Our latest Widen user interview features Nikki Lebenson of the Institute of International Education (IIE). IIE is a non-profit organization founded in 1919 that manages international exchange and training programs, including the Fulbright Program. The Institute administers more than 200 programs involving 29,000 participants from 175 nations each year.
Nikki lives in Brooklyn, NY, and has worked at the IIE for the past four years. In 2009, she started as an intern in Mexico City working for a student advising program, then moved to the New York office in 2011 to work for the Fulbright Program. She now works as the Institute’s Web Content Producer in the Department of Public Affairs. Nikki studied history and archiving in college and has a passion for being organized.
1. How long have you been a Widen user?
Oh, since 2010, I think. I started using DAM at IIE as a program administrator that worked with Fulbright students and now I’m an admin of the system. I worked on it before the interface was revamped. I essentially went from being a user to one of the people that trains and helps all other users.
2. How often do you use the Media Collective?
I use it pretty much every day. When I was working on a program, I used it much less frequently because I only needed it in certain instances or at specific times of year. For example, I worked on a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State that brought foreign language teachers to U.S. colleges and universities. We used the DAM to collect and preserve photos that showed the impact these teachers were having in classrooms around the country. But we would only collect those photos once or twice a year.
Now, in Public Affairs, I use it all the time. Whereas I used to just work on one program, I now work with programs across the Institute and assist them in using the DAM system for photos and much more. After major events or milestones, I make sure images or video make their way into Media Port (the name IIE has given their Media Collective). When the Institute publishes promotional materials or books, I often help people use the DAM to find images that work with their particular publication.
I have to share images with staff constantly. Sometimes, staff have a very specific type of photo request (for instance, they would like an image of a female grantee from Tunisia who came to the U.S. in 2011 through the Fulbright Program). Thanks to the way we are able to tag photos in the DAM, I can actually fulfill that request very quickly. As an admin, I can now predict what programs might need or what the international offices might need, and update the metadata that we ask staff for when they upload assets accordingly. Over time, this makes it easier and easier for staff (and me) to save and find assets.
3. In what area(s) of your organization is Widen’s DAM system being used?
It’s used in a variety of different places. The heaviest use takes place at the Institutional level (and by Institutional level I mean by the Office of Public Affairs, the Office of the President, Development, etc.)We are collecting as many photos as we can from across the Institute, then using them to create promotional materials for our existing and potential sponsors (through annual reports, the website, white papers and magazines, brochures, and book covers)
Alternatively, individual programs (the programs that we administer) upload images to the DAM and use them for their own promotional materials (informational flyers or their program specific websites, for example). Programs also use Media Port as a way to share impact photos or video with their program sponsor. For both kinds of promotion, the DAM system is the Institute’s official archive. At the program level, this means we can show our sponsors that we’re responsible and cataloguing and collecting digital assets about the programs that they’ve paid us to manage.
Something new for us is using the DAM to help programs across the Institute save time and money on the cost of reviewing work samples (Packaging fees and time for staff to organize it). Many of our programs require that applicants submit work samples to a panel of reviewers. In the past, especially with works of art, that meant processing those work samples and then often physically or digitally shipping them out to a large group of panelists – a complicated process. Now we put the work samples into Media Port and share a link with the panelists so that they can access the samples for review. The physical labor and time saved was a lot! We are moving from promotion and archiving to making the DAM a part of the administrative process of our programs. It’s not just about archiving images and making our brochures look pretty. The DAM can potentially save us and program sponsors a significant amount of money.
4. For what kinds of activities are you using it?
Mainly, I use the DAM to find assets. When a publications manager asks me for photos that they can use for a book cover, or our design director asks for photos for the annual report, I want to find images that show off all the work we do around the world, not just find photos that I’ve uploaded from our office in New York. I also work to upload as much as I can and tag those assets very specifically to make the best use of what’s been uploaded. Because I’m an admin, I also spend a lot of time helping other staff learn how to use Media Port and troubleshoot.
5. How do your users use the Collective?
Other than the programs using it for administrative purposes to handle work samples, most use it to archive photos of their program participants and program events. Now, with everything digital, it’s so easy for things to disappear off the face of the earth. The Institute invests in the DAM because we understand the importance of documenting things in the digital age, which is a particularly big challenge for an organization that has existed for as long as ours has. Photos or important documents are often documented in a scattered way by individual staff, often with some technology or product that IIE doesn’t really own and control, like Picasa or YouTube. We have no idea what happens to the assets if the person who set up Picasa, for instance, wins the lottery and we never see them again. If everyone puts assets into Media Port, that kind of loss doesn’t happen. We’re working hard to increase the consciousness of storing assets in a future thinking way amongst our staff.
6. What is the most useful thing the Media Collective does for you?
Sharing images. We have 19 global offices and over 600 staff that I need to potentially share photos with Using the DAM system makes it seems like we’re much closer to our colleagues around the world and the program on the ground level. When sponsors or employees find out they can send a link and see what they need to see, it’s makes everyone’s job 8 million times easier. However, on a personal level, the most important thing the collective does is archiving. It’s documenting the faces of our participants and the wonderful things they have done that help make the world a more peaceful place.
7. What are your favorite apps on your smart phone?
I love Pocket. You can add it to Google Chrome. I constantly see things online that I want to read but don’t have time to. With Pocket, I can download it to my phone. I can then read everything on my phone, without reception, during my commute and it’s amazing.
Tweat it. It lets you see all of the food trucks around you in Manhattan!
PicStitch. It’s super useful for social media. It allows you to create collages very easily. I can take 5 pictures at a book launch event, pull them into pic stitch as a collage, make them look really cool, and tweet it through IIE’s Twitter account.
8. Which tech websites or blogs do you follow?
Definitely Mashable. I do rely on my team in the tech industry to talk to me about what’s important out there. I look at NTEN (nonprofit technology network). There is also a Facebook page simply called “Non-Profit Organizations” that shares really, really useful social media tips. I’m always looking for sources that touch on the special circumstances that non-profits find themselves in.
9. What do you think is the most important thing other users should know about using a digital asset management system?
People should recognize how important the DAM is in terms of their company’s responsibility for recording its own work. It’s great that users find everyday functionality in the system, but having a system that you control, have ownership over and that houses all the assets you own in one place – that is something else, something much more important. It’s about recording valuable work for posterity.