GuideStar International's Blog

May 30, 2012

Transforming your charity by bringing your data to life

Filed under: CSO reporting — guidestarinternational @ 09:30
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TechSoup Global in association with the Guardian are hosting an exciting seminar titled “Transforming your charity by bringing your data to life” on Wednesday 13 June 2012 (8.45am-12.30pm). It will focus on the use of Data and Technology in the charity sector. The seminar will discuss the power of data and how it can be used to progress the objectives of charities and NGOs.

Speakers include: Dave Coplin, Director of Search, Bing, Karl Wilding of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and Nathaniel Manning, Director of Business Development and Strategy at Ushahidi

You can find the agenda here: Agenda: Transforming your charity by bringing your data to life

In essence, participants will be able to explore what relevant data they can share to benefit their organisation and the charitable sector. They will also hear from individuals who have successfully accessed and deployed technology and big datasets in their organisation. A more detailed agenda can be found here.

The event will be held at the Guardian’s London headquarters located at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU in association with TechSoup Global

TechSoup Global is an international non-profit, founded in 1987 on the belief that both technology & data are powerful enablers for social change, driving the creation of innovative solutions and informed decision making.


This is an invitation only event.


The findings of the seminar will then feature as a one-page article in the newspaper and online on the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network.



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 26, 2011

TechSoup Launches Mirco-volunteering Initiative, Donate Your Brain

Filed under: civil society — guidestarinternational @ 09:57
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This post was authored by Becky Band Jain, a TechSoup guest blogger and volunteer.

TechSoup is launching a new micro-volunteering initiative called Donate Your Brain. It allows anyone, anywhere, to help nonprofits and other community organizations with quick answers and suggestions for their Internet, software, and other tech needs.

TechSoup’s Donate Your Brain is a way for nonprofits, NGOs, libraries, government agencies and other social mission-based organizations to ask tech-related questions and get quick answers. Questions posted in our forums, LinkedIn group, or on Twitter will get a rapid response from volunteers. This new initiative is ideal for those of you who would like to get involved with providing tech assistance on the social networks where you are already active.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Search and save the hashtag #TechSoupDYB, and respond either via tweet or following a link to the forum post.
  • View questions & share answers in the TechSoup Global LinkedIn group.
  • Use GoogleAlerts or a similar service to let you know about any new forum posts, blogs or tweets that have been tagged with #TechSoupDYB.

See here for further instructions, or to jump in to the discussion. You choose which questions you want to answer, whenever you want to answer them!

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.

March 28, 2011

11NTC: Reflections on NTEN’s 2011 NTC

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 14:07
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By Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International. This post was originally posted on the TechSoup blog.

With over 2000 attendees NTEN’s NTC conference was abuzz with lots of exhibitions displaying technology on offer as well as workshops and side events (which even included free massages provided by PICnet!). It provided a great opportunity for the American nonprofit sector to engage with the technology sector, as well as each other, to improve the use of technology for social benefit.

TechSoup Global had an exhibition at the Science Fair and many nonprofits in attendance expressed thanks for donations they received from our donor partners through TechSoup, while others asked for more information on what they needed to do to receive them.

However, there were also practical workshops. For instance, the We are Media Workshop that I attended provided very practical and useful tips on how to create videos, while the Popcorn and WebMadeMovies: Taking Your Videos Beyond YouTube (11NTCwebvideo) also shed light on innovative uses of video in the sector. Workshops like Technology in Times of Disaster provided some information on the technology being used to respond to relief efforts — notably by the American Red Cross and Don’t Worry be h-API examined the various application programming interfaces (APIs) being used in the nonprofit and for profit sectors.

Other interesting workshops included: What Is Cloud Computing and Is It Right for My Nonprofit Organization? (11NTCCLOUD), Mobile Invasion: Which Mobile Strategies are Really Working Today (11NTCMobileInvasion), Data Don’t Have to Be Boring: Make Your Case with Compelling Facts (11NTCData), and A Storyteller’s Toolkit – 5,000 Years in the Making (11NTCstory). Google also took the opportunity to launch their Google for Nonprofits at the event.

The sessions are too many to mention in one blog post, but some of the notes and presentations have been made available online (click here for a link to all the sessions and keep checking the NTEN website as more presentations are uploaded). The network was also overwhelmed and Internet became virtually nonexistent so there was limited opportunity to tweet or to follow more information using the #2011NTC hashtag during the session.

As someone that works for a U.S.-based technology nonprofit, but isn’t American and is based outside of the U.S. my first attendance at NTC provided some additional, unique and valuable lessons about how technology is being used by many in the U.S. nonprofit sector. It also shed light on the need for nonprofits throughout the world to use technology to interact with the vast,  diverse and very mature American nonprofit sector (which includes both the large and the very small nonprofits) as well as those beyond American shores. Doing so will enable all civil society organizations to continue learning and consequently improve their service to the public.

I went back to London with renewed ideas for my work but also some practical tips, which I hope will help me be able to implement them.

February 11, 2011

Introducing the TechSoup Global Contributors’ Summit

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 17:00
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This post originally appeared on TechSoup’s NetSquared Blog and was authored by Amy Sample Ward.

TechSoup Global Contributors' Summit LogoFor 23 years, TechSoup Global has been working to build networks — networks of organizations that need technology support, networks of corporations that are willing to donate their products, networks of funders interested in building the capacity of civil society, and networks of technical volunteers.

In the last six years, we have built two formal networks — one of more than 24,000 on-the-ground technology activists via our NetSquared initiative; and the other of capacity-building organizations, capable of delivering technology solutions to other NGOs in 35 countries around the world. At TechSoup Global, we see that we have reached a critical point: a place where our reach, our programs, our partners, and our contributors can come together to develop and deliver solutions to the entire sector, worldwide, or, at the local level, to one innovative organization at a time.

The TechSoup Global Contributors’ Summit, taking place next week, will be the place where opportunity and action meet. Representatives of our networks and other affinity groups (funders, corporate donors, social media experts, capacity-building organizations, and other social change technologists) will convene at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus to participate in two days of programming focused on provoking discussion about how these networks, and the capabilities that power them, can be effectively leveraged to create greater impact. We will especially focus on welding together product donations, data services, and human capacity to help build truly resilient civil society, both in the wake of a disaster like Haiti’s and in the developing (as well as the developed) countries of the world.

Over the next week, participants will begin introducing themselves and the ideas they want to explore through posts on the blog. You can follow these posts as well as any notes and other posts that emerge from the sessions next week by following the TSG2011 tag.

Stay tuned for introductions and highlights from the Summit!

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

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