The newer backchannels at the Nonprofit Technology Conference pretty much fizzled in my opinion. The Gabbly chat rooms were empty. Twitter was talked about more than it was used. And I’m unsure whether texting had a conference-wide impact. But the older blog-like backchannels were alive and well. Several hundred posts and photos, along with a number of audio and video recordings, held up a mirror to the conference and brought it to a larger audience. What follows here are five of my favorite comments and one truly impressive compilation of annotated links.
Phil Klein expanded on a compelling vision of the nonprofit sector as a single organism:
To me, this event is where I can most clearly see that the nonprofit sector is a single vast enterprise, made up of a wide diversity of organizations and constituencies sharing from few to many common ideals, interlinked through network organizations and associations, common funders, communities of need, interest, commitment and geography, and most fundamentally, by communications technologies that facilitate the actions of citizens, the coordinations of efforts, the coallescence of brain power, the fueling of civic entrepreneurialism and innovation, and the day to day work of small teams loosely joined.
The best question that Deborah Elizabeth Finn asks is about how we find the people we want to meet with at a conference of this size:
The second challenge was in finding the people I wanted to talk to. There were any number of folks in this category – some of whom I had never met in person. It wasn’t easy to locate them, even with the Twitter backchannel. My one real Twitter success was in putting out an APB for David Geilhufe; he actually showed up in my corner of the plenary session room within ten minutes of my expressing a desire to find him. In many other cases, I merely heard vague rumors that someone I longed to meet had been sighted.
Reflecting my own sense that the nonprofit technology community is still too anxiety driven to stray far from simple tech promotion, Michelle Murrain pushes the community beyond that with a bunch of great questions (the numbers are mine):
(1) Asking whether technology implementations in their organization in the past have really facilitated their mission? In what ways have they not? (2) Asking whether technology played a beneficiary, damaging or neutral role in internal organizational dynamics and staff morale? (3) Asking, before implementing a new technology – what problem is really attempting to be solved? is it a problem that can be solved in any other ways? (4) How does increasing use of networking technology, on-line presence, and internet communications facilitate or hinder work that is done face to face? (5) Making choices about technology not just based on cost/TCO or feature set – but to bring in issues of the effects on staff, organizational dynamics, and the role of factors such as organizational determination of data destiny, source and ownership of software, and environmental impact. (6) Being mediators between vendors and nonprofits – to look at issues that are technological, and issues that are about personality, behavior and organizational structure and dynamics (on both sides). (7) Looking at the bigger picture – how does what an organization does with technology affect the larger community, and the planet?
Michele Martin loves these questions too, and adds three of her own (again, the numbers are mine):
(8) If we select a technology solution, what organizational and managerial changes do we need to make in order to ensure that we achieve the objectives of the technology implementation? (9) How does this technology improve conditions for our primary customers? (10) In what ways does this technology support and facilitate human connection? Does it appropriately replace people-to-people interactions or does it make us more faceless and anonymous?
Shannon Turlington’s write up of Dave Weinberger’s keynote address is especially good reading for any of you who are stuck with Intranets that can’t quite capture the knowledge that you know is out there in your organization:
Weinberger’s address was about the power of the new web, which enables us to take back control of our world from broadcast media, restore its complexities and externalize meaning. Instead of being passive consumers, we are now active participants shaping the web into what we want it to be, and look at how knowledge sharing is exploding. If we want the same thing to happen inside our organizations, we have to give our people the right tools, make those tools easy for them to use and then get out of their way.
Finally, Beth Kanter displays her information packrat skills with a thorough annotation of almost ninety web pages that have been tagged recently as having to do with nonprofit technology. Many of these are specific to the 2007 NTC.