Youth worker and web technologist Jason Shim has always worked in brand-new roles that did not previously exist. Uncharted territory, full of possibility, is a comfort zone for the Digital Media Manager at Pathways to Education Canada, who excels when given freedom to explore a new role.

Pathways to Education Canada helps youth in low-income communities to graduate from high school and successfully transition into post-secondary education by addressing systemic barriers. “Students may not have the same educational opportunities as others because of their financial means or where they live,” explains Jason. “Success shouldn’t be determined based on where you live; education is a necessity.”

Introducing technology for better results

Starting at Pathways as a program facilitator in Kitchener-Waterloo, Jason was actively involved in connecting senior high school students with employment, volunteer and other opportunities. Jason gradually started to take on more technology and marketing roles to help him do his job more efficiently. For example, rather than via telephone, Jason began coordinating with youth via Facebook. Over the two years that followed, the entire Pathways staff transitioned to using Facebook for this purpose, significantly increasing efficiency for the organization.

In addition to developing online tools to better communicate information to staff, students, parents and stakeholders, Jason implemented a Google Grants Adwords program to increase web traffic (worth $120,000 a year in in-kind advertising), developed a social media policy for the organization and led a successful campaign to receive a $10,000 WINDThanks grant for deployment of mobile technology.

As Jason continued to develop new opportunities for Pathways using technology, the national office team took notice and created a role in 2012 in which Jason now puts his web, social media and other tech talents to use to benefit the broader organization. “The sheer scope and scale of a national role is something that motivates me,” says Jason. “I do miss the front line work, but I can be more effective in this role that is about devising strategy for bigger impact.”

A data-driven approach

To guide his decisions as he charts out his new role and the new territory for Pathways, Jason take a very data-driven approach – an approach he has derived from participating in the Nonprofit Technology Network’s Communities of Impact.

“The NTEN group has changed my perspective on using data. Data primarily drives my decisions because it allows me to get a better understanding of what people are actually looking for. Data offers a balance to my gut feelings,” explains Jason. “Data also allows me to measure the impact of what I do. I’m fortunate that Pathways has always had a very strong measurement and data collection culture which can be seen, for example, in the careful tracking of our students’ increased graduation rates and decreased drop out rates. I apply this approach to measure my efforts in support of marketing and fundraising.”

Working hard to stay current

Jason, who also runs a consulting practice and has volunteered as a board member for Volunteer Action Centre of Kitchener-Waterloo and Area, Ontario 211 Services Corporation and the Waterloo Film Group, is someone who thrives on possibility and sees value in struggle.

“I wasn’t even in digital media marketing at all five years ago and the field is constantly evolving. There’s always something to learn and I work hard to keep up with all that is new,” explains Jason. “Digital marketing changes very rapidly and the pace of change is accelerating. Find news sources that you trust and regularly connect with peers in a wide variety of industries to learn what is going on. It’s fascinating to imagine how emerging technology will shift the nonprofit landscape.”

To learn more and to connect with Jason, find him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Copywriter and communications consultant at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is a copywriter and communications consultant at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity. Marlene specializes in working with nonprofit clients and has worked in the sector since 1999. Marlene’s approach is to work with clients and community members, tapping into the knowledge and wisdom they already possess, to help the communications ‘flow’.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira