GuideStar International's Blog

April 30, 2012

Building Better Solutions Together, Faster

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 12:56
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You’ve probably heard about hackathons, but have you heard of the ‘Weekend Movement’? Glenn Fajardo at TechSoup Global talks about the Weekend movement that is gathering steam in Malaysia in a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review post. It is describes it as “a community of people that builds crafty projects and innovative solutions to real-world problems over weekends.” So you can imagine that though hacking is a part of it, this is much more that a data hackathon. There are Makeweekends  and Changeweekends too. It is another example of how communities, nonprofits, and the technical community can work together to solve pressing problems. You can read more it the post in the SSIR review here. Please feel free to comment!

November 21, 2011

Just Do Data

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 09:47
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By Jessica Galeria

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog

(Portland, OR) — “Data is the new oil.” In an otherwise humdrum Closing Keynote address by Nike’s VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Hannah Jones, this struck me as rather a provocative statement. She’s trying to incite a hotel lobby full of nonprofiters, philanthropists, MBA students, CSR practioners and other business-minded social entrepreneurs “to be disruptive, to innovate and to create a sustainable new world.”  She wants us to get smarter about how we work for social impact – with data.

Three very full days with 2,600 attendees and 395 speakers at the 2011 Net Impact  (NI) conference – against the über-eco backdrop of Portland, OR – and this is my main take-away:

Data is the sexiest new thing at the intersection of business and social impact.

OK, OK, I concede that data is neither new nor sexy. But it is being leveraged by the social sector in innovative and forward-thinking ways that are grabbing attention on a national scale. Here’s an NI-inspired look at three different objectives and examples of how do-gooders  “do data”:

1.      To efficiently deliver needed products and services

…for instance, in the chaotic aftermath of a natural disaster. Consider NetSquared Mashup Challenge winner Patrick Meir, Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi, who crowdsourced and mapped needs in the critical hours and days after the devastating Haiti earthquake, using free and opensource software developed by his organization.

Or Mercy Corps, which is using a mobile app to get food to people in need in Haiti and Kenya through a mobile money (m-wallet) product. By giving recipients electronic food coupons instead of food, they also drive economic development among local food producers – and they pair the funds with financial literacy training. Phil Oldham, Country Director, is quick to emphasize the double bottom line: in addition to a critical social benefit, the tool streamlines distribution, saving the organization precious time and money.

2.  To crowdsource funding and social innovation

Crowdsourcing actually is kinda sexy – or at least it’s the much-touted “big thing” in technology for social good. To borrow a phrase from X-Prize, the goal is nothing less than “revolution through competition.” Ooh, la la.

Less sexily put, crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model used to source both solutions to social problems and cash to underwrite promising projects.  Examples include Groupon and Facebook Causes  (respectively represented by Kyle Klatt, Manager of Development and Matt Mahan, COO at Net Impact), but also Kickstarter, The Hoop Fund, Global Giving, Citizen Effect, Kiva, our own NetSquared, and the exuberant onrushing player in the tech space, Campus Party, with their Hacking for Something Better (H4SB) initiative… I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

3.  To measure impact for smarter iterations and social enterprise field-building

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, cautions a well-worn business adage. Today, organizations have access to more data than ever, from program results and survey data to site traffic and donations. Yet these mountains of information are really only useful if they spark improvements that further the mission. A panel at Net Impact called “Data-Do-Gooders: Organizations Using Metrics to Rock their Missions” shared how to select the right data, how to share it (with the right people), and how to incorporate it into new and better iterations of the programs using  free tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights.

From a 30,000-foot view, data is also used in spades by social investors and philanthropists for proof-of-concept and to demonstrate social and financial ROI, which has positive spillover for thought leadership in the field. Social investing and social enterprise have rapidly gained traction in the investment landscape, largely because the data has been used to tell a compelling story (i.e. doing well by doing good). The need to facilitate due diligence and provide 501c3 equivalency data for international philanthropy came up repeatedly at NI – thank goodness for initiatives like Great Nonprofits, Charity Navigator, and TSG’s NGOsource and  Guide Star International programs.

Let us now turn our attention back to the green-catered, LEED-certified hotel lobby and Nike’s views on sustainability and innovation. Using a soccer analogy, as is fitting for an exec at the world’s leading sports apparel company, Ms. Jones recounted that Brazilian mega-star Pelé once famously said, “I don’t go where the ball is, I go where the ball is going.”

And I wonder:  is data the ball, or does data point up where the ball is going? Or both?

SAP InnoJam: Innovating for a World Population of 7 Billion

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 09:43
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By Bijan Yaminafshar

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

Recently my colleagues at TechSoup Global and I attended a very interesting event at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, sponsored by SAP and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). On October 31 the world population reached 7 billion and UNFPA is leading a global initiative to build awareness around opportunities and challenges of a world of 7 billion people. This requires action insustainability, urbanization, access to health services, and youth education. SAP is the exclusive analytics partner for the campaign. SAP technology solutions help engage with population data to understand the challenges, interact with the data to see how choices impact our future, and explore data to help make better decisions. To get a flavor of this, take a look at the interactive population dashboardswhich were developed using SAP business analytics products. These dashboards will be used by the UN, local governments, economists and NGOs.

About 200 people attended this two-part event. The morning session was an executive roundtable on “Innovating for a World of 7 Billion.” (You can watch the recorded session here.) The panel included:

The afternoon session “SAP InnoJam: Actions to Innovatefor a World of 7 Billion” was a working session that was broken up into several groups. The specific challenge presented to participants was focused on youth empowerment in less-developed countries. The goal: develop solutions to help the youth generate economic benefits through access to education, healthy lifestyles, and employment. We split into 8 teams and developed solutions that were presented back to a panel of judges at the end of the day. Four proposals were selected to move forward for SAP supported Strategic Technical Skilled Volunteer project in 2012.

Before starting the working sessions we were introduced to the concept of Design Thinking, which was to be used in developing our solutions. This methodology for innovation combines creative and analytical approaches using the real world challenge of youth empowerment facing nonprofits, corporations,and government agencies alike. SAP is using these Design Thinking philosophies at their SAP TechEd events around the world.

It was a well-executed and worthwhile event. The morning panel discussion was very good in framing the problem, and I was especially impressed with Dr. Kavita Ramdas’ views (52 minutes in to this recorded session) on how technology is not necessarily a solution in itself, since it can be used for both good and bad. What role do you think technology can play in curbing population growth?

October 26, 2010

Can there be social innovation in post-conflict countries?

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 13:57
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By Bernard Nikaj

This post is cross-posted from the NetSquared Community Blog – you can read the original post and any comments here

My name is Bernard Nikaj and in the next couple of weeks I will come to you with a number of posts providing updates on the work we are doing in the Balkans region – and more specifically in Kosovo – to foster cooperation between non-governmental organizations and information technology sector and individuals.

I come to this project after many years of work in the intersection of the two sectors. I started off as an IT manager in an international NGO working to provide shelter and food to returnees after the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Since then I have been involved in a number of projects, mainly advising the government and private sectors on information technology enabled organizational change. When I was proposed to work on bringing both sectors closer, I couldn’t wait but to start the work.

This project aims to basically understand and provide answers to the following questions:

  • What do current tech-help resources look like in region?
  • Who are the leaders, facilitating access to help?
  • What organizations and systems are in place? And finally
  • Where are the gaps, and how might we complement existing structures, systems and approaches to providing NGOs and activists with technical support?

We are trying the answer the above questions by using Kosovo as an initial case study. This undertaking holds the promise of enabling us to explore and understand these issues in a very peculiar setting, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Kosovo has become an independent country in 2008 making it one of the youngest countries on earth. The very process of statehood has been marked by a large input from the international community, including NGOs, multilateral and bilateral organizations and individual governments.

Secondly, due to high international presence, Kosovo has benefited from quite a vivid not-for-profit sector with around 7000 registered organizations. While not all of these organizations are active, there a respectable number of professional and highly productive organizations working with different groups of people as well as government to advocate for issues ranging from human rights to European integration.

On the other side, again due to international presence and the demand created by the various organizations, Internet penetration in Kosovo is around 38% and growing. Combined with the young population (more than 50% of Kosovars are under 25 years of age) and a sustainable IT industry, the potential to use the information and communication technologies to foster social change and economic development is unprecedented.

Having in mind the above mentioned facts, I have embarked on a campaign to start a dialogue between the IT and NGO communities in Kosovo, with the aim of transferring applicable knowledge and practices  gained in Kosovo to the other countries of the region as well. The initial step, in the last couple of weeks, has been to talk to NGO community and understand their IT usage patterns: software, hardware and networking, most importantly I tried to understand their IT support patterns and their linkages to the IT industry. At the same time I talked to the IT community to see how they might best respond to the identified needs in the NGO sector.

My initial round of interviews has already identified a couple of cases where IT stands at the heart of social innovation. In the coming weeks I hope to build on these experiences to enable sharing not only within the NGO community but also across communities, especially IT and NGO ones.

So far it looks like both sectors are very much eager to talk to each other. In the weeks to come it will become clear whether this eagerness materialises and what’s the best way to achieve that. Stay tuned for more.

This post is part of a series exploring social innovation in Central and Eastern Europe. We hope you’ll follow the series, ask questions, and share your experiences! To view all posts in the series, follow the tag cee-innovation

November 26, 2009

Caroline Neligan Presents the GuideStar Model to Colombian Civil Society

At the invitation of Conexion Colombia Caroline travelled to Bogota, Colombia from the 16-19 November 2009 to present the GuideStar model to a group of over 200 NGO representatives. The meeting, titled ‘Fundraising and Innovation for NGOs’ explored a range of initiatives that promote the work of NGOs and connect them to donors and other stakeholders at national and international levels. A summary can be read in Spanish and English.

César Bocanegra, Angela Escallón, Caroline Neligan, John Hecklinger

During her visit, Caroline also met with several leading organisations supporting social development and Colombian civil society:

Conexion Colombia channels resources from all around the world to a portfolio of Colombian NGOs and foundations and links diaspora Colombians to their country through a range of information services.

Compartamos con Colombia, is an NGO that promotes the Colombian nonprofit sector through strategic support and capacity building, the promotion of philanthropy and social investment, and by raising awareness of the importance of social responsibility with young entrpreneurs.

The Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation, Accion Social, coordinates, promotes and carries out international cooperation policies, plans and projects which contribute to the social and economic development of Colombia, and to reducing the poverty of Colombians who have been affected by violence, illicit crops and who live in conditions of vulnerability.

And last but not least, ONG por la Transparencia (NGOs for Transparency) seeks to increase NGO visibility and make publicly available information that seeks to strengthen the credibility of the sector and increase public support for the work of these important organisations.

There was significant interest in how GuideStar might help illuminate the work of Colombian NGOs and promote a culture of transparency and information that will help connect Colombians both at home and abroad with national NGOs and the communities in which they work. We look forward to continuing these initial conversations.

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