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137 posts categorized "Science/Technology"

Weekend Link Roundup (March 1-2, 2014)

March 02, 2014

Ukraine_protestorOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Big Data

In the Washington Post, Brian Fung reports that more than a dozen civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, "are backing a set of principles targeting the widespread use of data in law enforcement, hiring and commerce."

With the advent of big data, are "we to assume that government and business will be 'upended', 'revolutionized', 'disrupted' or some other exciting verb but [that] nonprofits and civil society will remain unchanged?" asks Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. Not likely, says Bernholz. "On the contrary, the implications of networked digital data for both addressing our shared social problems and changing how we voluntarily act, how we associate with each other as independent citizens, how we organize for change or protest, are profound. Isn't it time for a real discussion of privacy, association, and autonomy -- about civil society -- in a networked data age?"

Education

Guest blogging on Education Week's Living in Dialogue blog, Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School, argues that "the lack of process is precisely why Common Core needs to be abandoned, especially by public service and teacher unions."

Health

In a post on the Forbes site, Geoffrey Kabat, an epidemiologist with an interest in lifestyle and environmental exposures as factors in chronic disease, suggests that reports that we may "finally be seeing the beginnings of a reversal in the upward trend in obesity" -- a conclusion based on one statistic from a study conducted by researchers at National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) -- belies a more sobering reality: there was no change in obesity either in children and adolescents or in adults over the ten-year study period.

Innovation

Innovation in social change works is great, writes Dr. Robert Ross in a special supplement to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, but it's not everything. "In fact," adds Ross, "when it comes to addressing today’s urgent social problems, from education and public health to civil and human rights, innovation is overrated."

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 4-5, 2014)

January 05, 2014

Cold_thermometerOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. Looking forward to a year of great posts and stimulating disussion in 2014!

Communications/Marketing

What does it take to measure your marketing or communication strategies well? That's the topic of this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival, which is being curated by the tireless Beth Kanter. Here, according to Beth, is how the carnival works:

To learn more, check out this post on Beth's Blog.

Impact/Effectiveness

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, the Case Foundation's Kate Ahern looks at two reports released in the fall that "provide new insights on promising financial returns from a range of impact investments."

Nonprofits

Gene Takagi, a San Francisco-based nonprofit and exempt organizations attorney and thoughtful observer of the sector, shares ten of the most popular posts published on his Nonprofit Law Blog in 2013.

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Designing a Responsive Granting Process

November 25, 2013

(Parker Mitchell co-founded and for ten years was co-CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada. He recently moved to New York and joined, as an expert-in-residence, the Blue Ridge Foundation, which funds and incubates new technology-based ventures that advance opportunity and upward mobility. This post originally appeared on the Foundation Center's GrantCraft blog.)

Headshot_parker_mitchellWe began with two questions:

  • Are leading nonprofits fully making use of the explosion of digital and online platforms to find new ways to up-end their program models, scale, and radically remake their programs so that they are more effective?
  • And if not, could we bring the investing principles of the technology world to help leading nonprofits find the time, money, and resources to experiment with digital platforms to change their program model?

Three months ago, Blue Ridge Foundation New York teamed up with leading software firm ThoughtWorks and the Parsons School of Design to create a grant program for poverty-related nonprofits that would try to bridge the effective organization/technology adoption gap.

We began by offering a package of support that included a combination of funding, incubation services, in-kind software support and design, and design thinking consulting. Each package was worth roughly $150,000. But we also knew we didn't have all the answers and wanted to design a transparent, responsive granting process that would help us pin-point nonprofits’ digital technology needs.

What is this gap, and why should funders care?

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'BRIDGE' to Somewhere: Progress to Date

November 21, 2013

Technical development of the first Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities (BRIDGE) release is currently about halfway to completion. If you've been following the project, you know that BRIDGE aims to revolutionize data interoperability in the global social sector by uniquely identifying all the world's NGOs in one database. In the post below, BRIDGE project manager Chad McEvoy ([email protected]) checks in with a progress report. The post originally appeared on the Markets for Good site and is reprinted here with permission.

BRIDGE-logo-FinalConsidering its ambitious scope, the project has unfolded as efficiently as we could have hoped for, given that it's dependent on collaboration between four distinct partner organizations -- the Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, GuideStar, and TechSoup Global -- represented by contributing team members on both sides of the Atlantic, who are in turn coordinating with a Polish software development firm, all the while consulting with a technical advisory group composed of six extremely busy specialists and sector thought leaders — themselves spanning three countries. Nonetheless, I am happy to report that the foundation of BRIDGE has been laid and we are making steady progress.

From its inception, BRIDGE has been conceived of as something that will have the potential for unexpected positive outcomes.

Just as no one involved in the creation of Universal Product Codes (UPCs) in the 1970s could have anticipated or planned for the development of the current crop of smart phone scanner apps, we expect BRIDGE to provide a foundation for future innovation, but we don't yet know precisely where that will take us. We know BRIDGE will have far-reaching implications, perhaps revolutionizing philanthropic information-sharing, but we can only begin to imagine the breadth of the project's ultimate impact.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 12-13, 2013)

October 13, 2013

Columbus_Day_wallpaperOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

In a guest post on Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications blog, Wild Apricot's Victoria Michelson shares her top three tips on writing for a nonprofit audience.

The folks at the Communications Network have added four more guest posts -- by Chris Wolz, president/CEO, Forum One Communications ("ComNetwork Gumbo"); Beth Kanter ("Designing Transformative Communications Capacity Building Programs for Nonprofits"); Maryland Grier, senior communications officer at the Connecticut Health Foundation ("Making the Invisible, Visible"); and Akilah Williams, communications officer at Crown Family Philanthropies ("What's Your Movement"?) -- featuring observations, takeaways and ideas from the network's annual conference earlier this month.

Data

In a post earlier this week, Markets for Good's Eric Henderson announced the campaign's theme for October: Business Models for Open Data. As Henderson explains: the task "is to explore what's working now...what we should be doing to develop sustainable business models for open data....[and what] the right questions [are] to move forward."

The Rockefeller Foundation has posted a draft Code of Conduct that "seeks to provide guidance on best practices for resilience building projects that leverage Big Data and Advanced Computing." Written during this year's PopTech & Rockefeller Foundation workshop in Bellagio, Italy, the guidelines include the following:

  • Wherever possible, data analytics and manipulation tools should be open source, architecture independent, and broadly prevalent.
  • Infrastructure for data collection and storage should operate based on transparent standards.
  • Use Creative Commons and licenses that state that data is not to be used for commercial purposes.
  • Adopt existing data sharing protocols.
  • Report and discuss failures.

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The Brave New World of Good

October 08, 2013

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't."
(William Shakespeare)

"Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted."
(Aldous Huxley)

Globe-handsWelcome to the Brave New World of Good. Once almost the exclusive province of nonprofit organizations and the philanthropic foundations that fund them, today the terrain of good is disputed by social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, impact investors, big business, governments, and geeks. Their tools of choice are markets, open data, innovation, hackathons, and disruption. They cross borders, social classes, and paradigms with the swipe of a touch screen. We seem poised to unleash a whole new era of social and environmental progress, accompanied by unimagined economic prosperity.

As a brand, good is unassailably brilliant. Who could be against it? It is virtually impossible to write an even mildly skeptical blog post about good without sounding well, bad -- or at least a bit old-fashioned. For the record, I firmly believe there is much in the brave new world of good that is helping us find our way out of the tired and often failed models of progress and change on which we have for too long relied. Still, there are assumptions worth questioning and questions worth answering to ensure that the good we seek is the good that can be achieved.

Markets

The potential of markets to scale good is undeniable. The most successful nonprofit and foundation efforts can only be replicated in multiple locations, while markets routinely attain regional, national, or even global scale. But even "philanthropic investment firms" like Omidyar Network, which was born out of eBay-inspired market zeal, have added outright grants to nonprofits as an essential part of their change strategy. Perfect markets exist only in economic theory. In the real world, avarice, corruption, politics, and power conspire to exclude minorities of all descriptions from their share of market rewards. Social policy and philanthropy, for all their faults, persist precisely because market booms benefit too few and market busts hurt too many.

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 29-30, 2013)

June 28, 2013

Hancock_150th_stampOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Society

Responding to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder on Tuesday, a decision that found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be unconstitutional, Niki Jagpal of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy writes that the court, in so ruling, gutted "key provisions of the VRA that protected historically disenfranchised populations." Specifically, the decision undoes the "'preclearance' requirement in the original VRA," which compelled "local governments and states with a history of voting discrimination to get federal approval before making any changes to their voting procedures and laws." Although the court's decision doesn't nullify Section 4, its implementation now depends on Congress enacting "a new statute determining which states and individuals it applies to."

Jagpal continues,

The right to vote is the most fundamental way in which citizens have a voice in our democracy. In addition to Congress needing to reinstate the key provisions of the VRA, it is imperative that nonprofits working on voting rights issues be provided with the kinds of support they need to complement the hoped-for statue.

Philanthropy has an opportunity to contribute to the public good by helping to restore implementation of the now-gutted provisions. And grantmakers must consider that the Court’s ruling is likely an outcome of a sustained, well-funded movement among conservatives to roll back provisions of the VRA and the Civil Rights Movement....

Communications/Marketing

Kivi Leroux Miller shares a slideshow from her webinar "21 Things Nonprofit Marketers Can Stop Doing!" -- a list that includes outreach campaigns designed with the general public in mind, rather than efforts focused on groups likely to support your cause; letting lawyers or accountants dictate marketing strategies; and paying for custom software instead of using commercial or open-source solutions that are more likely to be updated as technology and the market changes.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 11-12, 2013)

May 12, 2013

Poster_mothers-rightOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Megan Sullivan shares a list of tools for resource-constrained nonprofit communications officers.

Fundraising

Frustrated by your organization's inability to turn its good work into consistent, sustainable donor support? Hop over to the Fired-Up Fundraising blog, where fundraising consultant Gail Perry shares a very good list of the ten things you need to understand about how fundraising really works. Recommended.

Impact/Effectiveness

On the Markets for Good blog, Laura Quinn, executive director of Idealware, argues that as much as funders and others value the idea of more and better performance data from nonprofits, most nonprofits do not have the resources to provide high-quality data about their own effectiveness. How do we get them to a point where that’s possible? asks Quinn.

It would take more than just a little training or a second look at their priorities. They'd need sizable investments in a number of areas. They'd need help with technology, and to understand how to best make use of data and metrics on a limited budget. They'd need a rationalized set of metrics and indicators that they're expected to report on, standardized as much as possible per sector with a standard way to provide them to those who need them.

Funders need to understand what is and isn't feasible, and to redirect the focus of their desire for community impact evaluations from small nonprofits to the university and research world so the nonprofits they support can be unencumbered to work toward a better world....

Building out the "information infrastructure" of the social sector, as Markets for Good and its supporters (the Gates and Hewlett foundations prominent among them) propose to do, is an admirable idea, writes Bridgespan's Daniel Stid on the Markets for Good blog. But "if we build it," he asks, "will the putative buyers and sellers in the envisioned marketplace -- the philanthropists and nonprofits spending and soliciting money within it -- use it as planned?... [W]ill better information change their behavior?" What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Good Read of the Week: 'Women and the Web'

March 08, 2013

Women-and-the-Web_coverToday is International Women's Day, and a whole host of events and discussions celebrating extraordinary women and highlighting the inequities women around the globe continue to face are taking place -- many of them online. Yet few women in the developing world are aware of these online activities, let alone able to participate. Despite all the knowledge and opportunity the Internet has created over the last two decades and the millions of lives it has transformed, women in many parts of the world have little or no access to the mother of all networks.

According to Women and the Web (104 pages, PDF), a report from Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, an average of only 21 percent of the women and girls in 144 developing countries have access to the Internet, compared with 27 percent of men -- a weighted gender gap of 23 percent. And the gap widens to 33 percent in South Asia, 34 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, and 43 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. The situation is even more serious, the report argues, when one factors in the tangible benefits of Internet access for women. These include increases in women's income potential and a greater sense of empowerment. Indeed, the longer a woman has been active online, the report finds, the more likely she is to engage in activities that generate economic benefits.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 23-24, 2013)

February 24, 2013

Oscar_statueOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, NTEN's Katya Andresen looks at new data from eMarketer.com that confirms what a lot of us already know: Nonprofits have been quick to adopt social media.

Diversity

"It is imperative that women of color invest in young girls through volunteering and mentoring to ensure the success of our younger generation," writes Shae Harris on the Washington Area Women's Foundation blog. "Use this Black History Month to begin or continue 'paying it forward.' Our girls are counting on you."

Impact/Effectiveness

In a post on her blog, Beth Kanter, co-author most recently of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, considers the difference between being data informed and data driven. "The term 'data-driven' has been used to describe organizations that rely solely on cold hard data to make decisions. Being data-driven sounds great -- in theory. But, because it doesn't acknowledge the importance of basing decisions on multiple information sources, it can doom an organization to epic failures," Kanter writes. Data informed, on the other hand, "describes agile, responsive, and intelligent businesses that are better able to succeed in a rapidly changing environment....Data-informed cultures are not slaves to their data."

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 19-20, 2013)

January 20, 2013

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Advocacy

MLK_2013Writing on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Government and Politics Watch blog, Cody Switzer shares a video in which the NAACP's Benjamin Jealous explains how his century-old organization engages young activists: "Listen to them first, find out what they are really angry about, and then say, 'This is how we turn it outward, and we actually overcome that issue.'"

Communications/Marketing

On the Huffington Post's Impact blog, Katya Andresen shares an infographic from the Georgetown Center for Social Impact Communication that illustrates four different categories of potential cause influencers: Mainstreeter, Minimalist, Moderate, and Maximizer.

Nonprofits

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, CEP president Phil Buchanan suggests that nonprofits have a "dependency" problem -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

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“Beep, Beep”: The Sound of Philanthropy and the Social Economy in 2013

January 07, 2013

(Bradford K. Smith is president of the Foundation Center.)

Wile-E-Coyote"We will change what we do with and without institutions, and we will change how our institutions (funders, nonprofits, and others) work." So predicts self-described philanthropy wonk Lucy Bernholz in Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2013, a must-read roadmap available for the first time as a GrantCraft publication. "Beep, beep." Wile E. Coyote (me, nonprofit executive) has just been left holding a burning stick of dynamite while the Road Runner (Lucy, blogger extraordinaire) races headlong onto her next prediction. That is the true value of Blueprint 2013 for those who are busy running the institutions that make up the "social economy": Lucy has seen the future for us, and now we must struggle to adapt, respond, and innovate. The data- and technology-driven future she envisions is both exhilarating and a bit unsettling, but one thing is clear: the Silicon Valley credo is fast approaching the staid world of philanthropy: "Disrupt yourself or be disrupted."

The vast majority of today's social sector leaders grew up in a world where foundations were the funders and nonprofits were the doers. Blueprint 2013 lays out a vision of a social economy inhabited not only by traditional nonprofits, but also by social businesses, socially responsible corporations, peer networks, and institutional forms not yet invented. Donors in this economy have choices between well-known forms of charitable giving (like creating a foundation), impact investing, and political giving to bring out the change they desire.

Running throughout the social economy is the lifeblood of data. In 2012 alone:

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 29-30, 2012)

December 30, 2012

Happy_new_yearTo help mark the end of another eventful year, we've rounded up a dozen or so of our favorite "best of" and nonprofit trendspotting pieces. Have a list you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Communications/Marketing

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares Trendwatching's list of consumer trends to keep an eye on and weighs in on what each could mean for nonprofits in 2013.

And in a two-part series on her Getting Attention blog (here and here), Nancy Schwartz lists the nonprofit marketing trends that are "must-dos" for your organization in 2013.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Kula CEO Gerrit McGowan looks back at some of the CSR high- and lowlights of 2012 -- and tells us what companies looking to take their CSR programs to the next level will be doing in 2013.

Innovation/Leadership

As it has it has for many years, Foreign Policy magazine closes out 2012 with an eclectic list of the top global thinkers -- a list that includes Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, novelists Haruki Murakami and Chinua Achebe, and Russian environmentalist Yevgenia Chirikova.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 15-16, 2012)

December 16, 2012

Cardinal_winterOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Advocacy

On the Keeping a Close Eye blog, Sean Dobson of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shares some takeaways for grantmakers from Steven Spielberg's new film Lincoln. "Many, if not most, foundations work on issues -- education, health care, environment -- that cry out for systemic solutions that only government can provide," writes Dobson. "But as Spielberg's [movie] shows once again, enacting systemic solutions into law is very difficult in this country. That of course does not mean grantmakers should shy away from the challenge. In fact, if they are serious about achieving their missions, recognition of the challenge should prompt them to fight harder than ever for systemic solutions."

Dobson goes on to identify the different types of grantmaking that would help to meet said challenge:

  • Investing in those who are most in need;
  • Investing in systemic change, not band aids; and
  • Investing for the long haul.

Communications/Marketing

"If you're bad at direct mail, don't think you'll find a refuge from your shortcomings by focusing on social media marketing," writes Jeff Brooks in a post on his Future Fundraising Now blog. "In fact, if your direct mail is ineffective, your social media will likely fail even more spectacularly than your mail does...."

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares findings from three new reports from Network for Good and partners that all came to the same conclusion: "Online giving is significantly up this year."

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Stemming the Droput Crisis: A Q&A With AT&T's Beth Adcock Shiroishi

November 20, 2012

Beth_shiroishi_headshotBeth Adcock Shiroishi, vice president for sustainability and philanthropy at AT&T and president of the AT&T Foundation, leads AT&T Aspire, one of the nation's largest corporate commitments focused on helping more students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. The telecommunications giant launched the $100 million initiative in 2008 and expanded it earlier this year with an additional commitment of $250 million over five years, bringing its total investment in the program to $350 million.

After a rigorous and competitive process, AT&T recently selected forty-seven schools and nonprofits from among thousands nationwide to share in nearly $10 million in funding through the Aspire Local Impact request for proposal. Applicants were evaluated based on their alignment with evidence-based approaches, their accomplishments in serving students at risk of dropping out of high school, and their ability to use data to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work.

PND spoke with Shiroishi earlier this month about the initiative.

Philanthropy News Digest: Give us a sense of the scope of the dropout crisis in America?

Beth Adcock Shiroishi: One in four students -- more than one million each year -- fails to graduate with their class. And the picture is even bleaker for minority students, with the graduation rate among Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American students nearly 25 percent lower than the rate for their white and Asian American peers. Obviously, this has huge implications for our future job force, the economy as a whole, and our nation's global competiveness. But while it's a serious and urgent problem, there are signs of progress. Nationally, high school graduation rates are increasing, and we've seen huge gains in certain states and with certain programs that give us hope.

PND: AT&T launched the Aspire program in 2008. What were the goals of the program when it was launched, and have they been met?

BAS: Our original goal was to commit $100 million to fund proven programs aimed at raising the graduation rate, create one hundred thousand job shadow opportunities for students, and support one hundred community dropout summits. Thanks to the tireless work of our employees and nonprofit allies, we achieved these goals. At the same time, we impacted more than one million students in all fifty states and worked with more than one thousand community and national organizations that, like us, understand how important it is to improve graduation rates.

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