GuideStar International's Blog

September 14, 2012

Global Cloud Computing Survey on NGOs – 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 13:41
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In 2012, TechSoup Global and its network of partners conducted a survey of NGOs, nonprofits, and charities around the world. The goal was to better understand the current state of their tech infrastructure and their future plans for adopting cloud technologies.

TechSoup Global received answers from more than 10,500 respondents in 88 countries and this data adds to its ever-evolving resources for NGOs, foundations, and the nonprofit community. This extensive study, the first of its kind has also been translated into 18 languages. Its compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand the needs of NGOs around the work in relation to tech and cloud computing. Click here to read it.

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.

February 14, 2012

Tell Your Story In 1 Minute To Win – TechSoup Global’s Digital Storytelling Challenge is on!

Filed under: civil society — guidestarinternational @ 10:45
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We’d like to invite you or your organisation to participate in our 2012 TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge. We’re in the midst of an exciting challenge with learning opportunities and a chance to submit your one-minute video or five-photo slideshow to win excellent award donations from our partners.

This challenge is open to all social benefit organisations regardless of registered status or location.

How to get involved this year

  • Submit a one-minute video or five-photo slideshow to win prizes
  • Register for our upcoming free webinar on post-production (2/16) with David J. Neff of Lights. Camera. Help.
  • Join us for a tweet chat (2/14) about social sharing to learn how to get your video in front of the eyeballs that matter most to your org
  • Encourage everyone you know to participate! Spread the word: www.tsdigs.org
  • Subscribe to our Google group to stay up to date on all of these exciting happenings

Remember that video is the content people are spending the most time with online these days, and digital stories are a powerful way to share the passion and hard work your organization has for its mission! The video is yours to keep and use after the challenge is over.

What’s your organization’s story? Share it now!

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?

Projects we are watching: OpenDataPhilly

Filed under: Access to information,Access to Public Information — guidestarinternational @ 09:38
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by Keisha Taylor

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global Blog

Nonprofit organisations and the public are at the heart of a new Open Government Data initiative in Philadelphia!. OpenDataPhilly, a catalogue of online data, applications and APIs is now freely available to the public. Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, Technically Philly, WHYY Newsworks, NPower Pennsylvania, the William Penn Foundation and the City of Philadelphia’s Open Access Philly task force are partnering on this initiative. Collaboration between government, technology companies, nonprofits, the public and inspired techies is prioritised and this is to be commended. Those involved in the project have been building a community of practice around the topic of ‘open data and government transparency’ but also advocating for the release of more and quite varied datasets.

In September the Open Data Race was launched, enabling non-profits to nominate data sets that they believe if released by the City of Philadelphia would further their missions. The general public can vote for their favourite datasets (and the non-profits that nominated them) until 27th October. The Open Data Race partners will work with the City of Philadelphia to release the winning data sets. At the end of the contest, cash prizes will be awarded to the winners. They are also organising hack-a-thons, to encourage civic hackers to build applications with the newly released data. It is a very innovative way of promoting dialogue between nonprofits, government, the public and the technology community to make open data real and useful for all.

This interesting open government data initiative illustrates very well how nonprofits can be encouraged to engage with open government data. According to Robert Cheetham, CEO and President of Azavea. “Several major cities have released open data catalogs over the past few years. But these municipalities all have limited resources and struggle with prioritizing which data sets will be most useful. The Open Data Race is an experiment aimed at both building a community and constituency around open data and open government as well as helping the City to prioritize the inevitably limited resources it can apply to releasing data sets while also delivering social value.” This project is definitely one to watch!

More info can be found here: OpenDataPhilly Invites the Public to Vote for Data to be Released for Non-Profits

December 7, 2010

Conceptualizing IT for development and social change

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 10:23
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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

There is a wide belief that information technology can have an important role in development as well as in social change more specifically in transforming economies (by making them more efficient and effective) and societies (by making them more open and democratic). However, whenever this topic is raised I ask myself: What kind of technology? Is it enough to have computers and access to Internet, or is it rather necessary to use technology in a specific way? Finally, I always wonder what is the role of the IT industry in a country in fostering development and change?
Let’s look at the IT sector of Kosovo. According to IDC In 2008, the Kosovo IT market totaled $98.23 million. The total includes both private and public sector spending. IT market year-on-year growth was 15.3% in U.S. dollars. Measured in Euros, the market expanded 7.8% year on year in 2008. IDC expects the Kosovo IT market to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1% over the five-year forecast period to $144.84 million in 2013.

However, majority of this market is oriented towards hardware and networking equipment purchase and distribution and there is a very small percentage that is composed of software products. Furthermore, about 30% of this market is driven by government purchases, with additional 10-15 % being driven by international organizations currently operating in Kosovo. As such majority of IT providers target the government and international organizations as their main source of income. There are very few companies or individuals that develop tools or provide service to market segments that are smaller, like the NGO sector.

On the other side most of the NGOs complain that the mainstream IT providers are too expensive or that they provide services, which are not necessarily useful in their day-to-day operations.

Another interesting finding from talking to NGOs is that many of them could use some training, in general IT but also in topics that are more relevant to their work. But, if we look at the IT training providers offers in Kosovo, we can find all the mainstream courses, Cisco Academies, ECDL training and so on. These training are not a great help to most of the NGO community members.

So what is apparent from Kosovo case is that developing IT sector can foster some economic development (through taxes, jobs etc.) however, despite potential,  not necessarily it always impacts innovation and social change.
I would like to hear experiences from other countries. What were the incentives or drivers that promoted “technology in use” to drive innovation and change? Are there cases that are replicable to other contexts?
I hope to get some hints on these and other questions during next weeks first meeting of the Community Driven Innovation initiative here in Kosovo. In the meantime, I look forward to any ideas coming from elsewhere.

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 17, 2010

IT in the NGO sector: Still not making IT count

Filed under: Access to information,civil society,ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 09:28
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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

Following my initial post, this time I will try to bring to you what I have found out in the last couple of weeks about information technology usage and support patterns by the non-governmental organizations in Kosovo. I started off by picking a sample of NGOs from the TechSoup and RBF technology donations beneficiaries list. Most of these organizations are leaders in their field of work and have been around for a considerable amount of time. As such I expected that they would be quite proficient, if not innovative, in the use of information technology. Nevertheless, I found a rather diverse picture.

Most of the organizations I met are at the very infancy of information technology usage. They all have computers and are connected to the Internet, but very few of them have the knowledge to use IT as a driver for reaching their objectives. Most organizations use basic office packages (MS Word and Excel) and e-mail. They all have websites, which are mostly used to publish reports and other publications and in rare occasions to communicate with their audience.

The situation is more balanced when it comes to the usage of social media tools, especially Facebook. All of the organizations I met indicated, enthusiastically I must say, that they are using Facebook heavily both to promote their work and to stay in touch with their audience. Usage of blogs and Twitter is much more limited. While some organizations have indicated that they have had attempts in the past to operationalize blogs as part of their efforts to enable greater scale of transparency and participation, other are in the initial phases of planning to implement blogging solutions in the future.

There are, however, notable exceptions that prove the rule. I have met with organizations that can be a case study of strategic use of information technology. In these cases technology is the real enabler of their operations. They use it to power their internal operations, to communicate and promote their work, but also to crowd source a part of their information gathering. I was really impressed by some of these people.

This brings me to the second issue I want to talk about, the issue of what drives the development (or not) of the information technology in these organizations?

A common denominator in all of these organizations is that most of the technological change is driven by internal forces. There are limited cases when a website or a specific thing has been driven by a donor funded initiative, but in majority of cases it’s the individuals within the organizations that serve as IT help desk, computer programmers, website developers and so on. Very few of these organizations have established support or consultancy links to the IT industry. The reasons for these are various. Lack of information on the side of the NGO or the high price of the services provided by mainstream IT providers are among the top reasons. Even with website development, when not done in house, most of the NGOs deal with small boutique web design companies. As such the information technology usage in these organizations is highly vulnerable to turnover in staff. Furthermore, any further development is conditional on the knowledge and information possessed by internal staff members and cannot benefit from wider expertise in the field.

One finding that was surprising to me is the fact that there is very little communication and experience sharing between NGOs themselves. It is expected that most of these organizations, over time, would form the so-called communities of practice and would share experiences and good practices not only in using IT, but also in other areas of their work. It looks like there is still a lot to be achieved in this direction.

To summarize:

  • IT usage by NGOs is still in its infancy. “We have computers”- as one of my interviewees put it.
  • Social media is picking up as the main driver of technological change.
  • Use and development of IT highly dependent on internal capacities.
  • Knowledge and experience sharing, internally and externally, could prove beneficial.

Finally, I would like to close by noting that NGOs form just one part of the puzzle. The other part is the IT sector in Kosovo, about which I will write in my next post.

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

February 11, 2010

New Law on Non-Governmental Organisations approved in Iraq

Filed under: civil society,CSO reporting — guidestarinternational @ 09:15
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The Iraqi Council of Representatives has just approved a new law on Non-Governmental Organisations. A summary of the primary provisions of the law can be found on the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law website. As of the end of March 2008 there were 600 NGOs operating in Iraq (Find out a bit more about the NGO sector in Iraq).  Those interested in learning more can request a copy of an analysis of this law from the ICNL, which will be available in the coming weeks.

February 9, 2010

Haiti: ‘A Republic of NGOs’ – but how do all these local NGOs help?

Filed under: Accountability,Aid Effectiveness,Philanthropy — guidestarinternational @ 16:18
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By Keisha Taylor

Did you know that Haiti has the highest number of local NGOs per capita in the world? It has been coined ‘A Republic of NGOs’ because of it. Before this year’s earthquake, 3000 local NGOs in a population of 10 million people were operating in Haiti, which is one of the poorest countries in the world due to its colonial past, coups, crippling debt, and susceptibility to natural disasters. It follows that the proliferation of local NGOs is understandable. NGOs help to provide services that the government won’t or don’t have the capacity to provide. However, the article Why Haiti Should Beware Professional Do-Gooders examines how the increase of foreign donors and NGOs in Haiti, though providing much need assistance, is also capable of limiting sovereignty and government capacity, which can thwarts overall development efforts. Giving resources that aren’t needed can cripple the local economy (as was the case where donated clothes in Zambia crippled the local textile industry).  The simple concept of matching needs with resources must be applied to collaborative efforts of donors, NGOs and very importantly the Haitian government. Only through working together, in a transparent and accountable manner, will long term development goals be achieved and NGOs must ensure that regardless of good intentions, their actions help and not hinder this process.

January 15, 2010

Crowdsourcing and Text messaging reaches new heights to help those in Haiti affected by Earthquake

Tents set up after the Earthquake in Haiti's capital (Source: United Nations)

The earthquake that brought devastation to Haiti this week has left thousands of people needing water, food, clothing, shelter and medical supplies, all vital for those that have survived. NGOs have been working hard to provide support and supplies to those affected and a lot of people throughout the world want to help.  The American Red Cross is one NGO that has already received $3 million, through text message donations by appealing for $10 donations from the public and Ushahidi, which was created in Africa by Africans has utilised a crowdsourcing platform to gather information and report about the disaster in real time.

On the Ushahidi website, visitors can submit reports about their knowledge or experience of the disaster and updates are also available via Twitter, You Tube and Flickr. Live updates are also provided via their Google map. Ushahidi also highlights whether a source of information has been validated or not, which poignantly reminds us that despite the benefits of access to information, the need for information that is valid and reliable is still of high importance. For instance, today Twitter debunked a rumour, which falsely claimed that Jet Blue and American Airlines were flying doctors and nurses to Haiti for free to help those affected by the Earthquake. Some authorities have also warned the public about donating to false nonprofits that have been set up to swindle those who give to them.

We hope that all the victims and their families get the help that they so urgently require and that technology can help them to get that help faster.  GuideStar (US) is helping people to find information online about US nonprofits working in Haiti that they would like to give too. They have also provided some tips for giving wisely to nonprofits as donations roll in.

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