Our Blog

Our Blog

skastrul's picture

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

It is the most wonderful time of the year. It is a time when we wonder what the next year has in store for us, and we share in the wonder of receiving and giving gifts.

At i.c.stars, we believe that leadership is making opportunities for others. In our program, one of the measures of leadership is how many opportunities we make in business, community, and on our team.

elannert's picture

Eric's Answers: Should a Company’s Social Media Presence be Directly Connected to a Personality?

I recently submitted my answer to a question on “LinkedIn Answers” posted by a user named Iris. The question is asking for some advice on how to handle a company’s social media presence. Please view the thread here

Culture Shock: How to Help Your New Hires

Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking. Will I fit in? Will I have things to talk about with my co-workers? Will my work be appreciated? We all face these questions no matter what our role.

elannert's picture

A Helping Hand for Your Referral Partners

We have gone live with a new benefit calculator for one of our clients, Concord Group.

It’s an important tool, not only because it can be promoted directly to the audience and to the accountants who are potentially going to use it, but because we’ve recently discovered a new way to use it.

We got a call last week from one of Concord’s agents who helps in sales.

skastrul's picture

The Power in Entrepreneurship

Often, when people think about i.c.stars, they think about the technology training and the leadership component of developing a thousand community leaders. Entrepreneurship is what you get when you focus on both technology and leadership.

elannert's picture

Kill your website

We’ve spent lots of time with clients over the years in CMS tools / information maps / ia strategy, etc. etc. We are trying a radical departure from this approach and moving toward marketing mini-sites - also known as landing pages.

Road Trip to Professional Development

I’m a traveler by nature. I like to explore and be in charge of my trip. I prefer driving whenever possible. There is an old saying: “A road trip will test your relationship, whether it’s with a spouse, friend or family member.” Road trips will show you what you are made of.

The Untapped Power of Individual Giving

I love being able to brainstorm. Especially with a small group of other Directors of Development. I am part of a group that meets every quarter to talk about different ideas and things that have been successful within our organizations. We can learn from each other, innovate, and have a better understanding of the organizations we work for.

skastrul's picture

The Art of Opening Doors for Others

This past September we were really fortunate to meet Hans Renman. He’s the CEO of Stockholm’s Tänk Om, a highly successful leadership program for school administrators and principals in Sweden. He’s planning to bring the program to London and thinking about scaling into the States. Before that, he founded Young Business Creatives, the most innovative high school in Sweden. He delivered a fantastic high tea on Tuesday that really inspired a lot of folks at the table. He’s got some really revolutionary ideas about education and change.

skastrul's picture

Starfish Are Scary: The Lasting Value of Making Things

A few months ago we had some folks over at our house. Tiffany brought her son, Cameron (one of my favorite little guys in the world). Cameron was the only kid in the house, which is not a problem because I have a lot of learning toys designed to spark the imagination and creativity. But I don’t have any computer games.

Welcome to Demo Island

I must admit, reality television is a guilty pleasure of mine. Now in it’s 25th season, Survivor stands strong. This got me thinking, how can we take a similar concept to highlight the innovation in Chicago? Without the voting off of course!

elannert's picture

B2B Start-up Tip on Online Presence Building

For businesses looking to enter the online world, how would you rate the importance of: A) a website, B) a blog, C) email marketing, and D) social stream interaction?

Poll Everywhere: Using Technology to Engage Your Audience

The bottom line is that public speaking is intimidating. I remember hearing from one of my mentors that the day my stomach isn’t all tied up in knots is the day I need to quit what I’m doing, because I have lost my passion.

That’s why it’s funny that a “speak-a-phobe” like me decided to step public speaking up a notch by adding audience participation at our last innovation conference. I’ve always thought it would be cool to poll the audience and figure out the makeup of the room before you start speaking. You know, tailor your talk to the interests of the room. This makes the speaker over prepare as they never know what turn the talk will take once the audience has a say.

skastrul's picture

Commencement at i.c.stars: Witnessing Transformation

Cycle 26 is the first cycle to commence at our new location. If you’ve never been to an i.c.stars commencement, then you definitely want to get yourself on the invitation list, because it is a profound, moving and humbling event. Commencement means the beginning of something new, and in every new beginning we reflect on where we’ve come from.

Three Books to Add to Your List!

I’d like to share three very important books for professional development today. I’m recommending these books because I believe all three will help you make the most of your time, your talent and your professional relationships.

skastrul's picture

Civic Responsibility and Innovation

I read an article in The New York Times entitled, “Why Our Elite Stink,” by David Brooks, about the old-boy, WASP elites. These people were behind the times on equality, but they had a real sense of responsibility for the larger institutions, and for people, and they owned their “stewardship mentality.” As Brooks says, “They were the temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations.” The rules were such that if you didn’t live up to those things and didn’t adhere to the stewardship, you were kicked out.

elannert's picture

The Next Level in Digital Marketing: Building Engagement

When clients start working with us, they really want to know how to become consistent about publishing content. We’ve implemented a lot of great tools, techniques and processes and we’ve found a way to help our clients find their voice. And once you’ve got the beginnings of an audience, you enter the next phase, where the challenge is: how do you engage them, or provide interactive content for that audience?

elannert's picture

The E-mail Marketing Hype Cycle

We have been doing e-mail newsletters for clients since 2005. In the last few years, we’ve had 25 different clients across a variety of industries focused on B2B marketing. Recently, we started to build a highly interactive calculator that would allow clients to project their traffic and the results they’re likely to get from investing in content-driven marketing - e.g. blogs and newsletters. In the process of building that model, we went back and looked at our real data to figure out how long it takes to build different audiences and a following of subscribers and blog visitors.

DebsCane's picture

The Wrong Skills Gap

Much has been made during this latest Presidential election cycle about whether America’s work force has the skills needed for 21st century job opportunities. More so, national, state and local candidates on both sides of the aisle all seem to want strategies for retraining workers, whether it comes from big government or private enterprise.

skastrul's picture

i.c.stars Annual Report 2012

Social Enterprise and Workforce Development Organization - This year we opted to produce our annual report in a video.

skastrul's picture

Don't be invisible

Recently, I took a wonderful trip to Denver to talk about expansion. I met with some local technology leaders, some folks in IT staffing, and some people in the government sector. The topic was i.c.stars Denver. Our hosts were Zia Consulting and Harvey Nash.

Two Tools to Stay in Touch

It’s an exciting time for i.c.stars. After twelve years at our original location, we moved to a larger place where we can all be on one floor. In the midst of all this excitement, some challenges also came up. There were some work-from-home days, as well as, days when I did not have a phone line in the new office. It usually takes a couple of weeks to get all the kinks figured out when moving to a new location. For example, my office phone, for whatever reason, just keeps dropping calls.

elannert's picture

Social Media ROI Calculator

The purpose of my blog is to share learning and insight that our team accumulates through experience. This information tends to be in the form of quantitative or framework outcomes.

Social Media is more than what meets the eye

I have to admit it. I enjoy a good Tweet.

Obviously, I have a blog and a newsletter. I would like to sincerely thank you for reading.

skastrul's picture

Love, Fear, and Technology

Recently we had the pleasure of having Adrian R. Gardner, the CIO of NASA, over for high tea, which was quite enjoyable. I was invited to a reception in his honor later that day. Adrian made some wonderful and inspiring remarks about the future of technology and technology education.

skastrul's picture

What is tangled in your web?

Recently one of our residents, Ruben Alvarado, came into my office and schooled me on something that we talk about quite often: oppression. Ruben told me about what he calls the spider web. We all have a spider web, and it connects us to those things that make us who we are. Our family, community, jobs, lifestyle, habits, and clubs are some of the things that make up our spider webs. We take these things with us everywhere we go, and sometimes we happily share what we have on our web with others. Other times we may want to hide our webs because they are a reflection of a past that we may need to separate ourselves from.

What sparked my passion

When I was young, my parents instilled a great sense of community in me. I marched alongside my uncle as he was protesting when I was a kid. He worked at a factory in Decatur, IL. They all walked off the job because they were a union, and they wanted better benefits. He was out of work for a long time protesting. I walked alongside him and really understood the manufacturing community. I participated in Earth Day protests and other things along those lines when I was young. I knew that community was something I was interested in, and growing up I would volunteer a lot, but I never knew it could turn into a job.

i.c.stars Announces Relocation to a Larger Chicago Office Space

On July 23, 2012, i.c.stars announced that it will be relocating to a larger office space in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.
skastrul's picture

From Russia to i.c.stars and back

Ten women from Belarus, Russia visited i.c.stars through the Heartline International Community Connections Program.

brownp17's picture

Pooling Cars and Pooling Applications in the Course of a Month

The studio was a mix of nerves and confidence today. Over the course of a month, the interns have been preparing their response to an RFP issued by train car pooling company, TTX.

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
Industry retention rate:
College attendance rate:
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
Average 12-month earnings before program:
Average 12-month earnings after program: