelixir
Hi Michael! Throughout your career can you recall a recurring catalyst or pattern that drives company cultures to high levels of impact? Specifically, what drives the company culture @timshel ?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@pabloiquiroga @timshel an essential pattern or maintaining culture is to talk about your values, to embrace your beliefs as a team with passion and intensity and not be shy or cautious with them. Too often we try to be all things to all people and while we treasure the diversity of our team and strive to be inclusive about our ideas and perspectives, we have strong opinions about what matters, about why we work, and what we're here to do. Everyone seeks meaning and we're trying to create a space where we can do world class work in service os something greater than the work itself.
Pablo Quiroga@pabloiquiroga · CEO, Fuelixir
@slaby @timshel Thank you for sharing! Answering the what and why of a company with truth, honesty, and meaning. #companyculture #values #passion #cantstopwontstop
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Knowing what you know about tech and Obama, you think he'd make a good VC?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@andrewett he's exceptionally strategic and broad thinking about the potential impacts of new ideas so think he could make a great early stage VC where long-term vision and optimism is so key. I think you'd see him more in the impact investing space than a more traditional sand hill road firm.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
If you had to pick, what technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the next generation?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@jakecrump technology is a force multiplier for the things we need to do well as a society -- when it comes to impact, novelty isn't an outcome so i think less about any one particular technology and more the mindset of leverage technology in our communities and in industries that aren't traditionally tech-empowered to achieve greater scale and efficiency.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What industries would you place your bets on in the next 10-20 years?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@jacqvon think we're going to have to make some very significant shifts in our thinking about how we interact with the planet in order to continue to thrive so Energy, Food, and Space feel like the richest areas for us to tackle as humanity continues to expand and the planet doesn't.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What's the biggest thing you changed your mind about in the last year?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Michael thanks for being here, what life experiences have helped shape you to become a great leader in business and tech?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@ems_hodge leadership is about serving a team, about creating spaces for others to be creative, to stretch, to feel safe doing their best work. Starting at the bottom of the barrel in politics as an intern at age 28 while waiting table to pay the bills let me see the system from the ground level and understand what people needed from government and how that translated into building organizations and institutions that enable people to be of service was really defining for me.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical day look like for you?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@jakecrump it usually starts with a 4am wake up for a 6am flight to somewhere new and then every day is some combination of engaging with potential new social-impact orgs we're hoping to help, recruiting new talent to join our team, and keeping our team rowing in the same direction. A lot of travel and a lot of Google Hangouts.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What's your take on VR? What do you think is necessary for it to take off with consumers?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@jakecrump still think there is a gap in content for mass market and the user experience still feels a bit awkward to many people. The hardware has made so much progress in recent years that I think we're just waiting for the experience and content to catch up.
Blythe Ebersole@blythe_ebersole
Social impact tech challenges can be frustrating and so can politics. Given the scale of social problems and your experience working in sectors that can turn people cynical, how do you stay optimistic?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@blythe_ebersole We live in an incredible moment of abundance and innovation -- the world has the innovation, talent, and resources to solve big problems -- we just have to keep making good choices about how we use them. Typically we're better at leveraging innovation for entertainment and profit. But we have seen firsthand that groundbreaking change is possible with the right combination of talent, culture, and technology. Just because these challenges seem intractable or will take all long time to address is no reason not to begin. We just have to push back on our own uncertainty and short-term desire for progress and jump in.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are some of your favorite books?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@tomstocklein East of Eden is a long-time favorite (and the inspiration for our company name). I'm also a huge fan of the novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts -- it's a spectacular epic of self-discovery and redemption.
MAURICE GUNN@mauricegunn · Save Our Streets SOS. Stop Crime App
Please address. I have seen and heard some of the best and innovative ideas come from people within the urban communities that lack resources. How can we build a platfrom where their ideas can be viewed and considered just as valuable as those with a higher education or social standing?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@mauricegunn bringing communities into the process of solving challenges and empowering them and elevating their voices is fundamental to long-term progress. The technologies to listen to folks exist all around us -- what is required most is the humility and perspective to listen. Want to come be on our podcast and talk more about this?
MAURICE GUNN@mauricegunn · Save Our Streets SOS. Stop Crime App
@slaby Yes. I appreciate the opportunity. I'm a huge advocate for the urban community and we just won first place in an Urban Sustainability App contest here in Chicago. http://www.cnt.org/blog/tech-ent... and I would like to continue helping solve problems.
Elizabeth Brigham@esbrigham · Director, marketing and communications
@mauricegunn Just sent you an email! Looking forward to hosting you!
MAURICE GUNN@mauricegunn · Save Our Streets SOS. Stop Crime App
@esbrigham Thank you. Please resend. I don't think I received it yet.
MAURICE GUNN@mauricegunn · Save Our Streets SOS. Stop Crime App
@esbrigham I received it. Thank you. Contest: http://www.cnt.org/blog/tech-ent...
Nathan June@nathan_june
Hey Michael, excited to see your doing this and hope things are still going great. Just wanted to see if there might still be room for discussing a partnership!
Abraham Huie@abe · help@NationBuilder
It sounds like the team at Timshel is fired up about the mission. Would you consider your organization a community, and if so what has been the biggest challenge in aligning your community with your business objectives/realities?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@abe absolutley -- we're on a mission to build a movement -- a high performing, digital empowered, data-driven social impact community. We see our role in this community is to provide technologies and share best ideas, practices, strategies, and thinking with the entire world working on big challenges. We are a small community within a larger movement to innovate the way we tackle big problems. Our success is the success of this community so we are 100% aligned with the partners we're trying to elevate.
Joey Johnson@joeyj_218 · Ordinary Kid That Likes Cool Stuff
How do you like your job?
Michael Slaby@slaby · Head of Mission, Timshel
@joeyj_218 best one I've ever had.