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NetHope in 2020: a year of collective action

The year 2020 has proven what NetHope Members and partners have known for a long time. Technology is not the future of international development – it’s the now.

December 22, 2020

By Lance Pierce, CEO, NetHope

‘Unprecedented’ is a word that has been bandied around more than perhaps any other this year. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected people across the globe, and many have been compelled to go mostly digital, moving our day-to-day activities onto small screens and into apps in ways we might scarcely have imagined one short year ago. As always, people in the developing world have been hardest hit. And as always, NetHope and our Members have been responding in innovative and creative ways – using technology to reach more people, more effectively.

Here are five ways NetHope has helped further the work of the development, relief and conservation sectors this year.

  1. Responded to three disasters


Throughout 2020, NetHope has been working to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the ways we have identified the needs and amplified the work of our Members this year include:

We also responded in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, providing connectivity for people who were cut-off after the blast. And right now, we are assessing the situation in Nicaragua and the wider region following Hurricanes Eta and Iota, and planning a coordinated response. Special thanks go to The Patterson Foundation and Amazon Web Services for funding our disaster response in Central America.

In 2021, as the global relief effort gets underway to distribute Covid-19 vaccines, look for NetHope and our Members in every region of the world to be engaged and leading as we help ensure equitable access and distribution of the cure to the most vulnerable among us.

  1. Hosted the biggest and most diverse NetHope Global Summit ever


The 2020 NetHope Global Summit went fully virtual for the first time. As a result, we were able to welcome more than 1,300 people from across the globe to the five-day event! We had people working in program delivery, communications and fundraising, organizational management and governance, and more! As well, of course, as our Members’ resident IT experts. And that’s not to mention all of you wonderful supporters, sponsors, and NGO workers who joined from outside the NetHope membership!

NetHope’s continent-wide Regional Chapters, where regional peer organizations gather to share information and coordinate action across areas of common interest, and NetHope’s Working Groups, our subject matter innovation labs for helping all Members increase their positive impact in the field, were in ample evidence, providing valuable and practical Summit content for citizen, industry and stakeholder alike.

In short, this year’s Summit was more diverse than ever – in every way. Based on what we hear from those who attended, we believe that the fascinating plenaries, discussions and workshops will act as a catalyst for action and change in the sector, as we continue our shared work toward a sustainable future.

  1. Grew the NetHope community, with three new Members, a new CEO and a new online home!


I was thrilled to join NetHope in November 2020 as the new NetHope CEO. For me it was an opportunity to rejoin the development world after having worked for over a decade with many of NetHope’s corporate partners and conservation Members on the issue of climate change. In the coming decade, as we collectively create synergy between the Sustainable Development Goals and the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, NetHope will be working with our Members and industry partners to develop technology-driven initiatives bridging these global goals that are so critical to our common future.

Before my arrival, the NetHope team was busy as ever expanding our community. We recently welcomed three new and dynamic organizations into the NetHope family. The United Nations International Computing Center, The Salvation Army International, and War Child Holland became our three newest Members. We are thrilled to welcome them all and are eager to work with them in the coming year!

In recognition of the new needs experienced by this growing family of impact organizations, NetHope also launched our new digital community for the benefit of Members. This community offers the opportunity for wider and deeper collaboration and learning between and for NetHope Members, so we are enormously excited to see this idea become reality.

  1. Shared ground-breaking sector knowledge


This year, as in years past, NetHope has led and facilitated the production and publication of important technology standards that help the major humanitarian and development organizations of the world better serve their beneficiaries. In 2020, working with industry and NGO partners, we launched the award-winning Frontline Humanitarian Logistics Data Standard. This Data Standard will ultimately help nonprofits and humanitarian organizations to more effectively organize and manage complex supply chains in demanding situations such as disaster and emergency response. Moreover, our Artificial Intelligence Working Group has released the first instalment of the AI Ethics for Nonprofits toolkit, which enables organizations to have vital conversations around ethics and ensure AI projects are unbiased and fair for the communities being reached. Over the last 12 months, we have also hosted 32 webinars, released a cutting-edge whitepaper to show what it takes for an organization to become truly ‘digital’, and brought together thousands of individuals from across sectors and countries to collaborate, learn and integrate technology more effectively in their programs.

  1. Concluded our ten-year Global Broadband and Innovations Alliance


In September 2020, NetHope concluded its ten-year, $25 million Global Broadband and Innovations Alliance with USAID. Designed to promote internet access and applications in target countries worldwide, the effort carried out successful project engagements in approximately 20 countries across four continents. Find out more and read the ten-year report.

2020 has been a difficult year for so many. NetHope itself has undergone a period of reflection, re-strategizing, and rightsizing. I am proud of this team’s accomplishments and as a result of their hard work and the leadership of the NetHope Board of Directors, we are well prepared for the new challenges of 2021. So many have been hurt by the pandemic, however NetHope and our global community have weathered all the recent storms – literal and figurative – and are ready to tackle the new and emerging challenges to the lives and livelihoods of the beneficiaries and stakeholders we serve.  

Our strategy this year has rightly been ‘back to basics’, as NetHope refocuses on the core activities that Members value and that enable better outcomes for stakeholders. We will be continuing this approach for the remainder of our budget year. In 2021, however, we will start getting back to an even earlier set of ‘basics’ and questions present at the founding of NetHope, namely, how can technology enable a better, more secure, sustainable and prosperous life for everyone on a small blue-green planet. As we embark on our 20th anniversary year, we will be engaging our community of industry partners, NGO Members, funders and others to develop a slate of new activities and a strategic plan for the coming decade, to work across sectors and issues and to be a catalyst for new ideas and bigger impact.

NetHope succeeds when our Members and broader community succeed, and NetHope is better able to grow and innovate when we are helping foster growth and innovation for all the participants in the ecosystem around us. We hope 2021 is a less ‘unprecedented’ year. But regardless of what the coming 12 months will bring, the need for more thoughtful and strategic technology interventions at scale will not go away. NetHope is committed to being your thought partner and will continue pushing forward, helping our Members do good better through the ethical and effective use of innovative and ground-breaking technology.

We wish you and yours health, safety, community, and a sense of accomplishment as we close out the year, and we at NetHope are excited for what we can do together with you in the year to come.

With gratitude, in service, and for a better 2021 to you and all of yours.

Lance Pierce

CEO, NetHope

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