Farhan Irshad, COO, HIAS
NetHope Board Chair
A nonprofit board is part of the engine that drives the mission of an organization. The board sets direction and vision, as well as provides the underpinnings for the structure and value it brings. With that said, NetHope Board Chair Farhan Irshad could be considered the “steering wheel” that guides the vehicle of the NetHope Board. Irshad brings his experiences as a COO to this post as well as an exhaustive energy and commitment to helping advance NetHope’s role as a pivotal, relevant, and reputable actor with its many stakeholders, including members, partners, governmental agencies, and ultimately those aid recipients. He wholeheartedly believes in our mission, that NetHope empowers committed organizations to change the world through the power of technology. He is committed to positioning NetHope for success as it tackles humanitarian, conservation, and development challenges
NetHope is grateful and frankly, quite lucky to have the active engagement of Irshad and all of the thoughtful and knowledgeable members of our Board. During a recent interview, he shared these reflections.
NetHope (NH): How long have you been associated with NetHope and in what contexts? What made you decide to take a leadership role with the Board?
Farhan Irshad (FI): I became familiar with NetHope during my years in the field. I was based in Iraq (with Save the Children) in 2003, and it was the first time the NetHope team came and helped us with satellite connectivity for our offices. It changed the way we worked and improved communications tremendously. It helped deliver the programs, stay in communication with HQ, and was vital for safety and security. I have been following NetHope since that time as I was really impressed by the assistance they provided. Fifteen years after my first interaction with NetHope, I was asked to join the Board. I was honored and thrilled for the opportunity. In my first year on the Board, I was Chair of the Finance Committee and Treasurer and then moved into the Board Chair role in October of 2018.
I decided to take the leadership role as I believe in NetHope’s vision and mission. We can provide critical services to our members, that will make programming easier, efficient, and impact-driven. NetHope can make a big impact for our members through technology and collaboration, and I certainly want to be part of that.
NH: In your role as a Board Chair, what opportunities do you feel NetHope provides to nonprofits that would be difficult for them to have access to on their own?
NetHope is well positioned to provide several opportunities to its members. It provides a powerful platform to collaborate and address some of the toughest challenges in the humanitarian world, to use technology for better impact while achieving greater efficiencies. Obviously, NetHope has played a critical role in the provision of connectivity, which is vital to any program, and through rapid response programming. Additionally, through digital transformation, we have an opportunity to transform the way members work to reach out to more communities.
NH: Do you have an example of a positive outcome or benefit an organization has realized through NetHope membership?
Well at HIAS (my current organization), we launched our digital transformation project last year. Our dream is to establish a robust global Case Management System, through which we’ll be able to improve programming, share and utilize best practices, and start to make decisions based on data. We are well underway with a pilot scheduled for our Kenya office by the end of the year 2019.
NH: How do you see NetHope evolving in the future, including its involvement in nonprofit digital transformation?
FI: NetHope can help the sector in variety of ways. We are in the final stages of completing a new strategic planning exercise this year to put together our future vision. The main components of this are 1) Connect the many, 2) Enable the willing, 3) Transform the ready, and 4) Advance the sector. Regardless of where our members are on this spectrum, NetHope can help through collaboration and technology. In the future NetHope will become more of a strategic enabler for our membership. We look forward to aligning our programs to the new strategic plan and helping to drive value for our members so that they can achieve better results.
NH: How can NetHope benefit its tech partners, prospective funders?
FI: Tech partners are a really critical part of NetHope. We are fortunate to have such committed companies that believe in our mission, and who want to make this world a better place through their engagement, technology, guidance, and funding.
NetHope and its members are faced with the toughest challenges the world has ever seen; we cannot deliver on these if we do not have the support of our tech partners and donors. I urge our partners and donors to do more to assist NetHope and its members so that we can build a prosperous future for children, refugees, and all other aid recipients, bycontributing to the global economy, lifting people out of poverty, and driving impact and profitability. Just imagine a world without hunger and poverty! Just imagine a world with a billion more consumers for goods and services.
NH: How do you feel about your recent Digital Hero award for AppDirect?
FI: It was a great honor and visibility for NetHope. The invitation to participate at AppDirect and recognition is a testament to the work NetHope has. I realize that the for-profit sector is having similar challenges to those we’re facing in regard to digital transformation. It is a great way to collaborate and partner, giving so many more companies the ability to provide knowledge and services to our members. It also reminds me how much more we need to do to improve the lives of those who receive aid from the members we serve. NetHope is here to assist them with this journey to transform the world in which we live.