Attendees treated to diverse and intriguing line-up of speakers including keynote Kentaro Toyama
By Lauren Woodman, CEO
While technically the last day of the NetHope Global Summit 2018, there was no loss of momentum among the attendees (Who knew?: Perhaps Guinness is an energy drink?). The day’s presentations and sessions underscored the explosive growth and opportunities that disruptive technologies are offering both the private and public sectors.
I was pleased to introduce one of NetHope’s newer members to begin the day: Team Rubicon is an organization born out of the needs that surfaced in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Team Rubicon identifies itself as a veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life. As a young organization, Team Rubicon is recognized for its digitally focused approach to delivering aid and we are fortunate to have them as part of the NetHope family.
Alex Salazar, VP Products, Developer and Integration Ecosystem for Okta, a founding partner of NetHope’s Center for the Digital Nonprofit, reminded us that “the biggest part of transformation is not technology. That’s the easy part.” Getting digital transformation right requires us to: have executive buy-in from the top all the way down to the bottom; rethink budget allocation for innovation; make hard choices in our organizational design of people and culture; and commit to long-term iteration. Watch a recording of Alex’s presentation.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to hold great promise to radically transform the way the international NGO community solves the enormous demands of humanitarian, development, and conservation challenges. While still in its nascent stages, the initial excitement over AI’s potential is being overshadowed by questions and concerns related to its far-reaching impacts. NetHope’s Leila Toplic, the No Lost Generation Tech Task Force lead for NetHope, led a fascinating panel discussion of diverse thought-leaders with representatives from Catholic Relief Services, USAID, Microsoft, IBM Research, and Google.org discussing the promise, potential, and pitfalls of AI technology. Watch a recording of the livestreamed panel discussion. You are also welcome to view an introductory webinar on the topic on the NetHope Solutions Center.
Cisco TacOpsManager Sue-Lynn Hinson and Mercy Corps’ West Nile Team Leader Grace Becton joined NetHope staff: Global Programs Director, Field Operations Rami Shakra; Director of Institutional Partnerships/Chief of Party for USAID/GBI Ray C. Short; Director, Information Management and Crisis Informatics John Crowley; and Lead Project Consultant/USAID Connected Programs Tim Timbiti, as Brent Carbno, Global Programs Manager, presented on the power of NetHope’s collective impact model. Each person stressed the vital linkages between the many member organizations including sharing people, information, and equipment as well as the trend beyond just responding with aid, but also building in-country capacities where disasters are apt to occur again, such as the Caribbean region. This collaboration also included grant programs, such as the Google-funded Device Challenge, administered through NetHope, which gave more than 38,000 devices for effective projects across regions including the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. And Director of Informatics for NetHope, John Crowley, discussed the challenges and opportunities offered by better incorporation of crisis informatics into disaster recovery. Ray Short and Tim Timbiti outlined the Demand Aggregation and government aid programs focused in Uganda, a model which can be applied to other geographies. Watch a recording of the livestream.
Following an afternoon of Global South and North America Chapter planning meetings and breakout sessions, Kentaro Toyama, a professor at the University of Michigan and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology, talked about the promise and the limitations of technology. Despite astounding advances in technology and hopes for corresponding positive societal impact, over the last 50 to 60 years, we have not conquered poverty, increased charitable giving, lessened fossil fuel energy consumption, or improved income equality. He argues that for the most part, tech (only) amplifies underlying human forces. Social pressure comes first, and tech solutions come second. He posits there are three requirements for positive impact: individual and organizational heart, mind, and will. Anything less than that combination is, at best, a waste of resources. Kentaro’s call to action was for those of us in the global nonprofit sector was to reflect on and nurture these three characteristics and to organize to influence powerful entities. Watch a recording of the livestream.
Last, but certainly not least, I revealed the location of the NetHope Global Summit 2019, which frankly was a relief because all week attendees have been trying to extract that information from me and NetHope staff in various unscrupulous ways! For the strongly persuasive Icelandic contingent, sorry to disappoint; but for those of you who are fond of the sun, that location is (drum roll): San Juan, Puerto Rico! And, careful observers will note the cocktail umbrellas and rum extended this theme at the Closing Reception sponsored by Open Systems.
I look forward to reconvening at the NetHope Global Summit 2019, but even more importantly, I look forward to the collaborative work we will continue between now and then.