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When nonprofits move together, the world is changed for good.

How can we use their common strategic goals to find more impact and predict success?

August 7, 2021

By Jean-Louis Ecochard, The Center for the Digital Nonprofit

When nonprofits move together, the world is changed for good. So how can we use their common strategic goals, and the readiness of the countries they work in, to find more impact and predict success?

Right now we are at a unique moment in history when many of the world’s largest nonprofits are publishing their strategies – both public and internal – that set their vision for how they will help in achieving the UN (SDGs) and targets by 2030.1

A graphic depicting sustainable development goal number nine: Develop sustainable, resilient, and inclusive infrastructures.

This is why NetHope, in our 20th anniversary year, has started an important initiative to analyze the strategic alignment of its nonprofit Members. NetHope Member organizations deliver over 60 percent of all annual, international, non-governmental aid to developing nations. To give a full ecosystem view we are also analyzing the governments that host these nonprofit’s aid and development programs, and the roadmaps of technology vendors who help support these vital missions.

NetHope has already collected and analyzed the strategies of 58 of these global nonprofit Members, and the digital plans of 48 countries where at least 20 of these nonprofits are present.

Together these artifacts that outline the nonprofits ambitions, theories of change, and power mappings to change the world for good, run to more than 50,000 pages of text. Only 58% of these nonprofit strategies shared with NetHope are available to the public, which makes this analysis broader and deeper than other publicly available analyses and is completely unique to the sector. This is only possible through the special trust of the NetHope ecosystem that has built up over twenty years.

The first findings are to be revealed at the NetHope 20th Anniversary Summit in November. In the next couple of months, early previews of this analysis are being shared exclusively to NetHope Members and to the NetHope tech partners such as the founding partners of the Center for the Digital Nonprofit.

A quarter of NetHope Members’ strategies have already aligned their timeframe to 2030, detailing program activities that will contribute to accomplishing the SDGs. Another 11% have set interim strategic targets for 2025. We note that the refreshes of strategies that formally ended in 2020 have been delayed due to the disruption caused by the pandemic and at this time 18% of our Members are still finalizing these documents.

A bar graph that shows that digital progress has more than doubled among NetHope Members between 2017 and 2021.
Figure 1 - In 2021 all the NetHope Member strategies included multiple digital components, whilst in 2017 only 30% had a digital component or a fully-fledged digital strategy.

We found that every single nonprofit includes multiple digital components in their strategy. (See Figure 1).

This is a marked change from 2017 when a survey of NetHope Members had revealed that 70 percent lacked a digital strategy. Likewise, every one of the 48 countries analyzed, mostly low-to-mid-income economies, have a digital strategy. This was not the case in 2015 when the World Economic Forum was giving reasons for why developing countries should go digital, quoting Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy & Society who had declared that “The digital economy is simply becoming The economy.”

Indeed, the 4th industrial revolution is shaping the delivery of humanitarian, relief, and conservation programs though low-to-mid-income economies in profound ways. We are discovering the essential digital categories that nonprofits have in common that will make a strategic difference by 2030. We are cross analyzing this information with the readiness of the ecosystem that is needed for their success (for example the prevailing country or regional digital strategy), and we are analyzing existing gaps with the roadmaps of the tech sector. Through this we will target the force-multipliers, the key influencing points, and the strategic initiatives where, if we work together, more impact can be found by nonprofits for good. In this way NetHope drives collective impact for all our nonprofit Members and the sector for the next ten years.

The next decade will show how the central promise of the SDGs to leave no one behind will be done in an increasingly digital economy and society.

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of digital technologies, especially for rural and remote communities which are most underserved. Yet, as reported at the World Summit of the Information Society earlier this year “a staggering divide remains between digital “haves” and “have-nots.”

Will the world achieve the SDGs by 2030? This is still unknown because funds are lacking, and the impact of Covid-19 pandemic has created volatility in pre-existing systems, potentially hindering delivery. According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, developing countries face a shortfall of USD 4.2 trillion in the financing they would need in 2021 to keep progress on the SDGs on track for 2030. This is why additional approaches and stakeholders are needed to reach these targets and NetHope is positioned to help be part of that solution.

Developed responsibly and implemented correctly, digital technologies are powerful tools that could boost the progress of the SDGs. Employed by global nonprofits, such as the Members of NetHope, they could have a transformative effect. NetHope Members already conduct programs activities whose outcomes and impacts are strategically aligned with the SDGs. But the hope is to do even more with more digital capabilities. To have even more impact. There is optimism that collective action between large nonprofits and the tech sector could provide a welcome boost to delivering the SDGs by 2030, particularly if philanthropic institutions provide support.

NetHope has shared this optimism about collective action for 20 years, and we intend to continue to deliver impact for all for the next 20 years, as well for the focus point of the SDGs. We are eager to share more knowledge that we’ve gained from the collection of these nonprofits’ strategies – and provide our ecosystem with actionable findings that can help us all find more impact that helps people and protects our environment.

Stay tuned to learn more unique findings from NetHope’s 2030 SDG strategic alignment.

A graphic depicting sustainable development goal number nine: Develop sustainable, resilient, and inclusive infrastructures.

[1] UN (SDGs): As countries plan their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, many with the aim to build back better and greener, they also aspire to achieve the UN (SDGs) by 2030. Adopted by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2015, the SDGs comprise 17 goals and 169 targets that detail the critical challenges facing humanity—and how to respond. Among these aims is ‘significantly increase access to ICT and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’.

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