The Central Midwest District is going virtual. Beginning in the Summer of 2008 the district plans to move out of our brick-and-mortar office in Hillside and turn our attention to creating a virtual office. We plan, not merely to go without a physical office, but to invest in creating a virtual one. We plan to systematically think through each element of our current office work and consider how that might be done virtually. We undertake this project in a spirit of adventure, learning, and exploration with the congregations we serve. Our district office is, in many ways, roughly parallel to the offices of our congregations we serve and to the offices of other UU districts. This means that we have a wonderful opportunity in this project to benefit from what others have learned and to have others in turn benefit from what we learn. If we are doing fewer paper mailings, what are the alternatives to leasing a copier? Is there a cost-effective way for a congregational office to shift to digital storage of documents? What must be saved hard copy? How does a staff remain connected if the office is virtual? If information is stored online, how do you ensure security? Where does a virtual office receive mail? Where do we store the physical stuff we must still keep? Do you lose a sense of place if you don’t have a physical place? What new things can you do in a virtual office that you could not do with a physical one? Where is the phone in a virtual office? Does a virtual office save money? At what point might it no longer be cost effective to have a postage meter?
The proposal to “go virtual” first of all poses these and a hundred other questions. In deciding to “go virtual” we are not saying that we have answers to all these questions or even that all are answerable. Rather we are saying that it is a productive time to work these questions. It is a moment when those we serve have a lot they can teach us about this and when a lot of people might benefit from what we learn.
In this spirit of making this a project focused on learning—and sharing what we learn—the staff of the Central Midwest District establishes here a blog of our adventure and invites your comments.