By Lauren Woodman, CEO
Unarguably, this was the most frequently uttered phrase from onstage presenters at the NetHope Global Summit 2017 in Vancouver, Canada. They said it as they peered out with squinty eyes, trying to connect with a hard-to-see audience in the Pan Pacific Crystal Ballroom.
And, you know what? Nearly two weeks after the Summit, I still find myself saying, “Wow, it’s really bright up here!” But this statement doesn’t reference a blinding light. It’s about the dazzling light of possibility and hope. When I look out, I can clearly distinguish the source of that inspiration: our extensive, committed NetHope community.
In addition to having a family reunion at the Summit where we shared, learned, networked, and heard from some truly remarkable presenters, we formally launched The Center for the Digital Nonprofit. This was cause for celebration. By providing the guidance, resources and tools, and grantmaking that nonprofits need for digital transformation, The Center will help nonprofits achieve the promise of tomorrow today.
This work, though, requires that we think not in incremental but in exponential terms. We have the opportunity to ask “what if?” to guide our aspirations. What if we could accelerate aid delivery from Points A to B, from A to Z? What if we had the equivalent of two-day—or even one-day—“prime” aid delivery in the aftermath of a disaster? What if we could shift greater input and decision-making to aid recipients? What if we could monitor and measure impact seamlessly, in real time? And what if the people and communities we serve could provide direct feedback – ratings, even – on the work we do?
And, while this may be unsettling for some, what if we were doing such a good job of solving problems and increasing potential that we put ourselves out of business?
The work our member organizations do is difficult: addressing poverty, building peace, preserving the climate, protecting children – none of these are easy tasks. But I am optimistic that we can address these challenges effectively. We have every reason to believe that, together, we can accomplish this level of transformation and even more than we can imagine.
Why this certainty?
History is in our favor. In the for-profit world, digital transformation has radically changed so many industries – entertainment, travel, taxis, real estate, supply chain, health care, and the list goes on. In every case, after disruption, we see broader reach and more relevant offerings to individual consumers.
We have the foundation. In an increasingly networked world, the idea that “a rising tide lifts all boats” has never been more true. For 15 years, we have worked together to develop shared resources and tools like the NGO Reference Model, the Nonprofit Digital Skills Framework, NetHope Academy, and many other tools that help all of us have greater impact and reach.
We have the power of our NetHope community. Our members represent more than 50 of the world’s largest humanitarian, development, and conservation organizations, delivering two-thirds of all international aid delivered through nonprofits. We are engaging entire organizations, from the CEO to field programs. When you add the expertise of the tech sector with this on-the-ground experience, this is a potent combination. Collectively we have the breadth, depth, and experience to establish the best practices, standards, and new approaches that will allow us to transform the sector.
This is your Center. Over the next month, we will be working with members to establish a baseline of digital readiness. This will help us prioritize member needs and give us critical insights about where attention is needed today. And working with partners, we will be bringing world-class tools and resources created for the private sector to the nonprofit sector so that we can share, learn, and benefit.
Ultimately, this work will transform our members and the sector, and by extension, communities all around the world.
It’s a significant challenge, but more importantly, a truly awesome opportunity to have a meaningful, lasting impact on our world. Thank you for being a part of this journey.
I look forward to sharing more with you as The Center advances this important work.
To learn more about The Center for the Digital Nonprofit, please see our Fact Sheet.