GuideStar International's Blog

March 23, 2012

Tell Us About Your Technology

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 12:20
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ImageTechSoup Global wants to learn more about how your organisation uses traditional and cloud-based technology and about your plans for the future.

Be heard! This is your chance to tell us what you need.  Take our survey – it’s short, only 10 minutes, and intended for anyone who has responsibility for recommending, purchasing or managing IT products or services at an NGO including nonprofits, charities, libraries, foundations or similar organizations. All ranges of IT influencers are invited — from accidental techies to IT directors.

By better understanding the tools you currently use and your future plans, we can work with our partners around the world to provide nonprofits like yours the technology resources they need to operate at their full potential.

The survey closes March 23 so please don’t miss out on your chance to tell us about your IT needs.

What are we doing with the results?

In late spring, we’ll publish a white paper with the survey results detailing the responses of nonprofits based in the United States and in 37 countries around the world. The results will support organisations like yours in making informed IT decisions. They will provide insights into how your peers are using technology and into the currents needs and issues around adopting cloud technologies.

If you’re interested in receiving a report on the survey findings, be sure to provide your email address at the end of the survey. We’ll send you the white paper when it’s finished in late spring and it’ll be available for free on our site.


July 25, 2011

How Can Philanthropy and Technology Co-evolve for Development? A Review of the “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development” Report

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 15:53
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by Keisha Taylor. This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global Blog.

Philanthropists, nonprofits, and the development sector as a whole cannot underestimate the role they have to play in understanding and using technology for development. But they must also be informed about the implications of its use. This is one of the key messages I garnered from the lengthy but interesting and provocative Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development report, recently published by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Global Business Network. Engaging the imagination, it puts forward four global scenarios, with an accompanying fictional case study, that describe how philanthropy and technology may co-evolve for development. I’ve summarized the report and its main points for you as an easy introduction to this important topic.

According to Peter Schwartz, Co-founder and Chairman of the Global Business Network “by focusing its patience, capital, and attention on the links between technology and international development, philanthropy will change not just lives but the very context in which the field of philanthropy operates.” While the report does not claim to predict the future, it provides a lot of room for thought to all working in the development sector and for technologists eager to use technology for social good. It not only illustrates how they could influence future developments but how they could respond to a future made even more unpredictable by technology. It examines how philanthropy and technology are now interlinked for development initiatives.

Four Scenarios: Do You Want To Live in Any Of These Worlds?

LOCK STEP: “A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback.”

In this world, philanthropic organisations need greater diplomatic skills to operate effectively because top-down governments will increasingly moderate the environment in which the philanthropists work. This will be sparked by pandemics. Working in the human rights arena will also become more difficult. It may inevitably limit where philanthropists decide to work and cause mergers among philanthropic institutes to increase. Technology innovation is also driven by government and national security concerns, and surveillance technology is increasingly used to monitor citizens, leading to the “fracture” of the World Wide Web as we know it and to decreased entrepreneurship. This, however, leads to citizens’ uprising.

CLEVER TOGETHER: “A world in which highly coordinated and successful strategies emerge for addressing both urgent and entrenched worldwide issues”.

This scenario unfolds an increase in international collaborations and a dwindling of the power of nation states. Transparency and accountability increases as data becomes more available and as the use of technology becomes more important to the work of philanthropists. Technology innovations in energy and water also take prominence. “In 2022, a consortium of nations, NGOs, and companies established the Global Technology Assessment Office, providing easily accessible, real-time information about the costs and benefits of various technology applications to developing and developed countries alike. All of these efforts translated into real progress on real problems, opening up new opportunities to address the needs of the bottom billion — and enabling developing countries to become engines of growth in their own right” is one fictional scene.Collaboration enables governments and the development sector to get and better understand data. This vastly improves the management and allocation of financial and environmental resources and facilitate technology-enabled breakthroughs on climate change and disease outbreaks. Systems thinking and knowledge management become critical skills for philanthropists. And the flow of talent between the business and nonprofit sector blurs the lines between the two types of organisations. Green technology spurs mobile payments development in Africa. Philanthropists also start working in a more virtual way as access to technology increases and cost of technology decreases around the world.

HACK ATTACK: “An economically unstable and shock-prone world in which governments weaken, criminals thrive, and dangerous innovations emerge.”

Coined the doom decade (2010-2020), (so we are actually living in it … if it were to happen, of course) this scenario points to how financial and overall resource scarcity, as well as trade disputes, result in a breaking of partnerships, sparking wars and conflicts, which are played out through the use of technology. Confidence in the use of technology decreases as hacking increases and criminals become more versed in the use of counterfeits. This world, which is filled with IP address thefts, scamming, and viruses affects technology innovation. As a result, “Guerrilla philanthropy,” which focuses on promoting stability and providing basic needs, develops. It tries to identify not only hackers but those technologists who promote positive social change in a very challenging environment. Philanthropist organisations come together using a “fortress model” to counter fraud and lack of trust and to help protect their reputation. They do more work locally than globally. “Dark webs” develop that disallow government monitoring. As insecurity increases, technology tools for “aggression and protection” are in high demand and so are those that allow for hedonistic escape from real life’s stresses.

SMART SCRAMBLE: “An economically depressed world in which individuals and communities develop localized, makeshift solutions to a growing set of problems.”

Within such a scenario, the gap between rural and urban areas increases because non-urban areas have difficulty gaining access to ICT due to a lack of investment in ICT infrastructure. Philanthropic organisations fund grassroots initiatives focusing on the individual followed by the institutional rather than the reverse. Without global coordination, philanthropic organisations become more decentralised so they can quickly identify and respond with local solutions. “Office space is rented by the day or week, not the month or year, because more people are in the field — testing, evaluating, and reporting on myriad pilot projects.” As technology development resources diminish and economic and political instability increases in the developed world, highly skilled migrants return home, spreading knowledge to their native countries and “do-it-yourself innovation” develops. On the other hand, foreign direct investment is scarce because of this. And other problems in the technology innovation ecosystem, such as unreliable Internet and difficulty in accessing capital and markets, persist.

No Future World Without Technology and Collaboration

Clearly a common trait in all of these scenarios is the importance of technology for future philanthropy and the fact that data generated via technology will prove useful for such scenario planning as well as future philanthropic efforts. Collaboration will continue to be a key ingredient for the realisation of poverty reduction, human rights, sustainable development, and political inclusion. The report concludes by saying that “Developing a deeper understanding of the ways in which technology can impact development will better prepare everyone for the future and help all of us drive it in new and positive directions.” This statement rang true as I read each of these scenarios.

A Grain of Salt

However, the report is not without its sceptics. It also does not seem to distinguish between philanthropy from the developed world and the developing world. Therefore, it would be useful to paint a picture that shows what a world that includes philanthropists from emerging and developing countries would look like. The report does say that one “predetermined element” is the “near geopolitical certainty that with the rise of China, India, and other nations, a multi-polar global system is emerging.” However, as we use technology to get even more data to help inform such scenarios, we will increasingly be able to narrow them down to those which are most likely. Or maybe not? For how technology will develop may yet remain unpredictable and, as the report says, “critical uncertainties” will persist. While these scenarios may not play out exactly as described, technology and related data will help us to design more informed scenarios. However, even the strongest advocates of open data must acknowledge that data can also be manipulated, lack inclusivity, and be used to violate privacy and other human rights.

My Take on Scenarios of the Future

I would venture that not only large philanthropists, but civil society organisations, including the smallest, and citizens around the world will indeed have to “co-evolve” with technology to maximise their impact. They must not only adapt to developments in technology but influence the way technology develops to ensure it continues to be used for good. This will help us to create a scenario where the most vulnerable and marginalised receive assistance, fundamental rights are protected, and those that govern can be held to account. A scenario each of us should want to live in.

September 10, 2010

50-Euro Discount for PdF Europe

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 10:42
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This blog post was originally posted by TechSoup Global

Next month, Personal Democracy Forum will be hosting PdF Europe, a gathering of leaders in technology, government, and the social sector in Europe and around the world. The conference will happen October 4 and 5 in Barcelona. If you register with the code “TSG,” you can get a €50 discount off the registration fee.

In June, Becky attended PdF 2010 in New York and covered it here. It will be exciting to see the big ideas and themes that emerge at PdF Europe.

From PdF:

As Europe wrestles with the economic downturn and changes in ruling coalitions in several major countries, the time is ripe to explore how citizens, civil society organizations, and governments alike are using new, interactive communications technologies to address critical problems.

Personal Democracy Forum Europe brings together the top opinion makers, political practitioners, technologists, grassroots leaders, and journalists from across the political spectrum to network, exchange ideas, and explore how technology and the internet are changing politics, democracy, and society.

As with the first PdF Europe last year in Barcelona, the conference will consist of a mix of keynote talks during each morning plenary, a diverse mix of afternoon breakout sessions, and a final plenary panel each day — plus plenty of time for networking, meeting old friends, making new friends, and sharing ideas and projects.

We’re thrilled to be hosting such speakers as Birgitta Jonsdottir (Member of Parliament and leader of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative), Marietje Schaake (Member of the European Parliament, D66, Netherlands), Alec Ross (Senior Advisor for Innovation, U.S. State Department), Marko Rakar (Founder of, Croatia’s most popular political blog), Hakon Wium Lie (CTO, Opera Software), Randi Zuckerberg (Director of Marketing, Facebook), Evgeny Morozov (author of the forthcoming book The Net Delusion: Promoting Democracy in the Digital Era), Martin Gelin (Web Strategist for Rödgrön, Sweden), and Jeremie Zimmermann (co-founder, La Quadrature du Net).

See the schedule for PdF Europe as it develops.

June 25, 2010

#Foundation Week Summary from a Netizen’s Perspective

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 14:14
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Have a look at this post on the TechSoup Blog by Layal Rabat who gives an overview her perception of events as they unfolded during EFC Foundation Week.  It helps to illustrate how the internet has made it much easier to follow events through social media such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook. Read more on the TechSoup Blog …

January 11, 2010

2010: A Year of Online Clouds, Crowds, and Data Visualizations for CSOs?

By Keisha Taylor

We enter 2010 with plans for cloud computing, crowdsourcing as well as mapping and visualisation of data included in the agendas of governments and businesses. CSOs will do well to consider such options as they seek to maximise the impact of their work. Though such applications must be transparent, safe and respect the privacy of users, the potential benefits to those who proactively engage with it can be significant. Have a look at this interesting list of predictions for ICT trends this year.

Recession proof budgets have caused governments and large, small and medium businesses to realise that cloud computing can be a cost effective way for them to provide services to the public. See US and the UK government examples. TechSoup also lists the benefits of cloud technology to nonprofits.

CrowdsourcingRenewed calls for accountability may lead crowdsourcing to become increasingly used to gauge public opinion, solve problems and get feedback, which can inform and direct policies. One example is Vote India’s use of crowdsourcing to monitor the election process in India. However, it is also being used for the questionable Internet Eyes (to be launched in the UK this year), which invites the public to log onto their website to view CCTV footage and search for and report on crimes witnessed. It has even been used to recruit internet volunteers to search for a missing aviator. These are just three of many ways in which it has been used this year and such usage will no doubt increase in 2010.

The mapping and visualisation of data gathered and the use of real time content, may gather momentum this year and help enhance understanding of our world and the way in which individuals and organisations relate to each other within and across borders. It will also aid response to the call for greater transparency as data, which was unknown, inaccessible or muddled comes to light. The Where Does My Money Go prototype developed for the UK government by the Open Knowledge Foundation to reveal budget expenditure is one example of this, while the IT Dashboard provides the public with mapped data on US government spending.

2Paths gave an interesting presentation entitled Show me the Data at the Turning Statistics into Knowledge conference jointly organized by the US Census Bureau, the OECD and the World Bank, which stressed the need to be able to access and link data from multiple international agencies and foundations to answer questions like “Is aid tied to malaria activities making a difference?” As data becomes more readily available, we hope that more will be done with existing data to help us all visually understand what is really needed to realise socioeconomic development.  Philanthropy 2173 also has an interesting take on the ways in which philanthropy can and may use data and ICT this year in their Decoding the Future posts.

As GuideStar International seeks to illuminate the work of the world’s CSOs online we will also be keeping watch on ICT developments to ensure that the CSOs listed on the site can use modern, relevant technology to publicise their work effectively to all stakeholders on GuideStar.  As with all other issues CSOs will no doubt rise to the challenge of ensuring that civil liberties are protected for users of such technology. We hope that GuideStar will be one of the platforms that they use to showcase that work too.

November 17, 2009

Calling all CSOs! UN-DESA invites you to share ICT success stories

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 10:34
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The Civil Society and Outreach Unit of the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) is currently inviting civil society organizations to share their thoughts, experiences, best practices, innovations, success stories on how they used Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs).  Find out more and get involved …

Blog at