The Internet is a great source of information, but it’s also a great way to get things done!Many simple and free (or inexpensive) online tools are available to help you communicate and collaborate with others—within your organization, throughout your community, and beyond—to move your prevention work forward. Specifically, the Internet offers a variety of tools designed to facilitate the following:
- Scheduling Gatherings
- Convening Online Gatherings
- Sharing Prevention Resources
- Coordinating Prevention Efforts
These tasks and a selection of online tools to support them are described below. Some of the tools listed perform a single function, while others offer a range of services.
Can’t find a good day for your next task force meeting? Not sure when key stakeholders can attend your presentation? Many online tools are currently available to help you collect input on optimal meeting dates and times. With a few strokes of the keyboard, you can avoid the exchange of multiple emails—or the disappointment of scheduling a presentation that few can attend. Here are some free online scheduling tools:
Convening Online Gatherings
With shrinking budgets and jam-packed schedules, more prevention professionals are gathering in cyberspace. Many online tools are currently available to support meetings, webinars, and distance learning courses. Below are some examples:
- Adobe Connect
- Microsoft Office Live Meeting
The Internet has made it easy to “meet up” with people, but it is up to you to make your meetings effective. Traditional strategies for working with groups do not always hold up well online. Take some time to learn about this medium—and how you can encourage participation and produce results. By the way, several free online tools are available if you just want to hold a conference call, such as http://www.freeconferencecalling.com/.
Sharing Prevention Resources
Prevention may be about people, but there sure is a lot of paper involved! And every document—be it a grant proposal, an assessment tool, or publicity for programs and events—requires some degree of collaboration with others. When exchanged over email, these files can get buried, lost, or edited by different people at the same time. To prevent inbox overload and keep everyone on the same page, consider using one of the following tools that promote easy online file storage and sharing:
- Adobe SendNow
In addition to file-sharing, the following tools also allow groups to come together online—at the same time—to collaboratively develop and edit documents.
- Google Docs
- Microsoft Office Live
Coordinating Prevention Efforts
Simply adding a calendar function to your website can help ensure that people know about—and can plan around—your prevention activities. The following online tools can help you create and maintain an online calendar:
The Internet is teeming with user-friendly tools that can help you streamline your efforts to communicate and collaborate with others about substance abuse prevention. But don’t feel like you need to embrace all things cyber all at once. Choose one tool that meets a specific need and feels like a good fit, and just keep using it. Eventually, it will become second nature to you as well as to your colleagues and community members.
But also keep in mind that the digital world is continually evolving. Today’s tool of choice may disappear tomorrow—or be replaced by something even better. Some sites that can help you stay on top of what’s new in the cyber arena include the following:
Disclaimer:Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by SAMHSA’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies.
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Developed under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies contract. Reference #HHSS277200800004C. For training and/or technical assistance purposes only.