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Spotlight: Skills and Leadership for a Digital Age

Building digital capacity in the nonprofit humanitarian sector centers NetHope's mission and flows through all of our work streams.

Anthony Kimani works with the Global Technology and Digital Solutions (GTD) unit of NetHope Member World Vision International, in the area of Humanitarian IT Operations. He is based in Nairobi, Kenya. Last May, he traveled to Ghana as an instructor for a Disaster Preparedness Training sponsored by NetHope and the Internet Society Foundation, with support from the Internet Society’s Ghana chapter. His assignment was to train future trainers in Point-to-Point/Multipoint (PtP/MP) wireless connectivity technology. The group simulated a field scenario that required them to set up connections in an emergency setting. Those that had prior knowledge and expertise were on hand to support the other team members.

Kimani has also conducted NetHope-sponsored training and field-based PtP/MP simulations in Sudan, as well as VSAT training in Uganda. He is a strong proponent of organization-wide digital literacy, and favors the train-the-trainer approach as a means of local capacity building.

In partnership with local chapters of the Internet Society, NetHope will conduct emergency telecommunications response training, and simulation in four countries – Ghana, Guatemala, the Philippines, and Panama. The training has five modules: mobile satellite communications and cabling; VSAT; point-to-point connections; networking; and sustainable power.

“Disaster preparedness program is actually a misnomer," says Dagbjartur Brynjarsson, NetHope’s Senior Manager for Disaster Preparedness and Response, and a veteran of years of developing and delivering training.

"The goal is self-sufficiency and safety.”

ACCELERATING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION FOR THE GREATER GOOD

“Digital is a major enabler of humanitarian work and action,” says Kimani.

NetHope was born from a desire for the humanitarian nonprofit sector to be able to access and leverage affordable digital solutions, in collaboration with the technology sector.

Our Center for the Digital Nonprofit (CDN) accelerates the digital transformation of NetHope Members and the nonprofit sector at large, through innovation and collaboration. Part “think-and-do-tank,” part network for change, the CDN benchmarks nonprofits’ digital abilities, helping them understand and fill gaps in their digital skills, publishes evidence-based research on promising digital trends, solutions and impending challenges, and serves as a program incubator.

The scope and breadth of CDN research includes studies ranging from a broad analysis of the digital strategic alignment of nonprofits, the role of ethics in Artificial Intelligence in the nonprofit sector, to the development of a climate strategy framework, and a collective action framework to support displaced, migrant, and refugee youth.

A key outcome of CDN research on digital skills was the realization that to drive digital transformation, organizations need to close the digital skills gap between staff, managers and executives and expand the digital leadership of senior leaders and executives across the organization

In 2023, through funding by USAID and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, we will provide executive learning through the NetHope Digital Leadership Institute, a professional development offering designed to build digital leadership skills within the nonprofit sector through a dynamic combination of interactive online and peer learning experiences. NetHope has secured support for 300 nonprofit executives and senior leaders to be trained at no cost over the two-year program. By increasing alignment on digital know-how in organizations, this training aims to unlock the potential for digital transformation, enabling greater impact. 

INVESTING IN DIGITAL PROTECTION

Cyberattacks against the nonprofit sector have been growing at an alarming rate, yet cybersecurity skills are expensive. In early 2022, with support from CISCO, NetHope launched a Digital Protection Program to address critical cybersecurity gaps among our Member NGOs. Later that year, with funding from USAID, Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub, Technology Division (ITR/R), we were able to add a critical training component to this program.

In partnership with SANS, a leading cybersecurity training provider offering accredited security training for more than 30 years, we are training 73 learners from 40 global humanitarian organizations in 11 countries – enhancing their skills and forming community bonds which we hope will help power the next generation of cybersecurity leadership and collaboration.

COLLABORATE, INNOVATE, IMPACT

The “NetHope Effect” suggests that being part of a collective action approach provides opportunities for nonprofits to innovate and create greater impact around the world.

Throughout the year, NetHope Members collaborate in topical working groups related to their areas of interest and expertise. Anthony Kimani serves as a co-chair of the Emergency Preparedness and Response working group. Students enrolled in SANS Cybersecurity Training can participate in the Digital Protection and Information Security Working Group. Nonprofit Members also collaborate with technology partners via trainings and webinars.

All of this collaboration culminates in our annual Global Summit, the largest joint gathering of the humanitarian nonprofit and technology sectors, which in 2022 brought together nearly 2,000 people from 122 different countries and showcased real-world examples of innovative digital solutions in action to support the global humanitarian sector.

For more than 20 years NetHope has supported the nonprofit sector in developing the digital skills and leadership they need in an ever-changing world. 

“Organizations that have strategically leveraged digital in their work have realized greater efficiencies and impact,” says Kimani. “But strategic use of ICT and digital requires a digitally literate organization, right from the leadership downwards."

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