On the 30th of January we took part in Sektor 3.0 – a conference organized by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the Information Society Development Foundation at the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice. The event was focused on the applications of technology for NGOs and provided a great opportunity for third-sector organizations and activists, supporting service providers and academics to gather and share their experience and insights on the topic. We particularly enjoyed the contributions made by the participants listed below.
ICT for effectiveness and efficiency in nonprofits and NGOs – Terry Stokes on the British experience leads the London-based Lasa (@LasaICT) – an organization which helps a number of third sector and government bodies across the UK to deliver efficient and high quality services. A charity itself, it offers knowledge, support and resources to those active in the third and public sectors. In his pragmatic lecture: Working better and more efficiently, Terry chose to share the experience of British NGOs in their attempts to better fulfill their missions through the application of ICT. Some of the key takeaways for those facing a similar challenge:
- cloud technologies and online tools enable data storage, collaborative work and networking
- the tools offer cost savings and enable third-sector organizations to work more efficiently. Check Lasa’s Knowledgebase for specific tools. The ICT Knowledgebase is one of the UK’s leading websites for non-profit technology information.
- online tools offer a chance to broaden the scope of operations and influence – thanks to technology, operating on a global scale becomes a viable option ever more often
- the tools enable better work monitoring and efficient data recording and reporting to donors, funders, local authorities and other stakeholders involved, e.g. through CRMs; the tools can ensure transparencywhich is very much appreciated by the stakeholders of nonprofit organizations
- similarly, shared Open Data helps to demonstrate the impact and thus communicate more effectively with stakeholders
- social media facilitate communication and collaboration within an organization as well as with its environment; they are used for PR purposes, community building, stakeholder communication, fundraisingand market research
- mobile technologies create new opportunities for fundraising, improved communications and service delivery, e.g. mobile web and location-based services
ICT enables digital service delivery, for example: self-help solutions such as knowledgebases, community web forums or live chat advice from online advisors or smart assistants.
Great thanks, Terry!
In the second part of the event, we had an opportunity to participate in workshops run by academics, practitioners from business organizations and third sector activists. We liked the workshops delivered by Paulina Urbańska and Agata Jałosińska in particular. The former delivered a workshop devoted to infographics, while the latter focused on software selection for organizations.
Infographics for better communication
Paulina Urbańska – a freelancer and an academic from the Information Design and Editorial Graphics Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, as well as an active participant in the Katowice MediaLab – delivered an engaging and well-crafted presentation, during which she shared practical tips on how organizations can enhance their communications through information architecture design and data visualisation and, in particular, how to reach your audience with meaningful infographics. Among other things, Paulina discussed the challenge of proper infographic structuring. Infographics can be structured according to 5 different organizing principles, namely, through location, alphabetical order, time, categories and hierarchies. The best effects are, however, achieved when you apply a combination of a few ordering principles to structure a given infographic. A very good example of such a solution is the well-known Napoleon’s March infographic. All in all, a good infographic is well-structured, readable, true (non-manipulative) and compliant with aesthetic conventions. By contrast, a poor one is overloaded with information and misleading. We will spare you the sight of a poor one. Why not please the eye with a lasting masterpiece instead. If you would like to see more examples of good infographics, Pauline recommends you to visit the following services: Worldmapper, World Tourism Organization UNWTO, Good.is. If you are into data processing and visualisation, I bet Paulina would very much like to see you at the Open Data Day at MediaLab Katowice – the local edition of the 2013 Open Data Day Hackathon. And if you are into NGOs, do not miss Anna Kuliberda’s workshop on open data for NGOs to be delivered at the upcoming event.
On how to select the right software for your organization
Yet another insightful workshop was delivered by Agata Jałosińska – the editor of the web portal technologie.org.pl and a content manager at the TechSoup Foundation, which was established by TechSoup Global in 2009 as an independent Polish foundation. Agata offered a load of practical advice on how to understand the needs of a specific organization (based predominantly on its size) as well as how to augment the performance of an organization by adopting the right suite of software solutions to help it operate most efficiently. It was a very good idea to involve the audience in a discussion and thus generate very specific down-to-earth examples of problems and solutions from the participants’ daily practice. Thus the participants themselves offered quite a few useful tips for others to benefit from. It turned out that many organizations might actually solve their problems and improve their operations by using very simple tools and ICT technologies and services, which are often freely available, such as, for example, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar or Dropbox. Some people are unaware of the opportunity, and the TechSoup Foundation does their best to help them benefit from it.
E-volunteering as an opportunity to gain technology support
During the last part of the conference, i.e. during the networking session, a colleague replaced Patrycja Rokicka from the Good Network Foundation to talk about the e-volunteering project as well as the potential benefits of engaging the support of e-volunteers. What follows from the presentation is that there are people out there – online – ready to help you take advantage of ICT to advance the social projects you are after. Patrycja might not have been able to deliver the presentation herself, but you may still find it in the conference resources. If you would like to find out more about e-volunteering and explore the opportunity it may hold for your organization, do not hesitate to visit the web services e-wolontariat (in Polish) or e-volunteering (in English).
The Technology Forum Sektor 3.0 for NGOs in Gliwice provided truly fertile ground for learning, sharing and networking for those interested in technology and nonprofits. We are looking forward to more such events in the future.