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JWalk

The community knows young people today, faced with unprecedented life opportunities, are less bound by structures of tradition. Hillel of Greater Toronto, as the experts on university and college-age Jews, understands they need to engage and affiliate with our community in ways meaningful to them – viral, low-barrier, cultural, diverse. In addition to native Torontonians, the growing number of Russian and Israeli university and college students find it even more challenging to connect with the established Jewish community. In response to this pressing need, Hillel will create a smartphone application (app) called JWalk. JWalk allows users to pin-point on a Google map young, Jewish, hot-spot venues and events in their immediate surroundings and view how many other JWalk users are present at those locations. (After dinner, Tammy and two friends are standing at Bloor and Spadina looking for somewhere to go. By opening JWalk they see 25 JWalk users are at Free Times Café. They head over there.…) In addition to venues and events inputted by Hillel, users upload their preferred personal venues and upcoming events. (Evan plays in a band with other Jewish guys. Their band is playing at Mod Club and there will be a significant Jewish audience. Evan is sure to list the event on JWalk) JWalk users access deals and coupons from area hot-spots (The next 3 JWalk users to purchase a pastry at Café Aroma, receive a free coffee). JWalk users access a classified section specifically targeting Jewish university students. (Lisa is looking for a roommate….) JWalk users view a multi-media, provocative, Jewish cultural daily post and respond with thoughts and multi-media clips of their own. (www.faceglat.com – a virtual mechitza. Has the Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel set-up a double standard for tradition vs. technology?) JWalk is the new social media tool that all young Jews want to access to see where other young Jews are hanging-out in the city, which upcoming Jewish event will be the hottest ticket, and how the provocative daily post will challenge their notions about Judaism. Ultimately, JWalk is a transformational tool for community affiliation and growth.

Need: 

University and college campuses are understood to be the last organized stepping-stone where young Jews can be engaged in Jewish life – the last opportunity for the community to impact and influence their Jewish life choices – before they head into their professional vocations and are virtually impossible to locate. Therefore, it is a critical communal need to ensure that young Jews’ connection during their university and college years is meaningful, positive, and peer to peer. In addition to connecting Canadian-born Jewish students, JWalk is a critical tool for new Israeli and Russian Jewish (the fastest growing segment of the GTA’s Jewish community) students looking to connect with their cultural communities.

Hillel of Greater Toronto estimates there are 12,000 Jewish university and college students in the Greater Toronto Area and Hillel has the potential to connect with 9,600 of them. (Hillel’s 2006 research of national Jewish university students shows Hillel will not likely connect with 20% of the “low self-identification” Jewish students) In June, Ipsos Reid reported that 46% of 18-24-year-olds have a smartphone (this arguable is higher in the Jewish population). Forty-six percent of 9,600 is just under 5,000 students. Ownership of smartphones will likely skyrocket in the coming two years, especially in this demographic.

While 73% of Jewish students (not including the “low-self identifiers”) on campus have at least one interaction with Hillel, Hillel of Greater Toronto’s mission is to connect students to Jewish life, not to Hillel. In other words, Hillel is not the brand we sell, Jewish life on campus is. JWalk, not marketed as any one established Jewish organization, has the capacity to connect with the 27% of non-Hillel users. According to Hillel of Greater Toronto’s 2006 study, the “moderate-self identifiers” is the largest segment of Jewish university and college age students at 44%. Moderates are interested in participating in a Jewish group that has the ability to create a strong sense of community (67%), is open to new ideas (70%), and is a welcoming atmosphere for all political, religious and other viewpoints (69%). JWalk creates a strong viral community that translates into personal connections in the actual world, deals with Jewish ideas and beliefs in a provocative, non-judgmental way, and is inherently welcoming and accepting of all. This is exactly what the moderates – the bulk of Jewish students – are looking for in terms of a connection to Jewish life.

In Toronto, over 85% of Jewish students are commuters. Unlike residential campuses, Hillel of Greater Toronto understands that students spend their leisure time off campus in the city or suburbs where they live. JWalk is an accessible way for Jewish university students to interact with other Jews at trendy venues in the city, attend Jewish events sponsored by Hillel and its communal partner agencies, and engage in interactive Jewish multi-media thought every day. JWalk is an invaluable tool for Hillel professionals and student interns to pin-point which venues Jewish students frequent in order to engage them in the actual world.

The outcomes of JWalk are that it increases the number of Jewish university and college students at venues with other Jews, increases the number of Jews at events with other Jews, and engages Jews in Jewish thought each day. Hillel of Greater Toronto professionals and student interns use JWalk as a tool to find and engage more students.

After careful analysis of the above statistical and demographic information, Hillel of Greater Toronto identifies a tier one target population of 5,000 Jewish university and college student users in the GTA, a tier two target population of 8,100 Jewish university and college student users across southern Ontario (total including GTA), and the tier three target population of 16,200 Jewish university and college student users in Canada (total including Ontario).

Goals, Objectives & Measurement: 

JWalk impacts Jewish university students in at least three major ways: (1) it increases the number of Jews at venues with other Jews, (2) it increases the number of Jews at events with other Jews, and (3) it increases the number of Jews engaged in Jewish thought each day. Because no statistical benchmarks exist for a project of this nature, the first year of use will serve as measurement for future percentage increase of use.

JWalk measures impact through usage statistics. Data reports generated include: total number of JWalk users, number of times per day JWalk is used (total times and unique times), number of posts per day (total posts and unique posts), which functionalities are used most (this will guide Hillel in further development of JWalk), number of users checking into venues, number of venues inputted by users, number of users checking into events, number of agencies posting events, and number of events posted. To drive usership, a gamification incentive system is used to ensure users check into venues and events (e.g. users collect shekels as a points-reward system).

In addition to succeeding on the above criteria, Hillel of Greater Toronto’s tier one goal of 5,000 JWalk users is achieved after six months of launch, its tier two goal of 8,000 users is achieved at the end of the first year (August 2013), and its tier three goal of 16,000 users is achieved by 2014.

JWalk’s adoption strategy will be achieved through promotion by Hillel of Greater Toronto’s student interns, Hillel’s professional staff, organic growth campaigns, street teams on campus and in the community, promotion at Hillel and partner agency events, Hillel’s network of local and national communal partner agencies, incentives, and social media tools.

The final goal is for JWalk to be completely financially sustainable by the end of the first year, August 2013.

Opportunity for Involvement: 

Hillel of Greater Toronto has extensive expertise understanding the needs, behaviors, and interests of Jewish university and college students as well as the needs of the Jewish community. In addition to this, Hillel leverages a total of $67,000 in funding and possesses the significant manpower of student engagement interns ready to deploy JWalk directly into the target populations. There are several key technical areas Hillel can benefit from professional expertise of the SixPoints JVPF. Web site and technology services and social media expertise will be helpful for the direction and vision of the functionalities of JWalk. Business development, analysis and marketing, and overall entrepreneurship will assist Hillel in effectively researching the target market to understand their smartphone usages and social media behaviors. In addition, advice will be helpful in forming a formal marketing strategy and financial partnerships with local venues. Legal counseling will be a key area to ensure Hillel, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, and any partner agency is not held responsible for discriminating or profane user postings or negative personal interactions among JWalk users.

Time Frame: 

• Quote, first draft July 2011
• Formal Quote, Presentation Support September 2011
• Commence Creative Development, Wire Frames, Development January 2011
• Testing, Client Preview March 2012
• JWalk Campaign Launch August 2012

The strategic input and professional expertise of the SixPoints JVPF will be a critical factor in JWalk’s success. Hillel of Greater Toronto will capitalize on the experience and advice of the SixPoints group throughout the first year when the development of the app and the infrastructure of its implementation takes place (until August 2012). Ideally, the SixPoints group will continue to mentor the professionals working behind JWalk at Hillel through the first year of its presence in the social media marketplace (until August 2013). At this juncture, JWalk will generate its own revenue and Hillel will continue its management and growth on its own.

Sponsor/Staff: 

Hillel of Greater Toronto is the sponsoring organization. Zac Kaye, Executive Director and Stephanie Krasman, Assistant Executive Director are the lead professionals.

Organizational Structure and Expertise: 

Hillel of Greater Toronto, formerly Jewish Campus Services of Greater Toronto, has been in existence in its current form since 1995. Zac Kaye, Founding Executive Director, has a life-long career in the Hillel field, working in different communities around the world. Zac holds a Masters degree in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University and certificates in Education, Teaching, and Counseling.

Stephanie Krasman, Assistant Executive Director, has a Masters degree in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University and professional experience working in Boston and New York City. Stephanie has been in her position at Hillel of Greater Toronto since 2003.

Zac has grown the agency from five professional staff and an annual budget of $420,000 to over 18 professional staff and an annual budget of $1.4 million. Zac is the visionary, fundraiser, external spokesperson, and community liaison of the agency. Stephanie is the senior project manager and human resource supervisor of the agency. Shirin Ezekiel, Associate Executive Director for Hillel of Greater Toronto, has previously worked as Program Director at the Asper Institute for New Media Diplomacy in IDC Israel. The institute focuses on the study and use of new media technologies in diplomacy and advocacy efforts. Zac, Stephanie, and Shirin are experts in understanding the needs of Jewish university and college students and understanding the needs of the Jewish community. Shirin and Hillel’s younger professional staff understand the technology, functioning, and behavior behind the uses of social media devices.

To implement JWalk, Stephanie will serve as the project manager, overseeing a team of three Hillel professionals. When JWalk comes into implementation, a full-time social media expert will be hired to input and moderate the day-to-day functionalities, work with the social media integration company that hosts JWalk, manage ad space, and solicit venues and the deals of the day. An advisory committee of professionals, lay leaders and students will be formed to oversee and ensure JWalk’s success.

Criteria that Enhance Competitiveness: 

JWalk meets all 5 criteria that enhance competitiveness.

JWalk is sustainable as it generates revenue from selling ad space and from vendors offering deals and coupons. JWalk is easily scaled up to include additional residential campuses in Southern Ontario and to add new technological functionalities as they develop. In addition, JWalk could be made attractive for Jewish young professional users. The technology is in place for JWalk to be replicated in every other campus across Canada and the United States. JWalk is a completely innovative and dynamic concept. While other Jewish apps exist, they are religious based and offer static information about Jewish life and practices (http://www.jewishiphonecommunity.org/). Hillel International was recently awarded a grant from the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund (http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/jewish-campus-life-theres-an-app-for-that/), however this app will replicate a static information page from its website (http://www.hillel.org/HillelApps/JLOC/Search.aspx).

Lastly, JWalk leverages funding in several existing ways. Hillel of Greater Toronto was awarded a $47,000 USD grant from Hillel International to hire 15 student interns to carry out peer to peer engagement of unaffiliated Jewish students on campus. The goal is for each intern to engage 60 students over the course of the year in meaningful Jewish conversations, group discussions, and programming. This totals 900 (15 x 60 = 900) newly engaged students each year. The student interns will be part of the first team to market JWalk to the target population. The interns use JWalk to visually see the locations where Jewish students hang out in order to meet and build relationships with them in the actual world, thus increasing their effectiveness.

In addition to the Hillel International grant, Hillel of Greater Toronto is actively recruiting key financial stakeholders to donate to the project. To date, a total of $20,000 towards implementing JWalk has been committed.